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The Rolling Stones: Five-star flashback 'Aftermath'

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The Rolling Stones' "Aftermath"

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The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the L.A. area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some Los Angeles TV executives and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. This time we (ahem) examine The Rolling StonesAftermath.

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Just in case y’all live under a stone, The Rolling Stones are a UK rock group founded in 1962. (Yes, boys and girls, the band is almost as crusty as your crusty chronicler and the members themselves are even more so!) The original roster included Brian Jones (guitar, sitar, harmonica, keys, Appalachian dulcimer, koto, marimbas, percussion and backing vocals), Ian Stewart (keyboards), Mick Jagger (lead vocals and harmonica) and Keith Richards (guitar and backing vocals). Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts would soon follow to complete the first lineup.
The band is named after a Muddy Waters track titled “Rollin' Stone”.

The group has released approximately two dozen studio albums in the US and UK. They also put out several live concert albums in the US and UK and many compilations. Aftermath is their fourth Brit studio album and their sixth US release and was the first platter recorded in the US as the band worked in the RCA Studios in California between December 1965 and March 1966. Ian Stewart was brought in on piano and organ.

It was common practice with pre-1967 Brit releases to put out different editions in the UK and the US. The UK version contains the standard 14 tracks. The album opener is the Valium-focused “Mother’s Little Helper” which was originally meant for the shelved US platter Could You Walk on the Water. It features folk-like chords and a sitar-like guitar riff.

The second selection is the misogynistic “Stupid Girl”. It was criticized for its degrading lyrics towards women. It features Jack Nitzche on electric piano.

The next number is “Lady Jane”. The lyrics and Jones’ dulcimer add an Elizabethan feel to it. (The live version—unlike this one—includes drums as well. The band has not played the song since Jones’ death in 1969. This is the tune that inspired Neil Young’s 1975 number “Borrowed Tune” from his platter Tonight’s the Night.)

One of the best tracks here is “Under My Thumb”. The song focuses on the concept of a sexual power struggle between a man and a woman and made Jagger infamous. (This song would quickly be criticized as being derogatory towards women. Although it would become prominent among their live gigs it would never be released as a single in any English-speaking country.)

“Doncha Bother Me” follows. It is perhaps notable for bassist Wyman’s piano work on piano. The side ends with the lengthy jam “Goin’ Home”. With a running time of over 11 minutes, the blues-inspired cut is one of the earliest rock releases to break the ten-minute mark. Both were meant to be included on the earlier mentioned shelved US LP.

The flip side opens on the dark, brooding “Flight 505”. It’s followed by “High and Dry”. Neither of which are the best examples of the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership but work well enough for inclusion on a 14-track release.

The next number on the UK release is “Out of Time”. It was not considered good enough to be included on the North American release. (A shorter, alternative mix would be included on a later US album.)

Also included here are the songs “It’s Not Easy” and “I Am Waiting”. These would make the US cut although little is specified as to the reasoning behind the choice. They are perhaps both overshadowed by “Take It or Leave It” which features Nitzche on organ and is perhaps made unique by Jones’ arrangements and the various instruments he plays here. This, too, was off the earlier, rejected release.

“Think” was also a “leftover”. It was a hit for UK singer Chris Farlowe who covered it months before the Stones included it here. This version, however, has an entirely different third verse.

The album’s end-note is “What to Do”. This too may not be one of their most memorable songs but it fills out the work nonetheless. (It would not make the American edition.)

With a running length of over 53 minutes, the blues rock-baroque pop Decca label release hit UK record racks in April 1966 where it would climb to number one. It was their first true stereo LP as well as the first work to include nothing but Jagger-Richards compositions.

The North American release (which had a different cover) contained only 11 cuts. "Out of Time", "Take It or Leave It", "What to Do", and "Mother's Little Helper" were left off. The latter was issued as a single which hit number 8. The others were replaced with the band’s current number 1 tormented tune "Paint It, Black". This version took number 2 in the US and (eventually) went platinum.

2002 witnessed the remastering and reissuing of both editions on CD. The UK version included an unreleased stereo mix of "Mother's Little Helper". The US/London version would be slotted in at number 108 on the List of Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Indeed, The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath/Lon. PS-476 was praiseworthy.

Jagger’s vocals certainly begin to reach maturity here and the instrumentation is truly diverse for the era. While some claim the platter panders to the band’s fans’ flagellant tendencies, this is not necessarily the group’s fault and does nothing to detract from its earned five-star rating.

My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.

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