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.