JB’s FIVE FAVORITE STONES ALBUMS
I have a similar Top 5 on Facebook already. But these are “my favorites” as opposed to “the greatest.” Some rules: No “Greatest Hits” allowed even if they contained new material! Mostly this rule exists because I’m STILL pissed at the fact that “Emotional Rescue” on “40 Licks” gets edited right during the “I’ll be your knight in shining armor…” part when they are obviously high as Hell. In no particular order, so I guess chronological is just as good as any…
1. Sticky Fingers (1971). A classic Stones record you can listen to from beginning to end. In the middle of their greatest artistic period, this album was the bridge between 60’s blues/art rock and the big guitar stadium sound of the 70’s. It was also Mick Taylor’s showcase to prove that he was the greatest guitar player the Stones ever had. Just listen to the solos on “Sway” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”
2. Exile On Main Street (1972). Considered by many as their greatest recording ever, this double album had everything I love about the Stones, heart, soul, grit, danger, devotion, love, anger, no gratuitous political message, an amazing horn section, and only one Top 10 hit. I love it when that happens because it belongs more to music lovers than to superficial fans. Volumes could be written about how these 18 songs were a blueprint for how to make a perfect Rock n Roll record. In the interest of keeping it simple, I’ll just say that what “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was for Pop music, this was for Rock.
3. Some Girls (1978). And I’ll tell you why…In 1978 New York City was going through an exciting time musically, culturally and in every which way. Uptown, Studio 54 was the hottest disco spot…decadent, drug-hazed and shallow. Downtown on the Bowery, CBGB’s produced a more relevant music scene fueled by Punk rock…hungry, drug-hazed and real. Listen to this album from start to finish and you realize that it captures both these very different musical sensibilities masterfully on one record. This is as “New York” a record as any other, and it’s great. Lou Reed captured everything that was dangerous about New York City in 1989 with his “New York” album. Just listen to “Shattered,” the Stones did it in one song 11 years earlier.
4. Tattoo You(1981). As far as great albums go, this was their last one; A collection of outtakes that became a bona fide classic Stones record. It’s hard for me to imagine any of these songs on other Stones albums, to think that’s what almost happened.
5.Voodoo Lounge (1994). I see this album the same way people saw “The Velvet Underground & Nico” so many years ago in that it will be a classic later in its life, after it has been digested a few times over. Just one great song after another (with the exception of that single). Bold in the way it was current, a bit experimental, and classic straight up rock n’roll.
JB’s TEN (OK A BAKER’S DOZEN) FAVORITE STONES SONGS
I can’t place these in any particular order, so I guess chronological is just as good as any, and I’m probably not even gonna be able to stick to just ten but…
1. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Come on, gimmie a break…how do you think a classic even becomes a classic in the first place? There is just something about that riff that still has the same effect on me as when I first heard it.
2. “Under My Thumb.” I never thought a song would make me recognize a xylophone. Most songs catch your ear with the opening riff, and this one does it with a xylophone. It was a subtle illustration of the creative rock n roll mind that was Brian Jones.
3. “2000 Light Years From Home.” So overlooked because The Beatles had cornered the psychedelic rock market with Sgt. Pepper, and deservedly so by the way. The Stones had no business making “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” but what a great song.
4. “Sympathy For The Devil.” When done live, it’s usually where Keith does his long guitar solo. The studio version really is a testament to the genius of the late Brian Jones, founder of the band. Overlapping beats, African rhythm instruments that he had just learned to play, and Keith’s steady then explosive guitar make this one a classic.
5. “Moonlight Mile.” A subtle, faint opening guitar riff, a delicate verse, then a burst of emotion without raising so much as one decibel on the chorus. This is genius, and when you hear it, I promise you will never overuse that word again. I think it only appropriate that it was the last song on “Sticky Fingers,” foreshadowing the greatness of “Exile On Main Street.”
6. “Tumbling Dice.” The opening guitar riff is like a long awaited friend that just walked into your favorite bar. The only “hit” from “Exile On Main Street,” a song full of longing, despair and true love.
7. "Star Star (live)." OK I'm a walking contradiction, But on a Stones live album that was breathtakingly awful, this was one bright spot. “Love You Live” should have been named “Hate The Drugged Out Asshole Responsible For This Horrid Mixing,” but this version of the song far exceeds the studio version, with great improvised guitar solos.
8. “Worried About You.” As beautifully haunting as “Gimmie Shelter” or “Moonlight Mile,” this track from “Tattoo You” is not just a great make-out song, but the guitar solo is one of my all time favorites. Imagine my disappointment when I found out it didn’t belong to Keith Richards originally. Like so many other contributors on “Tattoo You,” Wayne Perkins on lead guitar went uncredited.
9. “Waiting On a Friend.” A song about true devotion from “Tattoo You” with the most amazing sax solo you are ever gonna hear in your life by the great Sonny Rollins. I still can’t walk on St. Mark’s without hearing this song in my head. And before they tore it down, my friend Phil and I had a beer at that bar where the video was shot, a fresco of the band was on its Northern wall.
10. “Sparks Will Fly.” An awesome rock song from “Voodoo Lounge.” When a man in his 50’s is bragging about fucking someone in the ass he is either supremely confident or totally insane, I think Mick Jagger’s appeal is that he is probably both.
11. “Jump On Top Of Me.” I just love this song. A B-Side from “Voodoo Lounge,” it was in a Robert Altman movie whose name escapes me at the moment. Once again, a genuine Stones groove revamped for the 90’s that was shamefully overlooked. I guess everyone was too busy with Michael Bolton.
12. “Not Fade Away (live).” Ok you might have a hard time finding this one. Originally done by Buddy Holly many, many moons ago, there is a version on 1995’s “Stripped,” but if you can get a bootleg copy of the Stones 1994 tour, they open with this and combined with the actual crowd noise it’s the perfect build-up song. They also did it live in 1966 on “Got Live If You Want It!”
13. “Don’t Stop.” Who would have thought that a Stones song from this century would make the cut, but this is another classic Stones groove…catchy opening guitar riff, understated, perfect drumbeat, and Jagger’s whiskey in a jar voice.
Some notable mentions: “She Was Hot” (Imagine what Stevie Ray Vaughan could have done on lead if asked) “Happy” “Emotional Rescue” “Jiving Sister Fanny” “I Wanna Be Your Man” (better than the Beatles version…deal with it) “Time is on My Side”(the live version on “Still Life” with Keith’s scratchy background vocals) “Try a Little Harder” “Mona(I Need You Baby)” and “No Expectations.”
FIVE NOTABLE COVERS OF STONES SONGS
By that I mean covers I actually like!
1. Devo - “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Mena dropped a most poetic line at my house the other day about the criteria of a good cover, but I can’t remember it well enough to steal it, so let me just say that part of it was being able to add something original to a song that isn’t your own, or else what’s the point? Devo does just that with this song. You can’t even tell it’s a cover until you hear the lyrics.
2. Jane’s Addiction – “Sympathy For The Devil.” Perry Farrell’s creepy, end note sustaining voice is what makes this cover so interesting. The rest of the band barely plays, but gets in just enough to add a unique stamp to this song.
3.Travis Tritt – “Honky Tonk Women.” Yeah I didn’t think so either, but this is a great song. I’ve always knew this guy was a rock star disguised as a redneck.
4. Anakelly – “Under My Thumb.” Oh please…if you can like fucking Charo doing “Let’s Spend the Night Together” I can like a Bossa Nova/Trance version of this song!
5. The Sundays - “Wild Horses.” Harriet Wheeler has a voice that I just never get tired of, and the album this is on reminds me so much of a lazy weekend afternoon Downtown and my Tower Records days. Ahh…1992, what a year.