Archive for November, 2011

Most Rolling Stones enthusiasts would agree about the band’s golden period – the four-album classic stretch from 1968 to 1972 where the band produced Beggars’ Banquet, Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street.
I can’t argue with that assessment, as I’ve always viewed Mick Taylor to be the band’s greatest lead guitarist (Keith Richards, for all his greatness, was more of a rhythm guy). Those four albums are indeed great and rank among my favorite Stones music, but the band had one last gasp of pure greatness in the 70s with the release of their 1978 disc Some Girls.
Some Girls came in a time when punk and disco were threatening to make big classic rock bands like the Rolling Stones extinct. Instead of pumping out another middle of the road, safe album (see It’s Only Rock N Roll and Black and Blue), the Stones embraced the sounds of the day and eclipsed them, while also staying true to their core blues and R&B roots.
Lead single “Miss You” used a purely disco beat, but a very memorable one. Instead of sounding cheesy or dated, it sounds funky and fresh. It’s indelibly catchy, and the only song on the album like it. The Stones responded to punk by cranking up the guitars and speeding up the tempo on tracks like “When the Whip Comes Down,” “Lies” and the brilliant “Respectable.” Mick Jagger sings with a pissed-off sneer on those tracks, and he also adds his input as the band’s third guitarist (not counting bassist Bill Wyman), giving the tracks added muscle and verve.
Elsewhere, the band sinks into a sleazy blues groove on the sleazy title track (with its infamous ‘black girls just wanna get fucked all night, I just don’t have that much jam’ line). They also deliver a faux-country number “Far Away Eyes,” where the band plays it straight but Jagger sings like he’s making fun of the proceedings and the genre. There are actually more true country renderings on the new bonus disc that comes with the album’s reissue (but we’ll get to those later).
“Before They Make Me Run” is a wonderful outlaw tune sung by Keith Richards, who was in big-time trouble with the law at the time due to a drug arrest in Toronto.
“Beast of Burden” is one of the band’s finest ballads, while “Shattered” is nasty and funky all at the same time.
While the album was recorded in Paris, it has New York written all over it with several references to the Big Apple throughout, giving the tunes a unified theme.
It’s a classic Stones album and one of my all-time favorites.
One of the best things about the Some Girls sessions was the wealth of material that didn’t make the cut for the album. And there’s a ton of it.
Many of the leftover tracks from the sessions found their way on to the two follow-up albums, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You. Songs like “Summer Romance,” “Start Me Up,” and “Hang Fire” were Some Girls retreads.
Many more songs were left in various stages of completion, seemingly permanently remaining on the shelf.
But just like they did for the great Exile on Main Street reissue last year, the Stones (namely Mick Jagger) cleaned some of these outtakes up and released them as a bonus disc for the reissue, giving longtime fans a reason to rush out and buy it.
And just like on Exile, these extra tunes hold up quite well. A few, like the Jerry Lee Lewis rave-up “Claudine” were pretty well finished already. But several tunes lacked lyrics and complete vocals, so Jagger dusted them off. All the original backing tracks are vintage Stones recordings from the period and give credit to Mick, it’s hard to tell which tunes have new vocals and which ones don’t. Of the “new” tracks, “No Spare Parts” is a country-tinged beauty, immediately catchy with a nice Jagger vocal. “Do You Think I Really Care” is a country-fried rocker, a classic kiss-off tune to a girl “that’s never there.” “When You’re Gone” and “Keep Up Blues” are outstanding blues numbers, while “I Love You Too Much” is a straight-ahead rocker with effective backing vocals from Richards. All 12 of the new tracks add something to the Stones’ canon, and some could have replaced a few tunes on the actual album. “No Spare Parts” and the two country covers “We Had it All” (sung by Keith) and “You Win Again” are better than “Far Away Eyes,” which was always a bit too cheesy for my liking (Jagger’s vocals ruined that song for me, although the chorus is awesome, as is Ronnie Wood’s pedal steel playing).
I hope the Stones keep doing this for their reissues, cleaning up old tracks with new overdubs, because they serve as great “lost” Stones albums from their glory days, giving them a way of recapturing the magic of old without having to completely write new tunes. The first two have been successes, and producer Don Was (who has helped compile the material for each release) says there is plenty of outtakes left in the can for a new Stones album every year for the next 50 years. Doubt that’s true, but you get the point. There’s a lot left in the vaults.

Sod rating: *****


The collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica has been getting ripped savagely in most of the reviews I’ve come across.
The pre-album buzz was so bad, I almost didn’t purchase it.
I can certainly see why this album might not be many’s cup of tea.
The subject matter is dark, as it is based on 19th century plays whose main character was a former socialite turned prostitute who eventually falls in love and is murdered by Jack the Ripper. Or at least that’s what I think it’s about.
The lyrics are so graphic at times and delivered in Reed’s speaking vocal style rendering most tunes without standout melodies.
Reed has had a brilliant career, but the man can no longer sing (not that he ever was a great singer). These days, he makes Bob Dylan look like Luciano Pavarotti.
At times, it seems he was totally unaware of what Metallica was thrashing behind him, almost as if the music and vocals had been recorded completely separately and without any knowledge of where the songs were going by either parties.
Yet there are times on this album where the project shines, nowhere moreso than on the 19-minute closer (you read that right) “Junior Dad” which should take its place among Reed’s best works. On this relatively gentle number (compared to the bloodletting that preceded it), Metallica churn out a fine melodic backdrop for Reed’s somber singing (he actually does sing here, quite effectively with weary worn vocals fit for a 69-year old rock legend). The song builds gradually and ends with a nearly eight-minute orchestral drone of beautiful sounds. It’s like nothing else on the album.
Elsewhere, there are moments to recommend. Metallica is in fine playing form throughout, although some of the riffs are repeated a bit too much (probably what Reed wanted). That’s the main criticism I have of the album, other than Reed’s sometimes annoying vocals. These songs could have been chopped in half and the album would have benefitted. There was no need for this to be nearly 90 minutes long. There simply aren’t enough musical ideas here, as many of the riffs and lyrics are repeated for no apparent reason. When the songs are concise, such as the opening “Brandenburg Gate” and “Iced Honey,” the results are quite enjoyable. It’s no coincidence that on each of those tunes, James Hetfield lends his vocal chops to the proceedings to help Reed. The better idea would have been to have Hetfield take the lead on more songs, although I can’t imagine him singing things like “I beg you to degrade me? Is there waste I could eat?” like Reed does on “Mistress Dread,” a song where Metallica thrashes along like it was 1983 again.
Hetfield does sing the curious line “I am the table” in “The View,” a song I hated when I first heard it online, but has since grown on me.
This album is nowhere near as bad as people have made it out to be. It’s not a great album and certainly could have used some more editing, but it’s an interesting listen. It’s nice to see Metallica taking some chances here, and hopefully they return to the studio with more vigor having worked with one of their heroes.
If you head into this album with an open mind, there are some rewards to be found. But tread lightly, it’s not an easy listening experience.

Sod rating: ***