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Plans for a 50th Anniversary Tour haven't been clearly expressed, but there is a rumor circulating that The Stones will kick off a worldwide tour by playing two shows at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn this November. It appears that there aren't any plans for a new studio album. In fact, the band hasn't released any new material since 2005's A Bigger Bang, which did not make our Top 5 list. Surprise!
Throughout their fifty-year career and twenty four studio albums, The Rolling Stones have had numerous peaks and valleys, and like most music critics and journalists we favor their prolific four-year period (1968-1972), which includes some of their greatest artistic achievements.
So here it is...Riffraf's Top 5 Rolling Stones' albums.
Album: Beggar's Banquet
Highlights: Sympathy for the Devil, Street Fighting Man, Stray Cat Blues, Salt of the Earth
Beggar's Banquet is an album of new beginnings and farewells. When the band's long time producer and manager Andrew Loog Oldham departed, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards hired producer Jimmy Miller who had worked with Traffic and the Spencer Davis Group. The collaboration proved to be invaluable as Miller worked with The Stones during their most fruitful period (1968-1972), producing four albums on our list (Jagger and Richards produced the other, Some Girls).
On Beggar's Banquet, The Stones returned to their blues roots - "No Expectations," "Dear Doctor," "Parachute Woman" and "Prodigal Son." Brian Jones' slide guitar playing on "No Expectations" is one of the record's highlights.
However, the blues-based rockers, "Street Fighting Man" and "Stray Cat Blues" and the epic "Sympathy for the Devil" are the album's real gems. "Street Fighting Man" is a reflection of the political and social turmoil in 1968; "Stray Cat Blues" is their first foray into a sexually depraved world; and "Sympathy for the Devil," with its satanic lyrics and African rhythms is one of the band's defining moments.
Album: Some Girls
Highlights: Miss You, When the Whip Comes Down, Beast of Burden, Shattered, Respectable
By the late 70s, The Stones had lost some of their Mojo. While Jagger had become a parody of himself, Richards' drug habit had reached legendary heights. But the Glimmer Twins were determined to prove their critics and naysayers that they were still the world's greatest rock and roll band.
Some Girls is an irreverent, high energy record that's more rock and roll than punk, but it's edginess and nastiness reflects that of the punk ethos. On "Miss You," The Stones appropriate disco and make it their own.
Punk and disco were certainly an influence on Mick Jagger, but the singer also cites New York City as highly influential: "The inspiration for the record was really based in New York and the ways of the town. I think that gave it an extra spur and hardness. And then, of course, there was the punk thing that had started in 1976. Punk and disco were going on at the same time, so it was quite an interesting period."
The group's rejuvenation was also due to Ronnie Wood's arrival. Like Brian Jones and Mick Taylor, Ron Wood's guitar playing meshed with Keith Richards' style. For the first time since Beggar's Banquet, only the core band played on the record.
Album: Let it Bleed
Highlights: Midnight Rambler, Gimme Shelter, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Live With Me
In many ways, Let it Bleed is an extension of Beggar's Banquet. There are plenty of blues tunes - "You Got the Silver," "Midnight Rambler" and "Love in Vain." There are plenty of blues-based rockers - "Gimme Shelter," "Monkey Man," and "Live With Me." There is even a haphazard experiment with country music, "Country Honk."
Founding member Brian Jones appears on only two tracks, "You Got the Silver" and "Midnight Rambler." Tragically, Jones died several months before the record's release. Jones' replacement, Mick Taylor, plays guitar on only two tracks, "Country Honk" and "Live With Me." Keith Richards sings his first lead vocal on a Stones' record, "You Got the Silver."
Album: Sticky Fingers
Highlights: Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Can't You Hear Me Knocking, Bitch, Dead Flowers
Sticky Fingers, the band's first release on its newly formed label, Rolling Stones Records, is the quintessential drug album. The Stones kicked off the Seventies with a dark, and dreary record. Every song is draped in a rather delirious haze that upon listening to the entire record one is likely to become anesthetized.
Mick Taylor plays a more prominent role on Sticky Fingers. His influence on Mick and Keith as well as his presence as the group's lead guitarist can be heard on the classics "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Wild Horses."
In a 1979 interview Mick Taylor said, "Can't You Hear Me Knocking...is one of my favourites....(The jam at the end) just happened by accident; that was never planned. Towards the end of the song I just felt like carrying on playing. Everybody was putting their instruments down, but the tape was still rolling and it sounded good, so everybody quickly picked up their instruments again and carried on playing. It just happened, and it was a one-take thing. A lot of people seem to really like that part."
"Wild Horses" is the band's first genuine attempt at a country song that could not have happened without Mick Taylor's influence and incredible slide guitar playing.
In the early Sixties, Keith Richards and Brian Jones developed a technique they called "guitar weaving," where both guitarists play rhythm and lead without distinct boundaries between both roles. With Taylor in the band, he picked up where Jones had left off.
Album: Exile on Main St.
Highlights: Rocks Off, Tumbling Dice, Torn and Frayed, Happy, All Down the Line, Shine a Light
Although the double album received mixed reviews when it was first released, since then it is often regarded as their finest record. Perhaps it's Exile's sprawling nature, consisting of blues, rock, country, soul and gospel, that caused some of the critics to hiccup.
Keith Richards said, "When [Exile] came out it didn't sell particularly well at the beginning, and it was also pretty much universally panned. But within a few years the people who had written the reviews saying it was a piece of crap were extolling it as the best frigging album in the world."
In 1972, The Stones couldn't afford to pay their taxes in merry ol' England, so they uprooted themselves and moved to France. Like Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers, there is a genuine bleakness that shrouds the record. Perhaps being in "exile" contributed to the album's weariness. Certainly Keith Richard's drug addiction contributed to the weariness of the record. Even though Exile was recorded in the basement of Keith's villa, there were several occasions where he didn't show up to the recording sessions.
In Bill Wyman's memoir Stone Alone, the bassist pointed out that some band members wildly indulged in drugs (Richards, Jimmy Miller, Bobby Keys, Mick Taylor, engineer Andy Johns), whereas other band members were prepared to work (Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Mick Jagger).
In 2003, Mick Jagger said, "Exile is not one of my favourite albums, although I think the record does have a particular feeling. I'm not too sure how great the songs are, but put together it's a nice piece. However, when I listen to Exile it has some of the worst mixes I've ever heard. I'd love to remix the record, not just because of the vocals, but because generally I think it sounds lousy. At the time Jimmy Miller was not functioning properly. I had to finish the whole record myself, because otherwise there were just these drunks and junkies. Of course I'm ultimately responsible for it, but it's really not good and there's no concerted effort or intention."
Even if Mick doesn't regard Exile on Main St. as a major achievement, there is no denying that the album includes several masterpieces: "Rocks Off," "Tumbling Dice," "Torn and Frayed," "Happy," "Let It Loose," and "Shine a Light."
The sign of a great album is that you can listen to it over and over and with each listen you'll find something new and exciting. Go ahead, give Exile a listen.
Every band has its own distinctive story replete with drugs, alcohol, conflicts, line up changes, dead ends, regrettable gigs, setbacks, struggles, battles with record companies, managers, accountants, and bar owners. Every band pays its dues. There is no such fantasy as an overnight success.
A decade ago they were simply Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney from Akron, Ohio; seven albums later they are the critically acclaimed, Grammy award winning darlings of the Rock world. But their beginnings, like so many rock and roll bands, are humble, unassuming, somewhat innocent.
In 1996, Auerbach was learning guitar, while Carney owned a drum set and four-track recorder. They started jamming and laying tracks down on Carney's four-track, but nothing ever really transpired. And like so many of us at seventeen or eighteen who don't really know what we want to do with our lives, they enrolled in the University of Akron but dropped out shortly after.
The Big Come Up didn't sell particularly well, but that didn't slow The Black Keys down either. In due time, the album captured a cult following, garnered favorable reviews from the critics, and secured the group a deal with Fat Possum Records.
And the rest is history...
In our Writers and Music series, authors discuss the music that has either been included in their most recent project or the influence music has had on their work overall.
It was in the autumn of 1998, when I first heard Fugazi.
This was at a time in my life when I foundered, virtually drowning, on the shoals of addiction. I had dreams, but they were setting down, an evening sun. Saturated with chemicals and craving, I stood a shaky six foot three, weighed about a buck seventy five. It’s a wonder my best friend from Arkansas, who’d lately come out west to visit, recognized me. He might’ve considered staging an “intervention,” but that’s really not his style. Instead, he gave me a CD.
“Dude, you’ve got to listen to this,” my friend told me.
The CD was called End Hits.
“Who’s Fugazi?” I said.
My friend shook his head. “Just listen,” he reiterated.
Then, in the semi-darkness of a seedy little kitchen on 45th and Belmont, I proceeded to cue the disc up on a cheap portable player with busted belt clip, and tattered earphones, foam mostly rotted away. “Who the fuck are these guys?” I cried, after hearing the opening measure of a number called “Break” at maximum volume.
My friend smiled. I removed the headphones to hear his reply: “You can keep that…”
I’ve never stopped listening to it.
Now, a few lines from the song “Recap Modotti” come to mind:
…Recap in taxi,
No clothes, no food
Take care of the children
We’ll send for you soon …
Oh, I remember that version of me, in my sorry Belmont kitchen, pushing forty, possessed of all the pallor and disfiguration of a scarified poppy, and yet then, still, coming alive with the strains of that music – watching my own rail-thin shadow get down with its bad self on the wall, moonlight pouring through a little window above the sink: this shadow, who clutched a battered Sanyo CD player like a lucky hymnal, commencing to fist-pump, to hum and dream and hope via pantomime, the old hip sway with chest bump, my eyes glued to the ear drums insisting everything could still turn out okay, blown away by this strange new music -- beside myself:
you find you feel at home
you get by with so much less
than anyone …
My friend returned to Arkansas a couple days later.
I would not get clear of my chemical dependency for four more years; wouldn’t publish my own poem called “Abduction” – (about aliens, transubstantiation, hospice and hope; and borne upon the current of the aforementioned music, surely as I’m sitting here) – for four years beyond that. But I’ll never forget the night I heard Fugazi for the very first time. No turning point, per se, but a vector, a euphony I can still point to – its sonic trajectory a little ahead of me, and a touch behind, recursive and propulsive at one remove, like a riff you simply can’t get out of your mind. Or a friend, who comes to visit from far away:
…Outside my window
the passing night sky
full of people I know
Today, I’m totally engrossed in a You Tube video: a talented filmmaker has put together some stunning imagery to accompany the Fugazi song “Turkish Disco.” Behind Brendan Canty’s signature snare drum cum tom-tom pulse, and Joe Lally’s bass line (thumping like a dogged hot spring of the heart’s natural magma) – there, on the screen sits a forlorn barn, cupped by this cozy pastoral snow bank. And as the song commences, this barn slowly begins to change colors, hue to hue to hue, as the haunting bars drive by:
Rust -- to russet. Vermilion, bleeding cerise. Baby shit blue morphing into stone cold indigo. Forlorn forest green, in time, becoming lime.
Reader, believe me: I’m happy as hell to be a fan of Fugazi.
By Jim Pace
Song: Driver's Seat
Artist: Sniff ‘n’ the Tears
Genre: Power Pop
In the car, some songs get you there quicker, but you still arrive late.
We've all felt it; you're driving along, oblivious to everything, when a certain song comes on the radio and suddenly, it all looks different. The day opens up, you drive faster and you're sure that things are going to change from that moment on.
In 1972, singer-songwriter Paul Roberts played the London pubs with an early incarnation of Sniff 'n' the Tears. They were unable to land a record deal, so in 1974 Paul left the band and moved to France to pursue his painting. Two years later, a French record company allowed him to cut some demos in London.
His former drummer, Luigi Salvoni, brought in some musicians from his band Moon, and they recorded some of what would become Fickle Heart, with Salvoni producing. The demos sat for a while, but Salvoni gave them another listen and thought they had potential. Roberts' painting career was heating up, but Salvoni smelled a hit and talked him into starting a new band.
Roberts (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Salvoni (drums) were joined by Loz Netto (guitars), Mick Dyche (guitars), Chris Birkin (bass), Alan Fealdman (Keyboards) and became Sniff 'n' the Tears. Keyboardist Keith Miller played the Moog synthesizer on "Driver's Seat."
They finished the album in 1978 and were signed by Chiswick Records. "Driver's Seat" was the obvious hit. The song moves along, driven by an acoustic guitar and accented by power pop guitars and those fantastic Moog riffs. The song caught fire and by August 1979, it was #15 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the U.S.
Sniff 'n' the Tears went from playing nightclubs to touring Spain and Germany, but some of the band members weren't prepared for that type of lifestyle. Birkin and Fealdman left the band. Then Salvoni quit right before a three month tour, opening for Kansas and Kenny Loggins in the States. He felt it wasn't the right kind of tour for Sniff 'n' the Tears.
A few albums followed with several different lineups, Roberts remaining the only constant. They were moderately successful, and Roberts painted each fantastic album cover himself, but "Driver's Seat" was a tough act to follow.
The song pops up every few years in a movie or TV show, and in 1991 was the #1 record in the Netherlands after it was featured in a commercial.
You probably won't hear it on the radio these days. So get it onto the Ipod, or better yet break out the old 8-track cassette, roll down the windows and get in the driver's seat.
Every once in awhile, for a couple of minutes, anything is possible.
Grab the keys. Let's go.
(Jim Pace is a musician and filmmaker living in NY.)
Riffraf's Indie Spotlight is our attempt to shed some light on indie artists around the world who have been creating music, recording and touring without the support of a label or major financial backing. Chapman, Jay Leibowitz, Jem Warren, The Active Set, Joanne Weaver, Boiled in Lead, Holly & Evan and Birdeatsbaby are just a few of the indie artists to be featured in the "Spotlight."
Today, we'd like to introduce you to the post-rock instrumental quartet Twincities.
Based in Long Island, Twincities - Fletcher McDermott (piano/drums), Sal Magaddino (guitar), Matt Citarella (guitar), and Jesse Asch (bass) - are currently recording their second EP that will be released this winter.
We chatted with Fletcher about the group's influences, favorite venue to play and the new record.
What are your musical influences?
We take a lot of things from a lot of places! I'd hate to speak on everyone's behalf for something that personal, but I'd say we all agree on a couple of big ones. We all love Sigur Ros, Godspeed, You Black Emperor, Mono, This Will Destroy You. A couple of us have fallen pretty deeply in love with a lot of classical/piano music recently, and I think that's really going to show in our new stuff. I love ambient/glitchy electronic music which will show a lot in the production side of this new album.
What's your favorite place to play?
We've fallen into this weird place musically where we find ourselves playing this traditional "rock band" setup and it's led to us playing places that usually house that. Those types of venues usually don't end up being beneficial to a spacious dynamic sound, so until we either start playing beautiful wide open churches or places with incredible sound systems, that one is really tough to answer. Don Pedros always treats us well in Brooklyn. Mr. Beerys out near us on Long Island is also a great group of people.
What has been your favorite show?
Personally, getting to play with braveyoung was a high point for me. We've played with a bunch of great bands in the past year or so, but this was one of those times where if we hadn't been playing the show we'd have been there to see them either way. Their new album is a personal favorite and playing alongside them was incredible.
What's up next for Twincities?
Finish up this album we're in the middle of recording in the next two weeks and then start exploring our options. Hopefully set up a nice tour this winter. We'll have the record on 12" by winter. After that it's just keep writing, writing, and writing.
Most of us aren't even sure what we're looking at. Is it a mountain range? Is it a clump of waves? Somebody give us a clue! Whether you know what the design is or not, you ultimately identify the striking image with the post-punk band Joy Division. And that's precisely what makes it a great album cover.
The bold cover of Joy Division's debut album, Unknown Pleasures, was suggested by drummer Stephen Morris and designed by Chris Mathan and Peter Saville. Saville was the in-house designer of the famed Manchester record label, Factory Records. He was depicted in the 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People, which is based on Tony Wilson and the history of Factory Records. In the film, Saville has a reputation for missing deadlines.
Peter Saville went on to design album covers for New Order, Roxy Music, Ultravox, Suede, Pulp and Peter Gabriel, but he cut his teeth with Unknown Pleasures, a grim and mysterious blueprint that spoke directly to Joy Division's brooding fans.
So what exactly are we looking at? I'm glad you asked.
It’s one hundred successive pulses from the first pulsar ever discovered, PSR B1919+21. Now if you're like me and don't know a thing about astronomy, a pulsar is a "celestial object, thought to be a rapidly rotating neutron star, that emits regular pulses of radio waves and other electromagnetic radiation at rates of up to one thousand pulses per second." Got it? Good.
The complete artistic design of Unknown Pleasures is untraditional: the back cover doesn't include a track listing, instead of the customary "side one" and "side two" they are replaced by "outside" and "inside," and the track information and album credits appear only on the inner sleeve.
In the end, when you see this enigmatic image, you don't think pulsar. You think Joy Division.
Autumn in New York. Ahhhh!!!! My season of choice. Spring may be the season of rebirth, but for me autumn is the season of possibility.
Okay, so it's not quite fall - it officially arrives September 22nd - but can't you just feel the crisp autumn air on the back of your neck and smell the smoldering fireplace in your nose? Can't you?
Here are five amazing songs that celebrate my favorite three months.
"Harvest Moon" by Neil Young
"Autumn Sweater" by Yo La Tengo
"When I heard the knock on the door, I couldn't catch my breath. Is it too late to call this off? We could slip away. Wouldn't that be better? Me with nothing to say and you in your autumn sweater."
"Moondance" by Van Morrison
Van The Man makes use of the not-so-brilliant portmanteau "fantabulous" in his brilliant song "Moondance" on his brilliant third album, Moondance:
"A fantabulous night to make romance / 'Neath the cover of October skies / And all the leaves on the trees are falling / To the sound of the breezes that blow."
"Ramble On" by Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were never one to shy away from their influences. In "Ramble On," Robert Plant borrows from his muse, J.R.R. Tolkien's poem "Namarie" from The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's poem was certainly the inspiration for the song's entire first verse:
"Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way/ Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay / But now it's time for me to go / The autumn moon lights my way / For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way."
"Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" by The White Stripes
"Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" is the raunchy opening track to the White Stripes' 2001 album White Blood Cells. Judging by the song's title, we can surmise that autumn isn't Jack White's favorite time of year. Perhaps winter is.
"Dead leaves and the dirty ground / when I know you're not around / shiny tops and soda pops / when I hear your lips make a sound."