Friday, April 11, 2008

Between the Bitrates

Earlier this week I mentioned that emusic's rundown of the early Rolling Stones catalog gave short shrift to a couple of my favorite Stones albums, Between The Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request.

To my ears, the 1967 Buttons-Majesties period is the most interesting period of Stones music by far, but emusic lists these albums (along with the Flowers compilation) are listed under "The Stones Get Stoned" and described as the druggy middle period between their energetic early years and their later years as the World's Greatest Rock And Roll Band.

When I was first getting into the (early) Stones, I used the first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide as my guide, and was curious why Between The Buttons and Satanic Majesties only merited three stars when all every other Stones albums were four or five stars. Buttons is every bit as strong, song for song, as its predecessor Aftermath, but somehow the latter album is a "classic" and the former is an "ambitious failure". I think Buttons is a close cousin to the Kinks' Face To Face and definitely the Stones most "British" album.

The Stones released Between The Buttons in early 1967 concurrently with a single ("Let's Spend The Night Together"/"Ruby Tuesday") that was included on the US version of the album but not on the UK version, which has two tracks that aren't on the US version ("Backstreet Girl" and "Please Go Home"). Instead of releasing the entire UK album with the single as bonus tracks, ABKCO reissued the US and UK albums as separate CDs and emusic has them as separate albums. All twelve of the tracks on the UK album and both sides of the single are worthwhile, but nobody really needs two near identical albums. In these downloady times, I can compile my own Superbuttons.

The RS Record Guide was vicious in its criticism Satanic Majesties. This is Dave Marsh's review of the album in full.
Satanic Majesties is a bad idea gone wrong. The idea of making a truly druggy answer to the cherubic joyousness of Sgt. Pepper was silly enough. Doing so by fuzzing up some pretty good songs with tape loops and early synthesizer experiments is truly unforgivable

When I finally heard Satanic Majesties after reading this review, I was expecting some really weird druggy downer, but it's really pretty good. There are a few mis-steps (I could go the rest of my life without hearing "Sing This All Together (see what happens)") but the "tape loops and synthesizer experiments" like "2000 Light Years From Home" and "She's A Rainbow" are some of the best songs the Stones have ever created. Plus there's "Citadel", "2000 Man", Bill Wyman's "In Another Land". This has long been regarded as the Stones "worst" classic period album (which it's not) but critical opinions have changed over the years with bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre basing entire career trying to capture its "vibe".

Satanic Majesties had the same track listing on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was preceded by another classic single ("Dandelion"/"We Love You") that was not included on the album. If the album would have been resequenced with some of the more excessive bits excised and replaced by the single, the Stones could have created one of the coolest psychedelic albums ever.

I've assembled another muxtape of the best bits of Satanic Majesties along with a few tracks from Between The Buttons. They've added "buy this from Amazon" links to everything (and amazon does a la carte mp3s now), but subscribers can also download them from emusic.

Rolling Stones 1967

(from Between the Buttons)
1. Yesterday's Papers
2. Who's Been Sleeping Here
3. Something Happened To Me Yesterday

(from Their Satanic Majesties Request)
4. Sing This All Together
5. 2000 Light Years From Home
6. In Another Land
7. Citadel
8. She's A Rainbow

(from September 1967 single)
9. Dandelion
10. We Love You


Gil said...

These are my 2 very favorite Stone's albums! Back Street Girl is glorious. I always thought Scott should cover it. Great band photo for the cover, too. Satanic is awesome, too. Bum rap!

2fs said...

Thanks Steve! I agree that these two albums are definitely much, much better than the critical consensus. Because of that "World's Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band" thing, people consistently underestimate the Stones both for their inventiveness and range, and for their songwriting. And even though the apparently focus of TSMR is sound rather than song, as you note there are a bunch of very fine songs here. And I agree that if "Dandelion" and "We Love You" had replaced "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)," the album would be an undeniable psychedelic classic. I kinda think it is anyway...but those are two wonderful songs.