When a band has been around for literally over half a century, it’s easy to take them for granted. It’s also easy to assume that there’s no way they’re still at their creative peak, so why get involved now, decades after the coasting and laurel resting began? The Rolling Stones have been around for literally over half a century. I’m pretty sure no Stones album released in my lifetime has been heralded as giving the band new life, or even a return to form.
They have dozens of hits that I know, and for the most part, like. But I have always taken them for granted. I know they’re there, I know those songs and records will always be there, so what’ the rush in ever actually listing to them? I’m sure it’ll happen one day. Well, that day is today, as I listened to Sticky Fingers.
Opening with one of those dozens of hits, Brown Sugar is a hit for a reason. The guitars are simple and driving, the lyrics and melody are perfect for Mick Jagger’s dick swinging swagger, and it just sounds like the best version of the 70s I can imagine, as someone who never lived through them.
The Rolling Stones have always worn the American blues influences proudly on their sleeves. And the great thing about a song like Sway is, you can hear that influence, but you can also hear them putting their own dirty, rock and roll spin on it. The band might have only been seven years old, but Sticky Fingers was already their 11th album. And you can hear the hard work of churning out 11 records in seven years in this song. The world weariness of that effort also comes across in a totally different way with the haunting Wild Horses (recorded in Muscle Shoals).
The delta blues is more than just embraced on You Gotta Movie. It’s 100% aped. But in a way that comes across as genuine tribute, not cheap imitation. The loose, acoustic slide guitar, the lo-fi production, the backing vocals that sound like a gospel spiritual. White guys from England never sounded so cool.
A perfect mixture of that older delta blues, and the (then) newer rock sound, Sister Morphine is a slow burn, dark, brooding and shows a dimension that I never expected form The Rolling Stones. The subtleness of Sister Morphine only makes the derivative corniness of Dead Flowers stand out even more. I never need to hear Mick Jagger sing with a faux-southern drawl.
Sticky Fingers definitely does the job of justifying the Rolling Stones immense legacy and reverence. I can hear why it would have been such a big deal in 1971. It’s also one of those albums that is so undefinably unique and great, that I think I would still make just a big an impact if it was released today. Having said all that, as much as I respect this album and everything it has to offer, and would recommend it, I don’t love it. I guess the Stones just aren’t my thing.