back to my rummaging among lp's, in revival on a new turntable. i was a completist on the stones through the 90s; i bought everything. i really love the early albums. actually i really...like the early beatles albums too; it's only later that they slipped into mind-numbing hooha. in the comparison, the beatles circa, say '64, are a much more competent band, but the stones had an incomparable energy.
jagger isn't a great soul singer, like don covay or whomever it may be, but there's something amazingly present and compelling about his voice and approach: it cuts through the recording quality: quite the little knife. the recordings have an immediacy that sounds great from here, especialy on vinyl, enhanced by their particular kind of quasi-competent roughness. the boys were punks in the then-contemporary acceptation of the term, and it would also not be wrong to think of their first few records as proto-punk in the later meaning of 'punk'.
despite the gigantic hugeness of the stones, these recordings are a bit lost; they've been re-processed and selected on greatest hits packages (starting with hot rocks) so many times that the overall effect and many great songs have been kind of misplaced.
england's newest hitmakers: the rolling stones is quite barely-competent, which has its charms, but also does not quite make it. so let's start with 12x5 (1964). it's covers of r&b, r 'n r, and soul songs, with three originals ("good times, bad times", "grown up wrong", and "congradulations", which really is mis-spelled on the album cover). those aren't the best moments, though they hold up relatively well. jagger's limitations show as he struggles through "under the boardwalk", for example. it leads off with chuck berry's "around and around", which the stones used as an early signature. the guitars show exactly how you get from the 50s to "satisfaction", and the remarkable liveness of jagger is matched by the super-presence of richard's rhythm guitar. jagger plays a fair amount of harp on the album, and plays it fairly well, again with ineffable compelling presence.
up and down, but also a coherent suite and sound, lost when one listens to selected cuts on mp3's. the two cuts that get picked out for play most often are "time is on my side" (by jerry ragavoy; the stones heard it in the irma thomas version) and the bobby womack thing "it's all over now". the former is one of my favorite moments in the history of recorded music.
the rolling stones, now! (1964) is the first album of any sort i really really loved (though i was introduced to it later, being 7 when it was released, by my bro jim). i think they hit a perfect point here: they'd cleaned up a bit and gotten more competent as performers and writers, but they had not lost the slighly shambolic quality that signified reality and distinguished them from the cutesiness of the beatles. i still have jim's copy: disintegrating cover and a massively scumbled up surface. i think it's one of the best ten albums of the rock era (and i'm going to make sticky fingers #1). oh man the covers kill: "down home girl", e.g., or "mona" (the bo diddley tune). but now, just a few months later, it's the originals that really lay waste to the terrain, and they stack up extremely well to the jerry butler and the solomon burke. "heart of stone" and "surprise, surprise", for example, could be soul classics if we counted white folks as soul artists then.
and then out of our heads, and again the cover/original mix. and we can leave it there, because now they crystallize into what they became: the very definition of rock: "satisfaction". still they're working directly and with complete comprehension in the black american tradition, as on blow-away construals of "that's how strong my love is" (the great o.v. wright) or "play with fire".