Compiling my top ten favourite Rolling Stones albums isn't an easy task, since their greatest hits albums often come as advertised and include tunes that belong here and are not available elsewhere. My other struggle was leaving off Flowers, since it's a great album, but one of those weird collections of leftover tracks from British releases, and didn't seem right when both Aftermath and Between the Buttons placed. We're strictly using U.S. releases here, since this is the country where I am based and--despite all evidence suggesting otherwise--is the country where the Rolling Stones are from as well. Mick and Keith are New Yorkers, pure and simple. Ron Wood is from Connecticut. Charlie lives in Montana. Bill quit. Jones is dead. Taylor is touring when he can.
10) Out Of Our Heads: The album cover alone is reason enough to like these guys. Such bad complexions must lead to better music. Their earlier albums are closer to the blues, which they really weren't all that great at. Not as good as the Animals and nowhere close to Muddy Waters. Jagger still can't cut Otis Redding, but he's getting closer to finding out who the real Jagger is. (Who would think this album was a precursor to New Age music?)
9) Some Girls: Punk rock taught the Rolling Stones to go back to being a band. Ron Wood might turn out to be the biggest turkey in the batch, but here he keeps it in line and it sounds like the Stones actually care about what they're doing. I'll never leave the pizza burnin', either, Mick. I promise.
8) Their Satanic Majesties Request: Side Two gets a little blurry. I can't hum "Gomper" or recall "The Lantern" despite hearing the tracks at least a dozen times. But side one is one of my favorites and if we could cheat a little and throw "Dandelion," "We Love You" and "Child Of The Moon" on here, we'd have one of their most solid albums. As it stands, we have one of their most interesting ones. I like it better than Sgt. Pepper's and I'm not being "provocative" or "contrary." Pure personal taste.
7) Exile On Main Street: Funny, but the latest re-master of this album makes me want to listen to the original LPs. The mud was the point, yet I can totally understand why there are still many who get bored with "Casino Boogie," "Shake Your Hips," "Turd On The Run" and can't tell some of the other rockers apart. That doesn't mean I don't love this thing to death. But it has gotten to the point where I don't care about it as much. Because it is so overexposed. And it was never meant to see so much daylight. Remember the sunshine bored the daylights out of Mick and it stands to reason, it should affect you similarly.
6) Sticky Fingers: I've never listened to "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" all the way through. "You Gotta Move" is amusing, but considering there was a two-year gap between this and Let It Bleed, you could expect a little more. Then again, "Brown Sugar," "Sway," "Wild Horses," "Bitch," "Sister Morphine" and "Moonlight Mile" were once all brand new. Hard to imagine. (I hope to never sit through another cover band running through "Dead Flowers" with all the enthusiasm of "Happy Birthday." Give it a rest.) Love the Zipper. Just one more reason why CDs are stupid and Mp3 files make me even less enthusiastic. It's like there's no tangible culture anymore.
5) Beggars Banquet: The one Stones album where they play the blues like they own it and aren't just borrowing it. The country music is goofy but likable. "Stray Cat Blues" is pure evil. "Salt Of The Earth" is hilarious to think the Stones cared one bit about the "hard working people." Jagger's always been the politician in the group and on this album he speaks to every constituency (blue collar, revolutionaries, Satanists, pedophiles, Bible-thumpers, drunks) in a language they can understand.
4) Between The Buttons: I could easily flip this album ahead. But I want half the songs from Flowers in order to do so. As it stands, this is considered, the Stones' most lighthearted album, but it's the one where it sounds like an entire band and not Mick and Keith and the other guys. Translation: Brian Jones gets to play around and the pop angle is more important than the rock angle. Which isn't always such a bad thing.
3) December's Children (And Everybody's): This was my favorite Stones album growing up. I got tired of "Get Off My Cloud," but the live versions of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On" and Bobby Troup's "Route 66" were as good as Sonny Bono's "She Said Yeah" and Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On." By the time they got to their own originals, it was "I'm Free" and "As Tears Go By," which I still like no matter what anyone else says.
2) Aftermath: "Goin' Home" can be a bit of a stretch. The Stones were never much of a "jam" band. Their best cuts mostly came in under four minutes. Brian Jones gets quite the workout, playing whatever instruments he could find. Mick gets to be a brat and Keith has yet to get stuck on his eternal riff. Charlie and Bill are perfect as usual. To think, at the time, it was like they'd been around forever!
1) Let It Bleed: "Midnight Rambler" can be a bit long-winded (again, the Stones not at their best on longer tunes) and the choir at the beginning of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" isn't anything I ever listen to. "Country Honk" should've been left off for the "Honky Tonk Women" single (though that might make this album more tiring after all these years). But "Gimme Shelter" is perfection. "Live With Me" is great fun. The title cut is worth its jam. "You Got The Silver" is a great anti-inflationary tactic and "Monkey Man" sounded just as great before it made it into Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. The 1970s would be one long clean-up after the party. But what a time to be had. Sorry I got born too late to experience it first hand. But that crib sure was comfortable and it beat getting drafted.
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