Classic Rock Review

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The Rolling Stones It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (1974)


The critical consensus of It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll is unanimous, or about as unanimous as these things get. This is widely known as the worst Rolling Stones studio album of the ’70s. Of course, this being The Rolling Stones in the ’70s, that still means this album is pretty dang good, and it should be owned by Rolling Stones fans the world-round! Nevertheless, it hasn’t been since December’s Children that these guys have released something so woefully uneven.

The unfortunate thing about it is that it really shouldn’t have been a lacking album. It’s been touted by the band members as a return-to-form (which makes it about the third so-called return-to-form of their career this far), and they concentrate mainly on pure, Stones-style rock ‘n’ roll. Good for them, I say! Not that I didn’t love Goats Head Soup where they experimented pretty extensively with funk and mysticism, but when it comes right down to it, I’d prefer these guys spend their resources on a straight rock ‘n’ roll album. If it’s for no other reason, it’s because my favorite albums of theirs tend to be the ones with all the fun concert staples in it!

Unfortunately, despite their multiple attempts here, they only succeeded at creating one major concert staple, which is the title track. I remember they played this song at their concert I went to in 2006, and everyone joined in the chorus even though nobody could remember the verses. (That, by golly, is part of the criteria for a great rock ‘n’ roll concert song!) Keith, being the universe’s ultimate master of the riff, comes out with another one, and the guitars all throughout it are fantastic to behold. Indeed, it is a Rolling Stones classic. It might not be a “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” but that only goes to show us how great of a song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is!

The opening two numbers are pretty good would-be concert staples—they rock fine and they have good riffs—but they’re just not memorable. The melodies are not very striking, and they also seem to be played much more stiffly than a Rolling Stones song should. Where’s that legendary Rolling Stones drive? “Dance Little Sister” has a nice beat that you can dance to and it seems like it could have been morphed into a great Rolling Stones concert song, but it also never catches fire. There was something amiss going on with the Rolling Stones… My guess is they were worn out. Nobody can blame them for that.

I haven’t even talked about the bad stuff yet. “Short and Curlies” is a big old hunk of disappointment. It’s definitely an attempt at a good-time rock ‘n’ roll song, but all it does is flop around like a fish on the dock trying desperately to breathe water. The sluggish instrumentals don’t let it catch fire, and the simplistic melody is waaaay too dumb. I’m also scratching my head over the song called “Luxury,” which I suppose is supposed to be a melding of hard-rock and reggae. Er… I guess it could have been worse, but I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial when I say that these two genres go together about as well as boogars and fries.

There’s one ballad on here, which is a bit of a change from the previous album that had three. “Till the Next Goodbye” is very nicely written with a nice melody and pleasant instrumentation. It’s not greatly memorable and it certainly pales next to “Angie,” “Wild Horses,” etc. etc. etc., but it’s all in all quite a nice song. If you’re a fan of Rolling Stones’ ballads, yer gonna like it. Probably the real masterpiece of this album is the closing “Fingerprint File,” which shows us that even though their songwriting powers have gotten a little patchier since their heyday, they could still jam up a storm when they put their minds to it. That’s a terrific funk-inspired song that begins with a pretty devastating pop hook and an exciting lead vocal performance from Jagger, and it ends as a fast-and-furious funk-jam. The atmosphere it creates is almost as frightening and compelling as “Street Fighting Man,” and the tightly knit guitar groove they come up with is almost as mesmerizing as “Midnight Rambler.” Much more importantly, that song is just fun as hell to listen to! Good show, boys!!

I mentioned it above, but I feel it warrants a reiteration: Even though this is The Rolling Stones’ worst album of the ’70s, it’s still a very good album that I love listening to. In case you didn’t get this impression through the multiple Rolling Stones reviews I’ve written so far, I firmly believe that this is the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band that ever LIVED! They’re so awesome that pretty much everything they did deserves to be heard by you! (Sans some of their ’80s stuff. But even their ’80s stuff is pretty good. Relatively speaking, that is. I have reviewed Michael Bolton albums, lest you forget.)

March 23, 2013 - Posted by | The Rolling Stones It's Only Rock n Roll |

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