The Stones albums released during their most creative and enduring period by order of influence and relevance.
The Rolling Stones Studio albums 1964-1974
“Sticky Fingers”, 1971
Two years after “Let It Bleed”, the Stones returned with “Sticky Fingers” released on their own label after ending their contract with Decca that also put an end to the 60’s Stones, together with the 1969 death of Brian Jones. The songs for the album started to develop in 1969, and featured Mick Taylor now as a full time guitarist and Stone. It is often said that Taylor contributed in much more than just his playing to the songs of “Sticky Fingers”, but the playing alone helped immensely in the new Stones sound. It’s a much more heavier album than all the previous ones. The guitars are louder and Jagger’s vocals scratchier as it can be heard in tracks as “Can’t Your Hear Me Knocking”, “Bitch” or “Sway”. The album opener, “Brown Sugar”, featuring the famous guitar intro that became similar to riffs of other Stones songs such as “Rocks Off” or “Start Me Up”, but aside the more heavier tracks, the album also features another strong classic, “Wild Horses”, and the upbeat “Dead Flowers”. “Sister Morphine”, the controversial track that was replaced on some releases of the album by Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock” (Spain for example) and “Moonlight Mile” are beautiful involving songs. This is an album that cannot be regarded only as the famous Warhol zipper art work, it is the most essential of all Stones albums, a 6 stars one, and the perfect introduction to the band as you can move between Stones several stages, from Hard Rock, to Blues, to Pop and even to the slightly Psychedelic as in “Moonlight Mile”, which will tempt you to go explore the bands other albums.
Strongest tracks: All
“Beggars Banquet”, 1968
The 1968 follow up to the psychedelic “Their Satanic Majesties Request” couldn’t be any more different than it’s predecessor. The Stones were back to the basics and their songwriting more elaborated than ever. A high peak on their songwriting careers and as musicians, this album swings between electric and acoustic tracks. Featuring the big opener “Sympathy For The Devil”, that to this day still sounds as fresh as it was back then, it is one of their essential albums to any music fan. Though still featured on their next album “Let It Bleed”, this is really the biggest last music legacy that Brian Jones left to the band. The perfect slide guitar on “No Expectations” would probably be all it takes to consider that. “Dear Doctor” and “Parachute Woman” are basic blues tracks, but much refined and crafted than their early years blues songs. Then there is “Jigsaw Puzzle” a often forgotten Stones song but one of their bests both musically and lyrically. This is also the album that features another Stones strong classic “Street Fighting Man” and ends with “Salt Of The Earth”. If you haven’t watched “Rock N’ Roll Circus”, the TV film the band did during the release of the album and that features many of these songs live, do it. Besides the Stones you will find also names such as John Lennon, The Who, Eric Clapton and if you look carefully even a young Tony Iommi.
Strongest tracks: “Sympathy For The Devil”, “No Expectations”, “Parachute Woman”, “Jigsaw Puzzle”, Street Fighting Man”, “Salt Of The Earth”
“Let It Bleed”, 1969
In the aftermath of Brian Jones death, and prior to it due to turmoil between the band and him, the Stones got Mick Taylor as a replacement. Finding themselves restrained to tour the U.S because of Brian Jones drug convictions and his descend into addiction, the Stones opted to let Brian go as he was absent most of the times during the recording sessions of “Let It Bleed”, it is the last Stones album on Decca and the last one featuring Brian Jones as still he played on some of the songs. It is the first album featuring the young Mick Taylor as a Stone. The album opens with “Gimme Shelter”, an absolute Stones classic featuring the shredded back vocals of Merry Clayton. “Love In Vain”, a Robert Johnson cover features the most beautiful slide guitar all through it, but those are not the only classics this album produced, you’ll find “Let It Bleed”, “Country Honk” (that is best remembered as the version on the single release as “Honky Tonk Women”) and the obligatory “You Can’t Always Get What You Want “ that closes the album. In between you have Jones featured tracks “Midnight Rambler” and “You Got The Silver” with Richards as lead vocalist.
Strongest tracks: “Gimme Shelter”, “Love In Vain”,“Let It Bleed”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want “, “Midnight Rambler”,
“Between The Buttons”, 1967
The year of 1967 was overall a period that saw many already existing rock bands changing musical direction, and a lot of new arrivals to the scene. Influenced by the emerging American West Coast Psychedelic scene as they were recording in Los Angeles, The Stones delivered “Between The Buttons” where they approached those new sounds,a formula that they already had been cooking with the predecessor “Aftermath”. This is one of the greatest Stones albums, delivering tracks such as “Let’s Spend The Night Together” (opening track in north-American releases), “Ruby Tuesday” (also appearing on north-American releases), “Yesterday’s Papers” (opening track in the U.K release), and the west coast psychedelic influence on the fuzz electric guitar of “My Obsession”, “Complicated”, “All Sold Out”. Then the acoustic jewels such as “Backstreet Girl”, the Dylanesque“Who’s Been Sleeping Here”, the tribute to “Miss Amanda Jones”, which is a reference to the future Bowie lover and Disco Diva fashion model Amanda Lear, at the time Brian Jones girlfriend and Dali’s muse.
Strongest tracks: “Let’s Spend The Night Together”,“Ruby Tuesday”, “Yesterday’s Papers”“My Obsession”, “Complicated”,“Backstreet Girl”
The first great Rolling Stones album, “Aftermath” marked the definitive band’s changing of music direction in the 60’s, moving away from their early Blues influence albums and starting to use and experiment different instruments and musical approaches. It can be heard on the sitars in “Paint It, Black” (opening track in the U.S release), “Mother’s Little Helper” (opening track in the U.K release), and in tracks like “Lady Jane”, “Under My Thumb”, “Out Of Time”, among others. This is the first Stones album fully written by them, or Jagger and Richards. Refined pop rock at it’s best.
Strongest tracks: “Paint It, Black”,“Mother’s Little Helper” “Lady Jane”, “Under My Thumb”, “Out Of Time”, “I Am Waiting”
“Goats Head Soup”, 1973
This 1973 release of the Stones marks little changing in the band’s musical direction. Distinctly different from the predecessor “Exile On Main St.” on some of the tracks but close on others, this album, recorded mainly in Jamaica, reflects the effort of the band to try to stay relevant by doing songs such as “Dancing With Mr. D”, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” or the smash hit “Angie”. Rich in percussion (Jamaican influenced) and the use of brass instruments on some tracks. For some is the last best Rolling Stones album, though 1978 “Some Girls” could claim that title too or the most recent “Blue And Lonesome” It remains a fresh Stones album that goes from wild to mild, swinging between solid rock songs and ballads.
Strongest tracks: “Dancing With Mr. D”, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” , “Angie”, “Winter”, “Star Star”
“Exile on Main St.”, 1972
In 1972, forced out of England due to tax problems, The Stones while “exiled” in the south of France recorded their first double album in the house that they were sharing with friends, wives, girlfriends. The result was a raw back to their roots album, Blues, Soul and Rock N’ Roll oriented. Through this journey we find songs such as the strong opener “Rocks Off” (classic Stones opening guitar riff), the Rock N’ Boogie “Rip This Joint”, the beautiful soulful “Tumbling Dice”, the American ode “Sweet Virginia”, “Loving Cup”, Richard’s “Happy”, the hot “Ventilator Blues” or the Brian Jones tribute “Shine A Light”
Strongest tracks: “Rocks Off”, “Tumbling Dice”, “Sweet Virginia”, “Loving Cup”,“Ventilator Blues”, “Shine A Light”
“Their Satanic Majesties Request”, 1967
The psychedelic experiment of the Stones, released in 1967, that some considered to be an anomaly in the Stones discography, but a definitive Psychedelic Rock masterpiece. With songs such as “She’s A Rainbow”, featuring a strings arrangement by John Paul Jones, “2000 Man”, “Citadel”, “2000 Light Years From Home” or Bill Wyman’s trippy “In Another Land”, “Their Satanic Majesties Request” is an often disregarded milestone on The Rolling Stones career, but it is as important and relevant as “Sticky Fingers” or “Beggars Banquet”. It shows evolution in songwriting and the experiment of non-conventional instruments used in rock or pop songs, mainly thanks to Brian Jones multi-instrumentalist talents to master any instrument.
Strongest tracks: “Citadel”, “In Another Land”, “2000 Man”, “She’s A Rainbow”, “The Lantern”, “2000 Light Years From Home”
“Out Of Our Heads”, 1965
The 3rd album by The Stones, which essentially has the most garage rock feeling of all their albums. Still heavily influenced by American blues and Rock N’ Roll, it is a heavier album in comparison to the previous ones, such the opening track “She Said Yeah” featuring a fuzz distorted guitar riff that separates from “The Rolling Stones” and “No. 2”, the Stones also begun to experimenting with covering Soul songs such as “That’s How Strong My Love Is” or Sam Cooke’s “Good Times”. Jagger/Richards compositions such as “Gotta Get Away” and “I’m Free” set them up as a match to Lennon/McCartney, proving that if they wanted to, they could also do refined pop. For the first time the Nanker Phelger credit was used to the song “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man”. Also present in the album is one of their biggest classics, “Heart Of Stone”
Strongest tracks: “Heart Of Stone”, “I’m Free”, “She Said Yeah”, “Gotta Get Away”, “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man”.
“It’s Only Rock N’ Roll”, 1974
This is the album that closed the Stones golden era,is the last one with Mick Taylor and technically the first with Ronnie Wood. A solid,strong rock album where you can foresee their future as a band sound-wise, in songs like “If You Can’t Rock Me”. Also featured are the classics “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll (But I Like it)” (featuring backing vocals by “The Thin White Duke” David Bowie and 12 String Guitar play by future Stone Ronnie Wood and “Till The Next Goodbye” as well as the Motown cover “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”.
Strongest Tracks: “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll (But I Like It)”, “If You Can’t Rock Me”, “Till The Next Goodbye”, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” “Time Waits For No One”, “Fingerprint File”
“The Rolling Stones”, 1964
Not the best debut album of Rock history. Filled with endless Blues and American Rock N’ Roll covers, this album it’s in a way a victim of it’s own period in what concerns to aging. But things happened fast back in the 60’s and just one year later the Stones had shifted from a standard Rock N’ Roll cover band to serious songwriters and serious Beatles competition, although still conserving the garage rock spirit, is no coincidence that “Tell Me”, penned by Jagger and Richards, the only original in the album is one of the best tracks on it. Still it is a very good early Stones listening.
Strongest Tracks: “Tell Me”, “(Get Your Kicks On)Route 66”, “Can I Get A Witness”, “I Need You Baby (Mona)
“The Rolling Stones No. 2”, 1965
“No. 2” like it’s predecessor is made mostly of covers of American Rock N’ Roll and Blues standards. There are 3 Jagger/Richards originals and of course it features Norman Meade classic “Time Is On My Side”, that really became a Rolling Stones song.
Strongest Tracks: “Time Is On My Side”, “What A Shame”, “Susie-Q”, “Off The Hook”, “Grown Up Wrong”, “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love”
Check 12 of the very best Stones music on this Spotify playlist made by Pop Expresso, featuring one song from each album of the list:
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