Saturday, July 27, 2013

Album Review: "The Rolling Stones" by The Rolling Stones

In their early days, producers made the attempt to have the
 Stones resemble other British Invasion bands like the Beatles with
a uniform, clean-cut dress code, but the Stones would later
shed this upper-crust look for a more loose, individualized image.
Name: The Rolling Stones
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Release Date: 16 April 1964
Label: Decca
Production: Andrew Oldham, Eric Easton
-- Mick Jagger, vocals
-- Keith Richards, guitar
-- Brian Jones, guitar, percussion, backing vocals
-- Charlie Watts, drums
-- Bill Wyman, bass
Awards/Success: #1 on UK Top 40 in 1964.  #11 on Billboard 200 in 1964. The single "Not Fade Away" reached #3 on the UK Top 40 Singles.
Other Information: Original songs on the album were listed under the pseudonym "Nanker Phelge."

The Rolling Stones are one of the greatest bands of all time, but few people know much about their earliest works.  There is a reason for that.  This debut album primarily consists of washed-up covers of other blues-oriented rock groups like Chuck Berry.  Members of the band are only cited under three of the tracks. But, as it is with most greats, you have to start somewhere, and this album very well epitomizes what the Stones would later be famous for in coming years.

While today's ears may not find anything impressive in The Rolling Stones, we must consider its importance in the development of this iconic band, as well as the growth of rock and roll in general.  While other British Invasion bands were creating the new pop sound, it was the Rolling Stones that brought blues into the realm of rock, and they did it through covering and copying the greats during their beginning.

My theory about covers is this: If you have something new to contribute, go ahead and sing someone else's music.  In this case, the Stones perform very popular works with a novel, white-boy, rebellious attitude. These guys were taking bold steps by singing "middle-age black music" in the '60s.  Classic jazz and blues references aplenty can be seen in this album, but amid very rock-like instrumentation and the skinny-boy drawl of Mick Jagger. This is classic blues-end rock performed by boys who seem like they already know that they're gonna be rock stars.

This album screams '60's youth mentality: playful, simple, and brash. The song "I Just Want to Make Love to You" is probably my favorite non-original track.  It's almost whiny, and sort of sums up what the Stones are all about: No work, all play. Jagger's got sass. He jeers, whines, and further murders his native dialect with great vocal splats throughout the whole album, and the guitar sort of hangs lazily at the ends of the beat without much care.

This album's sides were split between tracks 6 and 7.  The B-side begins with a smooth, sultry "I'm a King Bee" and ends with the monotonous unmemorable numbers, "You Can Make it if You Try" and "Walking the Dog."  It's in this B side where the original songwriting skills of Jagger and Richards save the day.

The Rolling Stones began experimenting with writing their own songs under the encouragement of their producer Andrew Oldham.  Even this early on, you can hear some originality and potential, though the tracks are hit-and-miss. "Little by Little" was co-written with Phil Spector and was the first song to achieve a spot in Britain's top 5 in 1964, but there is nothing too fabulous about this song; it mirrors the other tracks seen on the record. The other band-written number, "Now I've got a Witness," is unique in the fact that it is purely instrumental and features an already-impressive solo by Keith Richards, who was only 21 at the time.  One of the higher points is "Tell Me (You're Coming Back to Me)," which is the only song that was attributed to Mick and Keith on the whole album.  While "Tell Me' is a great song on its own, its originality and emotion   sort of stick out amid the other boogie-woogie sounds.  It stands as a foreshadowing of the genius that is to emerge from these two men in later years.

Honestly, The Rolling Stones is pretty typical of other blues-style elements coming out at this same time, but it's nice, once again, to get a taste of what these talented men -- particularly Richards -- had to offer at such an early point in their careers.

Hannah's Rating: 7/10  Mainly for its importance in history and for songs like "Tell Me."

Watch one of their first-ever TV spots on Dean Martin's The Hollywood Palace. Man, these guys were dreamy.

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