Saturday, April 02, 2016

"It's Only Rock'n Roll," The Rolling Stones (1974)

You're probably going to have trouble finding someone who thinks that "It's Only Rock'n Roll" is the best Stones album, or even among the Stones' best five (ten?) albums, but it was the first Rolling Stones record I fell in love with, way back in the days when Mick Taylor was still in the band and "the other Mick" was still the first name that one thought of when considering the Stones.

And you know what? It's a pretty damn good album. Except for "Fingerprint File," which I never got then and am still not sure I completely understand today, this is strong, consistent work that shows the band doing its best to stretch the very idea of what the Stones were meant to sound like, and mostly succeeding.

The most powerful tracks are not those that one would consider your standard Stones-style rockers, but rather "Time Waits for No One," the closer on Side One, and "Luxury," the opener on Side Two. Jon Landau described Jagger's singing on the former as "a controlled desperation that borders on acceptance but never quite becomes resignation...given the rock star's inherent fear of aging, the song becomes an affirmation of Jagger's willingness to keep on trying in the face of inevitable doom." About the latter, Greil Marcus wrote, "it comes on as if the Stones are trying to cash in on reggae—the pose—but by the time it’s halfway done what it really sounds like is a reggae band playing like Stones. The chords that seemed copped in the first minute are magical by the third—there isn’t a group in the world that can play like this."

Indeed, there isn't. I won't quibble with those who find it hard to take them seriously today, but it would be silly to pretend that they aren't one of the best and most important rock acts of all time.

Christgau: B. "This is measurably stronger than Goats Head Soup, and I hear enough new hooks and arresting bass runs and audacious jokes to stretch over three ordinary albums--or do I mean two? I also hear lazy rhymes and a song about dancing with Father Time and two sides that begin at a peak and wind down from there and an LP title that means more than it intends--or do I mean less?"

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