Sunday, July 28, 2013

Album Review: "The Rolling Stones No. 2" by the Rolling Stones

This album art also appears on the Stones' US release, 12 X 5.
Name: The Rolling Stones No. 2
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Release Date: 15 November, 1965
Label: Decca
Production: Andrew Oldham
-- Mick Jagger, vocals
-- Keith Richards, guitar
-- Brian Jones, guitar, percussion, backing vocals
-- Charlie Watts, drums
-- Bill Wyman, bass
Awards/Success: 10 weeks at #1 in the UK in 1965.
Other Information: John Lennon said of the album: "The album's great, but I don't like 5-minute numbers."

The Rolling Stones No. 2 is very similar to its preceding UK release, The Rolling Stones.  It consists of mainly R&B covers, with a sampling of works by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.  But there are some subtle differences between the two albums -- differences that make No. 2 a more true-to-style album than its predecessor.  

For one thing, Keith Richards' guitar is more prominent in this album.  He is becoming his own voice, rather than just having a 30-second solo halfway through the song.  A good example of this can be see in the Stones' version of "You Can't Catch Me," where Keith almost duets with Jagger in a nice call-and-response pattern.  Richards will become known as a rock player, but in this album, he's a bona-fide blues musician.  Part of me really misses this guitar-playing style.

Guitar plays a very important role in the original numbers by Richards and Jagger that appear halfway through the album.  "What a Shame" begins with a catchy guitar hook, and while its blues pattern is very predictable, it sounds fresh coming from Richards.  Immediately following "What a Shame," "Grown Up Wrong" is short and placid.  On the B-side, we hear the catchy and impressive "Off the Hook," which begins with more great guitar and features Richards once again cooperating with Jagger.

This is groovy music. The B-Side is my favorite.  You've got "Down the Road Apiece," which is up-tempo and angsty, followed immediately by the cool bounce of "Under the Boardwalk."  The album ends on a high note with "Susy Q," which explores new drum patterns and more rocking guitar solos. While it can be contested that these tracks aren't really "Stony," they sound awesome nonetheless, and they can bring any listener who grew up during this age back to their youth.  

The song "I Can't Be Satisfied," while it sort of comes off a little lame, is important because of the Rolling Stones' deep connection with the song's composer, Muddy Waters.  While Jagger can't quite pull off the vocal line, there is some conviction in it.  As with their previous album, the Stones are coming into their own and realizing their own potential as carriers of the blues-rock genre into the next decade.  They have found their genre.  While these early albums by the Rolling Stones aren't that essential, they may be quintessential -- lasting pieces of history that help define blues-oriented rock and roll for the next generations.  

Hannah's rating: 7.3 out of 10.  Catchy 60's blues-rock. Not much more. 

Here's the Stones performing "Time is On My Side" on the Ed Sullivan show.  Already these boys were winning audiences' hearts.

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