Review Summary: The Rolling Stones' breakthrough album, as well as a genre-mashing work of art.
Decca Records, 1968
1968 was destined to be a big year for the Rolling Stones. The psychadelic, sprawling Their Satanic Majesties Request
had brought the band much attention, and had helped escalate many of their earlier songs on the pop charts. Many comparisons to The Beatles were made, with many reviewers criticizing the band for cashing in on the psychadelia craze. With Beggar's Banquet
, the Rolling Stones would change their sound, creating a much more raw, bluesy form of rock music.
Sympathy For The Devil
is arguably the Stones' most famous song. With some brilliant percussion, a bluesy solo, and classic vocals, the song paints a dark picture of lucifer himself, bragging about is exploits over the centuries. This is truly a brilliant song, and a blues rock epic. Much of the excitement caused by the climax of this song is, unfortunately, eradicated by the slow, boring No Expectations
. Aside from some interesting slide guitar, nothing really manages to save this song from being a total bore.
Luckily, the pace picks up with Parachute Woman
and Dear Doctor
. The former is a sort of acoustic rock song, with a powerful, raw acoustic riff and some great harmonica parts. Dear Doctor
is a rather experimental tune, using dual vocal parts, as well as a hilarious staccato spoken part, to help tell the story of a man who does not wish to be married (to a woman who he comically describes as a 'bow legged sow'). Jig-Saw Puzzle
is a hidden gem, featuring some great drumming and slide guitar parts. Street Fighting Man
, the most straight forward rock song here is a catchy, short number with a brilliant, marching feel and some driving inspirational vocals from Mick Jagger. From here the album only improves, with the Stones' utilising many different songwriting techniques, even incorporating country into their signature sound ( Factory Girl
). Beggar's Banquet
concludes with the acoustic Salt Of The Earth
When this album was released, it was considered revolutionary. Sitting here, in 2009, it is still easy to see why. The vast number of instrument at work here, and the mash-up of so many different genres provides an exciting, unique sound, one that many bands have tried to replicate. Indeed, the variation of instruments and styles is quite amazing, as you never know what you will hear next. Sympathy For The Devil
uses blues coupled with tribal percussion and animalistic howls, Stray Cat Blues
combines jazzy-as-hell drumming with some blues riffs, and Salt Of The Earth
combines rock, gospel, and soul music into one bluesy ballad. Despite the sheer number of styles and influences, the music never manages to feel too cluttered up or pretentious; and perhaps that is why this album is so interesting.
Overall Beggar's Bangquet
, while rough around the edges, is a great blues-rock album that also combines innumerable different styles. It managed to bring the Stones to a more mainstream audience, as well as distinguish them from their pop/psychadelic counterparts.