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Old 01-14-2012, 09:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street- 1972

The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street- 1972
RMR Album Rating- 10

If I owned a bar, it would absolutely be a dive bar, and if there were a soundtrack to this imaginary bar, it would absolutely be “Exile on Main Street,” which is a dive record, and I write that with the highest level of praise.

This album is bar music (well, that’s really just one fitting adjective), and it is done to perfection. The music here is stripped down to its bare bones. It is raw, rough, it lacks polish, and all of these elements add to the extraordinary feel of the album. Now, I do have to shamefully admit that I own the remastered single CD, which apparently doesn’t sound nearly as raw as the original LP release, but I’m on the hunt for the original version on LP, because it is the roughness of this album that makes it sound so smooth, which is quite a contradiction in terms.

I also have to admit that this record was not what I was expecting, and the album surprised me in a few ways. “Exile On Main Street” is a double album. This seems fitting enough because everyone was releasing double albums in the early 70′s. During this time, songs were becoming longer as well, so I assumed there would be some 10+ minute songs on “Exile on Main Street,” and some sort of central concept to tie all the songs together.

Well, I was completely wrong. The Stones did not go into the studio to create a double album to follow the trend of times. There is no central theme or concept running through the album, and there are no superfluous extended, multi-part songs, or elaborate instrumentation sections to bog the album down. “Exile on Main Street” is a double album because The Stones wrote 18 fantastic songs that are short to the point and in most cases completely flawless, and they simply couldn’t fit them all on one album (Now that CD’s have lengthened album running times, “Exile” is actually a single CD, but it was originally a double LP released on four sides of music).

So, on the music…

Although “Exile on Main Street” is not a huge departure from the sound of the previous three albums, the style is different. The previous three albums all contained certain tracks that seemed to be centerpieces of their respective albums. Examples would be “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Salt of the Earth,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Let it Bleed,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Dead Flowers.” All these songs are fantastic and classic rock staples, but all these songs sound like they were well planned, well rehearsed and perfected before recording.

Conversely, there aren’t any signature centerpieces on “Exile on Main Street,” but the album doesn’t suffer as a result of this. The result is an assault of stripped down songs that sound like they were just written on the spot in some cases, and I absolutely love the mood that this creates. Now let me be very clear, I’m not faulting the album for this style, I’m praising it. “The Stones” were so in-sync during this period that every song just sounds effortless, simple, and perfect.

All 18 songs are winners, but there are some standouts, and although these songs are not as polished as the aforementioned songs from the previous three albums, I think the standouts on “Exile” rival if not exceed any of their other best work. “Torn and Frayed” is my favorite cut from the album. I love the lyrics and Jagger’s vocal delivery on the song, especially when he’s describing the band on stage:
On stage the band has got problems/ They’re a bag of nerves on first nights/ He ain’t tied down to no home town/ Yeah, and he thought he was reckless/ You think he’s bad, he thinks you’re mad,/ Yeah, and the guitar player gets restless.
In terms of other songs, take your pick, especially off the first half of the album, which I will admit is a bit stronger than the second half. In addition to “Torn and Frayed,” you have “Rocks Off,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Sweet Virginia,” and “Loving Cup.” These are all perfect, and the second half of the album doesn’t disappoint either with “Happy,” “All Down the Line,” “Shine a Light,” and “Soul Survivor”. The whole album just sounds like Jagger, Taylor, and Richards were just sitting around having a great time, getting drunk, and writing some of the best music ever laid down to tape, and on this point, I have to mention the picture in the album’s inner sleeve of Jagger and Taylor signing into one microphone, each with liquor drinks and cigarettes in hand. It just looks like they were having blast, and you can hear it in every song on the album. To put it simply, the whole album just looks, feels, and sounds like true (real) rock and roll.

All in all, this album is amazing. It gets accused of being loaded with filler, but I just don’t hear it. Everything here works for me, and I wouldn’t change a note. I just need to track down an original copy on LP. I’m dying to hear it in its original format with that unmistakable sound that that needle creates when it makes contact with the first groove of vinyl. It seems like if there were ever an album to be heard with that rough sounding crackle and pop of an LP, “Exile on Main Street” is it, and I’m certain that the LP format will only enhance the listening experience.

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Old 01-14-2012, 11:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I waited a long ass time to get my original LP copy of this album. Finally found it at my favorite little record store. I guy had brought in a ton of records that were in impecable condition...except for the spines! He had them sitting near a wall and his cat went to town on all his albums, scratching them up and stuff. Because of the spine damage it was super cheap, so it was really a win for me. Most of the Rolling Stones albums I've picked up were from that guy so they all have matching spine damage. It's cute, really.

Beggars Banquet and Exile on Main Street are the two Stones albums that have really stood out to me. I've been a little harsher on Exile, though, because it is praised so much. When I listened to it, though, it blew me away. I listened to it three times in the 24 hour period after I bought it.

Also I listened to Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville" before I listened to "Exile on Main Street".
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Old 01-15-2012, 01:00 AM   #3 (permalink)
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i used to have a very high regard for this one

but recently went back to it and found it to be full of plodding middle of the road songs

I Just Wanna See His Face is still great, and I dunno? what else - the Robert Johnson cover, maybe?

need a reevaluation sometime yet again

mine is a cassette copy from the original master tape, not a CD-to-tape transfer so it is pretty raw

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Old 01-15-2012, 02:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It's a wonderful album and one I rarely get bored of. Listened to it a fair bit in 2010? When it was re-released and while I didn't get the same surprise of hearing it and it being new to me it definitely didn't disappoint. Tumbling Dice instantly was and still is my favourite track.

There is a brilliant documentary of the making of the album in France, have you seen it?

Btw I have only heard this on cd, not on vinyl.
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