The Rolling Stones have arguably one of the best back catalogues of songs in the business. Propelled by the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, The Stones along with their arch rivals The Beatles, spearheaded the 60's British Invasion movement and created some of era's most memorable music. Beginning with the groundbreaking 1966 studio release Aftermath and culminating with the drug soaked rawness of 1972's Exile on Main St, The Stones produced some of the best rock music ever created and a streak of classic albums that remains unparalleled to this day. With the legendary British rockers in the midst of their 14 On Fire World Tour and enjoying a resurgence in popularity following their 50th anniversary, I thought it would be a good time to re-explore their five most significant and memorable studio albums .
Let It Bleed (1969)
Let it Bleed marked the transition period from The Stones' Brian Jones era to the Mick Taylor era and captures the band hitting their artistic peak. The 1969 classic produced a string of Stones' live show mainstays such as "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Gimme Shelter," "Love in Vain" and "Midnight Rambler." Keith Richards takes his very first solo lead vocal turn on the exquisite ballad "You Got the Silver" and lead guitarist Taylor gives Stones fans their first taste of his melodic riff genius on the steamy rocker "Live with Me" and acoustic country-blues of "Country Honk." Had the single "Honky Tonk Woman" been released on the album, the album's ranking as The Stone's best would be hard to argue - protests of "Exile on Main St " lovers notwithstanding.
Sticky Fingers (1971)
Sticky Fingers heralded newly added guitarist Mick Taylor's first full-length appearance on a Stone's album and his stamp can be found throughout the album. Propelled by the instantly memorable riffs of the lead single "Brown Sugar" and the exquisite love ballad "Wild Horses," the album captures The Stones at their controversial best with fans getting their first introduction to the band's infamous tongue logo. The album also bears the infamous Andy Warhol conceived zippered cover crotch shot.
Exile on Main St (1972)
"Exile" captures The Stones at their decadent best and marks the turning point at which drugs, egos and excess begin to take their toll on the band. Recorded in Richards' basement at his residence in Nellcôte, France, it was the band's first (and only) double studio album and includes such live mainstays as "Tumbling Dice" and Keith Richards' first (and only) lead vocal hit single "Happy." Initially critically panned, critics later made a complete about face and hailed the album as The Stones' crowning achievement. The album marks Keith Richards' creative high point before drugs and alcohol abuse gradually eroded his ability to contribute. Mick Jagger has long questioned the praise heaped upon the album, remarking that he did not think the songs were overall particularly good. Although containing moments of genius and a historical importance which cannot be denied, the songs and musicianship on the album are uneven overall. "Exile" may be most significant for marking the end of The Stones' greatest creative period. Future efforts would be increasingly marred by flaring egos, while fractious infighting and drug abuse increasingly began to hinder the band's creative output.
Beggar's Banquet (1968)
Beggar's Banquet marked a return to roots for The Stones. The 1968 release was recorded as a follow-up to their psychedelic influenced 1967 studio album Her Satanic Majesties Request, which was a commercial disappointment. With the participation of Stones founder Brian Jones decreasing in the studio due to drug abuse and legal issues, the album marked the full ascendance of Jagger and Richards to the reins of power in the band. Although Jones did contribute the brilliant acoustic slide playing on the exquisite ballad "No Expectations," the Glimmer Twins co-wrote all but one of the album's ten tracks, producing such rock classics as "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man." It was the first album to incorporate Richards' country influences on the song "Dear Doctor" and laid the groundwork for the studio masterpieces which would follow in its stead.
The album marked a turning point for The Stones, as they transitioned from primarily covering blues and R&B standards to a focus on original material. On Aftermath, the writing team of Jagger and Richards co-wrote all of the album's tracks. Brian Jones' multi-talented contributions also remained formidable at this stage of their career. The Stones founding member provided sitar on the U.S. version's lead track "Paint It Black," dulcimer on "Lady Jane" and marimbas on "Under My Thumb," as well as keyboard, guitar and blues harp throughout the album. Jones' contribution and prominence in the band would diminish greatly as the decade wore on through drug abuse, legal issues and band infighting.
The Stones recently completed a tour of Europe and will take a couple of months off before kicking off their fall 14 On Fire Tour leg of Australia and New Zealand. Presented by Frontier Touring in association with AEG Live, the Down Under trek will run from Oct. 25 - Nov. 22 with opening night taking place at the Adelaide Oval. For more details, click here.