Let It Bleed
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.