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The Rolling Stones

Reviewed on this page:
The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones No. 2 - Out Of Our Heads - Aftermath - Between The Buttons - Flowers - Their Satanic Majesties Request - Beggar's Banquet - Let It Bleed - Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out - Sticky Fingers - Exile On Main Street - Goats Head Soup - Monkey Grip - It's Only Rock 'N' Roll - Metamorphosis - Stone Alone - Black And Blue - Love You Live - Some Girls - Emotional Rescue - Tatoo You - Bill Wyman - Dirty Work - Primitive Cool - Talk Is Cheap - Live At The Hollywood Palladium - Steel Wheels - Main Offender - Voodoo Lounge - Stripped - Bridges To Babylon - Struttin' Our Stuff

You probably think you know plenty about these guys already - and maybe you do, because they are the world's second greatest rock and roll band, after all (you shouldn't have to ask who's on first). They don't really need an introduction, but we'll note that since the Stones' discography is such a total nightmare, we've chosen to divide our review into three periods corresponding to the reigns of the group's three lead guitarists. For the moment, we cover only the standard British LP's and the live albums, ditching most of the innumerable greatest hits compilations, and in general merely listing the solo records, although we do review most of Richards' and Wyman's solo work and also have covered a Mick Jagger record (Ron Wood's solo work is covered on our Faces page).

Special note to Allen Klein's ABKCO: you guys are a bunch of greedy, selfish, incompetent crooks. It's been more than a decade now since Capitol/EMI bravely retired its US catalogue of Beatles records in favor of the original 14-songs-per-disc British versions, compiling the remaining tracks on two sensibly organized CD's. It should take you clowns no more than about two hours to figure out a reasonable track listing for an analogous 60s Stones re-release; what's your lame excuse for not doing it? And who do you think you are pushing trash like Flowers on unsuspecting fans nearly three decades after rip-offs like that ceased to be acceptable?

Special note to fans: in a perfect world we could bombard the mailboxes of ABKCO, which owns the Stones' 60s catalogue, and remind them of what a mess they've created. Problem is, their web site exists pretty much only to merely park their domain name, so they're clearly not interested in communicating with John Q. Public.

If you're looking for more information than you'll find here, you might want to start with the Stones' mailing list web site, which is a little bit commercialized but not nearly as vile as the Stones' own commercial site. (JA)

We also have reviewed several books about the Stones on our Book Reviews Page.

Lineup: Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica, later some guitar); Brian Jones (lead guitar, anything he could get his hands on); Keith Richards (rhythm guitar, vocals, some bass); Charlie Watts (drums); Bill Wyman (bass). Jones died, replaced by Mick Taylor (lead guitar, some bass), 1969. Taylor quit, replaced by Ron Wood (lead guitar, vocals, some bass) of the Faces, 1975. Ian Stewart (piano) appears sporadically from the very beginning. In the Taylor period, Bobby Keys (sax), Jim Price (trumpet, trombone), Nicky Hopkins (piano), and Jimmy Miller (producer, some percussion, some drums) appear frequently.

The Brian Jones Era

At first, the Stones were a typical British Invasion group, albeit with a heavier, more learned Chicago blues and R & B basis than competitors like the Kinks. But during the mid-60s they chased the Beatles like a mad dog, egged on by Jones' obsession with far-out instrumentation. By 1966, they were firmly in the race to be the most hip and experimental rock group around. Unfortunately, Jones started falling apart from drug abuse, and when the magical musical innovations of 1967 came around, the group just couldn't take the heat (and spent the better part of the year distracted by drug busts anyway). After this debacle, the Stones quickly retreated to their roots (Beggar's Banquet, 1968). (JA)

The Rolling Stones (1964)
- Amusing, sharply performed blues, R & B, and early rock and roll covers (the primitive Motown hit "Can I Get A Witness"; Willie Dixon's unsubtle "I Just Want To Make Love To You"; Chuck Berry's "Carol"; Bobby Troup's "Route 66"; the gospel rave-up "You Can Make It If You Try"). Apart a couple of brief jams ("Now I've Got A Witness"; "Little By Little"), there's only one serious original composition, and it's good (the Sam Cooke-like anthem "Tell Me"). But the rest is too derivative to be taken seriously (the Rufus Thomas gimmick tune "Walking The Dog"). A few months later the band scored its first #1 hit with Bobby Womack's hand-clapping, Chuck Berry-like blues-rocker "It's All Over Now." (JA)
- Fans of the later Stones are likely to be seriously disappointed by this release, although they are already pretty effective interpreters of the blues. (DBW)

The Rolling Stones No. 2 (1965)
- More of the same, with Jagger and Richards slowly starting to learn their songwriting craft - although the few originals here are mostly either gimmick tunes ("Off The Hook") or just plain weak ("What A Shame"), and nothing rises to the level of "Tell Me" (frustrating, because their contemporary UK singles like "The Last Time" are quite substantial). The band is getting tighter, and they're frequently in a heavy, spartan groove (the ecstatic, snap-crackling Solomon Burke hit "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love"; "Down Home Girl"; their cover of the swaying, melodramatic R & B tune "Time Is On My Side," a hit in the US). Still, the endless covers are often unenlightening (Berry's classic "You Can't Catch Me") or even downright annoying (the Drifters' bathetic "Under The Boardwalk," which is such an exacting doo-wop recreation you can hardly believe they're serious; Otis Redding's glacially paced, over-the-top "Pain In My Heart" - a pain in the ears). (JA)
- A big step up from the last record, but they still had a long way to go. (DBW)

Out Of Our Heads (1965)
- The band was still treading water with covers and primitive R & B-izing: "Talkin' About You," which is yet more Chuck Berry, and takes on Sam Cooke ("Good Times") and Marvin Gaye ("Hitch Hike"). But the record does end with a handful of originals: "Heart Of Stone," a modest single hit in the US; the uncharacteristically breezy, upbeat anthem "I'm Free," which starts to capture the spirit of the 60s; and their snotty joke tune "Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man," whose lyrics hint at the same Dylan influences that lifted up acts like the Kinks and the Byrds as rock rapidly evolved in this period. So it is a small step up from the first two discs. My rating applies to the UK version; the US version, released earlier, included some great singles material like the riff-filled, stompingly loud "Satisfaction," which was the band's first #1 hit and one of the biggest songs of the entire decade; the slightly earlier A-side "The Last Time," a dramatic, hard-edged love song; and its fine B-side ballad "Play With Fire," carried almost entirely by some harpsichord and Mick's menacing, gut-wrenching vocal. That version is really worth tracking down. (JA)
- Much as I like to argue with Alroy, there's nothing I can disagree with here. (DBW)

Aftermath (1966)
- A breakthrough for the band, completely written by the Jagger/Richards team and not just better-written but much more complexly produced than their earlier discs. By now the band was pumping out piles of hits like the Kinks-style social critique "Mother's Little Helper" (a Top Ten single); the Elizabeathean-sounding "Lady Jane"; and the misogynistic, but irresistable Motown-influenced rocker "Under My Thumb," all of which are included. Plus the band is experimenting with heavy guitar distortion and new, often bizarre arrangements and instrumentation (the oddly timed "I Am Waiting"; the endless jam "Goin' Home," which fills up most of side 2). The group was still far behind the Beatles at this point, and there are a few weak stabs at the blues ("Doncha Bother Me") and even country ("High And Dry"). But the rest of the record is worth the price of admission, with tons of quality tunes like "Out Of Time." The American version was cut down and then augmented by the #1 hit single "Paint It, Black," which featured some of the first and best Indian instrumentation to appear on a rock record. (JA)
- The first Stones record that's solid all the way through, and also the first where they were ripping off the Beatles in earnest. More than a coincidence? (DBW)

Got Live If You Want It! (1966)
This is interesting as documentation of the Stones' early live sound - they'd already gone through huge changes by the time their second live record was released in 1971. But the track selection is predictable, mostly focusing on current hits like "Under My Thumb," "19th Nervous Breakdown," and "Satisfaction," and with the only obscurities being blatant rip-offs: the Nanker-Phelge toss-off "I'm Alright" (lifted directly from the very different live 1965 EP, also called Got Live If You Want It!), and two studio out-take cover versions dressed up with crowd screams ("Fortune Teller" and Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long"). And even worse, the sound quality is as bad as a hand-held mike recording, with the crowd screams obscuring the vocals and the instruments almost inaudible to start with. (JA)

Between The Buttons (1967)
- By now things had gotten deeply strange in the music industry, and the group was dragged into the new territory by Brian Jones' penchant for unusual instrumentation and creepy studio gimmickry - which wasn't always a good thing. There are some high points here (cleverly produced Jagger-Richards hits like "Yesterday's Papers" and the Dylan send up "Who's Been Sleeping Here?"; the foot-stomping "Miss Amanda Jones"), but also a lot of second-rate rockers ("My Obsession") and an awful novelty song (the comedic musical hall number "Something Happened To Me Yesterday," complete with kazoo and Keith's croaking vocals on the choruses). Ian Stewart's incessant boogie-woogie piano playing doesn't help, and the band ultimately fails to show as much range and production depth as competitors like the Beatles. The US version was greatly improved by the addition of the contemporary "Ruby Tuesday/Let's Spend The Night Together" single, a #1 hit. (JA)
- Funny, usually Alroy likes experimentation. "Something Happened To Me" is a bit wearing, but all the screwing around did result in "Ruby Tuesday," probably Brian's high point with the band. Weirdly compressed guitars give a jarring but not unpleasant feel to the rockers ("My Obsession," the marvelous "All Sold Out"), and more restrained tunes like "Cool, Calm & Collected" are pleasantly in the Aftermath vein. (DBW)

Flowers (1967)
- I'm listing this US-only compilation album because it's widely available and includes several otherwise unobtainable cuts. For Americans, there's the frustration of the repeated single "Ruby Tuesday/Let's Spend The Night Together." For Brits, there are superfluous numbers like "Mother's Little Helper" and "Out Of Time," which were excised from Aftermath en route to the States. And just to annoy everybody, the universally released Aftermath highlight "Lady Jane" is repeated as well. The "good" stuff, then, comprises out-takes from 1965 and 1966, like a cover of "My Girl" and such originals as "Ride On Baby," plus the overcharged A-side "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?" It's a damn shame that Decca/London hasn't made this album redundant by splitting it up as bonus tracks; uncontrolled greed does amazing things... (JA)
- Yes, much of the material here is available elsewhere, and there's a case to be made for boycotting this CD to pressure the record company into releasing some bonus tracks. But there's some damn good material here: clever pop-rock ("Ride On Baby"), distortion-drenched Bo Diddley ("Please Go Home"), and gentle acoustic pop ("Back Street Girl") -- all thoroughly marinated in misogyny. (DBW)

Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
- A commercial flop, and you can tell why - the Stones reach exceeded their grasp this time, with lame attempts to imitate Sgt. Pepper's loony, psychedelic band-within-a-band theme (the inexcusably sloppy "Sing This All Together"; "On With The Show," grating and unfunny). Despite this, there are heavy, acid-drenched rockers everywhere ("Citadel," with an ear-bursting rhythm guitar part; "She's A Rainbow," with orchestration courtesy of John Paul Jones; "2000 Light Years From Home"), and it's worth the trip. Oh, and this includes the only Bill Wyman composition/lead vocal that Jagger and Richards ever allowed on an official Stones record - "In Another Land," with Steve Marriott on lead guitar. (JA)
- The worst of the major bands' takes on Sgt. Pepper, there's lots of "atmospheric" Mellotron and self-conscious attempts to be weird, and hardly any attempts to make tuneful pop or effective rock and roll. This paved the way for Beggars to become the comeback album of the decade. (DBW)

Beggar's Banquet (1968)
- A return to the Stones' country-blues roots, with minimal studio trickery and straightforward bass-guitars-and-drums instrumentation, largely due to Brian Jones' widening split with Jagger and Richards. But the latter were determined to get their act together in the wake of 1967's disasters, and almost every number is solid rock and roll ("Street Fightin' Man," a politicized variation on the "Satisfaction" groove). (JA)
- Keith took over playing lead guitar with Brian out of the picture, and he tears the roof off the sucker, with not a note wasted on masterpieces like the Latin-tinged "Sympathy For The Devil," and the jailbait rocker "Stray Cat Blues." They also pull off some surprisingly sincere slow numbers: "Factory Girl," "Salt Of The Earth" (which features Keith's first lead vocal but unfortunately not his last). My personal favorite of the Stones' work, although I acknowledge that Sticky Fingers is a better introduction to their sound. (DBW)

Rock And Roll Circus (rec. 1968, rel. 1995)
The Stones' idea here was to film a handpicked procession of high-powered rock bands live in the studio, then release it as a TV special a la Magical Mystery Tour. Problem is, the Stones' set sucked, the affair dragged on all night, and nobody wanted to deal with the turkey once it was in the can. The tapes have been bootlegged since time immemorial, but they only saw the light of day nearly three decades later when the record company finally wised up. And even then they only put out a cursory compilation of highpoints: one tune each by Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, and Marianne Faithfull; the Who's epic "A Quick One" suite; the famous Lennon/Clapton/Mitch Mitchell/Keith on bass/Yoko on atonal vocals version of "Yer Blues," followed by a jam; and a half-dozen Stones numbers lifted mostly from the preceding studio album. Historically interesting, but a lousy package and I'm not about to rush out and get it. (JA)

The Mick Taylor Era

With their heads finally screwed on again, the Stones focused on a big-band R & B sound with a heavy country and Chicago blues influence. Taylor's wailing lead guitar, the Keys-Price horn section, and Nicky Hopkins' keyboards were featured prominently and effectively on records like Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile On Main Street (1972). Politicized lyrics were ditched, and experiments with unusual instrumentation and bizarre studio effects also came to an end. Instead, the band emphasized loose, jam-laden hedonism that worked over and over again thanks to their furious energy and telepathic interplay. The new formula worked, and the Stones have stuck with it ever since. (JA)

Let It Bleed (1969)
- Jones was dead (died on my third birthday, actually), and the highly competent slide guitarist/electric bluesman Mick Taylor (ex-John Mayall's Bluesbreakers) had stepped into his shoes, bringing the Stones to their artistic peak. In places, Bleed rocks so hard that it makes Hendrix look like a mild-mannered folkie (well, he more or less was one). There are multiple nods to Delta (the slow, hokey "Love In Vain") and Chicago blues (the extended, creepy "Midnight Rambler"), but the band is at its best when it just rocks out ("Gimmie Shelter"; "Live With Me"; "Monkey Man," with some of my favorite Stones lyrics). The low point is the over-orchestrated, syrupy intro to the otherwise kick-ass "You Can't Always Get What You Want." (JA)
- I think "You Can't Always Get" is rather silly, actually, as is "Country Honk." But it's still an incredibly enjoyable album. Keith's vocals are surprisingly effective on his feature "You Got The Silver." (DBW)

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (1970)
Flat-out the best live album of the 1960s: the band is well-oiled, while Taylor adds flashy leads to everything and turns "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Midnight Rambler" into tight, powerful jams. The set list is mostly from the two previous albums; Mick adds interesting new lyrics to "Honky Tonk Women" and there are two Chuck Berry covers ("Carol" and "Little Queenie") which rock just as hard as the Stones' own material. (DBW)

Sticky Fingers (1971)
- Certainly the best introduction to the Stones' legendary world's-greatest-rhythm-section sound, and my personal favorite. Virtually every track is a classic, divided between head-pounding rockers that brilliantly integrate the fine Keys and Price horn section ("Brown Sugar"; "Bitch"), and epic ballads that build to an irresistable climax (the famous and unforgettable "Wild Horses"; the huge, unstoppable groove "Can't You Hear Me Knocking"; the melodramatic "Sister Morphine"; the orchestrated "Moonlight Mile"). The only misfire is yet another slow, tongue-in-cheek acoustic country blues ("I Got The Blues"), the sort of thing that had become a fixture on Stones records. Paul Buckmaster handled the orchestration. (JA)
- If you've seen the Stones lately and can't understand why your parents (or whoever) thought they were so great, proceed directly to this album. For me, "I Got The Blues" is a fine pseudo-blues boosted by Billy Preston's organ; the misfire here is the oddly-recorded "You Gotta Move." (DBW)

Exile On Main Street (1972)
- A double album, and it's worth the long format. Plenty of good stuff here, a lot of it in the relentlessly chugging rock and roll mode of the previous record, a lot more of it in the peculiar country-blues mode of Beggar's Banquet. With stripped-down production, it's rawer and more heartfelt than anything else the Stones did. Highlights include big-band anthems like "Loving Cup," "Tumbling Dice," and "All Down The Line," and Keith's lead vocal on the infectiously groovy "Happy." Nonetheless, it does have a frustratingly uniform sound; and there are a few numbers like the aimless, gospely "Just Wanna See His Face" that amount to little more than heavy grooves with improvised vocals. If you can find this cheap on a single CD, don't hesitate to pick it up. (JA)
- Alroy's got it exactly: it all sounds the same, but it's real good anyway. (DBW)

Exile On Main St. (Rarities Edition) (rec. 1967-2010, rel. 2010)
A Frankenstein's Monster: ten unfinished tracks from the Exile sessions (though at least one dates back to 1967) treated to 2010 vocals and harmonica from Mick, plus god-knows-what-else from god-knows-who. (DBW)

Jamming With Edward (1972)
This is a weird story: one night during the Let It Bleed sessions, Keith Richards simply failed to show up. That left Jagger, Watts, Wyman, Nicky Hopkins, and guesting slide guitarist Ry Cooder to hang out and jam. Three years later the band decided to put out the tape in the form of this LP. I've heard it a couple times, and it's not particularly interesting except as a bootleg-style historical document with good sound quality. (JA)

Goats Head Soup (1973)
I finally picked this up, and it really did mark the end of an era: much less powerful and entertaining than Exile. I don't even care for the mawkish ballad "Angie," generally considered the album's high point. "Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)," driven by honking horns and Preston's electric piano, is one great song, but elsewhere the Glimmer Twins settle for self-parody: "Dancin' With Mr. D." is more bluesy winking Satanism; "Star Star" is more uptempo schoolboy smut; "Silver Train" is uninspired mock country; "Winter" is a rewrite of "Moonlight Mile." The arrangements and melodies are perfunctory, rote, and unenthusiastic, but not in the world-weary, too-busy-jetsetting-to-rehearse way... I can't say you never tried, Mick, but you could've tried a lot harder this time. (DBW)
Don't have this, and it's reputed to be a huge let-down after the previous four records, but at least two of the tracks are rock classics (the slick anthem "Doo Doo Doo Doo (Hearbreaker)" and the wrenching, slightly downbeat ballad "Angie"). (JA)

Monkey Grip (Wyman: 1974)
With the Stones in a period of chaos, Wyman got mixed up with Steve Stills' short-lived supergroup Manassas, and then recruited most of the band - Danny Kootch (guitar), Joe Lala (percussion), and Dallas Taylor (drums) - to back him on his first solo album. He also rounded up a bunch of high-profile guests, including Dr. John (who steals the show on several tunes like "I Wanna Get Me A Gun"), Byron Berline, Lowell George, Leon Russell, and George Terry, and the sound is beefed up with a trio of backup singers and a big horn section. But more than most light-hearted, mid-70s rock superstar vanity productions, this one has some legitimate rock 'n' roll energy and a few good tunes to boot - Wyman had been stocking up material for years. Hardly anything sounds like it might have fit on to a Stones record, except one slithery blues shuffle ("What A Blow"). Instead, Wyman goes with joyfully numbskulled jugband music ("Pussy"; "White Lightnin'") and, most often, a bloated blend of R & B and boogie-woogie, some of which is damn fun ("It's A Wonder," with Kootch overplaying like mad). But his lyrics are cringe-inducing, with over-obvious rhymes and frequent sexual crudities that sour his goofy attempts at humor. Not worth tracking down, but surely worth a spin or two. Produced by Wyman and engineered by the Albert brothers. (JA)

It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (1974)
A bunch of AOR staples: the title track, "Times Waits For No One," "Dance Little Sister," the Temptations cover "Ain't Too Proud To Beg." The lyrics throughout are far weaker than on their key records, but if you listen to the Stones for their lyrics you're a rare breed. The surprise on the record is the funky (Mick Taylor on bass), paranoid "Fingerprint File." (DBW)

The Ron Wood Era

The Stones retrenched even further with the addition of Ron Wood, mostly shedding the extra players to focus on the group's musical core, and emphasizing rhythm playing over soloing (Black And Blue, 1975; Some Girls, 1978). Despite occasional escapades with disco, punk, or other, older genres like country and blues that they had already mastered, this late period - from the mid-70s on - was one of relentless professionalism and equally relentless tedium. (JA)

Metamorphosis (recorded 1964 - 1969, released 1975)
- With the Stones bigger than ever but long-since free from their clutches, Decca decided to beef up its 60s catalogue with a release of out-takes. As you might expect, it's a total mixed bag, spanning several major transitions in the Stones' sound. The first side is dominated by frequently goofy numbers from the mid-60s, some featuring orchestration (the bathetic "Each And Every Day Of The Year") or country-western elements ("I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys"). Even when it's exciting, as with Chuck Berry's "Don't Lie To Me," it's second-rate. But the second side has some kick-ass Beggar's Banquet/Let It Bleed- era material that redeems the record, including one of two known versions of the legendary "Memo From Turner"; a weird cover of Stevie Wonder's "I Don't Know Why"; and Wyman's "Downtown Suzie". (JA)
- "Memo" is the only real find here; everything else is of interest to fans, but you're better off with any of the original Decca albums. If only they'd included the contract-fulfilling "Cocksucker Blues"! (DBW)

Stone Alone (Wyman: 1976)
No Stone rolls alone, I suppose. This must be the most terrifying array of 70s rock talent ever: the core band is Dallas Taylor (drums), Bob Welch and/or Danny Kortchmar (guitar), and Ruth and Bonnie Pointer (backing vocals), and the guests include Greg Errico, Albhy Galuten, Nicky Hopkins, Dr. John, Jim Keltner, Al Kooper, Joe Vitale, Van Morrison, Lenny Pickett, Joe Walsh, Ron Wood, etc., etc., etc. And, of course, it's possibly the most miserable piece of junk ever to headline a member of the band. Wyman only seems comfortable with overproduced farce, which lets a million instruments cover for his minimal, whiny singing - he makes Ron Wood sound like Sam Cooke. It's one embarassment after another: a campy reggae number ("Soul Satisfying"), a lazy honkytonk blues ("Every Sixty Seconds"), a Louis Armstrong parody ("No More Foolin'"), a 50's sendup ("A Quarter To Three"), a country-western hand-clapper ("What's The Point"), a couple of lame rockers ("Wine & Wimmen"), Kortchmar's stomping "Feet," and of course a series of Wyman's signature gimmick tunes. They're catchy, but gratingly silly, with shuffling beats, cheesy music hall affectations, and cutesy little-girl backing vocals ("Gimme Just One Chance"; "Peanut Butter Time"; "If You Wanna Be Happy"). Only the bluesy disco song "Apache Woman" sounds even vaguely like the Stones, despite the fact most of the songs are Wyman's - didn't he learn anything from Mick and Keith? (JA)

Black And Blue (1976)
The famous "lead guitarist audition" album, with competitors not only including folks like Harvey Mandel and Wayne Perkins who appeared on it, but Jeff Beck, who didn't. The winner, by the way, was the competent and self-effacing Ron Wood, lately of the Faces. Stevie Wonder camp follower Ollie Brown handles percussion, and Billy Preston plays keyboards. The record rocks, although it's not as memorable as the Stones' early 70s output (obviously, or I'd have more to say about it!). (JA)
Contains a fun rock/disco hybrid, "Hot Stuff," and a lovely ballad, "Fool To Cry." (DBW)

Love You Live (1977)
A sorry, bootleg-quality live record with an anarchic, party-time atmosphere ("Sympathy For The Devil") that shows the group already leaning heavily on its early roots and Mick Taylor-era standards - "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is almost the only nod to the mid-60s. With the band sounding half-practiced, everything gets the same sludgy, de-energized treatment ("Honky Tonk Women"; "If You Can't Rock Me/Get Off My Cloud"; "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll"). Wood doesn't seem to know the material ("Brown Sugar"), and Jagger's vocals are so sloppy and mannered ("You Can't Always Get What You Want") he makes Richards sound like Placido Domingo ("Happy"). There are only two relatively recent tunes: "Hot Stuff" benefits from all the rough treatment, but "Fingerprint File" is simply weak. So the only real point of interest is the batch of bloated, over-eager blues songs ("You Gotta Move"; Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters'"Mannish Boy"; Willie Dixon's lethargic "Little Red Rooster"), plus Chuck Berry's equally ancient "Around And Around." But the only 50s oldie that really works is an amusing calypso arrangement of Diddley's "Crackin' Up." The other big find is a version of their infamous suppressed single "Star Star" (a.k.a. "Star Fucker"), but it turns out to be the kind of primitive rock 'n' roll song they might have cut in 1964. Pathetic: it is the Stones, but in places you really start to wonder. The lineup is joined here by Billy Preston (keyboards, audible on "Tumbling Dice"), Ian Stewart (piano), and Ollie Brown (percussion). (JA)

Some Girls (1978)
- Wow, it's hard to believe these guys could keep pumping out such great product after so many years. But it's only product, after all. The Stones had figured out a successful formula years before, and here they tread water, nodding towards the current disco craze ("Miss You," their last #1 hit; "Shattered," also a successful single), but not very seriously despite Bill Wyman's total mastery of the form. An annoying attempt at country-western humor mucks things up ("Far Away Eyes"), but most of the record is solidly amusing (the overdriven "When The Whip Comes Down"; the slow, snappy "Beast Of Burden," another major hit). (JA)
- Same old same old from the boys here; the mellow "Beast Of Burden" is luscious, and "Miss You" is corny but has effective hooks. Otherwise, it's a bunch of reruns that don't rock with their earlier power. (DBW)

Emotional Rescue (1980)
Their worst effort in years. There are two fine singles here, both of them harmless fun: the disco title track, with a great Ron Wood bass line and Jagger's hysterical sex god monologuing; and the equally amusing, but less imaginative rocker "She's So Cold," a Top 40 hit but not a very strong seller. But the rest is just plain lousy. The first side is full of sputtering hard rock tunes, with Watts pounding frenetically in an effort to keep the band awake ("Let It Go"). Elsewhere it's one failed experiment after another: a boring traditional Chicago blues ("Down In The Whole"), a weak reggae number ("Send It To Me"), an obligatory Keith Richards vocal spotlight ("All About You"), a vague nod at punk with goofy Cockney vocals ("Where The Boys Go"), and a romantic "Angie"-style ballad with silly Mexican horns ("Indian Girl," arranged by Jack Nitzsche). Guests include Bobby Keys, Ian Stewart, hamonica virtuoso Sugar Blue, and Santana percussionist Michael Shrieve. (JA)

Sucking In The Seventies (1981)
More like Sucking In The LATE Seventies. The Stones had already released a greatest hits compilation of 70s tunes (1975's Made In The Shade), but they decided to cash in anyway with a second one. This time, however, they added a few bonus tracks, which makes this of marginal interest to collectors: the B-side of "Shattered" ("Everything Is Turning To Gold"), a live version of "When The Whip Comes Down," and an alternate version of Emotional Rescue's "Dance" ("If I Was A Dancer"). Most of the rest is from Black And Blue and Some Girls, with one live number from Love You Live ("Mannish Boy") and one older It's Only tune ("Time Waits For No One"). (JA)

Tatoo You (1981)
Don't have this album, a #1 hit like all the rest back to Sticky Fingers, but it was such a huge success that one can tell it's quite solid just from knowing the hits. Strangely, though, there are only four newly recorded tunes here, the most important being the fine ballad "Waiting On A Friend." The rest are out-takes from a variety of 70s studio albums, like the excellent, overenergized rockers "Start Me Up" (a #2 hit single) and "Hang Fire" (Some Girls), and the entertainingly smutty "Little T & A" (Emotional Rescue). (JA)

Bill Wyman (Wyman: 1982)
This isn't even vaguely like Wyman's earlier albums, with hardly any superstar silliness and a bizarre, but at least consistent tone. Sleazy synthesizers and chorusey guitars crop up everywhere, and the tempo rises above a crawl in just a few places - one nutty take on ska ("Jump Up"), one disco tune ("Come Back Suzanne"), and a weird, jittery rocker that channels the Stones' contemporary punk-disco formula ("Girls"). With Wyman honking on a harmonica, beaming in ornate vocal harmonies, and crooning his obscene, demented, Cockney-accented lyrics, it's like a nightmarish, testosterone- and valium-induced hallucination of the late-period Beach Boys. All of this oozes its way towards an insane, wholly unnatural conclusion on "(Si, Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star," a shuffling synth groove plastered with joke French lyrics. Fans of Dr. Demento will find the album the most memorable thing any Stone ever recorded. "Je Suis" and the loping, echoey "A New Fashion" were both hit singles in Britain. The band is Terry Taylor (guitar) and Dave Mattacks (drums), with just a few guests including Stray Cat Brian Setzer, who solos on "Ride On Baby"; Mel Collins, who leads the horn section on "Jump Up"; and Chris Rea, who adds a nice slide guitar part to the soporific, but pretty love song "Visions." (JA)

Still Life (American Concert 1981) (1982)
The Stones' fourth live album, and it had only been four years since the last one. It was recorded at two shows in late 1981, and it's full of predictable hits like "Start Me Up," "Time Is On My Side," "Shattered," and "Satisfaction." However, there's also the obscure Emotional Rescue rocker "Let Me Go," a cover of the even more obscure 50's rocker "Twenty Flight Rock," and an entertaining cover of the Miracles' not at all obscure "Going To A Go-Go" (the album's single, it broke the Top 40). The keyboard player here was Ron Wood's old buddy Ian McLagan. Like everything the Stones released in this era, this one climbed into the Top 10. (JA)

Undercover (1983)
Critical opinion is mixed on this, with some saying it's brilliant although it was their biggest commercial failure in well over a decade (it still hit #4 on the charts). The Stones went here for provocative, occasionally gory lyrical themes, with several videos and singles getting into trouble with the censors. Said singles included "Undercover Of The Night," "She Was Hot," and the 12-inch "Too Much Blood" (only "Undercover" broke the American Top 40). (JA)

She's The Boss (Jagger: 1985)
The first solo album by a member of the Jagger-Richards writing team; it yielded a pair of Top 40 hits, "Just Another Night" and "Lucky In Love," and promptly went platinum. Guests included Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend. (JA)

Willie And The Poor Boys (Wyman: 1985)
This was an odd Bill Wyman project, with Watts also appearing; there are some other high-powered guests, but I've forgotten who they are. (JA)

Dirty Work (1986)
- They do push themselves a little bit here, with a nice reggae cover ("Too Rude"), an album-closing ballad ("Sleep Tonight"), and lyrics that rank with their most vicious ("Had It With You"), in addition to standard-issue (but fun) rockers ("One Hit (To The Body)," "Winning Ugly," title track). The weak rendition of "Harlem Shuffle" is distracting (and if you think the song is bad, you should see the appallingly racist Ralph Bakshi video). (DBW)
- Co-producer Steve Lillywhite doesn't have to do much to get a tough, hard-rocking sound out of them, mixing up the drums as is his wont ("Hold Back"); and the Glimmer Twins do come up with some interesting, occasionally political lyrics. "One Hit" is a great addition to their collection of classic hard rock tunes; the bizarre R & B revival "Harlem Shuffle" sports a cool, off-kilter rhythm; "Too Rude" is fun; "Winning Ugly" crosses Motown vocals and some ferocious guitar; and Keith's overlong, can't-cut-an-album-without-one soul ballad "Sleep Tonight" is nice enough. But they end up with way too much formulaic filler, from plodding boogie-woogie ("Had It With You") to Talking Heads-style disco ("Back To Zero") to rote rock songs ("Fight"; title track - the kind of stuff that would mark the high points on anyone else's record). Lots and lots of well-known guest artists this time, like Jimmy Page ("One Hit (To The Body)"), Jimmy Cliff, Charley Drayton, Tom Waits, and Bobby Womack, plus cronies like Steve Jordan, Chuck Leavell, Ivan Neville, and Ian Stewart. (JA)

Primitive Cool (Jagger: 1987)
This is far from a masterpiece, weakened by lapses of taste like "Let's Work" that never would have made it on to a Stones record, and frequently monotonous. Without the band to keep him honest, Jagger just doesn't have much to say. But the disc does some entertainment value, thanks to the personnel: Jeff Beck (lead guitar), G. E. Smith of Hall and Oates/Saturday Night Live fame (rhythm guitar), Doug Wimbish (bass), and Simon Phillips (drums) - and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics co-wrote and co-produced three tunes. The combination works on the record's lead-in track - the cheerful, energetic, standard-issue, radio-friendly rocker "Throwaway." Jagger also makes good use of Wimbish's slapping on the funk-rocker "Shoot Off Your Mouth." Elsewhere, though, the big-deal players aren't used much, and Jagger mostly stays with the Stones' hard rock format ("Radio Control"; "Kow Tow"); the predictably experimental Stewart numbers aren't that experimental; and the pompous, synthed-out, Big Message anti-arms race "War Baby" might not be Stones-esque, but it is generic. Guests include Omar Hakim, Greg Phillinganes, Vernon Reid, and David Sanborn. (JA)

Talk Is Cheap (Richards: 1988)
- Keith's first solo album is full of little pleasures: snappy offhand rhythm guitar licks (he still plays that thing like no one else), cranked-up riff tunes ("Whip It Up," "It Means A Lot"). Surprisingly, he succeeds with atmospheric funk that the Stones never really managed (P-Funk alumni Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell and Maceo Parker make remarkable contributions), and he also changes pace with a nice twisted ballad ("Locked Away") and a horn-driven 50's rocker ("I Could Have Stood You Up"). Of course, he still can't sing, but he clearly isn't letting that bother him. Meaningful lyrics? Who needs 'em? Co-producer Steve Jordan replaces both Charlie and Bill, and his simpler drumming style actually works well. (DBW)
- I've got this one too, and I just don't hear the magic. Sure, Keith gets across the point that the Stones' instrumental sound is largely his own invention ("Take It So Hard"; the insidious "You Don't Move Me"; "How I Wish"; "Whip It Up"). But the songwriting and performances are sloppy and sub-par (thrashing rockers like "Struggle" and "It Means A Lot"), the mellow, formulaic country-rock ballad "Locked Away" is practically the only high point, and although Bootsy's burbling bass line and Parker's honking sax liven up the stuttering, James Brown-like "Big Enough," the other stylistic experiments flop: "I Could Have Stood You Up," with Mick Taylor and stride pianist Johnnie Johnson in the mix, is so intentionally anachronistic it's distracting; the Al Green tribute "Make No Mistake," with the Memphis Horns, is dull; the trance-like R & B groove "Rockawhile" goes nowhere, despite Worrell's watery synth part. And I'd rather have Wyman and Watts any day than this record's anonymous rhythm section of Jordan (drums), Charley Drayton (bass), and Waddy Wachtel (guitar). Additional guests include Sarah Dash, Joey Spampinato, and the Boss' girl Patti Scialfa. (JA)

Live At The Hollywood Palladium (Richards and the X-Pensive Winos: rec. 1988, rel. 1991)
Apparently Richards wasn't interested in releasing this live disc until the show became widely bootlegged. It's the same band he would use on Main Offender (plus Bobby Keys), but they stick mostly to material from Talk Is Cheap, with just a few Stones tunes thrown in: "Happy," "Connection" done over in standard late Stones style, and "Time Is On My Side" with vocals belted out by Labelle vet Sarah Dash. It's a bit more homogenized and not quite as fresh as the studio tracks, and Keith's lack of vocal ability is really in your face, but it's still plenty of fun. (DBW)

Steel Wheels (1989)
The Stones formula is again followed very closely here - almost every track sounds like it could have been recorded ten or fifteen years earlier. The major exception is the groovy, Arabic-flavored, World Music-influenced 60s throwback "Continental Drift." The rest is satisfying for fans who couldn't get enough of the 70s Stones records in the first place: "Terrifying" recalls their better disco tunes, "Can't Be Seen With You" has Keith crooning a fine lead vocal over a catchy up-tempo backing track, the single "Rock And A Hard Place" is more the former than the latter, etc. (JA)

Flashpoint (1991)
The obligatory live record that documents the Steel Wheels tour, it includes 16 full songs, several of them quite lengthy. If you saw the tour or (as I did) the OmniMax movie, you already know what's coming: really well-rehearsed performances of songs you're so familiar with, you can't get excited about them any more. The long list of 60s and 70s standards includes "Brown Sugar," "Miss You," "Ruby Tuesday," and of course "Satisfaction." Other than "Start Me Up," the handful of 80s tunes are all from Steel Wheels; there are also two new studio numbers, the single "Highwire" (a routine rocker with political lyrics) and "Sex Drive" (a transparent James Brown tribute). None of it's terribly interesting, even when the more ancient numbers are jazzed up with new arrangements; you'll do better to track down the respective studio records first. Eric Clapton guests on a dull, sloppy "Little Red Rooster," and the frequently ignored supplementary players include Bobby Keys, Chuck Leavell, a horn section, and a bunch of backup vocalists. (JA)

Main Offender (Richards: 1992)
Everything that made Keith's first solo album fun is reduced to a formula here; everything's a rerun, from the opening chords rehashing "Gimme Shelter" to the mandatory album-closing ballad ("Demon"). The band's the same on every track (hardly any guest appearances), and the sound is depressingly monotonous. The real easy-to-please fans will still find something to like in the classic sound of "Eileen," a couple of nice licks on "Yap Yap," and the overlong "Words Of Wonder," but overall this is shockingly weak. (DBW)

Wandering Spirit (Jagger: 1993)
I keep trying to talk Wilson into buying this. The single is "Sweet Thing." (JA)

Voodoo Lounge (1994)
Hot damn, ain't nobody rips off the Rolling Stones better'n these boys. Indeed, this willfully unexperimental record is so stuffed with slick riffs and sure-fire 70s formulas that any fan will fall for it lock, stock and barrel. The deliver some formulaic and frequently lethargic, but irresistable rockers ("Sparks Will Fly"; "I Go Wild"), and they recycle themselves with tongue-in-cheek roots rock ("Mean Disposition"), old-style funk ("Suck On The Jugular"), "Lady Jane"-style balladry ("New Faces"), soul ("Moon Is Up"), Motown-esque R & B ("Baby Break It Down"), and even another half-serious Mexican-flavored pop song ("Sweethearts Together"). Keith gets his usual classy, down-tempo spotlights ("The Worst"; "Thru And Thru"), Mick is so foul-mouthed it's shocking ("Brand New Car"), Ronnie's solos are spotless, Charlie's beat is as crisp and funky as ever, and the key tracks out of a generous crop of 15 are pretty damn good (the soulful, slow-burning "Love Is Strong"; the generic single "You Got Me Rocking"; the ballads "Out Of Tears" and "Blinded By Rainbows"). Dig deep and make another contribution to the Glimmer Twins Charity Fund. Co-produced by Don Was, with the usual bit-players (Bernie Fowler, Ivan Neville, Leavell, Benmont Tench) and a few surprises (Lenny Castro, Mark Isham, Louis Jardim, etc.). Bill Wyman had finally called it quits and was replaced here by Darryl Jones, but the record's so low-key it doesn't make much of a difference. (JA)

Stripped (1995)
A set of unplugged-esque rehashes. The relative underproduction is a breath of fresh air, but the record is just hopelessly crass: the sound is only "stripped" because Richards and Wood get stuck with bright-sounding acoustic guitars, Watts gets asked to play way too lightly, and they dig out stuff like "Wild Horses," "Love In Vain" and "Angie" that was unplugged to start with. Worse, they ignore most of their catalog in favor of moldy, over-played, over-practiced tunes. The only post-1973 composition is Richards' fine Steel Wheels ballad "Slipping Away," and the only even vaguely "new" numbers are Willie Dixon's pedestrian striding blues "Little Baby" and Bob Dylan's original arrangement of "Like A Rolling Stone." There's something ghoulish about hearing them revive "Not Fade Away" three full decades on; the hippy optimism of "I'm Free" is hoplelessly anachronistic; Wood often sounds lost when he's called on to revive Taylor's parts ("Angie"); and Jagger's mannered vocals make "The Spider And The Fly" and "Dead Flowers" seem like parodies. Sure, the track selection does communicate some of the group's original eclecticism and love of the blues - but why would you want to hear this ersatz stuff instead of the original recordings? Again co-produced by Don Was; the band includes Darryl Jones, Leavell, Fowler on backing vocals, and a horn section led by Bobby Keys. The disc includes a small amount of thoroughly unenlightening interactive CD-ROM stuff. (JA)

Bridges To Babylon (1997)
The Glimmer Twins and co-producer Don Was are on cruise control here, wheezing through a set of digitally enhanced tunes that match an utter lack of imagination with the lowest energy levels in the band's four-decade history. There are exactly two straight-up Stones-brand rockers, and they're so pre-packaged they sound like they just popped right out of the microwave ("Flip The Switch"; "Too Tight"). Everything else is overlong and sluggish, even when they go with light techno beats (the otherwise arthritic R & B ballad "Anybody Seen My Baby") and soggy electro-hiphop seasoning ("Might As Well Get Juiced"). More often they go back to tired genres: the early 70s/Stax-Volt epic "Already Over Me"; "Gunface," with a hard funk beat that unexpectedly verges on polka; the poorly titled reggae-blues-corporate rocker "Out Of Control"; "Saint Of Me," more New Orleans-y funk; and the routine semi-acoustic ballad "Already Suffering." Watts and Richards are as sharp as ever but get just a few chances to show it ("Low Down"). So the only really nice moment is Keith's good-natured, super-authentic ska extravaganza "You Don't Have To Mean It"; elsewhere his bleary, bloozy spotlights race along like slugs on Valium ("Thief In The Night"; the smokey jazz number "How Can't Stop," which barely does). Jones, Doug Wimbish, and Jeff Sarli are on bass, Waddy Wachtel on third-string guitar, Jim Keltner on percussion, and Fowler and (!) Blondie Chaplin on backing vocals; guests include Me'Shell Ndegéocello, Billy Preston, Wayne Shorter, and Benmont Tench. The release date of 30 September 1997 coincided roughly with the beginning of the tour documented on the next record. (JA)
This debuted at #3 in the US charts after enormous hype. (DBW)

Struttin' Our Stuff (Wyman: 1998)
Wyman quickly pumped out a new pile of solo records after finally being liberated from the Stones, beginning with this one. Credited to Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings, it's a slickly-produced nostalgia piece cluttered with guests and dominated by Wyman's energetic, 40s-style jump and swing-based compositions ("Walking On My Own"; "Jitterbug Boogie"), complete with the leering sexual innuendoes that made his earlier solo work so much fun (the elegant "Going Crazy Overnight"). But this time Wyman often gives away the lead vocal, especially on a series of high-profile cover tunes (Willie Dixon's "Down In The Bottom" with Geraint Watkins, done up early 60s Stones-style; John Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road," with Paul Carrack and swaggering blues guitar by Peter Frampton; the Stones' own "Melody," with a fine Eric Clapton lead line and vocalist Georgie Fame, who's also a gas on the 3/4 soul groove "Hole In My Soul" - but that's Wyman on CCR's "Green River"). Some of the covers flop (Watkins' corny, gravel-voiced blues-izing on Willie Mabon's "I'm Mad"; backing singer Beverley Skeete's overwrought spotlight vocal on Wyman's dull blues torch song "Bad To Be Alone," with Gary Brooker on swirling organ). But when it's not completely clichéd ("Motorvatin' Mama"; "Jitterbug Boogie"), Wyman's own songwriting is as joyful and funny as ever (the peppy "Stuff (Can't Get Enough)"). And despite the over-slick horn horn section and female chorus, the record's a heck of a lot more interesting than anything the Glimmer Twins have done lately. The core band is Terry Taylor (rhythm guitar), Dave Hartley (piano), and Graham Broad (drums), often aided by Max Middleton (piano) and Albert Lee (lead guitar); Ray Cooper is on two tracks. (JA)

No Security (1998)
How about "No Sense," "No Steam," or "No Scruples" instead... yet another live record, in keeping with the Stones' commercial strategy of releasing a new one after every major stadium tour (the material was recorded during the Babylon shows). On the plus side, the set list is a little unusual, with reworkings of some moderately obscure album tracks and even a few titles I don't recognize. Not having been advertised nearly as heavily as the studio record, this one debuted at #34. (JA)

Goddess In The Doorway (Jagger: 2001)
A rote, overproduced corporate rock record. In the absence of the Stones' hard-hitting rhythm section and methodical ransacking of American roots music influences, Jagger sounds almost like another Rod Stewart. He wastes a long list of high-profile guest appearances - Pete Townshend, Bono, Joe Perry, Lenny Kravitz, Matchbox 20's Rob Thomas, Wyclef Jean, Jim Keltner - and layers on so many tracks that you mostly can't hear his guitar parts. Vocally he's the same as always, and the energy level is reasonably high. But the record is so bloated and stylistically incoherent it's got minimal entertainment value. Jagger gives away some cowrites, but most of the material is his; the otherwise anonymous backing band includes percussionist Lenny Castro. (JA)

A Bigger Bang (2005)
I haven't bought a new Stones album in nineteen years, but apparently I didn't miss a thing. No trend-hopping this time, just the standard theme - midtempo blues-based rockers ("It Won't Take Long"; "Oh No Not You Again") - and variations: "Memory Motel"-style ballad-with-falsetto-backing ("Biggest Mistake"), "Hot Stuff"-style funk ("Rain Fall Down") and a worldweary Keith tearjerker ("This Place Is Empty"). Which wouldn't be a problem - I'm not eager to hear the Stones take on reggaeton - except that there are no driving hooks, just one almost-recognizable four-chord progression after another... Almost everything sounds like it could've fit on Exile ("Rough Justice"), but absolutely nothing would've been one of the better cuts. So if you really need to hear another slide-guitar-and-harmonica tune ("Back Of My Hand"), dig in - just don't say I didn't warn you. (DBW)

SuperHeavy (SuperHeavy: 2011)
Jagger tried to put together an international supergroup, working with the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, Bollywood soundtrack composer A.R. Rahman, Bob spawn Damian Marley, and former blue-eyed soul prodigy Joss Stone. With a couple of exceptions ("Never Gonna Change," a trademark Mick slowie; "I Can't Take It No More," a horrendous Starship-style corp rocker), every track is a muddle of electronics and strings over a basic reggae groove, with Stone throwing in Martha Wash-ish "Yeaaaah"s at random intervals. I wasn't expecting much from any of the others, but it's a shame Rahman wasn't able to come up with anything entertaining, let alone interesting or innovative. Full review coming at some point. (DBW)

God, even I'm bored with this. On with the show.

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