Music Library: Rolling Stones Part 2: 1968-1989 (when they broke up and never played together again)
Beggar's Banquet (1968). I don't know what broke in them, but the Stones stopped fucking around with this album and decided to become The Greatest Rock Band In The World. They've reined in Brian Jones (assisted by Jones himself, who was rapidly on his way to becoming a drug casualty), dropped a lot of the psychedelia flourishes (although I think it's fair to say that the piano-and-maracas-driven "Sympathy For The Devil" was the most psychedelic song that the Stones ever made, even without a mellotron), and added some pure muscle that makes even jokey songs like "Dear Doctor" just crackle with inventiveness. The Stones, scions of the middle-class, all, and gazillionaires at the time, struck a creative lodestone by claiming common purpose with working men in "Street Fighting Man," "Factory Girl," and "Salt Of The Earth." The self-mythologizing in "Jig-Saw Puzzle" is also a pip. While "No Expectations," "Prodigal Son," and "Stray Cat Blues" are all still mining the Chicago blues, "Dear Doctor," "Factory Girl," and "Salt Of The Earth" were pretty much country-based songs. Keith sings lead on the first part of "Salt Of The Earth," too.
Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968). This is the soundtrack to a 1968 film that was shelved until 1996 for reasons that are somewhat unclear, but probably due to ego. The Stones invited a handful of artists to perform with them, including Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and The Who. Most of these guys were poor (Tull) to okay (Mahal), but The Who cranked out a version of "A Quick One" that completely dusted the Stones. That said, the Stones were pretty damn great.
Let It Bleed (1969). And then Brian Jones was out, and dead a month later, after barely bothering to show up to play on this album. His replacement Mick Taylor played on the same number of songs, two. Every song on the album is great, but the bookends, "Gimme Shelter" at the beginning and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" at the end, were the alpha and omega of the fast-curdling hippie experience. Or maybe just the omega, I can't tell. Some writers say the hippie dream died at Altamont (and that is certainly supported by the great Maysles Brothers documentary Gimme Shelter), but this album dropped the day before, effectively staking hippiedom in the heart before Altamont could finish it off. Let It Bleed continues to work country music with "Country Honk," the cornpone version of "Honky Tonk Women," and with the title track. Keith Richards sings the lead on "You Got The Silver." And the whole thing is one of the most perfect albums ever recorded.
Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! (1970). Blistering live album documenting the 1969 tour.
Sticky Fingers (1971). A near-perfect album from The Greatest Rock and Roll Band In The World with Mick Taylor on lead and all pistons firing. "Brown Sugar," despite its catchiness, deserves to die. "Sway" has the greatest riff in rock. "Wild Horses" is a song that Keith Richards gave his pal Gram Parsons to record a year before and then made a classic song for this album. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" has a killer Mick Taylor coda. "You Gotta Move," "Bitch," and "I Got The Blues" make up a series of A- songs before "Sister Morphine," "Dead Flowers," and "Moonlight Mile" hit three all-time pitch perfect final songs.
Exile on Main Street (1972), Exile Outtakes (bootleg, 1972), and I Gave You Diamonds, You Give Me Disease (bootleg, 1972). Exile is a mess, a perfect mess. Like Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers, it is the sound of a band barely keeping it together. Recorded in a French country house with a steady parade of high-profile heroin abusers and high-quality heroin flowing through it like a tide of reasons for the Stones to quit and never start again, they somehow made it work. Magic is when something that shouldn't exist comes to be, and Exile is magic. The two bootlegs collect outtakes and unmixed versions and the I Gave You Diamonds bootleg in particular is an amazing document. The Outtakes bootleg sounds like crap.
Goat's Head Soup (1973). Then the Stones started sucking. "Dancing With Mr. D" and "Star Star" are okay, but only okay. "Angie" and "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" are bullshit.
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (1974). This is the last Stones album with Mick Taylor, who was starting to feel used. They still sort of sucked, but much less so on this album.
Some Girls (1978). With Ron Wood replacing Mick Taylor, the Stones somehow found it in them to make one more good-to-great album. This one has several great songs and several good-to-great songs.
"Memo From Turner (Single)" (1970), Hot Rocks (1964-1971) (released 1971), More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies) (released 1972), Metamorphosis (released 1975), and Jump Back:The Best of the Rolling Stones 1971-1993 (released 1993). There's a number of nonalbum tracks and tracks from albums I don't have. "Memo From Turner" is a solo Mick track from the Roeg film Performance. When I switched to the UK albums, I missed out on the nonalbum tracks included on the US albums, like "Paint It, Black," "Ruby Tuesday," and "Let's Spend The Night Together." Metamorphosis, which collects outtakes and alternate tracks from 1964-70, is pretty much the best of these, with the full band version of "Memo From Turner" and the great "I'm Going Down," a pretty amazing track. The Jump Back greatest hits album includes "Emotional Rescue" and "Undercover Of The Night," which are two tracks on albums I really have no interest in picking up.