Every pop music fan well past childhood knows the Rolling Stones, a band so groundbreaking that America's most popular rock music magazine more or less took their name.
But time has curtailed the recorded legacy of the great band. Thirty or forty years ago, fans and critics viewed the Stones primarily as a British invasion band hot on the heels of the Beatles. Their biggest song was "Satisfaction," the monster hit that defined their first iteration as a red-hot blues-rock band, with the devastating dual-guitar punch of Keith Richards, the world's top white Chuck Berry student, and Brian Jones, Britain's answer to Dia -Master Elmore James. At the time, critics generally regarded Beggar's Banquet (of 1968) as the end of their greatest era rather than the beginning.
These days, many Stones fans are content with a collection that begins with Beggars Banquet and ends three records later with the double-disc Sleeper masterpiece Exile on Main Street. These records frame what is now widely regarded as the finest of the Stones, rounded out with Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers. Throw in Some Girls, the band's fall comeback, or any respectable collection of singles, and you have your typical top 5 summary of the best Rolling Stones albums. (Here's another one. And another one.)
But there's a lot to be said for the nine studio albums (more or less) that preceded Beggars Banquet. These records and their accompanying singles contain most of the songs the Stones will be remembered for, the ones most likely to be launched into space or preserved by the Smithsonian, from "It's All Over Now" to " Time Is On My". Side" to "The Last Time" to "Satisfaction" to "Paint It Black" to "Ruby Tuesday" to "Jumpin' Jack Flash".
AllMusic is one of the few contemporary music sites dedicated to these early pages. AllMusic critics give five stars, their rare "masterpiece" rating, to four Stones LPs released between 1964 and 1967, including titles like The Rolling Stones, Now! that fail to resonate with most millennials. At moments and during the great Aftermath and Between the Buttons, the Stones don't sound like a bunch of white guys from Britain paying homage to Chess Studio or Muscle Shoals: they sound like themselves and nobody else.
Here are four of the best LPs from those years and one underrated track from the end of the band's last golden era: five overlooked Stones classics.
The Rolling Stones, Now!, 1965
Every serious Stones fan used to own at least a couple of their early, cover-heavy, heavy blues LPs. Of these early releases, The Rolling Stones, Now! maybe the best. The album came out as an alternate US edition of a UK release titled Rolling Stones No. 2 out and probably plays better. The opening cover of Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" rocks easy and smooth, a perfect distillation of the band's mature, confident blues attack. "Down Home Girl" is raw, rough and hilarious. Chuck Berry covers "You Can't Catch Me" as effortlessly as the Byrds did Dylan at the time. "Heart of Stone" is the classic, but even the weaker Jagger Richards originals and side two covers sound purposeful and powerful.
The band's sixth American studio album, released just three years into their recording career, is their first full listing of Jagger Richards compositions. And that's a massive achievement: the band's previous US album, December's Children, opened with four consecutive covers. Aftermath is a dark masterpiece. Richards, slated to compose alongside The Beatles and Dylan, brought the nihilistic anthem "Paint It Black" along with beautiful folk chestnuts like "I Am Waiting" and "Lady Jane," the Motown homage "Think" and the hateful "Under." . My thumb." The UK version adds "Mother's Little Helper," a song about housewives on speed that sounds like demonic kinks, and "Out of Time," another soul workout that's as good as anything else on of the American release.The Glimmer Twins would never be short of songs again.
Between the Buttons, 1967
Released just a year after Aftermath, this album marks the culmination of the Stones' second era, a period of around two years in which they sounded like a true British band. Having evolved beyond their American R&B influences, they had yet to tap into the folk-blues, country and Americana veins that would color their Beggars Banquet Through Exile releases. Yes, they channeled Dylan and some of their British colleagues on Aftermath, but there's something comforting about hearing this British band sound British. This is the album – at least the superior US version – that gave us "Let's Spend the Night Together," the first of many Jagger Richards classics that pushes the lyrical boundaries of groupies, drugs, and sex. The other classic is Ruby Tuesday. But there isn't a weak song among the lesser known tracks that round out the album, from the drug and airport boogie of "Connection" to the dark Dylanesque "Who's Been Sleeping Here" to the achingly beautiful "She Smiled Sweetly". ." I'll be shouted down for it, but this is my favorite Stones album.
More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies), 1972
Mostly forgotten today, More Hot Rocks was released in 1972 as a companion piece to Hot Rocks, the two-disc greatest hits package. Hot Rocks is canon, but More Hot Rocks is absolutely fascinating. The obvious point of comparison is Dylan's single-volume Greatest Hits and double album Greatest Hits Volume II, which crammed in everything weird and beautiful that didn't fit in the first collection. The same applies here. The front page of More Hot Rocks includes a half-dozen timeless singles on par with anything on Hot Rocks, a set that somehow had "Tell Me," "The Last Time," and "It's All Over Now" left out. Things get really interesting on page two, though. Here the collection staggers into the dark psychedelia and demented folk of the band's brief Anglophile era. Pages two and three reveal several beautiful Jagger Richards songs (yes, the Twins were capable of beauty) that pair the psych-pop gems "Dandelion," "She's a Rainbow," and "Child of the Moon" alongside the darker ones "Have you seen your mother, your baby, standing in the shadows?" and the Beatle-esque "We Love You," a performance featuring real Beatles. Side Four revisits the band's earliest work: The highlight is her Cover of "Poison Ivy," an STD song tailored for these guys.
Goat's Head Soup, 1973
For most critics, the Stones' 13th US album marks the beginning of the end, the first Stones record since Their Satanic Majesty's Request, the band's needless answer to Sergeant Pepper, with an inconsistent selection of songs. In fact, ignoring a few foreign US releases from the previous decade, Goats Head Soup was probably only the second proper Stones album to feature a truly mixed selection of songs. The album is an easy target for critics, coming at the end of an era of recording and touring that most writers now consider to be the culmination of the entire Stones endeavor. But it remains a very good album, especially in contrast to the increasingly weaker releases that followed. "Angie" was a hit and it's a beautiful song, outstanding on a shaky first side. "Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" is a powerful sociopolitical statement, and "Coming Down Again" features one of Keef's boldest lyric lines, in which, in a tongue-and-cake metaphor, he sleazy confesses to stealing Brian Jones' girlfriend. Side two is even better, framed by the rollicking opener "Silver Train" and the groupie tribute closer "Star Star". No less than the Shins, one of the top indie pop bands of the 2000s, paid tribute to this flawed gem of a record in the lyrics of their terrific single "Phantom Limb," singing "Another Afternoon/Of the Goat Head Tunes" and stolen booze ."
Daniel de Visé is the author of King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King.