Note: this release was originally purchased as a LP, later replaced by a CD. My copy is the 2009 reissue.
I didn't realize it when I bought the LP in 1981, but this album was actually a compilation of touched-up studio outtakes from the seventies. It didn't sound like that to me then and it certainly doesn't sound like that now. It's a solid rock album rooted in blues tradition that leaves you thinking, "these were throwaways?!?" Of course, in '81, this was the first Stones album I'd ever purchased so I really didn't know what to expect. It's amazing how the Stones seemingly moved effortlessly to disco and then back to rock in the late '70s to early '80s. Sadly, the Stones would never release an album this strong again.
After giving the album a ★★★★★ review in their October 15, 1981 issue (the same week it debuted at #1 on their album chart, below), Rolling Stone magazine went to place the album at #34 on its list of greatest albums of the 80s and then 213 on its list of 500 greatest albums of all-time. Heck, even hard-to-please Christgau gives it an A-. The album did win a Grammy award, but it wasn't for the rockin' tunes, it was for the immediately recognizable album packaging.
One of the Stones' strengths at this point in their long, storied career was their ability to attract top tier guest musicians to play on their albums. This album includes contributions from Pete Townshend, Billy Preston, and Sonny Rollins(!). The latter two completely steal the show on the song Slave, but that's just one example.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #1 (9 consecutive weeks, Sept 19 - Nov 14, 1981)
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #1 (7 consecutive weeks)
Tracks: On LP, the first six tracks were compiled to form a rock side while what was side 2 (tracks 7-11) are slower attempts at ballads. I always liked the way this album starts, the first 4 tracks are fantastic in content and sequencing. The A side begins to fall apart with the blues Black Limousine, but by that time it really doesn't matter because you're all in (I do confess to occasionally flipping the album early and skipping Neighbors about half the time). I like the slower side much better these days than I did in '81. From those tracks, my picks are Worried About You, Heaven, and the final track, Waiting On A Friend, which is another track totally owned by Sonny Rollins.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: if memory serves, this was the first album I ever bought due solely to peer pressure - all the cool kids in high school were listening to this, so I picked it up. Turns out the cool kids were right for once.
My favorite Rolling Stones tune is Gimme Shelter, but Start Me Up runs a close second. I saw the group in Houston in 2003 and both songs were performed. And Mark was happy.
Previously revisited for the blog:
Some Girls (1978)