Let It Bleed: An album a week/month/year #12.
So far I have avoided covering the same artist twice, but I’m going to have to talk about Let it Bleed now, because I’ve got to talk about something.
This is probably my favourite Stones album. I’m not sure it’s their best, and I’ve grown kind of tired of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, but an album consisting of nothing but ‘Gimme Shelter’ and thirty minutes of white noise would still be better than most of what they’ve put out since Exile, so I’m not complaining. It’s got one of Keith’s best vocals in ‘You Got the Silver’, a classic example of a Stones track that nobody much knows because it was never a single. It’s got ‘Monkey Man’ which is kind of nonsense by is also just wall to wall Keith riff-o-rama, with a guitar that could slice up asphalt. It’s got ‘Country Honk’ which is a kind of hoe-down version of ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ and might be awful or might not be. The fiddle works beautifully, and indicates the almost magical sense of what would work that they seem to have had at the time. From Merry Clayton’s vocal on ‘Gimme Shelter’, with it’s famous crack in her voice that they were wise enough to keep (the desperation it conveys!) to their cover of Robert Johnson’s ‘Love in Vain’, their judgement (or Jimmy Miller’s judgement, I don’t know) is almost perfect. It’s funky, it’s dirty, it’s groovy, it’s fearsome (‘Midnight Rambler’ as well as ‘Gimme Shelter’), it’s tuneful, Jagger even writes some lyrics he seems to care about (here and there, anyway); I don’t know if it is their ‘best’ album, but it is the best edition of what the Stones could do. Famously, Brian was on his way out and Mick Taylor not yet come in, and this is the Stones album with Keith playing a lot of lead guitar. And he rips it apart. This is where to go to find out what he could do. Maybe that’s partly because it was near the beginning of his heroin odyssey rather than in the depths of it, I don’t know, but it is one awesome album.
It’s a pity they (Jagger and Richards) then go and do petty things like calling ‘Love in Vain’ “trad., arr. Jager & Richard”, presumably so they don’t have to share royalties with Johnson’s heirs. But then, even that just adds to how in so many ways this album the quintessential, essential Stones.
Get hold of it and turn it up.