Beggars Banquet (1968)


 
1.Sympathy for the Devil 2.A Love in Vain 3.Dear Doctor 4.Parchute Woman 5.Jigsaw Puzzle 6.Street Fighting Man 7.Prodigal Son 8.Stray Cat Blues 9.Factory Girl 10.Salt of the Earth

 

After the bizarre Their Satanic Majesties Request, the band did a quick 180 degree turnaround that would not only be their best album to date, but would finally brand them in a way that they would forever be remembered. This is the most sparse album The Rolling Stones ever released, yet it is so passionate, so authentic, that it is immediately warmed up to after only one listen.

Instrument wise, it doesn't sound often like much more than acoustic guitars and piano (by Nicky Hopkins) throughout most of the album, but where it lacks in instrumentation, it makes up with in sincerity. Despite the simplicity, the band did nothing to curb their "bad boy" image. If anything, it's escalated. Witness, the first song on the album, the ever popular and controversial Sympathy for the Devil. One of the darkest songs ever released, it nonetheless captures the sentiment of the globe after flower power failed and people were becoming more frustrated over Viet Nam, Civil Rights and the murder of the Kennedy's (the song blatantly alludes to the last point). Mostly accompanied by African rhythmic congas, the song remains as vibrant today as ever. Equally as captivating (and perhaps, troublesome) is the raucous Street Fighting Man that, intentionally or not, symbolizes the rioting and violence occurring through the inner cities of America at the time.

Not all is gloom and doom, however. Dear Doctor is actually quite funny. It's a bit of a satire of ignorant hillbillies woes of forced marriage. As crass as it is, it's still quite a great song. Factory Girl is another "blue collar" love song about "bein' in love with a girl with curlers in her hair" etc. Much of the rest of the album stays just as lean, including the bluesy cover of Prodigal Son and the fun Dylanesque Jigsaw Puzzle. They finish the album with one of their most underrated songs - a plea for the common man titled Salt of the Earth complete with gospel choir.

Sadly, things were starting to fall apart for the band on a personal level as they were becoming their most successful. Guitarist Brian Jones, who apparently done just a tad too much drugs in the last decade, was suffering from a fried brain and really wasn't contributing much at this late stage of his career. Drug busts among band members were so common, that it never really resonated when they made the headlines for this sort of thing anymore. The Altamont tragedy was only about a year or so away, and even the cover for this album was banned for many years as being too offensive. Strangely, though, with all the turmoil that has happened with this band, they always remained pretty stable, and this release, although not their best, definitely fell in most fan's top five.


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