Classic Rock Review

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

The Rolling Stones - It's Only Rock and Roll (1974)From

Having ditched Miller, who helped steer the band’s golden era, the Glimmer Twins decided to self-produce for the first time since Their Satanic Majesties Request. Unsurprisingly, the muddy sound is somewhat lacking, and by most accounts the album’s sessions were in disarray as nobody was there to take charge.

Still, the album that emerged from the drug rampant (nothing new there) sessions is in my opinion better than what has often been reported, though there are reasons why this album is often overlooked and is primarily remembered for three things: the anthemic title track, which was actually a chart disappointment (#16 U.S./#10 U.K.) but has since reached iconic status as a long time stage favourite, for being the first post-Miller album, and for being their last album with Mick Taylor. Though his fluid, graceful playing elevated certain Stones songs immeasurably, Taylor apparently never felt completely comfortable in the band, and he was rankled by not receiving what he felt were proper song writing credits.

His departure was a major loss for the band, what with him being their only traditional lead guitarist and quite simply the most talented player they ever had, but at least he makes his presence felt on It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, which truth be told like Goats Head Soup is a pretty hit or miss affair. Still, there are few flat out bad songs on the album. Among the lesser songs is the leadoff track “If You Can’t Rock Me,” a funky riff rocker that never really catches fire, though it is still moderately enjoyable. “Luxury” has really annoying reggae affectations from Jagger, though at least it has some tasty riffing and is pretty catchy.

“Dance Little Sister” is a Stones-by-numbers boogie rocker, and “Short and Curlies” is another short boogie that’s among their silliest songs ever (my friend calls it “the dumb ‘she’s got you by the balls’ song”). Though I appreciate the ambitiousness that is too often lacking elsewhere, the funky wah wah infused “Fingerprint File” is also only semi-successful, in part because like several songs here this one is longer than necessary (6:30, to be exact). Still, it was tracks such as this one (whose paranoid lyrics I actually really like) and the earlier “Dancing With Mr. D” that paved the way for their later massive disco hit “Miss You.”

As for the songs I like, and again I don’t really dislike the lesser efforts, let’s start with their cover of The Temptations “Ain’t To Proud To Beg.” Well, it’s certainly better than the earlier “My Girl” (if not as good as the later “Imagination”), and it’s notable for a rare Richards (as opposed to Taylor) solo, but though it’s quite enjoyable the song’s mere presence indicates a certain cruise control mindset that permeated The Rolling Stones at this point. The band does seem to be trying their hardest on certain songs, such as on the classic title track, but this tune is very telling, too. Although tongue in cheek to a degree, Jagger’s provocative lyrics (i.e. “if I could stick a knife in my heart, suicide right on stage, would it be enough?..”) indicate that he feels put upon, that rock ‘n’ roll has become a job.

It’s only rock n’ roll, after all, he doesn’t need to do this anymore, but it pays the bills (handsomely) so he and his bandmates continue onwards. Heck, maybe I’m reading too much into it, and either way I certainly like the song’s slashing guitars, and it’s quite catchy and rocking (in a T. Rex sort of way) as well. As for other songs that I’d consider highlights, “Till The Next Goodbye” and “If You Really Want To Be My Friend” are two of the band’s better ballads. The former song is a twangy, regret-filled acoustic ballad on which Hopkins (whose elegant playing is all over the album) adds delicate decorations and Taylor also shines.

The 6-minute latter song is a soul ballad with support from the vocal group Blue Magic; the song takes awhile to get going, and it’s not as inspired as some of the churchier attempts on Exile, but it’s still quite enjoyable, with Taylor’s solo again providing the icing on the cake. Speaking of Taylor, his lack of a co-credit on the albums second best song, “Time Waits For No One,” which also exceeded 6 minutes, was reputedly the last straw that ensured his departure. One can see why, as even though Jagger supplies the philosophical lyrics, Taylor musically dominates the song with his beautiful soloing, though some critics had a point when they said that it sounded more like Santana than the Stones. This was in no small part due to percussionist Ray Cooper, who also has a significant presence throughout the album, though the horn section of Keyes and Price, recently so prominent, is mysteriously absent.

Anyway, on the whole this is an enjoyable album, but it’s also true that with this album, or maybe the previous one, The Rolling Stones became just another good working band whose transcendent peaks from here on in would be few and far between.


May 7, 2013 - Posted by | The Rolling Stones It's Only Rock n Roll |

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on Barry Piatoff@WordPress.

    Comment by barrypiatoff | May 7, 2013 | Reply

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