Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed (1969)


Is there really any doubt that Let it Bleed is a rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece from beginning to end? I know there’s always going to be weirdos who claim this album isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I appreciate that I live in a society where we are allowed to freely express our opinions, but anyone who says that deserves a good pop in the kisser. I don’t want to bully them or anything; I just want to smack some of the rock ‘n’ roll into them! Just like with electronics, sometimes you have to smack them to get them to work properly.

Although this album isn’t pure rock ‘n’ roll. It’s very similar to The Stones’ previously unstoppable rock album, Beggars Banquet. It’s so similar, in fact, that you might be justified calling it a ‘clone.’ That album began with a beautiful and scary opener “Sympathy for the Devil,” and this album begins with a beautiful and scary opener, “Gimme Shelter.” That album ended with an epic closing track, “Salt of the Earth,” and this album ends with an epic closing track, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” They both also had an array of pure blues tunes, pure country tunes, and each had at least one token riff rocker planted in the middle (“Street Fighting Man” replaced with “Monkey Man”). But as Frog is my witness, they did nothing but improve that already-great album’s formula to create what’s undoubtedly one of the best albums ever made. The melodies are insanely catchy, and they’ve improved their instrumentation standards to the point where they’re a well-oiled machine, chugging away at some of these songs as though they were a freight train.

It’s funny this happened, too, because they had lost their most creative member at this point. Brian Jones was fired from the band for turning into a useless drug junkie, and he wouldn’t live much longer thereafter. Keith was now totally in charge of the guitar licks, and I swear this guy was a genius at it. Every single thing he does not only fits the mode of the song perfectly, but reeks of pure personality. It’s tough to say, but his best work probably can be heard in “Midnight Rambler,” which would have been a terrific song even without the guitar! Listen to the song where that freight-train groove comes to a halt, and he starts to play those atmospheric, bluesy notes. Aren’t those affecting? And Mick Jagger turns in a growlingly convincing vocal performance there, playing some sort of vicious rapist on the “prowl.”

“Gimme Shelter” is a good example at how perfectly developed these songs are. It begins with an ominous opening with a scary, tight guitar riff and absorbing calls of “oooo.” Gradually, the other instruments start to come in, slowly building up what turns into the one of the most brilliantly constructed, hard as a rock, grooves that have ever been constructed. They even bring in a powerful gospel female singer to wail over Jagger, and it couldn’t have sounded better. From beginning to end, this screams “GREAT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.” This is what it’s all about. “Monkey Man” might not be as recognizable, but I guess that’s because there were too many famous songs here, and there wasn’t room for anything else. Again, it starts rather spooky and ominously before delving into a rollicking bit of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s great fun from beginning to end.

They even nail the blues here, perfectly. The problem that most rockers have when it comes to blues is they have a hard time making them seem original and genuine. But The Stones own the blues. “Love in Vain” is an old blues cover that is convincing from beginning to end. Jagger turns in a great bluesy vocal performance, and those gorgeous electric guitar riffs of Keith’s is enough to bring a tear to the eye. Even “You Got the Silver” is excellent even though Keith sings the lead vocals on that! It’s not a very pretty voice, but he sounds like a regular person, and that seems to add an extra dimension that I like.

As I secretly predicted, I’ve spent the majority of this space ranting and raving about only a handful of songs on Let it Bleed! That’s the sort of album this is; everything is a well-oiled masterpiece! I’m just going to mention the others, but they all deserve a full paragraph of ranting in their own right. (And, they have it, because I wrote pretty substantial track reviews!) “Country Honk” is a country-rock song, and it’s great fun. “Live With Me” is a danceable rock song; it was a popular tune the Stones played at concerts, and that’s for great reason. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is probably the most recognizable song of the lot (and therefore I don’t need to spend a lot of time talking about it), and captures me right from that heavenly choral beginning until it slowly builds up to create one of the most epic rock ‘n’ roll songs that have ever existed.

Oh god, this is a great album. I checked my bathroom scale, and I’ve lost about three pounds in the course of writing this review from all the drool that’s been running out of my mouth! I’m very dehydrated, so I’m going to get a drink of water after I’m done writing this paragraph. Let it Bleed is unquestionably one of the greatest rock albums of all time. It’s probably bad form to make sweeping, overarching generalizations like that especially since I haven’t even come close to listening to every rock album on the planet. But this is a perfect album. The only way for anyone else to surpass it is to create a more-than-perfect album, and that can only happen in science fiction movies.


March 23, 2013 - Posted by | The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed |

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