The Rolling Stones
Let it Bleed (Decca)
Raving Up the Rolling Stones: Jimmer Podrasky of proto-Americana rockers the Rave-Ups told us about his love for a Stones classic.
Jimmer Podrasky: Deciding on just one “desert island” record is like answering the question “what’s the best food?” The answer could change from day to day, even hour to hour. Is Rubber Soul better than Highway 61 Revisited? Is Tea for the Tillerman better than John Prine’s eponymous debut?
Is Tim better than Beggar’s Banquet? Is Graceland or Blood on the Tracks better than all of them? It’s impossible (and somewhat ludicrous) to make any of those choices. Music is about human emotions and emotions can change in an instant.
There is one album, however, that has always stood the test of time for me and one that hits all the right notes, lyrically and musically.
If one has any affinity for rock’n’roll, country, blues, folk and pop (all in one heady mix), The Rolling Stones 1969 album Let It Bleed is THE masterpiece and a nine-course meal to boot. It may or may not be the band’s best album; but it remains my favorite for all the aforementioned reasons. Edgy, angry, witty, tender, poppy moments all coalesce in one record. It’s downright perfect from beginning to end.
The tension that builds in the opening of “Gimme Shelter” and explodes when Charlie Watts hits that snare drum and the band kicks in still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. No other band could’ve written “Gimme Shelter” or “Midnight Rambler” (or the earlier “Sympathy for the Devil” for that matter). Paying homage to the delta blues with their cover of Robert Johnson’s Love in Vain and immediately following it with a tribute to Hank Williams/Jimmie Rogers country with “Country Honk,” the Stones were the bridge from American roots music to America itself. They always paid respect to the past while forging something uniquely their own. Sure, they began as a blues band, but nobody played the blues (or country) quite like the Stones; they were always more than a rock or pop band to me.
“Live With Me “and “Monkey Man” are the very definitions of a “Stones rocker.” The wistful, sweetness of Keith Richards’ You Got the Silver (in his first attempt at lead vocals) is arguably one of the greatest country-blues songs ever. It’s also the album that represents the transition from the Brian Jones era to the Mick Taylor era. But there’s not really a bump in the road; this is the Stones at the height of their power. All of this leads to the album’s closer—”You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which begins modestly in a simple, almost-folky way and eventually becomes a sweeping, bigger-than-life, pop song replete with strings and a choir. Almost everything that I love about
music is contained on this one album. It is, for me, the most fully-realized interplay of light and dark committed to vinyl.
I never heard Let It Bleed until I was in college; it was the late 70’s and punk/new wave was the “cool” music of the time. When I started my music career as an erstwhile punk rocker, I would leave those punk clubs in Pittsburgh and return to my apartment to listen to Hank Williams or the Allman Brothers or Tom Waits or The Beatles or Creedence. And, of course, the Stones. As I learned and grew as a musician and songwriter, I’d hoped to incorporate all of that music I loved into what I was doing in the Rave-Ups. I’ve tried to make an album as great as Let It Bleed all of my career and I failed. Everytime. I’ll keep trying until I die, I guess.
After all, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
Raving Up the Rolling Stones: The Rave Ups’ single “How Old Am I?” is out now. The album Tomorrow is out February 4 via Omnivore Recordings.
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