The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers

The Rolling Stones Album Reviews

It’s widely acknowledged that The Rolling Stones hit their peak between 1968 and 1972 – right now I’m covering those albums, and a few later highlights, as my Top Rated Albums list feels incomplete without them. I’ll come back and cover their 1965-1967 albums later; there are a few that I’ve only recently become acquainted with. I’m also considering filling up the gaps up to 1981, although the albums I’ve skipped generally have a poor reputation.

While the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards team is obviously the nucleus of The Rolling Stones, the band also benefited from the production of Jimmy Miller, and the skills of lead guitarist Mick Taylor, who replaced Brian Jones around the time that 1969’s Let It Bleed was recorded. To some extent, The Rolling Stones’ have become caricatures of themselves, but like most celebrated bands, they earned their reputation, and their run of albums between 1968 and 1972 is magnificent.

Rolling Stones Studio Albums: 1965-1981

The Rolling Stones No. 2
Out of Our Heads
December’s Children (And Everybody’s)
Between the Buttons
Their Satanic Majesties Request
Beggars Banquet
Let It Bleed
Sticky Fingers
Exile on Main St.
Goats Head Soup
It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll
Black and Blue
Some Girls
Emotional Rescue
Tattoo You

The Rolling Stones Album Reviews

Beggar’s Banquet

Beggars Banquet The Rolling Stones

1968, 9.5/10
After dabbling with pop and psychedelia on albums like Between The Buttons and His Satanic Majesty’s Request, The Rolling Stones returned to their blues roots with Beggar’s Banquet. Keith Richards later stated “I’d grown sick to death of the whole Maharishi guru shit and the beads and bells.” Founding member Brian Jones was drifting out of the band at this point, and he only contributes to some of the tracks, leaving the focus squarely on Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Producer Jimmy Miller also came on board for Beggar’s Banquet, and he was an integral part of The Rolling Stones’ golden run from 1968 to 1972.

Song for song, you could easily argue that Beggar’s Banquet is inconsistent – of the ten songs, I count four lightweight country and blues pastiches, which struggle to stand up to the meaty tracks like ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’. But each of these tracks is kept short, and each has its own charm – ‘Parachute Woman’ benefits from its repetitive riff and atmosphere, while ‘Factory Girl’ is low key and charming – and they add to Beggar’s Banquet rather than detract from it.

The six remaining tracks are generally brilliant; ‘Sympathy For the Devil’ burbles along smoothly while Jagger ambiguously delivers some of his best lyrics. Keith Richards delivers the opening lines to ‘Salt of the Earth’ before he’s eclipsed by Jagger, while ‘Stray Cat Blues’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’ rock with intensity and verve. ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ works on the back of some great slide guitar work and Jagger’s story-telling.

The Rolling Stones would make even better albums over the next few years, but Beggar’s Banquet ushers in the start of one of the most golden runs in the history of popular music.

Let It Bleed

The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed

1969, 8.5/10
On Let It Bleed The Rolling Stones changed lineups for the first time since gaining a recording contract; departing multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones and incoming guitarist Mick Taylor each play on a couple of tracks. Mick Jagger’s lyrics on Let It Bleed show glimpses of genius in their self-deprecating humour. “I’ve got nasty habits,” he sneers in ‘Live With Me’, “I take tea at three.” “I hope we’re not too messianic,” Jagger apologises in ‘Monkey Man’, “or a trifle too satanic.” The transition from the teen-aged assertiveness of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ to the adult uncertainty of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ is also noteworthy. ‘Gimme Shelter’ was creepy and ‘Midnight Rambler’ was edgy, forming the soundtrack for the tragic Altamont stabbings. While there are plenty of excellent songs on Let It Bleed, it’s not as consistent as the two albums that follow.

The claustrophobic ‘Gimme Shelter’ starts off Let It Bleed on an ominous note; the group lock into a tight groove, while Mary Clayton’s backing vocals are eerie. ‘Love In Vain’ is a lovely Robert Johnson ballad, although it’s credited to Jagger and Richards, while ‘Monkey Man’ and ‘Live With Me’ are fantastic rockers that are overlooked in The Stones’ vast catalogue. The epic ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ has an air of profundity that’s rare in pop music, while Keith Richards’ vocal spotlight ‘You Got The Silver’ has a convincing degree of sincerity. The rest of Let It Bleed isn’t as strong; ‘Midnight Rambler’ and the title track don’t justify their lengths, while ‘Country Honk’ is merely throwaway. Apparently this countrified version was how the awesome single ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ was first conceived, but Let It Bleed would be stronger with the invigorating rock version.

It’s my least favourite of The Rolling Stones’ 1968 to 1972 albums, but Let It Bleed still has some of their best tracks.

Sticky Fingers

The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers

1971, 10/10
At the turn of the 1970s, The Rolling Stones were at the peak of their powers and delivered Sticky Fingers, an album steeped in sex, drugs, and rock and roll. With new lead guitarist Mick Taylor firmly ensconced in the band, The Rolling Stones were able to tackle epic blues rockers like ‘Can You Hear Me Knocking’. While The Stones’ attempts at country on Beggars Banquet felt like pastiches, perhaps as a result of the friendship between Keith Richards and alt-country pioneer Gram Parsons, on Sticky Fingers ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Dead Flowers’ are substantial and among the many highlights.

Sticky Fingers hits most of The Rolling Stones’ stylistic range without over-reaching. There are straightforward rockers like the debauchery of ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Bitch’, and a lengthy, enthralling blues jam on  ‘Can You Hear Me Knocking’, while the slightly slower ‘Sway’ is a favourite from among the group’s album tracks. ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Dead Flowers’ are pretty, while ‘Sister Morphine’ boils with tension and ‘Moonlight Mile’ is a beautiful closer.

Confident and sleazy, Sticky Fingers is the epitome of classic rock, and it’s a career highlight for a legendary band.

Exile On Main Street

The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street

1972, 10/10
The Rolling Stones left Britain for tax purposes in 1971 and Exile On Main Street was recorded at Keith Richards’ home on the French Riviera, where he charged each member of the group 250 pounds a week for rent while recording. The recording sessions were predictably chaotic, with Richards’ heroin addiction, but the double album that resulted is spectacular. While The Rolling Stones always integrated pre-rock influences into their sixties records, the tapestry here is richer than ever. As well as their blues fascination and dabbles in country, they also splash on huge dollops of gospel, as an expanded line up with Bobby Keys on saxophone, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and J. Price on horns blast their way through eighteen tracks. While Exile On Main Street has an air of decadence about it, even more it is a celebration of music.

Not every one of these eighteen songs is brilliant; ‘Shake Your Hips’ is a re-run of Sticky Fingers‘ ‘You Gotta Move’, ‘I Just Want To See His Face’ is a turgid gospel piece, while there at least another half dozen throwaways scattered throughout the record. Even though some of the songs are not particularly strong, however, I wouldn’t want to change a note of this album. The vibe is just so compelling; the messy mix, with the vocals at low volume, is intoxicating, while even the ballads rock.

‘Rocks Off’ provides a suitable start; confused, sleazy and rousing. ‘Tumbling Dice’ is closest to a hit with a funky rhythm and a catchy harmonised chorus. ‘Torn And Frayed’ is a terrific piece of country-rock, while ‘Loving Cup’ and ‘Let It Loose’ are intense ballads. Robert Johnson’s ‘Stop Breaking Down’, the gospel of ‘Shine A Light’ and ‘Soul Survivor’ end things on a high note.

Exile On Main Street has so much swagger and mystique about it, encapsulating much of the appeal of rock and roll, where the vibe is effortless and intoxicating. Every time I listen to Exile On Main Street I feel like I’m having a classic rock experience.

Goat’s Head Soup

Goats Head Soup The Rolling Stones

1973, 7.5/10
Goat’s Head Soup is widely regarded as a return to the pack by The Rolling Stones, after a few years of outstanding releases. It feels less like a unified album than the records that came immediately before it, and more like a collection of whatever songs Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had lying around. Due to tax and legal issues, the band were unable to record in the UK, and Goat’s Head Soup was recorded in short bursts in Jamaica and The Netherlands. The Jamaican influence is most noticeable in the opening ‘Dancing With Mr D’, with its tales of voodoo and funky percussion.

Mostly it’s the gentle material that leaves the biggest impression on Goat’s Head Soup – the acoustic anguish of ‘Angie’ was the first single, while ‘Winter’ and ‘Coming Down Again’ are also pretty and delicate. ‘Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)’ is punctuated by horns, while ‘Star Star’ is notably profane and sleazy even for The Rolling Stones.

Goat’s Head Soup marks the end of an era for The Rolling Stones – it was their last album with producer Jimmy Miller, while guitarist Mick Taylor would soon leave the band as well. While it’s a large step down from Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St., it’s still stronger than most of the material The Rolling Stones have released since 1973.

Some Girls

Rolling Stones Some Girls

1978, 6/10
Understandably the Rolling Stones felt that they were one of the dinosaur groups criticised by the punk movement; Mick Jagger stated that some of the group’s albums from the mid-1970s were so bad they should have carried consumer warnings. The band responded with Some Girls; a more energetic effort with new wave and disco influences.

It’s lauded as a post-Exile high; and while the band’s ability to update their sound in the face of new trends is laudable, Some Girls is frustratingly inconsistent. The singles are terrific – ‘Miss You’ has a great disco bass line from Bill Wyman, while ‘Beast of Burden’ has a great slinky feel. There’s also a terrific cover of The Temptations’ ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away From Me)’. But the rockers ‘When The Whip Comes Down’, ‘Lies’ and ‘Respectable’ are indistinguishable from each other, and ‘Shattered’ feels messy. There’s also a throwaway country piece in ‘Faraway Eyes’, while the title track is bluesy filler, and only memorable for Jagger’s smutty lyrics.

Some Girls is an overrated Rolling Stones’ album – a couple of great singles with little to support them.

Tattoo You

Tattoo You The Rolling Stones

1981, 8/10
Tattoo You is a collection of outtakes from The Rolling Stones’ sessions from between 1972 sessions for Goat’s Head Soup and 1980’s Undercover. The band raided their vaults because Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ relationship was difficult at the time, although a lot of the songs were instrumentals to which Jagger needed to add lyrics and vocals. Improbably, Tattoo You is arguably stronger than any of the parent albums that it’s drawn from. It benefits from its diversity, since it covers ground from almost ten years of sessions, from the R&B of ‘Worried About You’, from the Black and Blue sessions to the sunny pop of ‘Waiting For A Friend’ from 1972, and the riff rock of ‘Hang Fire’.

The album begins with the infectious riff-rock of ‘Start Me Up’, which kicks off the opening side of rockers. Richards gets a vocal showcase on ‘Little T&A’, while ‘Hang Fire’ is urgent and raucous. On the mellow side, there’s the sunny ‘Waiting On A Friend’, which has always reminded me of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Coyote’ – ‘Coyote’ was released in 1976, but ‘Waiting on a Friend’ was first recorded in 1972. Wayne Perkins plays guitar on ‘Worried About You’, while Jagger employs his falsetto.

Tattoo You, an album of outtakes, is my favourite of the post-1972 Rolling Stones records that I’m familiar with.

Ten Favourite Rolling Stones’ songs

Gimme Shelter
Brown Sugar
Sympathy For The Devil
Torn and Frayed
Tumbling Dice
Salt of the Earth
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Lady Jane
Miss You

Back to 1960s album reviews…..


  1. I just downloaded Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out deluxe edition. Great take on Prodigal Son and Satisfaction. Also been listening to Ladies and Gentlemen, a great live show from the 70s I think. Excited to review these soon! Take care!

  2. That’s a lot to cover. I’m definitely an early Stones guy. Lots to like about them. I avoid all the stuff away from the music. I really like Charlie’s drumming. If I had to pick one song that I listen to a lot is ‘Waiting For A friend’ Sonny Rollins kind of steals the show. The album I find myself listening to the most is ‘Exile’. Going for a stroll, I had one of your earlier reviews cued up ‘Jordan’ by Prefab but maybe Exile with be the one.

      • I really like their stuff out of the gate. All the covers they did and also dig the ‘Under My Thumb” era. I spent more of my time with the Who and the Kinks from that group out of Britain. You couldn’t get away from the Stones music. Good thing it sounded good to CB.

          • Yeah all that stuff like ‘Carol’, I Just Want To Make Love To You’, ‘Route 66’, ‘I’m a King Bea’, Mona’, ‘Time is on My Side’ … then they got into writing their own stuff after learning their chops. I went back to that earlier stuff after ‘Brown Sugar’ Honky Tonk Women’ etc. I really do dig that the most.

  3. Exile is the best Stones’ album for every non-die-hard Stones’ fan. It’s overrated by today’s hipster’s standards. There are gems on 1974’s”It’s only rock’n’roll” and 1976’s Black’n’Blue is a fantastic album . As a die hard Stones’ fan It’s the only Stones’ album I cannot finish on one listening, and skip songs on it. I guess I know what they tried to achieve here and what kind of sound they wished they had. Go and listen to the 1971’s first eponymous Little Feat album : it’s the Exile album as it should have been but never was.

  4. Paint It Black
    Time is on my side
    Get off of my cloud
    Street Fighting Man
    Memory Motel
    She’s a Rainbow
    2000 light years from home
    Under my thumb
    Jumpin Jack Flash

    (Bonus tracks)
    Play with fire
    Gimme shelter
    The Last Time
    Heart of Stone
    Ruby Tuesday

  5. Idk. There’s more 70 songs by them that I like also besides the couple on my list, but none that would fall in my top 10 or 15. Maybe Happy or Wild Horses or something like that. It’s just that they had more good stuff in the 60s. Memory Motel in 1976 was the last thing by them that I like. I’m not really crazy about anything they did after that.

  6. Like many artists, I like their early work better, but well past their prime Mick pulled out “Almost Hear You Sigh” is on of the best ballads/love songs of all time. The rest of the album is typical later Stones though.

  7. Top Ten

    Under My Thumb
    Monkey Man
    Sympathy for The Devil
    Memory Motel
    Time is on My Side
    As Tears Go By
    Hang Fire
    Before They Make Me Run
    Just My Imagination
    Almost Hear You Sigh

  8. Sticky Fingers is one of the best rock albums by anyone any time. Always found Exile a little overrated, I must admit. As for later albums…they can’t hold a candle to the Big Four.


    Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
    Gimme Shelter
    Stray Cat Blues
    Monkey Man
    Sympathy For the Devil
    Dead Flowers
    Let’s Spend The Night Together
    Jumping Jack Flash
    Waiting on a Friend

    Not necessarily in that order, but Knocking has to be number one. Mick Taylor’s guitar solo is sublime.

Leave a Reply

More from Aphoristic Album Reviews

Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.

Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.

Review Pages

Read about the discographies of musical acts from the 1960s to the present day. Browse this site's review archives or enjoy these random selections:

Nic Jones Album Reviews

Born in Kent, Nic Jones grew up listening to Ray Charles, The Shadows, and Chet Atkins. School friends encouraged him to frequent folk clubs where he heard artists like Bert Jansch and Shirley Collins. He joined The Halliard, releasing two albums with them in the late 1960s. When The Halliard […]
Ariana Grande Album Reviews

Ariana Grande-Butera was born in Boca Raton, Florida, from an Italian-American heritage. She started her career in musicals and as an actor, appearing on the teen series Victorious. She transitioned into a recording career, releasing her debut album Yours Truly in 2013, at the age of 20. Ariana Grande’s blessed […]
Burna Boy Album Reviews

Introduction Nigeria’s Burna Boy was born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu. He’s connected with Nigerian musical royalty – his grandfather once managed Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. His star is clearly on the rise; he’s guested on a UK number-one hit for Stormzy, while African Giant was nominated for a Best World Music […]
Sault Album Reviews

British collective Sault have eschewed all the usual rules of music-making in their brief and eventful career. They’ve veiled their identities, never played a live gig, never released a music video, and have produced material at a breakneck pace. They’ve released eleven albums between 2019 and 2022, as well as production […]
Utopia Parkway Fountains of Wayne
Fountains of Wayne Album Reviews

Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood met at Williams College in Massachusetts. They formed Fountains of Wayne, christening themselves after a garden furniture and statuary store in Wayne, New Jersey. Although the pair recorded their debut largely independently, they were joined on tour and on subsequent albums by guitarist Jody Porter […]
The Smiths Album Reviews

The unlikely pairing of socially awkward Steven Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, extroverted and four years Morrissey’s junior, formed the nucleus of The Smiths, whose witty and stripped-down music was an influential force throughout their brief existence. Inspired by punk (according to legend, Morrissey’s musical epiphany can be traced back to the […]

Blog Posts

I add new blog posts to this website every week. Browse the archives or enjoy these random selections:

Rage Against The Machine 1992 Debut
10 Best Rage Against the Machine Songs

Rage Against the Machine’s debut album was a slow-burn success. Their debut single ‘Killing in the Name’ was initially released in 1992, and became the Christmas #1 single in the UK in 2009. Parent album Rage Against the Machine didn’t crack the US top 40 but eventually went triple platinum. […]
Sugar File Under Easy Listening
10 Best Songs by Sugar

After Hüsker Dü broke up, singer-guitarist Bob Mould dabbled with a solo career. In the wake of Nirvana’s success, he formed a new power trio with bassist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis. Needing to come up with a band name for an impending gig, he was inspired by a […]
Jenny Lewis Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

Jenny Lewis’ musical career is the second act in her working life. She first achieved fame as a child star, appearing in commercials then movies like The Wizard and Troop Beverly Hills. She largely quit acting in the mid-1990s to focus on music, forming Rilo Kiley with Blake Sennett. Lewis […]
Van Morrison in the 1980s: Five Best Albums

I’ve already posted about my favourite five Van Morrison albums, but all five were released in the 1960s and 1970s. While he didn’t reach the level of his earlier peaks, Van Morrison continued to release fine albums in the 1980s. While other rock veterans like Neil Young, Eric Clapton, and […]
10 Best Judee Sill Songs

Judee Sill was a 1970s singer-songwriter from California. Her gentle songs were at odds with her tumultuous lifestyle. She spent time in prison for armed robbery and learnt music while serving as a Church organist at a reform school. She also worked as a hooker and struggled with heroin addiction […]
Mitski: Albums Ranked from Worst to Best

Japanese-American indie-rock musician Mitski is one of the most interesting figures currently working in popular music – Iggy Pop famously labelled her as “the most advanced American songwriter that I know”. While guitar rock can sometimes feel stale in the 21st century, Mitski’s fascinating. Her music often feels like the […]
%d bloggers like this: