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warning: acerbic commentary ahead

 

the Rolling Stones

 

Okay, so maybe my Who prediction was wrong. As a warning to all you rabid Stones fans: don't read further if you are of a weak constitution. You might not like what you find here.

lineup: duhhhhhhhh

review index: 12 x 5 / December's Children (And Everyone's) / Aftermath / Got Live If You Want It / Between the Buttons / Flowers / Beggars Banquet / Sticky Fingers / Hot Rocks 1964-71 / It's Only Rock and Roll / Some Girls / Emotional Rescue / Tattoo You / Undercover / Rewind / Bridges to Babylon

missing albums: dunno, don't care either

apex: Sticky Fingers
nadir: Undercover
overlooked: erm? who are we talking about here?


12 x 5 - 1964

Rating: **
Best songs: It's All Over Now, Around and Around
Worst songs: Time Is On My Side, Under the Boardwalk, Congratulations, Grown Up All Wrong

 

Look, it was 1964 -- if you weren't the Who or the Beatles, you were lucky to get any of your own songs on an album. As such, there are only four Jagger/Richards compositions on here -- generic little things they are. Otherwise, it's cover band city. The album starts off with a bang, by which I mean the Chuck Berry rocker "Around and Around". Then there's a blues song which is generic because it's the blues, but inoffensive because it's the blues. And that crappy song "Time Is On My Side" is on here too. Bleah. Not to mention "Under the Boardwalk", a decent song at best, but pretty much screwed over by these English white boys. There's also an instrumental ("2120 South Michigan Ave." -- Booker T & the MG's it ain't), another over-covered song ("Susie-Q"! before CCR! yeesh, what's next, "Downtown"?!) and hey! Look, now there's a good tune -- Bobby Womack's "It's All Over Now", completely redone as a Beatles song, flailing 1963 George Harrison solo included. Now that's cool. Overall kinda not-very-good, though.


December's Children (And Everybody's) - 1965

Rating: ***
Best songs: Get Off of My Cloud, As Tears Go By, She Said Yeah
Worst songs: Look What You've Done, Gotta Get Away

 

Wow, now they've written half the songs! Including no less than two all-time classics, the "Satisfaction" derivative "Get Off of My Cloud" (atomic weight 238) and the "Yesterday" derivative "As Tears Go By" (atomic weight 251). The other ones range from ehn-generic-ish ("The Singer Not the Song", "I'm Free") to bad ("Gotta Get Away" is about right).

Course, there's still a half-dozen of the other (cover tunes, that is), including another Chuck Berry song, a frantic opener ("She Said Yeah", clocking in at 1:38! take that, Sex Pistols!), a cheesy Beatlesy ballad ("You Better Move On" -- yeesh, what's with those echoey backing vocals?), and two precursors to Got Live If You Want It ("Route 66" and "I'm Moving On", which are okay, during the parts that aren't slathered in overdubbed screaming) and oh lord, more blues. What is this, Jamming It Up Edward's Rear? Oh well, the whole thing's only like 30 minutes long, so it's not that bad.


Aftermath - 1966

Rating: ***
Best songs: Paint it Black, Lady Jane, Under My Thumb
Worst songs: Going Home, Stupid Girl, I Am Waiting

 

Yes, now they're finally getting off their lazy butts and writing all the songs themselves. And once again you've got your share of classic songs amidst the filler: the sitary, driving "Paint it Black", the loungey "Under My Thumb" (covered by the Who! though that was in protest of the Jagger/Richards drug bust, or whatever), and the baroque ballad "Lady Jane".

Might I take a moment to praise at least part of the Rolling Stones? Okay: Bill Wyman is an incredibly cool bassist. He's always doing little fiddly basslines that are just so neat. If I knew anything about drumming, I'd say something about Charlie Watts too.

That aside aside, let's get back to the album. Of course, this wouldn't be the Rolling Stones without some mediocre material: "Stupid Girl" is indeed stupid -- I hate when a band thinks a melody is so great they just repeat it over and over. "Sunshine Superman" this ain't. Also, there's the little matter of the end of the record: "Going Home" is eleven minutes long. Do you want to hear an eleven-minute Rolling Stones song? Well, I do not. There's six other songs on here, ranging from okay ("Doncha Bother Me", presaging the Beggars Banquet slide-guitar country blues fascination) to fairly good ("Flight 505"? sure!) to titles ripped off by other artists ("High and Dry", "I Am Waiting"). So in conclusion, it's another inconsistent romp into the mid-60s.

No, wait, it's the Rolling Stones, therefore it's brilliant!!!


Got Live If You Want It - 1966

Rating: **
Best songs: WHAT?!?
Worst songs: I CAN'T HEAR YOU! WHAT?!?

 

SO THIS ROLLING STONES ALBUM -- WHAT? -- HAS A LOT OF CROWD NOISE -- NO, I DON'T WANT ANY, THANKS! -- AND THE PERFORMANCE IS -- WHAT?! -- LOOSE, FAST, AND RAGGED! THEY COVER "NOT FADE AWAY" -- "NOT FADE AWAY"! -- THE BUDDY HOLLY SONG!!! AND THAT CRAPPY "FORTUNE TELLER" SONG -- NO, NOT THE YES SONG "FORTUNE SELLER", IT'S "FORTUNE TELLER"! IT'S HARD TO HEAR ANYTHING ANYWAY, BECAUSE OF THE CROWD NOISE, WHICH I THINK IS OVERDUBBED. OVERDUBBED!! OVERDUBBED!!!! THESE MAY ACTUALLY BE DEMO RECORDINGS, OR ALTERNATE TAKES, OR SOMETHING. DEMO! DE-MO! OH, FORGET IT, I'M OUT OF HERE. I SAID -- NO! I'M LEAVING!!


Between the Buttons - 1967

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Let's Spend the Night Together, Ruby Tuesday, Miss Amanda Jones
Worst songs: Something Happened to Me Yesterday, Who's Been Sleeping Here?, Cool Calm and Collected

 

I think someone got a copy of Sgt. Pepper. Now instead of the guitar rock of the previous albums, they've crammed a bunch of pianos and xylophones and woodwinds and cellos and stuff in the mix. And, dare I say it, the Stones are out of their league here. The Beatles worked fine in the more wussy mediums, but the Stones aren't the Beatles! They're tough, middle-class working-class lads! Now they're singing about "Ruby Tuesday" and girls smiling sweetly and stuff? Whatever.

Truth be told, the first half of this album is pretty good -- the hits "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend the Night Together" are a top-notch ballad and piano-pounding pop-rocker, respectively, and "Connection" bops along nicely too. "Yesterday's Papers" sounds like Herman's Hermits, but I'll forgive that, and "She Smiled Sweetly" is okay. After that, things get a little iffy. "Cool, Calm and Collected" is an ill-advised stab at Kinksery, and the second side of the album varies from indistinguished to horrible ("Who's Been Sleeping Here?" -- how could they with that fucking annoying harmonica?! -- and "Something Happened to Me Yesterday", a crappy ending to a mediocre album). "Miss Amanda Jones" is good, though, it sounds like the Faces or something.

These reviews suck.


Flowers - 1967

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Let's Spend the Night Together, Ruby Tuesday, Mother's Little Helper, Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing in the Shadow?
Worst songs: My Girl, Take It or Leave It

 

Well well, who would've guessed that the Stones' best Brian Jones-era album was a compilation?

Aside from me, I mean.

Yes, one of Allen Klein's crass business decisions (half these songs are from previous albums) actually turned out to be a good idea! Collecting some of the better tracks from the last few albums (the two hits off of Between the Buttons, "Lady Jane" offa Aftermath, and uh, I dunno, a couple other things) with some rarities (look, a crappy cover of "My Girl"!) and singles ("Mother's Little Helper" and "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?", both crappily recorded but catchy as all get out). Admittedly, I'm not too familiar with the other things on here -- there's a little acoustic ballad thing called "Backstreet Girl", an "Under My Thumb"-esque plinky marimba thing called "Out of Time", the Bo Diddley-beat-ripoff "Please Go Home", bla bla bla. Look, it's actually good for once! Whee!


Beggars Banquet - 1968

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Sympathy for the Devil, Street Fighting Man, Salt of the Earth
Worst songs: Parachute Woman, Jigsaw Puzzle, Stray Cat Blues

 

Oh great, another Stones classic. Mmkay, so each side starts off with one of the Stones' greatest singles -- "Sympathy for the Devil" (isn't it great how the arrangement builds up like it does? and what about that neato stinging guitar solo?) and "Street Fighting Man" (yeah, sure, Mick, you're a tough guy, all right -- awesome jagged riff though), respectively -- but the rest is what? Boring acoustic blues. "No Expectations" is decent, I suppose, but the generic acoustic slide work stuck in the right channel is distracting. But why must you torture me for six minutes with "Jigsaw Puzzle"? And "Prodigal Son" has some neat guitar work, but Mick's apeing of old bluesmen kinda ruins it. I guess it's mostly listenable, but I don't see why I'd want to listen to it.

AND WHO SAID IT WAS OKAY FOR KEITH TO SING, HUH?!??!??!??!?!?!??

Song's pretty good though.


Sticky Fingers - 1971

Rating: ****
Best songs: Brown Sugar, Bitch, Dead Flowers, Sway
Worst songs: Can't You Hear Me Knocking, Moonlight Mile

 

All right! Picking up Mick "Mick" Taylor of some band I don't know nor care about, they finally release an album that's really, unequivocably good. The classic radio smashes this time are the goodtime slave-rape anthem "Brown Sugar" (dig Mick (Jagger)'s spoon playing during the sax solo!) and the crappy-chorus-with-good-verse "Wild Horses", with an occasional dollop of the hilarious country song "Dead Flowers" (dig Mick (Jagger)'s horrible Southern accent on this one!).

Don't think the positive vibes stop there, though -- another sludgy-but-cool rocker, "Sway", appears on side one, and a Who-ey one called "Bitch" is on side two. "You Gotta Move" nicely summarizes the crappy acoustic blues of Beggars Banquet into 2.5 minutes (inexplicably, the song titled "I Got the Blues" is the least bluesy one on here). Two strikes for "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Moonlight Mile", though, the first being a crappy pseudo-fusion (? or something like that) piece, the second being a crappy pseudo-ballad, but you can't expect a Rolling Stones album to not contain something lame on it.

Oh, and "Sister Morphine"? I'll let you draw your own conclusion on that one. I would actually consider buying this one, though (if I hadn't been able to get it from the library but had actually been able to hear it somehow). And that is saying something.


Hot Rocks 1964-71 - 1972

Rating: ****
Best songs: take your pick, señor!
Worst songs: Time Is On My Side, Midnight Rambler, Play With Fire, Heart of Stone

 

This would be the perfect Stones comp if it was one disc long. And it would be easy to do that -- just lop the awful pre-"Satisfaction" singles off the beginning, and surgically remove the inexplicably-placed-on-a-singles-compilation live version of "Midnight Rambler" from disc two, and there you go, single CD of the best Stones songs from their first decade (the other three decades can all fit on one CD too, I think). You've even got enough space to fit in a couple more tunes that they forgot (how about "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby bla bla bla"? or one of the two actually good songs from 12 x 5?).

Seriously, though, let's face it -- the Stones were a singles act. How many people outside of you music geeks actually give a crap about Let it Bleed or Exile on Main Street? There's a reason everyone's familiar with the Beatles' albums and not the Stones'. Heck, even the Who are better-remembered album-wise, what with Tommy and all. Whatever. Best Stones song ever? "19th Nervous Breakdown". I think so, anyway.


It's Only Rock and Roll - 1974

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: It's Only Rock and Roll
Worst songs: well, let me just call up the tracklisting...

 

Waughblfkjlbkdlfkjlfkj!!! You know why I'm reviewing this? Cause I paid a buck for it. And this really sucks! Compared to this, Emotional Rescue sounds like goddamned angels or some shit like that. Rather than do what they have shown an aptitude to do in the past, namely write entertaining rock songs with catchy guitar riffs, everything just sort of melds into a decidedly non-catchy songwriting bucket-o'-sludge with Mick jabbering on about how good a lover he is and how oppressed his people are and how he really likes to smoke a lot of wee

Actually, I will stand up for the title track, which is a pretty cool rockin' and rollin' tune. "Fingerprint File" is intended as funk, but it comes out more like the Rolling Stones trying to get funky, and well, you really think a bunch of middle-class English white guys are gonna be funky? Jesus, why don't you call up the local klezmer band and ask them to cover "Funkytown"? Hey, Conway Twitty, can you do me some "Superstition"? Kickass!

I mean really, what is with these people? It's one thing to enjoy music from different cultures, but you've got to be really good to think you can go out and do this thing. How often does it succeed? And how often does it turn out totally embarassing for all parties involved?

Oh, wait, I forgot, this is the Rolling Stones, kings of embarassment. How ironic is the title of that new single? "Don't Stop"? Hey, nothing stopped you the LAST twenty times, why stop NOW? At least the Beatles knew when to stop. At least the Who knew when to stop making records. Now excuse me while I throw this damn thing out the nearest window.

Note: I really don't hate this album that much (though I doubt I'll ever play it again), I just felt like being excessively bitter. It is, after all, my first review after becoming so frustrated with my crappy reviews that I quit for 45 days.


Some Girls - 1978

Rating: *
Best songs: Miss You
Worst songs: uh..most of them

 

Why is it they're seemingly incapable of making an album that doesn't suck? As usual, this one starts off deceptively with the catchy "Miss You", but then quickly returns to the unholy grotto of craposity that seemingly plagues all of their post-1971 output. Okay, "When the Whip Comes Down" is decent, but then we get stuck with a bunch of pointless tunes like the title track, the Keith-sung "Before They Make Me" (why is he still singing? why?!), the particularly irritating "Lies", and a host of others. Why do the guitars constantly have the same crappy phase-shifted effect on nearly all the songs? Why do they continue to do bad country songs like "Far Away Eyes", featuring Mick's terrible Southern accent? And most importantly, why do I keep listening to these things?


Emotional Rescue - 1980

Rating: ***
Best songs: She's So Cold, Dance (Part One), Summer Romance
Worst songs: Where the Boys Go, Indian Girl, Down in the Hole, Emotional Rescue

 

Well, that's not too bad, is it? Starts off well enough, anyway, with "Dance (Part One)", an a propos title for such a dancey, discoey little number. "Summer Romance" rocks along nicely, too, and "Send It to Me" is filled with phase-shifted guitars and more of those pseudo-disco drumbeats. After the echo-guitar fun of "Let Me Go", however, the album descends into the deepest, darkest fire pits of Hell, Michigan, and tortures us with the 'ballad' "Indian Girl", 'crappy' fast rocker "Where the Boys Go", 'boring' bluesy "Down in the Hole", 'lame' title track, and WAIT A MINUTE!!! There's "She's So Cold", a radio standard. The radio generally only plays the good Rolling Stones songs ("Saint of Me" notwithstanding), so it must be good! Oh, and Keith sings the last song, so whatever. Not bad.


Tattoo You - 1981

Rating: **
Best songs: Start Me Up, Hang Fire
Worst songs: Little T & A, Neighbors, No Use in Crying, Waiting on a Friend

 

Hey look, it's a Rolling Stones album. It starts off, unsurprisingly, with a pair of catchy rock tunes. Then, well, "Slave" isn't that hot, though it does feature some nice electric piano. What's up with these annoying reverbed guitars, though? Yeesh. Oh, and Keith, SHUT UP!! I'm sick of hearing you try to get through a song without going "aww haaw" a dozen times, and failing miserably. Oh, and your blues songs are still boring. "Neighbors": SHUT UP ALREADY!!!!

Side two: BOOOORIIIIIING.. "Tops" is okay. ENOUGH! Blah. Said me. Remove the Rolling Stones album from the turntable and return it to the record collection, never to be heard again.


Undercover - 1983

Rating: *
Best songs: Undercover of the Night, She Was Hot
Worst songs: Too Much Blood, Wanna Hold You, bla bla bla

 

Okay, even by the Stones' standards this is a terrible album. Despite opening strongly with the dancey almost-title track, the album quickly descends into the murky lair of the Necromancer. "She Was Hot" is an okay rocker, but uhhh... the album sucks afterwards. Keith's "Wanna Hold You" mostly consists of him repeating the line "awww I gotta haw ya" (don't ask me, it's his lousy diction), "Too Much Blood" is mostly Mick jabbering on about movies, and the rest is incredibly bland. As I like to say, whatever.


Rewind - 1984

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Miss You, Brown Sugar, It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It), Tumbling Dice
Worst songs: Angie, Beast of Burden, Waiting on a Friend

 

A compilation of their 70s material, presumably picking up where Hot Rocks left off. Starts off pretty nicely with "Miss You" (almost a disco song but not quite -- Bill's bassline is decidedly funky, but Charlie's playing a rock beat!!) and a smattering a neato riff-rockers ("Brown Sugar", Microsoft corporate anthem "Start Me Up", "Tumbling Dice", etc), but the second half breaks down with a bunch of soppy balladry like "Angie" and "Beast of Burden". Still, unless you really think you need Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You, a good choice.


Bridges to Babylon - 1997

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Flip the Switch, Out of Control, Might As Well Get Juiced, Anybody Seen My Baby?
Worst songs: the Keith songs -- bleah!, Already Over Me

 

Er, skip ahead about 15 years, and the decrepit old guys are doing it again. Don Was (of Was (Not Was) (really!)) produced most of this one, except the Dust Brothers (!) guest produce a couple tracks. Any by this point, we're only down to three Stones (four if you count Ron Wood, but who really does that?). So you get, yep, a half-dozen session players on the tracks. The Rolling Stones Corporate Rock Circus, you could call it.

Oh, but I kid the guys. At least the production is nice and clear, whereas the songs are kinda spotty. Some good tunes crop up, particularly the fierce rockers "Flip the Switch" and "Out of Control" and the modern r&b tune "Anybody Seen My Baby?" (despite the stupid pseudo-rap section in the middle -- really, it's like your grandfather trying to be hip -- though that's some nice ebow guitaring during it). "Gunface" and the tripyy electronic number "Might As Well Get Juiced" are pretty cool too, but that's about it. "Already Over Me" and "Always Suffering" are more of Mick's dreary ballads, and there are three songs where Keith sings! For the love of God, one of them's a reggae song!!!! What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?!

Oh well, at least it's taking them longer than Rush to record another album.


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