Classic Rock Review

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The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup (1973)


And thus begins The Rolling Stones’ long, long, long, long, long, long post-1972 career in which they were widely perceived by critics and fans alike as being reduced to mere shadows of their former, godlike selves. In a way, I suppose that was true; The Rolling Stones would never again release a string of albums quite like Beggars Banquet to Exile to Main St. ever again. But, contrary to popular opinion, these post-1973 Rolling Stones albums are still quite good. At least until the ’80s. So, let’s start talking about The Rolling Stones’ excellent and often-overlooked 1973 album called Goats Head Soup.

The way this album begins, with a mild and simple dance song called “Dancing With Mr. D,” has been a source of much-woeful howls of pain from many Rolling Stones fans. It’s the first Rolling Stones album in a long while to begin with something that doesn’t deserve to be played once per hour on the radio station. It doesn’t create much of an interesting atmosphere, and Mick Jagger’s singing with these funny, raspy vocal intonations that comes off as really weird. But, on the other hand, I actually find listening to that song incredibly enjoyable. For a start, the riff is remarkably catchy, and so is the chorus… And I honestly find Jagger’s vocal performance weirdly engaging. So, whatever. I guess I’m of the opinion that anything’s a good song if it makes me want to get up and wiggle my behind a little bit.

“100 Years Ago,” on the other hand, sounds a lot like a Rolling Stones classic, and I’ve got to wonder why it isn’t. It’s full of multiple excellent hooky lines, and the instrumentation sounds fabulous. It starts out like a nice, old nostalgic mid-tempo rocker with a thoughtful guitar casually playing some grooves and a pretty piano twinkling in the background. After suddenly turning into a country ballad, it slowly develops into a rip-roaring funk tune. That’s quite an eye-popping amount of genre-hopping, something that I don’t really recall The Stones ever trying before. So, I guess this shows that The Stones still had some tricks up their sleeve despite their supposed descent into Dinosaurism.

There are three ballads here, and two of them are great. This is the album with “Angie” in it, of course, which constituted the album’s biggest hit. That’s a gorgeous song with one of the loveliest melodies that they’ve ever come up with. Jagger manages to turn in one of his more heartfelt vocal performances, and it’s nice to note that the drugs haven’t screwed him up so much at this point that he wasn’t capable of being a good singer anymore! The second good ballad is “Winter,” and it also features a very compelling melody. Really, if you don’t think that these guys were masters of melody, then you’re a freak. They were also masters of the guitar, of course, and that’s evident all throughout this album. The solo on “Winter” is as sweet and melodic as the vocal melody, and the guitar at the end of “100 Years Ago” is about as funky as it could possibly be.

Despite this being a very good album altogether, it did have more than its fair share of missteps. “Coming Down Again” is the album’s lesser ballad. While the central hook is OK, they keep on REPEATING IT AND REPEATING it with woefully little development. It doesn’t start to grow tiring until around the four-minute mark, though, but it makes me wonder why they couldn’t have garnered enough sense to chop off the last two minutes (apart from that very brief, but truly awesome sax duet). The voodoo-inspired “Can You Hear the Music” is pretty good although that also seems like it was a missed opportunity for something a little bolder and more bracing. I like that trippy atmosphere they create, but it takes some work on my part to become fully immersed in it. “Hide Your Love” is undoubtedly the album’s biggest disappointment for me; it’s a poorly mixed and R&B ditty that rocks about as convincingly as a dead rat. If that is the only reason music fans the world-round have a major distaste for Goats Head Soup, then I guess it’s understandable.

But they do end the album on a very high-note, with the Chuck-Berry-inspired rocker “Star Star” that manages to kick up quite a storm (despite the almost off-putting obscenity in the lyrics). So, I’m going to reiterate my opinion that Goats Head Soup is a good album by all accounts. It’s not a perfect album, but not everything has to be *perfect* in the world, you know. Unless you’re some sort of mental-case perfectionist. In which case, I think you’re better off listening to some Bach. Or Telemann, if you thought Bach was too much of a renegade.


April 3, 2013 - Posted by | The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup |

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