The Rolling Stones discography : Part Four – The 90’s until today

With four records to review in the last 29 years, this review was quick to do. Quite interesting though as apart from the last blues covers album releases in 2016, I did not remember at all the other three in terms of content. I even listened to “Stripped” from 1995, thinking it was a covers’ album while it was actually a sort of live album. Anyway, here is the final package of the whole review. I hope you liked it and that it made you want again to listen to classic records or forgotten ones from this incredible band.

Complete review: Part I (the 60’s) – Part II (the 70’s) – Part III (the 80’s)

 Voodoo Lounge (1994) : Once again, the band delivers the goods on this LP, supervised by the excellent producer Don Was. Five years since their previous album, in times when in five years music trends can be created and over with, the Rolling Stones would now face the same questions again and again: “why are we still doing it having in mind we won’t have an impact anymore?”, “Shall we stick to our blues roots (Keith) or try to update our sound (Mick)?”, “Do we really love each other?”. I guess the answers lie in the questions… This album anyway is particularly successful in getting a dynamic and modern sound while keeping the band close to their essence. A few tracks are really amazing and are regularly played in concerts. So, in a nutshell, another very good one! Oh, and by the way…, Bill Wyman is not a Rolling Stones member anymore if anyone is interested…(8/10). Key tracks : “Love Is Strong“, “You Got Me Rocking” & “Moon Is Up“.

 Bridges To Babylon (1997) :  Considered by many fans and critics are one of the worst ones, I tried once again to listen to it without prejudice and fresh ears and I must say I was quite excited as totally oblivious of this album. I know it may appear as a lack of critical sense (which is the ANTI-ME!) but I have to admit this one really good as well. Of course, there are a few misses here and there, due to Mick’s eagerness to sound sometimes like a real cool hip-hop dude but overall a very enjoyable album. Look at the three tracks I selected and tell me these are not great ones! (7.5/10). Key tracks : “Anybody Seen My Baby“, “Out Of Control” & “Saint Of Me”.

 A Bigger Bang (2005) : …and here we are, the Rolling Stones releasing an album of original songs in the 21st century; who would have thought about it really? This album was mainly the brainchild of Keith Richards and one can feel indeed a nice and constant blues rock feel through it. The main issue is that there are 16 songs on this album and a few of them are just okish. It would have made a killer 10-track LP but overall still a nice and dignified effort.  (7/10). Key tracks : “Let Me Down Slow”, “Biggest Mistake” & “Laugh, I Nearly Died“.

 Blue & Lonesome (2016) :  More than ten years since their last studio album and with an unexpected December 2016 release (meaning a bit late to be in the traditional best of lists…including mine), this album is actually only made out of blues covers. The original plan for the band was to gather in a London studio and rehearse original material. It looks though that nothing good came out of it and the band started to play a few obscure blues covers to have fun and get the energy. One song was recorded, then a second one and little by little the band realised they had a new album. And what an amazing album this is! To me, blues is a great form of music to catch on stage but somehow slightly boring and repetitive on records…which is not true at all here. The Rolling Stones play as if their lives of men in their seventies depended on it, the sound is huge and pure and Mick sings with an ageless voice. One of their best records ever. (9/10). Key tracks : “Commit A Crime“, “All Of Your Love” & “Ride ‘Em On Down”.

 

…and so the verdict is that there is no awful Rolling Stones record, that a few forgotten ones are excellent and deserve to be listened to again and that their classics are even better than their reputation. Long live to The Rolling Stones!

 

The Rolling Stones discography : Part Three – The 80’s

…and here we are, reaching the infamous 80’s, the decade when all major artists (Neil Young, Paul McCartney, David Bowie,…) faced supposedly difficult artistic times. I guess this is also spontaneously the kind of comments one would do about The Rolling Stones in the 80’s. But apart from the pink and yellow aerobic outfits worn by Mick Jagger, were the 80’s such a bad time in terms of pure music releases? Well, it looks that was not so…and I must say as I had a really good time listening to all these records again.

Complete review: Part I (the 60’s) – Part II (the 70’s) – Part IV (the 90’s until today)

Emotional Rescue Emotional Rescue (1980) : This album can be considered as a little brother of their previous LP “Some Girls“. Of course, it would be known if it were such a good album but there are a few amazing tracks also here, trying to mix their rock’n’roll roots with a bit of disco. A few songs are also very original, which makes this album a very singular one. To (re)discover . (8/10). Key tracks : “Dance (Pt.1)“, “Down In The Hole” & “Emotional Rescue“.

Tattoo You Tattoo You (1981) : Another Rolling Stones album just one year after their previous one; we are indeed talking about another age here compared to their production sequence in the years to come. This album was supposed to express their returning back to their original roots…and this is not really so as to my mind, when you have Keith Richards in your band, you will always more or less be close to your blues and rock’n’roll roots. Not the masterpiece a few fans or journalists want this to be, this is still a very solid album…and it has “Start Me Up” on it, one of their greatest live songs ever! (7.5/10). Key tracks : “Start Me Up“, “Heaven” & “Waiting On A Friend”.

Undercover Undercover (1983) : With its nice and modern cover, this album could appear as a desperate tentative to remain hip amongst a young public fan, at a time when hip-hop was starting to grow as a genre. I must say this album aged quite well and a few songs are really rough and primitive. Once again, having Charlie Watts and Keith Richards in your band is the best cure to fight the disease other artists got in the early 80’s in terms of awful sounds. (7/10). Key tracks : “Undercover Of The Night”, Too Much Blood” & “Pretty Beat Up“.

Dirty Work Dirty Work (1986) : Ok, the cover is ugly and one can feel the animosity between the Glimmer Twins at that stage. This is supposed to be their weakest album of all times and I remember reading a quite critical review in the NME at the time. On a personal matter, this was the year when music for me was magical with all these amazing bands and artists such as The Smiths, The Fall, Prince, The Go-Betweens, Sonic Youth, Elvis Costello,… (have a look at NME’s 1986 list and you will be amazed). However, the beauty in listening back with no prejudice to albums is that one can be surprised sometimes. And I was, in particular by the constant aggression and energy felt throughout the tracks. Another one to (re) discover I must say. (7.5/10). Key tracks : “One Hit (To The Body)”, “Harlem Shuffle” & “Winning Ugly.

Steel Wheels Steel Wheels (1989) : And here we are, reaching the end of the 80’s…with one of their best albums of all times. I am not sure many music lovers share this with me but I remember being a huge fan of this album at the time of its release and a new listening did not change my mind at all. I could easily have chosen 5 or 6 excellent tracks, in particular the amazing “Continental Drift” recorded with Moroccan musicians. Let’s not forget that The Rolling Stones were virtually no more and that Mick Jagger just came back to Keith Richards when he realised he would never had as much success with his solo career. As Keith told him on the phone, “…darling, this thing is bigger than the both of us…” (9/10). Key tracks : “Mixed Emotions”, “Rock And A Hard Place” & “Can’t Be Seen”.

So the 80’s were actually quite a good decade for The Rolling Stones. Stay tuned for the final part of this review and their latest releases since the start of the 90’s!

The Rolling Stones discography : Part One – The 60’s

Five years ago, I started an ambitious task: review and rate all The Rolling Stones‘ studio LP’s. Not that huge a burden actually as there are not so many of them despite a career above fifty-five years now. I started with the 70’s… but forgot a bit about this review for the other decades. Their recent excellent gig in Paris and a special issue of les Inrocks 2 on their complete discography made me want to resume this task again so let’s ignite our time machine and travel back to the 60’s.

Complete review: Part II (the 70’s)Part III (the 80’s)Part IV (the 90’s until today)

Let’s start this review with something important to mention first. It may appear weird in our current age but until “Between The Buttons” included, there were different versions between UK and US albums. In other words, there are actually more US albums and those were including singles, meaning these versions may appear superior sometimes. It has been decided here to stick to the UK versions as a)…well, this is a UK band b) the UK versions reflect much better the evolution of the band. It will mean for instance that “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is not reviewed here as absent in the UK version of “Out Of Our Heads“. The “Singles Collection: The London Years” boxset is therefore very much recommended to get all these amazing singles in one place.

RS64.jpg The Rolling Stones (1964) : Is there a better way to introduce The Rolling Stones to the world that spend a few minutes analysing this cover? These guys are indeed a bit menacing, dedicated, rough and away from the light in real life as they are shot on this great picture. This first album is basically a testimony of what the band were at this early stage, i.e. young UK lads playing American blues as if their life depended on it. All songs are covers apart from one Jagger/Richards track and a few of them are a bit clumsy but overall no better way to say to the world: “Hi, we’re The Rolling Stones and we’re here to stay”. (7.5/10). Key tracks : “Route 66“, “I’m A King Bee” & “Walking The Dog“.

TheRollingStonesNumber2.jpg The Rolling Stones #2 (1965) : Nothing much to add vs. the review of their first album as this is basically the same formula: young UK band covering US blues numbers with a tremendous energy. The boys were still in their learning phase and would have plenty of time to write classic songs in the future. (7/10). Key tracks : “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love“, “Time Is On My Side” & “Off The Hook”.

Out+of+Our+Heads+-UK-.jpg Out Of Our Heads (1965) : Their 3rd album was a bit disappointing as one would have expected a real evolution of the formula, which was not the case at all. The three Jagger/Richards tracks are solid and promising but the majority of the covers are not as good as those from the previous two albums. Time to change the formula then for the upcoming fourth LP? (7/10). Key tracks : “Mercy, Mercy”, Heart Of Stone” & “I’m Free“.

RSAftermathUK.jpg Aftermath (1966) : …and the answer is yes, of course! No more covers here but fourteen original Jagger/Richards songs. The band were still searching and trying a few things, which may appear incredible now when one thinks as how controlled famous bands have been by their record company in the following years. There is in particular a blues/drone number called “Goin’ Home” which lasts more than eleven minutes and stills sound as fresh now as fifty years ago. (8/10). Key tracks : “Mother’s Little Helper”, “Under My Thumb” & “Out Of Time”.

BetweenthebuttonsUK.jpg Between The Buttons (1967) : Another famous cover which is self-explanatory. The boys appear tired and slightly under the influence whereas Brian Jones in particular looks to lose the plot… Not far from the reality as the genius founder of the band was feeling more and more that he was losing the control of his band…and this despite his tremendous sense of arrangements. Not a big step forward overall vs. their previous album but still a very good one (8/10). Key tracks : “She Smiled Sweetly”, “Cool, Calm & Collected” & “Complicated”.

Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request - 1967 Decca Album cover.jpg Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) : This would finally be the end of this stupid US vs. UK policy and one could enjoy the same album all over the world. This is probably their least beloved album…and to me one of their best! Let’s have in mind that 1967 was the year of The Beatles‘ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and indeed it looks The Rolling Stones had in mind to enter the so-called psychedelic music whatever the consequences. Many critics and fans consider it as a flawed piece but this is not the case at all when one listens without prejudice. A few songs are very interesting in their sound texture in particular. Above all, there are also a few songs which to me are amongst the best ever written by Jagger/Richards. …And this is the only album with a song credited to Bill Wyman… and this is the last LP on which Brian Jones was really involved. Re-discover it! (8.5/10). Key tracks : “Sing This All Together”, “She’s A Rainbow” & “2000 Light Years From Home“.

BeggarsBanquetLP.jpg Beggars Banquet (1968) : I did not put the “toilet” cover although it is that which is available now and which was originally intended by The Rolling Stones. But no revisionism in this blog: the record was released with its white cover and that is the way it was. This is the first record of The Rolling Stones golden era of four immense masterpieces in a row and no better way to start this era than with the bongo introduction of “Sympathy For The Devil“. Their best album so far although to my mind it does not deserve the perfect rating as a couple of tracks are only very good… and not sublime (9.5/10). Key tracks : “Sympathy For The Devil”, “No Expectations” & “Street Fighting Man“. 

LetitbleedRS.jpg Let It Bleed (1969) : This is to me their absolute best record, hence the very rare rating I gave as for all albums everyone should have. Strange also that this fantastic album was actually their first release after firing Brian Jones in the summer of ’69. We all know the story about the way poor Brian Jones would not survive for a long time and be found dead in his swimming pool in July of that year. Enter the young and very gifted Mick Taylor on guitar but also key collaborators such as Nick Hopkins on piano or Bobby Keyes on saxophone. The rule to select three tracks is a bit ludicrous here as it means “You Got The Silver“, “Love In Vain” or “Midnight Rambler” for instance have to be eliminated! I defy anyone not to have shivers down their spines while listening to the first guitar notes of the record and the first words …”Oh, a storm is threatening my very life today…” (10.5/10). Key tracks : “Gimme Shelter”, “Live With Me” & “You Can’t Always Get What You Want“.

Stay tuned for Part III and the 80’s ; I promise it will be done before 2022!

Oktober Fest! Part Three: The Rolling Stones, 22nd October, U Arena, Paris

…well this arena is in Nanterre actually but it does not look so good as Paris on paper. Actually, it may sound as exotic for non-French people as Weston-super-Mare looks to me so I guess this is a question of referential… So I left my beloved readers last time in a tiny venue with the excellent Chad VanGaaalen and here we are now on the other side of the Channel to catch the Rolling Stones in this new arena which was inaugurated for their first show a few days before. The band decided to finish this short European tour with three dates in Paris and as Mick Jagger mentioned during that night it was their 32nd show in Paris.

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It is true that a cynical person could state that they are only here to beat records but to me this is not the only reason. It is true that their longevity is impressive and now that everyone more or less agrees that they do not keep on playing just for money (they are already very rich…), there must be something else. This something else is an easy one; it is called love of music and also loving being on stage and partying in front of thousands of people.

The Rolling Stones  @ U Arena, Nanterre, 22 Oct 2017

I was not thrilled to go back catching them in Paris as I must admit that when you are used to going to gigs in the UK you tend to find people’s behaviour not that great in your own country. Things were a bit different in the U Arena as it looked like the kind of shows for people…who never go to concerts. The Rolling Stones were an event to attend and to share in Facebook. I am pretty sure 80% of the audience would have been in trouble if asked which were their Rolling Stones Top 5 albums… A bit like those wearing Ramones tee-shirts : I would be surprised if the majority of them could mention three songs… Anyway, let’s stop being snobbish and review the show.

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One word: great! It was my third Rolling Stones gig after Paris in 1990 and Rio do Janeiro in 1999 (I know…) and I must say it was the best by far. The four remaining original members have an average age of 73 (!) years and they play like hell, despite Charlie Watts on drums looking a bit like a zombie… Mick Jagger jumps like a guy in his thirties, Ron Wood is really sharp now after being sober for many years and Keith… is Keith! I even caught him getting a cigarette on stage!

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What was more important was the fact that I felt catching these guys in a small blues club, with Mick Jagger playing very often the harmonica and Keith and Ronnie playing their sometimes not-so-perfect riffs with a smile and a real human touch I had not seen in ages. The setlist was almost the same every night with only a few changes on the blues covers (taken from their latest fantastic album “Blue & Lonesome“). Great stage show as well ; very simple but straight to the point with excellent giant screens. Catch them if you can.

Next episode of the Oktober Fest: back to London with the beautiful Aimee Mann; stay tuned!

Note: photos are not mine, meaning I attended the gig the old-fashioned way!

More than grunge – Two great American bands: The Afghan Whigs (Koko, London, 30th May 2017) and Buffalo Tom (Islington Assembly Hall, London, 9th June 2017)

These two bands have many things in common: they were considered part of the grunge movement whereas in reality their roots are more to be found in traditional American music, they have great leaders/singers, they stopped for many years after the 90’s, they recently came back though…and your host had the pleasure in catching them live in a 10-day period. No excuse then not to do a review of these concerts.

  • The Afghan Whigs – London, Koko – 30th May 2017

No need to tell my whole story as not fascinating but I decided to go and try my luck literally one hour before the start of the show after a long and tiring road trip from France. I was rewarded thanks to a nice lady who sold me the ticket of her sick husband…for £10! And this for a band for which I came especially to London when I was not living in London in 2012 (I’ll be your mirror Festival)… On the other side, I lost all my pictures of the concert due to a computer issue so I guess bad and good news were balanced.

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Although I had seen a great solo concert of their leader Greg Dulli last year, this concert from The Afghan Whigs was at the same place as last time in 2015. Koko (formerly known as the Camden Palace) is one of the most extraordinary theatre I know and seeing this great band again in this same place was really great.

Not sure what I can add on this band which to me is one of the best ever. Their new record “In Spades” has recently been this blog’s album of the month. The way the setlist was built was particularly remarkable as the new songs from the two latest LP’s were totally integrated with older classics, such as “Gentlemen” for instance. Despite Greg’s fight against one or two members of the audience who were taking picture with flash on, the show was particularly moving, knowing that their guitarist Dave Rosser was absent because of his current fight against cancer. If I could add one thing on top of my previous posts on this great band, it would that Greg Dulli is a hell of a singer. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see the great Ed Harcourt as an opening act and playing many songs with the band as well as a second guitarist.

  • Buffalo Tom – London, Islington Assembly Hall – 9th June 2017

Lead by the excellent Bill Janovitz on guitar and voice, Buffalo Tom is an American power pop rock trio who have made eight brilliant records between 1989 and 2011. I never had the opportunity to see them live and this year was a fantastic one as they were celebrating the 25 years of their best album “Let Me Come Over” released in 1992.

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On top of being a brilliant musician, Bill Janovitz has more than one string to his bow and he is in particular an excellent writer. I recently wrote his 33 1/3 series book on The Rolling Stones‘ “Exile on Main Street” and I must say this is one of the best.

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Their set was brilliant and the least one can say is that the band are as dynamic and punchy in their current early 50’s incarnation than they were twenty-five years ago. The songs were played with a real density but also with a great pop sensitivity. The way the set was structured was really good: the band were their own opening act, playing first eleven songs covering all Buffalo Tom periods. After a short break, they came back to play the gorgeous “Let Me Come Over” in its entirety, before playing two encores…for a total of twenty-six songs!

As usual in this kind of celebration, the audience was looking like the former French Parliament (mainly men in the fifties) and it would be good to see more female and youngsters as in the current French political trend. However, if this is the price to pay to see such a great band, so be it!

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Rock city : Alan Parsons’ master class at Abbey Road, The Rolling Stones exhibitionism & The Kinks’ musical

Abbey Road Studios

I read so many books and magazines on rock music and its history/stories that at one stage considering cities such a New York, Austin, Chicago, Berlin or London as key rock places is really obvious. However, as one knows, there is sometimes difference between theory and reality…but this is not the case for London. This is not obvious at first although you realise quickly there are more quality gigs than anywhere in the world. Then although a few of them have been closed throughout the years there are probably more record stores than any city in the world. But the real difference comes from the other options available when one is looking closely and the fact that this is not fake but really part of the culture of this city.

Abbey Road, Studio 2

One of the best moments I experienced last year was to attend a Master Class held by Alan Parsons at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios. Alan Parsons is better known by the general audience for a few hits he had in the late 80’s with the Alan Parsons Project (hello “Eye in the Sky” for instance) but for rock aficionados he is famous for his role as young sound assistant on The Beatles “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” LP’s when he was only a 19-year old young man and later as the main sound engineer on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” album. Many hifi sellers from the late 70’s and early 80’s own this man a few quids as this album was very often used in stores to show the quality of the hifi equipment. Quite moving and unique opportunity also as the conference was taking place in Studio 2, where the Beatles recorded around 190 of the 210 tracks they have in total (I count on Beatles geek fans to precise the exact number).

Abbey Road, George and John

Interviewed by the excellent journalist David Hepworth, the 90 minutes I spent there were a complete joy, especially when he played on the original piano the “Lady Madonna” intro or when he showed us how he and Pink Floyd created the sounds heard on their worldwide hit “Money”. There is a cool Abbey Road store full of memorabilia nearby and you can of course walk on the famous zebras!

Abbey road, zebras

Choosing between the Beatles and the Stones is like choosing between mum and dad so let’s embrace them both (although depending on the mood of the day one clearly prefers of these two bands). I went to the Saatchi Galery to visit Exhibitionism, the Rolling Stones exhibition curated and closely followed by Sir Jagger. The man is currently more active than ever these days as he is also a co-producer with Martin Scorcese of the excellent “Vinyl” HBO series, held in the mid-70’s in NY city. Putting the Rolling Stones in a museum may look like a weird idea as they were probably the antithesis of such a thing when they started their career…but the times they are a’changin’.

The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism

Do not get me wrong here, the exhibition is clearly recommended for Stones and rock music fans as the curators have gathered an impressive collection of guitars, clothes, movies, etc… The studio room in particular is a delight by the way it has been re-created and by the number of beautiful guitars owned by Keith Richards and Mick Wood throughout the years. My only problem is that I have been having with the Rolling Stones for many years now ; they want so much to control all business around their names that the exhibition lacks a bit of authenticity. I would have liked to know more about the real role of the late Brian Jones during his last years in the band or for instance more context about what the band has been in England during the 60’s and 70’s. Funny as well how Bill Wyman has been almost erased from their history. Once again, clearly recommended if you are in London but could have been even better.

Musicals on the West End are a key thing to do when you visit the city as a tourist and are the equivalent of Broadway shows in NY. I have always been sceptical about the quality of these shows but I think it was more contempt and ignorance on my side than anything else. I must admit that my only experience was the amazing “Love” musical by the Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas in 2009 so I thought it was a good moment to check this. I had read great reviews on the “Sunny Afternoon” musical based on the story of the seminal band The Kinks lead by the two Davies brothers. Ray Davies (genius songwriter) has always had a love and hate relationship with brother Dave but they really made their best work when collaborating together, not that dissimilar from a certain 90’s Mancunian band…

The Kinks, Sunny afternoon

Held in the nice Harold Pinter theatre, literally 300 yards from Piccadilly Circus, the show was the best homage one could find in such a musical. I think  Ray Davies has been closely consulted for the show as it describes so well what London was between 1964 and 196, showing at the same time the energy and optimism of the swinging 60’s without forgetting the fact that the working class was quite far to live the same kind of thing. The actors playing the band are particularly amazing bringing fresh air with an amazing quality in the musicianship (specific mention to the actor playing Dave Davies on guitar). And the songs… “Dead End Street”, “You Really Got Me”, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, “Waterloo Sunset”, “Sunny Afternoon”, “Lola”,…the list is endless. Not sure why they did not make my Top 100 as I have always been a huge fan… Anyway, if you spend a few days in London, go and see this play.

On top of these two examples, a couple of pictures below taken near home and showing that London will never forget great musicians. Unlike what James Murphy would sing on NY with LCD Soundsystem, London I love you and you are never bringing me down.

To read more on London, please go to the post I did last year on the Jam at the Somerset House or to the great week-end I spent a few years ago to attend the “David Bowie is…” exhibition at the V&A museum.

TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 6-10

10. Bruce Springsteen

 from : Freehold, New Jersey, USA / first great sounds : 70’s / style : euphoric rock / essential albums : Born To Run (1975) , Darkness On The Edge Of Town (1978), Nebraska (1982), Born in the U.S.A. (1984), The Rising (2002) / Click to read more in the blog

Number 10 in my Top 100… Does this ranking really mean anything ? If  I were to rank Bruce on the number of times I listened to his records and watched his DVD’s and on the emotion and energy I felt at his concerts, he would probably be closer to the number One spot. If I were to make one advice regarding Bruce Springsteen for those who do not really know him and his music, it would be not to do the same mistake I did at first, that is to say go beyond the blue-collar kind of music for typical Americans cliché. His music is indeed very American as he has mixed throughout his career all kinds of influences (pop, soul, rock) but his words must be understood more in a John Steinbeck kind of way rather than George Bush’s one. One word as well on his faithful E-Street Band musicians ; although he is the creative force, they have been the best musical vehicle he could have dreamt of to fulfill his artistic ambitions.

9. Tom Waits

 from : Ponoma, California, USA / first great sounds : 70’s / style : Waitsian music / essential albums : Blue Valentine (1978), Swordfishtrombones (1983), Rain Dogs (1985), Mule Variations (1999) / Click to read more in the blog

Another amazing artist whose art is often reduced to a cliché too… Yes, Tom Waits has a wolf voice and he may be sometimes closer to Brechtian over exuberant music but his world is a fantastic one. After having spent the 70’s doing beautiful but more standard jazz-blues piano-oriented albums, he met future wife Kathleen Brennan in the early 80’s and began a different style of music thanks to her pushing him to really be what he wanted to. The results are genius sounding records full of weirdness (these instruments…) and emotion (these songs…).

8. Elvis Costello

 from : London, England / first great sounds : 70’s / style : from pub-rock to classical / essential albums : This Year’s Model (1978), Imperial Bedroom (1982), King Of America (1986), Blood & Chocolate (1986), Brutal Youth (1994), When I Was Cruel (2002) / Click to read more in the blog

…and the Attractions should I say such a key element his first band have been throughout his career. Declan McManus (real name) started in the mid-80’s as a kind of fusion of classical rock and punk rock and managed to attract fans of both kinds of music. He went on being a major player in the UK scene, every album in the 80’s bringing a fresh approach to a specific genre of music. As in all great artists and musicians, he had a very strong peak period from 1978 to 1986 but kept on making very nice albums . All essential albums mentioned above are really must-haves so do not lose time and listen to them all!

7. Neil Young

 from : Toronto, Canada/ first great sounds : 60’s / style : acoustic/saturated rock / essential albums : Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969), After The Gold Rush (1970), Harvest (1972), On The Beach (1974), Tonight’s The Night (1975), Zuma (1975), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Ragged Glory (1990), Le Noise (2010) / Click to read more in the blog

We have already mentioned Crosby, Stills and Nash at number 50 in our Top 100. Although Neil Young was indeed a major force in their best albums, it was necessary to dissociate his so-called solo career, which is not that solo as he did his best music with his band Crazy Horse. Do you still follow me ? Well, if not, go directly to any of the essential albums mentioned above as this is like breathing air as far as I am concerned. You basically have two Neil Young songs : the acoustic folkie-ballad one (often with sad words) and the furious electric saturated one (one with..furious words). Both of them are the Ying and Yang of our favourite Canadian and explain why this guy has been doing great music for ages.

6. The Rolling Stones

 from : London, England / first great sounds : 60’s  / style : from blues to rock / essential albums : Aftermath (1966), Beggars Banquet (1968), Let It Bleed (1969), Sitcky Fingers (1971), Exile on Main St. (1972), Some Girls (1978), Steel Wheels (1989) / Click to read more in the blog

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones ! A few of you might have been lucky enough to experience this band on stage either at their peak period (1965-1975) or later. Personally, I am always impressed by these guys and the number of fantastic songs they have been doing. Let’s not forget the importance of this band in the 60’s and overall in the history of the 20th century, as far as society changes are concerned. But moreover Mick, Keith, Charlie, Brian, Bill, Mick (#2) and Ron must be cherished for what they brought to the music world with only a simple love of blues at the start. I would recommend once again Keith Richard’s book “Life” to get the full story.

The Rolling Stones discography : Part Two – The 70’s

As Virgins and Philistines is an ambitious blog which does not fear to climb the highest cliff, please be welcome to this new post, part of our “record by record” series. The great UK magazine Mojo recently published a long and fascinating article about the Rolling Stones in the 70’s and it made me want to listen to their records again. What the band faced in these ten years was incredible : change of guitar player, no more Beatles to ease the competition and the will to go forward, weddings, drugs, jail…name it and you will find it. And the actual records? Well, six studio albums and each of them with a different story to tell…

The Rolling Stones in the 70's

Complete review: Part I (the 60’s) Part III (the 80’s)Part IV (the 90’s until today)

Cover (Sticky Fingers:The Rolling Stones) Sticky Fingers (1971) : With the famous “zipp” Andy Warhol cover! And what an incredible album this is… Third in the series of pure Stones classics after “Beggars Banquet” and “Let It Bleed“, “Sticky Fingers” is the perfect 60’s to 70’s record with one foot firmly in their blues and rock past but also with the first sounds of what could be called groovy tracks. Very important role played by the American sax player Bobby Keyes, described by Keith Richards in his autobiography as his soul mate. Not a record collection should exist without this LP (10/10). Key tracks : “Brown Sugar“, “Wild Horses” & “Sister Morphine“.

 Exile on Main St. (1972) : probably the most atypical Stones LP…and maybe the greatest? Keith Richards had been living in France at that time mainly for tax reasons and had found the house of his dreams in Bellecôte on the French Riviera. By “dreams”, I mean a place to play music and get high 24 hours a day while enjoying the sun and making sure to take care of this son Marlon. All the other Stones members were living in France as well but quite far, so sessions were held directly in the house, cables being installed between the kitchen and the basement with the help of a portable studio located in the gardens. The Stones had so much material that they finally kept 18 tracks, making “Exile” their first and only double-LP. Still strong presence of Bobby Keyes on saxophone but also of the late Gram Parsons (ex-Byrds and “creator” of the country rock formula). And probably the record on which Mick Taylor guitar playing was the most accomplished. If you like laid-back relaxed and soulful music, this record is for you. Same comment as for “Sticky Fingers” : owning it is compulsory (10/10). Key tracks : “Tumbling Dice”, “Loving Cup” & “Shine a Light”…+ the other 15 tracks! 2010 Reissue is highly recommended with 10 great new tracks plus its DVD companion documentary “Exiled” about the genesis of the album.

 Goats Head Soup (1973) : or how a band at their peak starts showing signs of weakness. It is very rare to get over a cycle of four/five years when one reaches the nirvana and “Goats Head Soup” is typically the moment when the Stones stopped being super musical creatures and started making “normal” records. It does not mean that this album does not have its moments and this is indeed a rather good and solid record that I will listen to anytime at breakfast… but one can live without it (7.5/10). Key tracks : “Coming Down Again”, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” & “Angie“.

 It’s Only Rock’n Roll (1974) : how one can measure a “bad” Rolling Stones’ record? Tough question as we are stuck between two choices : either compare with the records done by the band at their peak (cf. “…Fingers” or “Exile…” above) or enjoy a relatively quite nice rock record which may be better than other albums done by majority of bands. This LP really falls in this category but worse there are really no great tracks to hum or remember. On a sidenote, this is the last album on which Mick Taylor played as a full Rolling Stones as he left on his own despite Richards’ comments that “you don’t leave the Rolling Stones ; either you’re fired or you’re dead.” (6.5/10). Key tracks : “It’s Only Rock’n Roll (But I Like It)”, “Time Waits For No One” & “Dance Little Sister”.

 Black and Blue (1976) : not the most famous Stones LP, nor the most critically lauded one but a really good and fun record to listen to as far as I am concerned. Enter Ron Wood, from the Faces fame and old acquaintance of the band for a very long time, and his sense of fun and obedience to Keith Richards. An LP full of soulful or reggae-sounding tracks but never close to pastiche to my mind. A great party record to play loud and ideal to enjoy the summer. (8/10). Key tracks : “Hot Stuff”, “Melody” & “Fool to Cry”.

 Some Girls (1978) : and back to absolute greatness. I (re)discovered this album recently with the excellent 2011 2-CD reissue  and I must admit I had forgotten what a masterpiece that was. Recorded in the Paris suburbs (Boulogne-Billancourt) but mainly written by Mick about his life in New York, this album is clearly led by Jagger who was then driving the band due to Richards’ junkie situation. The single “Miss You” was obviously influenced by disco and Jagger’s nightlife in NY (Club 54 amongst others) but all styles can be found in this amazing groovy LP from pure rock to country-sounding ballads (9.5/10). Key tracks : “Miss You”, “Some Girls” & “Beast of Burden“. For more, please read the dedicated book on “Some Girls” in the great 33 1/3 series.

Stay tuned for the three other parts (60’s, 80’s and 90’s to now) which will be published throughout this year 2012 when the band gets his 50th anniversary!

In and out of junkie life: Keith Richards “Life (2010)” & Anthony Kiedis “Scar Tissue (2004)”

I recently finished Keith Richards’ autobiography and it reminded me of a book I read a few years ago on Anthony Kiedis’ life. As a reminder, Anthony Kiedis is the singer of the great Red Hot Chili Peppers and this book had been done in the same way as the Keith’s one, i.e. a guy talks about his life and a journalist makes it readable.

Keith’s book has been very heavily promoted and lots of articles have been written everywhere and as always people tend to focus on the details and not on the grand scheme of things. So, yes, he says that Mick J. has a small willie; yes, he says he smoke his father’s ashes, blah, blah, blah… But one reading this book will enter the world of a guy fondly in love with music and all their forms (rock, blues, soul,…), amazingly human (great pages about friendship) and very honest and touching on his junkie years. This is a fascinating reading coming from a major musician who has a memory the size of an elephant and one understands better the alchemy within the Rolling Stones. And for our French amigos, please read it in English as you will feel that Keith is talking directly to you. (8.5/10)

Anthony’s book had been of my first great “rock readings” if such a genre exists. Here you will find a very sensitive personality, deeply in love with music and so human as well. I recommend it even to people not particularly interested in music or the Chilis, if such people really do exist… His junkie years are probably even more explicit that those described by Keith and this is sometimes very difficult to read them on a row. Great description too of life in California in the 80’s and 90’s. (8.5/10)