Friday, June 16, 2023


Released in 1969, the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed is the centerpiece of my round up of  favorite albums. It's a grand crescendo of the styles, personas, and attitudes they had been developing in the years before this, easily displaying less a fusion of acoustic folk and blues traditions than an early Americanish “blend” of the plugged in and unplugged traditions. It's fair to say that every element of sound we hear sounds as if it's always been there, perfectly formed, waiting to be discovered. Jagger is in peak form --there seems little in the way of traditional and more contemporary styles at the time he couldn't make his own--and his lyrics were never better, subtler, wittier, more British eccentric oddball. In an interview, some time ago in Rolling Stone, Norman Mailer found fine writing in the lyrics of "Live With Me" when the interviewer played him this record, praising the baroque and telling detail, the scene shifting line to line, the quick outlines of an upper-class family's secret insanity fully exposed. He compared the song favorably with Evelyn Waugh's short stories. The remark that reveals another strand for Stones scholars to research, the bands' effortless merging of American blues with very British absurdity.  The one track that doesn't work is "You Can't Always Get What You Want", intended seemingly as a grand , showstopping statement with just bit of philosophy delivered in the chorus. Overwrought, drawn out, very slow, anticlimactic, Jagger's singing uncharacteristically falls flat here--he sounds winded --and the surreal nonsequitors he usually excels at suffers in a determination to be “poetic”. Aside from the awkward presentation of this Big Statement, the idea of what was supposed to be the album's grand slam  finale is based on a tired aphorism reminds us that even the sainted Rolling Stones can chase a bad idea as diligently as they can a good one.

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