Thursday, July 31, 2014

32 Let it Bleed (1969) The Rolling Stones

1. Gimme Shelter
2. Love in Vain
3. Country Honk
4. Live with Me
5. Let It Bleed
6. Midnight Rambler
7. You Got the Silver
8. Monkey Man
9. You Can't Always Get What You Want

It's not often I can say this but there isn't a single dud track on this album. There isn't a flat spot on the entire release and not a weak moment in its entire running length. It's gold from start to finish and proof that The Rolling Stones were the best band in the world as the sixties gave way to the seventies and they had a magnificent run of albums which nobody has managed to top since.

The weakest song on Let it Bleed is Monkey Man which is fantastic. Many bands writing music in 1969 would have killed to write a song like Monkey Man, I mean literally killed. If they'd been given the option of having a songwriting credit on Monkey Man in exchange for knifing someone in a dark alley then every city would be heaving with lead guitarists hiding in shadows wielding blades. It would be a hit single for most bands but on Let it Bleed it just sits there as an album track. They didn't even bother playing it live when they toured until the mid nineties when it became one of the songs they revived in order to delight fans who loved hearing obscure old tracks given a live working. Despite being 25 years older than when he recorded it, Jagger hauled the band through stage renditions of Monkey Man as if he wrote it that morning and was keen to capture it before the magic left his head. He howled the words, ably supported by Lisa Fischer who has a voice so powerful they can enjoy her in Wales when she's appearing in London, and blew away everyone who heard it.

The strongest song on Let it Bleed is definitely Gimme Shelter and to be honest it would be the strongest track on pretty much every album on this countdown. Shelter is dark but magnificently so. It says something about a track when the lightest moment is probably a woman screaming "Rape, Murder, it's just a shot away". It's pitch black in its outlook and downright scary when you get down to it but it's also proof that the four guys who we think of as making up the core of the Rolling Stones were incredible talents. Watts gives every drumbeat an extra thump, Wyman grooves along on bass and Richards handles sole guitar duties. Jagger sings like he knows he's the greatest frontman in rock and roll (and to be fair he did because he was) and his harmonica sounds like it's possessed. 

The main impression you get from Let it Bleed is a band who is incredibly self confident and supremely sure of their own abilities. They were no longer a tentative cover band dipping their toe in song writing. They were the greatest band in the world and they knew it. If they wanted to record an extended blues track about the Boston Strangler then dammit they would. If they wanted to augment a song with an entire choir then why the hell not. if they wanted to throw on a country version of a prior hit then who would stop them? And if they wanted to pay tribute to Robert Johnson and remind everyone how they started then they would. They were the Stones and the rest of you could get stuffed.

Part of the reason for this new found confidence was the drifting away of founder and bandleader Brian Jones. In the early days The Rolling Stones was Brian's band. He was the leader and Mick and Keith were just the vocalist and other guitarist in his band. He ran the show and was the guy in charge. When it became clear the Jones wasn't really a songwriter but Mick and Keith were, the dynamic in the band changed and Brian went from being leader to hanger on.

Jones was present for the recording of Let it Bleed but didn't pick up his guitar for the entire session. He beat a bit of percussion on Midnight Rambler and played autoharp on You Go the Silver but the band could have easily survived without either contribution. For the first time it was clear that they didn't need their former leader and he was surplus to requirements. The sound of Let it Bleed is the sound of Jagger and Richards realising who is boss. 

Let it Bleed is dark, wonderful and rocks harder than anything else around at the time. Every track is a winner and it's one of those albums that you want to return to and hear again as soon as the final notes have died away. If you've only heard the Stones on radio then you'll know three of these tracks but you owe it to yourself to hear the others. It's outstanding stuff.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "The stones didnt know how to explore(unlike another band I could mention) and all their stuff sounds the same."

-So... you've actually listened to the album then? Or you just wrote this nonsense off the top of your head?

So can you always get what you want? And is this it? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. From the opening riff of Gimme to the last fade just one word. Scary. Because of the cockiness , the control , great R & R and the start of the best sweep of albums in the history of ever.