The Rolling Stones
Exile on Main St.


4.0
excellent

Review

by Cam EMERITUS
July 29th, 2007 | 98 replies | 24,686 views


Release Date: 1972 | Tracklist


Exile on Main St. is less of an album than it is an experience, a sort of trip in which not only feel the music, you feel the circumstances in which the album was made under. When Mick Jagger sings, you can almost smell the alcohol on his breath. When Keith Richards plays one of his mountain-moving riffs, you feel yourself being carried away with it, so much that the sound almost becomes imbetted into your brain. When Bobby Keys gets to his climactic gets to his saxaphone solo, yeah, well, you get the idea.

But what really sets Exile on Main St. from other Stones albums, hell, from all other albums, is its inconsistency. Yes, its inconsistency. The Stones' reportedly greatest album never follows a straight, narrow path, it doesn't restrict itself to the pure dumb rock of Sticky Fingers. And, yes, I would flat out lying if I said that most of this is just pure dumb rock, not all of it is. There's no ambient interludes or twenty-minute synth solos or whatever is considered "art" these days, but its still different, its still carefully calculated, and it's not at rushed and slapped together like albums from the Stones' early days. It's better.

The album kicks off with side 1 (I have the vinyl version, so yes, that's why there are "sides".) and the opening barnburner, "Rocks Off", in which the first fifteen seconds are the most engaging and the greatest moments of the song: just pure rebellious mayhem, heavy and engaging and powerful, all at once. Then it ventures into a sour psychedelic area, and you think, "Didn't The Doors break up in 1971?" But you're rushed back to reality when the chorus starts back up again, all bad psychedilic breaks forgotten. "Rip This Joint" is essentially the beginning of "Rocks Off" for an entire song, and for this reason, it's one of the better songs on the album. Another reason it shines is because you're not yet sick of this saxaphone-dominated sound yet, so this seems like one good blast of sound after another. "Shake Your Hips" is a cover of a song of blues musician Slim Harpo, a point man of the 1950s Louisana swamp/blues movement. The guitar riff here is distinctive and memorable, but that's probably cause you heard it on ZZ Top's hit "La Grange". "Shake Your Hips" is much, much better than that radio biscuit, with Jagger's vocals fitting to a tee here, and that riff... it's sorta like "Louie, Louie". The Kingsmen suck, yet that song rocks, because of that riff. The Rolling Stones don't suck at all, and since the riff rocks, it pairs up to be hands down the best song on the album.

"Casino Boogie" is more of what the last three songs were, and than you get to the last song of side 1, and the first country tune on the album, "Tumbling Dice". I'm sure you've heard this song before: it was a Top Ten hit and is now a classic rock radio staple. But in contrast with the album, it's the perfect track to slow down the blistering pace the last four songs have built, the hangover after the ten beers you had at the biker bar the other night. And that's when the second part of this experience kicks in.

Side 2 doesn't have a single upbeat song on it, and is, as I call it, "the country side". This is a much slower side, and, I must say, a snoozer. The country songs aren't bad, they're pure, gritty, no-holds country tunes, just what you would expect out of a good song from the Stones. But you begin to wistfully wish that the Stones didn't want to make it seem TOO country, like they're fighting to get into the genre. What I'm saying is, they seem to want to hoke it up a little TOO much. "Torn and Frayed" has a hypnotic flow, and "Sweet Black Angel" has a weird Indian rhythm, and Jagger sings in a voice that doesn't seem like his own. It's an obvious experiment, and it sort of works, which is enough to land a spot on this double-LP album, while the final track on the first LP, and the side, is the dull "Loving Cup", a dull way to end the dullest side of the album.

But it only improves from there, with "Happy" starting out side 3. Like "Tumbling Dice", this is another legendary single from Exile on Main St., and is easily Keith Richards best performance. "Turd on the Run" is pure dumb rock, though you could've never of guessed that from its name, and it's fun, which is more than what the last side could say. "Ventilator Blues", the only original song that has writing help from someone besides the Jagger/Richards team (it's from Mick Taylor), is more of Jagger's song anyway. He sings, or screams his ***ing guts out, with the most passion and genuine exitement you can get on disk anywhere, and is definitely the standout vocal performance of the album. It's a good entrance to the weird "I Just Want to See His Face", which in turn is a good entrance into "Let It Loose." The lyrics are perfect; soulful and intensely personal, and the back-up singers and powerful organ provides extra flair to the swampy atmosphere of the song. It's more of a gospel song than rock n' roll, and is the only real epic on the album.

And we stumble into side 4, the final quarter of our experience, which is the most disjointed side of the album. It feels as though an album of this magnitude should of ended with "Let It Loose", as it should of been a sort of "A Day In The Life" for Exile on Main St. Instead, you're thrown into "All Down the Line", a fast, energetic number that actually does a good job of counterbalancing the epicness of "Let It Loose". But "Stop Breaking Down", a cover of Robert Johnson's song, is a bore, despite the fact that I freakin' LOVE Robert Johnson, and "Shine A Light" sputters when it descends into its faux gospel ending. "Soul Survivor" is an alright ending to four sides of mayhem, madness, experiments, and bad psychedelia (yeah, I still haven't gotten over "Rocks Off), but this is an album that has no real ending. You'll play it over and over and still discover more and more, find that the songs themselves are perfect. That's right, there isn't a true dud on the album. Some may venture into unwanted territory (*cough, "Rocks Off", cough *). In an album form, however, it feels more like a greatest hits collection, which for a lesser band, it very well could be. For the Stones, its just a journey; a sprawling, adventerous journey, with plenty of beer, drugs, women, and afterparty hangovers to be had along the way. Let the experience begin.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jom
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2007



2634 Comments


Impressive work for a first - welcome to the site! I'm unsure as to what you're going to be reviewing in the future, but it never hurts having a classic rock reviewer around.

hyperbolechan
July 29th 2007



18 Comments


Their earlier albums are better. They are less corporate.

Fort23
July 29th 2007



2474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hahaha
Excellent review, especially for a first. Definetly my favorite stones album, don't know what to rate it though.

BigHans
March 10th 2010



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Absolutely essential album.

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
June 5th 2011



6347 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Everyone who hasn't heard this, hasn't lived.

Also, inconsistent my ass. Album flows perfectely.

Digging: Shackleton - Deliverance Series No. 1

NightProwler
August 22nd 2011



6312 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This album is too good to be given anything but a "5". The final and fourth side is, IMO, the best on it, and you kinda shot it down. I'm a little bit displeased about that. Other than that, nice review!

Digging: Jack White - Lazaretto

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
August 22nd 2011



6347 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

YOU GOT TO ROLL ME!!

wabbit
September 8th 2011



6978 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

how does this not have two pages?

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
September 9th 2011



6347 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

how does this not have ten pages?

wabbit
September 9th 2011



6978 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I know. But sputnik is dumb and thinks music started in 1992

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
September 9th 2011



6347 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I always found it strange how alot of the Staff & Contributors have so little interest in older material (generalisation here...). I mean they are excellent writers for sure, but sometimes I feel they have little knowledge about the 'classics', which is a shame for professionals.

Inveigh
September 9th 2011



24791 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

yeah this is essential listening for any fan of music

wabbit
September 9th 2011



6978 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Some of the staff like old music. I'd say a higher percentage than the users. But still this should have a lot more pages then Brand New.

Inveigh
September 9th 2011



24791 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

well that's one way to look at it


the other would be that a lot of people discover stuff like Brand New when they join this site and therefore have things to discuss where as this album's been out for like 40 years and there's not much left to say about it.

who am I kidding you're right

BigHans
September 9th 2011



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

not liking this should be punishable by death

wabbit
September 9th 2011



6978 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

yep. Also I dunno what the reviewer was talking about side 4 is by far my favourite. Let it loose and Shine a light are probably my two favourite rolling stones songs.

(actually Love In Vain is my favourite but that's a cover)

BigHans
September 9th 2011



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

tracks 5-10 are the best for me. the whole album is amazing though. Loving Cup is Godly

BigHans
December 9th 2011



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

TAKE A LITTLE DRINK

FROM MY LOVIN CUP

NightProwler
December 11th 2011



6312 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Agreed, Loving Cup is beautiful!

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2011



6347 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

They're supposed to tour again in 2012! :D



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