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Old 04-06-2010, 02:59 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Rolling Stones - Goats Head Soup (1973)

(I'm not allowed to post links, so no album cover)
Goats Head Soup
August 31, 1973
1. Dancing With Mr. D
2. 100 Years Ago
3. Coming Down Again
4. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)
5. Angie
6. Silver Train
7. Hide Your Love
8. Winter
9. Can You Hear the Music
10. Star Star
(11. Criss Cross Man)

A problem with being at your creative peak is that unless you quit while you're ahead, you eventually are going to fall off. In 1973, the Rolling Stones were coming off perhaps the best four-album stretch (Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main St.) not recorded by the Beatles in the history of rock. Would 1973 be the year the band ran out of ideas?

I should mention, I think Exile On Main St. is a slightly overrated album (I prefer Let It Bleed). It compares to the Beatles' White Album in that it has more classic material than any of the Stones' other albums, but it could stand to cut a track here and there—I could do without Shake Your Hips, Sweet Black Angel, and Turd On the Run—to make it more cohesive. My biggest issue is the placement of Soul Survivor. While Soul Survivor is a good track in its own right, Shine a Light was the perfect way to conclude the album, and anything that followed would have sounded out of place. (Imagine if You Can't Always Get What You Want and Monkey Man had been reversed on Let It Bleed.)

Goats Head Soup's opening track, Dancing With Mr. D, has a dark sound, frankly reminiscent of Soul Survivor, maintaining the edge of the band's previous four albums. This track really grooves, starting the album off on a strong note. 100 Years Ago is a nice song, recalling the Beggars Banquet sound (think Stray Cat Blues) while displaying a progression into seventies-style rock. I would prefer a more energetic track than this to follow Dancing With Mr. D, but 100 Years Ago is a solid, single quality song.

Coming Down Again, the album's third song, just doesn't do it for me. I don't mind the subdued sound or Keith Richards' vocals (at least on this track), but it is a little repetitive for my tastes, and while there are catchy moments within the song's six minutes, it is generally boring. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker), on the other hand, is excellent, another dark track featuring R&B and funk influences and creative lyrics. My favorite song so far.

Side one is concluded with Angie, the album's hit. While I like the melody, the chord progression, and the production, I don't care for Mick Jagger's vocals on this one. Good song, wrong singer; it would have worked better for me if it had been sung by Rod Stewart, or something. If this is the song people use to judge Goats Head Soup, it's no wonder people consider the album a letdown, although it clearly has some pretty solid tracks.

Silver Train, the first song on side two, is pure Stones. Nothing special for them, but a really good song; I might have put this song after Dancing With Mr. D. The "pure Stones, (but) nothing special for them" comment also applies to Hide Your Love. If you use songs like these to judge Goats Head Soup, rather than its ballads, I think you're bound to think more highly of the album in general.

Winter is another ballad that falls flat. Like Coming Down Again, there are catchy moments, but Jagger sounds like he's trying to be Van Morrison, and it doesn't work for me. Can You Hear the Music is a song that sounds like a good idea, but suffers heavily from overproduction (What the hell is the flute doing on this?). It's too bad, because I think they have something here.

The last song, Star Star, starts out beautifully, then it reaches the chorus. I have no problem with the use of explicit lyrics per se, but repeating the line "fu¢k a star" over and over suggests you have run ideas and are trying to get a rise out of your audience. This sucks, because frankly, this would have been a standout track on any of their albums with a more creative chorus. The version of the album I downloaded includes the song Criss Cross Man, which I cannot find on any track listing for Goats Head Soup or its b-sides. It's cool, fitting in well as a bonus track.

This may sound weird, but I think Goats Head Soup represents a progression in sound for the Stones despite being a step back in quality. They incorporate more influences while maintaining the trademark sound they had established on their previous four albums. Unfortunately, the ballads on the album are the band's weakest efforts in years, and they drag the album down a bit. It's painful to listen to the overproduction of Can You Hear the Music. Still, I think any fan of the Rolling Stones ought to have this album in his collection.

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Old 04-06-2010, 03:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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A good review. It's a bit of a mixed bag for me, as are all Stones albums, they haven't done a solid one in my mind, but most of them certainly have their highlights.

Nice to see one of their lesser spoken about albums being reviewed.
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Old 04-06-2010, 04:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yeah, 7/10's about right for this one. Some terrific songs on it (Angie's one of my 10 favourite Stones songs ever), and there aren't any bad numbers on it for me, just a few that don't really do a lot of interesting things. It's been a verrrrrrry long time since I last listened to this though.
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Old 04-06-2010, 05:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Nice take on the album. Dancing with Mr. D is the sleaziest riff the Stones ever created, but the album begins to tank during the second half. As you noted, there's a lot of repetition on this album, which I think is due to them being completetly stoned during this recording session. The Stones began to perk up on their next album, though.
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Old 04-06-2010, 08:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm with you on Dancing With Mr. D; that riff is absolutely murderous.
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Old 04-08-2010, 03:48 AM   #6 (permalink)
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If the songs on Goat's Head Soup had been released as sides 5 and 6 of Exile on Main Street, they would all be viewed as absolute Stones classics. "100 Years Ago," "Silver Train," and "Hide Your Love" are as good as anything on Exile (well, OK, not as good as Stop Breaking Down, but close). There is not a weak song from start to finish. The Stones "winning streak" did not stop at four!
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