First off, I would like to just say. Rest in Peace to Charlie Watts. The guy was a legend in the rock scene and he just so happened to be in one of the best rock bands of all time. Second off, I decided to review this album because I already reviewed “Sticky Fingers” in my podcast and I thought this album gets slightly overshadowed in the Rolling Stones’ catalog. Personally, The Rolling Stones weren’t a band that I ever loved….until recently. I listened to this album around last December and I got to say, this made me a fan. I loved Mick Jagger’s very bold vocal style, I loved Keith Richards’ gritty guitar tone and most significantly, their style of music is just uniquely theirs. Surely Blues Rock has been done by a lot of people but nobody did it like The Rolling Stones. With that being said, this is my thoughts on their 1969 album “Let It Bleed”
As The Rolling Stones go, they always evolved into somewhat of an offspring of their original style. They started as a Blues Rock group and continued to be one. Over time they took chances on R&B and Psychedelic music while dabbling with Soul music and country music. This album is no stranger to new sounds. You could hear it right from the second track “Love In Vain” where the group does their take on country-tinged acoustic blues music. That style is not a one instance thing in their catalog, not even a one-time instance on this album because 5 tracks later we have a similar style on “You Got The Silver” (but this time Keith Richards is singing which is surely unique). The track right after is a similar jist as “Country Honk” is exactly what it sounds like. The nearly 7-minute track “Midnight Rambler” might not be a take on country music, but it strictly goes into this very swingy blues sound that I never heard The Rolling Stones do before this. As you can see, The Rolling Stones’ massive success isn’t like the success of someone like AC/DC, it’s their success whilst dabbling with new sounds and styles.
Rolling Stones’ Place In Rock
If you know enough about music history or history in general, you know about the British Invasion, which includes bands like The Kinks, The Zombies, The Who, The Beatles and of course…The Rolling Stones. With that music, there were different areas of the UK that had their different style. The Beatles dabbled in more Pop stylings alongside their Merseyside influence. The Who were considered to be Mods who created their style of Beat music. The Kinks were more of a garage band that was more Rock & Roll based. The Rolling Stones on the other hand were more blues-based than all of those groups popularizing a genre…Blues Rock. Let’s fast forward to 1969. The Beatles were on the verge of breaking up but they created a groundbreaking album themselves with Abbey Road. The Who were also taking steps in a more ambitious direction as their album “Tommy” would change the way the album was done. The Zombies were going in a more psychedelic direction as their music was very colorful and uplifting. What about The Stones? Well…the best way to say this is that they stuck to their Roots…literally. Instead of being the groundbreaking band, The Beatles were, they took the nitty-gritty of blues music, country music, and soul music and created a sound that was unapologetically theirs.
As I said earlier in this review, a lot of what makes The Rolling Stones great is their songwriting. The opening and closing track on this album appeared on Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 songs of all time for a reason. “Gimmie Shelter” is a rock staple as it’s a bluesy and psychedelic experience that resembles not only the Stones but 60s music itself. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is a 7-minute closer that so happens to be my favorite Rolling Stones song. I love the message, I love the instrumental palette, I love the choir, I love the chords and everything about it. It’s not just devoted to those two songs either. “Love In Vain” and “Live With Me” are also well-written songs that could’ve been classic songs in their own right. “Midnight Rambler” showcases The Rolling Stones’ ability to stretch out a linear blues song to the best of their ability and “Monkey Man” shows how goofy the band can be without sounding like a gimmick. Surely Rolling Stone magazine put debatable placements for a reason but putting Mick and Keith at number 6 might just be a respectable placement. (Putting Lou Reed at 21, Bowie at 39, Kurt Cobain at 54, and Kanye West at 84 was some absolute bullshit though but that’s not what we’re talking about.)
The Rolling Stones lineup was a 5 piece at the time. Mick Jagger on vocals, Keith Richards on guitar, Brian Jones on guitar, Charlie Watts on drums, and Bill Wyman on bass. During the recording of the album, Brian Jones was fired from the group and then, unfortunately, died due to problems with drugs. Mick Taylor came in occasionally and so did Jones but it was mainly the big 4 that stayed strong throughout this album. It was just guitar bass and drums on this record and It was far from that. It was like a yard sale of instruments. We have harmonicas, slide guitar, congas, zithers, vibraphone, pianos, organs, fiddles, mandolins, saxophones, tambourines, horns, chorus, French horns, and more. Every single instrument isn’t thrown in either. Every instrumental choice is done to its justice. The mandolin on “Love In Vain”, the fiddle on “Country Honk”, the harmonica on “Midnight Rambler” and the piano on “Monkey Man” are just some of the genius additions on this album.
It’s not I have any problems with this album because I don’t. It’s just that I have a hard time giving this record a 10. I do think this album is amazing and insanely enjoyable but just like other Rolling Stones albums, they focus less on the album and focus more on making good songs to the point of making an album. Surely “Midnight Rambler” and “You Got The silver” are great songs, but I would be lying if I said those songs are perfect. Other than that, I love the hell out of this album.
I know I didn’t talk about Charlie Watts that much in this review but I will say that this review is a celebration of his legacy of being part of a legendary band. I do think Charlie Watts was a great drummer and deserved the spot in the band too. This review was mainly trying to talk about the band he was in and how his role-playing was a part of it. On the other hand, this album is fantastic. I think I said what I needed to say.