Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Rolling Stones – It's Only Rock N Roll

We were given the assignment to write about an album from 1974.  Not sure why, something to do with this year being 2014, but anyway, as I started casting around for an album to write about, I realized that many of the bands and the albums I wanted to write up were released a little bit before 1974.  Then it occurred to me, like a bolt out of the blue.  The Rolling Stones had to have released an album in 1974.  That was back in the heyday of rock, when bands actually dropped a new album on a yearly basis.  For me, its always been about the Stones.  When my friends want to have the “Beatles vs. Stones” debate, its real simple for me.  Fuck the Beatles, give me Mick and Keef any day.

So yeah, “It's Only Rock N Roll” came out in 1974.  Some people view it as the last of the incredible run of albums that the Stones put out from the late 60's through the early 70's.  Look at the albums these guys pumped out, one after another.  “Beggars Banquet”, “Let It Bleed”, “Sticky Fingers”, “Exile On Main Street”, “Goat's Head Soup”.  Those were the predecessors to this one.  Tell me one other band, ever, that had a run like that.  And I would extend it to include the first two albums with Ronnie Wood, “Black and Blue” from '76 and “Some Girls” from '78.  Completely untouchable.  Put any of those albums on now and you think you're listening to a greatest hits album, but no, it's just one of a string that came out pretty much every year.  Just another studio release from the Stones.

But I'm supposed to focus on “It's Only Rock N Roll”.  And as mentioned above, this one starts out like a greatest hits set, with “If You Can't Rock Me”, “Ain't Too Proud To Beg”, and the title track blasting right out of the gates.  Three powerhouse tracks bursting with that patented Stones' swagger.  Then the album gets interesting.  “Till The Next Goodbye” is yet another of those wonderful acoustic yet rocking ballads that they have done so many of.  It's the next two tracks, “Time Waits For No One”, and “Luxury”, that hint at where the band is headed.  If you listen to this one and “Black And Blue” back to back, they almost form a double album, one being the logical progression of the other.  Even with a major lineup change (Ronnie Wood), there is a real cohesiveness between these two albums and they flow together so well.

“Dance Little Sister” is just one of those Chuck Berry-ish ravers that this band does so well. Good ol' rock and roll done just as it should be.  “If You Really Want To Be My Friend” is another that foreshadows where the band is going.  It seems to plant the seeds for things to come 2 or 3 or 4 albums later.  With all of the great music that these guys had written and recorded over the previous 6 or 7 years, they were still growing, still exploring, and still had a lot to say.  It's one of the marks of a truly great band.  Great bands don't ever sit on their laurels.  They have something about them that is instantly recognizable, yet completely their own.  They take risks that don't always pay off.  And they always give you something to talk about, even if the conversation is about how that one was a miss.

The album wraps up with “Short And Curlies”, a short boogie, and “Fingerprint File”, which again shows the roots that “Miss You”, “Hot Stuff”, and “Slave” would sprout from in the not so distant future.  This album was by no means the end of the great and classic Stones albums.  It is a classic that stands on its own, yet also marks a turning point in the music of the band and gives many clues as to what is to come.  Many bands that had started at the same time as the Stones were winding down, whether from years of excess, lack of creativity, or just not having their hearts in it any more.  The Stones were just catching their second wind, gathering themselves for the next incredible bits of music they had for us.  What a band and what a career, and its still going strong as I write this.  If you consider yourself a fan of rock music, you have to know the albums mentioned earlier, and this one, inside and out.  These guys ARE rock and roll.  They were touted for a time as the greatest rock band in the world.  If you don't think they are, show me another band that can match what The Rolling Stones have done.


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