Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers (1971)


Let’s get the controversy out of the way. There is no way in hell that Sticky Fingers is a better album than Let it Bleed. I believe this so strongly that I’m willing to launch a worldwide political campaign promoting this view. Both albums are overwhelmingly great of course, and among the finest albums that Mother Rock ‘n’ Roll has granted Her children. So my strong feelings about this is practically moot. But humor me, anyway.

Let it Bleed began with that incredibly ominous and atmospheric opener “Gimme Shelter.” That’s one of the very few songs in existence that puts me on the edge of my seat, anticipating everything that is to follow even though I heard it so many times that I’ve memorized it note for note. Sticky Fingers’ opener “Brown Sugar” is more of a straightforward dance song. It’s a great dance song of course and it’s terribly infectious and about as exciting as they get, but it doesn’t quite dig into my soul like “Gimme Shelter” does. Let it Bleed also had an epic closer, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” whereas Sticky Fingers ends with a more underwhelming ballad “Moonlight Mile.” Never mind that “Moonlight Mile” is one of the greatest ballads of all time; it just doesn’t give me that wholly awe-inspired feeling that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” gives me. My biggest argument against Sticky Fingers is the inclusion of two relatively underwhelming blues songs, “You Gotta Move” and “I Got the Blues.” They’re perfectly good, but they don’t have the engaging, earthy quality as a similar Let it Bleed song called “You Got the Silver.” And with that, I wrap up my opening statement.

Come to think of it, as I was writing that, I can understand why so many rock fans prefer Sticky Fingers to Let it Bleed, and it’s not because they like to look at men’s crotches. Sticky Fingers seems to take itself much less seriously. At this time, The Rolling Stones had basically achieved what they set out to achieve; they created not one but two great rock ‘n’ roll albums for the ages. And, now, all they wanted to do was ROCK. “Brown Sugar” might not have an “atmosphere” to speak of, but it does ROCK LIKE A BASTARD. And, really, that’s the whole point of rock ‘n’ roll anyway. Crank up the volume, and let ‘er rip!

As far as dance songs go, you’ll rarely run across anything as kick-ass as “Bitch.” You don’t really think of The Stones as a band that you’d want to dance to in the same place you’d dance to KC and the Sunshine Band, but “Bitch” will have you shaking your bottoms more quickly than a gas cannister can catch fire. It’s freaking infectious, too, with just about the catchiest, most powerful, and tightest riff ever conceived by mankind! “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” also features one of those brilliant riffs that only The Rolling Stones could have made seem so effortless. That song even progresses into a rather laid-back jam that I actually find interesting to pay close attention to. I usually don’t care very much when bands jam like that, but The Stones had the mojo.

And don’t let my words mislead you into thinking this album is all about ROCK. That was a pretty dumb thing for me to say, come to think of it, since there are only about three genuine rock songs here. Sticky Fingers also has some of the most incredible ballads of all music-kind. I already brought up the Japanese-tinged “Moonlight Mile,” but his has also got “Wild Horses.” Holy Mother of Tootsie Pops, that an incredible song. It is extremely beautiful and tuneful with some of the most gut-wrenching lyrics I’ve ever heard. That heavenly slide guitar that melts into the background, and Mick Jagger truly outdoes himself with those passionate vocals. “Sister Morphine” is also psychologically affecting but in a different sense; it’s a startlingly convincing tale about the desperation felt by drug addicts. Man, o man!

“Sway” is yet another unquestionably great song from this album. It’s gritty and bluesy with Mick Taylor making that guitar riff sound like the meanest bully of the playground. They also didn’t forget to give it a good vocal melody! The melody is an integral part, you know! The only song I didn’t mention yet is “Dead Flowers,” a country song that’s so catchy and pleasant to listen to that you won’t find too many full-time country musicians come close to matching it. Songs like that make me want to embrace country-western, even though that’s a little difficult to do after hearing jerks like Toby Keith and Garth Brooks curse every speaker they come out of… Blech… “Dead Flowers” is what country music is supposed to sound like. Great slide guitar, engaging piano textures, a sweet melody… The lyrics are even thoughtful! I didn’t even think it was physically possible for country-western to have thoughtful lyrics!!

Indeed, The Rolling Stones were such rock gods at this point of their career that they could do no wrong. Even the would-be uninspired sloppy blues songs “You Gotta Move” and “I Got the Blues” have their priceless qualities. I might not find this to be as rock-hard brilliant as Let it Bleed, but it’s still pretty rock-hard brilliant in its own right. Plus, the original vinyl sleeve had a cool zipper that you could play with.


April 2, 2013 - Posted by | The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers |

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