Review Summary: Despite Consistency Issues from the Tracks actually written by the band themselves, 12 x 5 still proves a worthy successor to 'The Rolling Stones' LP
With the success of their debut, The Stones became more confident in their abilities as a band. They didn't have a "Beatlemania" surrounding them like their more clean-cut counterparts The Beatles, but they did have the success to keep them going forward musically without much fear of intervention from Decca Records. On the downside however, in order to compete with the Beatles's output, the deadline for the follow up to The Rolling Stones
(alternatively titled as England's Newest Hit Makers
) was a lot shorter. In addition to that, while their label still allowed the band free reign over what they recorded and granted full ownership to whatever they recorded, their manager had heavily encouraged the band to write more of their material, since a large chunk of the money they earned was lost to the many royalty fees owed from the covers of their favorite artists. What resulted from this hectic time period were two separate LPs, one released exclusively in the US, and the other exclusively in the UK.
12 x 5
, the American sophomore LP, came out first on December 1964, less than a year following their debut. More or less it carries the "R&B cover band" style of their debut but with a few key differences. The first being that the band has just started to transition its core sound. Sleazy dual guitars take noticeable presence in songs like the Bobby Womack cover "Its All Over Now". Keith Richards himself shows greater ability with his playing such as on his solos on the cover of Irma Thomas's "Time Is On My Side" and on the instrumental jam "2120 South Michigan Avenue". "Congratulations" is an atmospheric pop ballad showing the band's ability to create engaging choruses as well as the Beatles could.
Another key difference between The Rolling Stones
/England's Newest Hit Makers
(name depends on where you live) and 12 x 5
is that this time they are actually trying to make their own songs, compared to the 1-2 that were put into the debut, this has a whopping total of 5 completely original tracks. This is partly due to the royalty fees cutting into profits of their earlier recordings, and partly as an attempt to compete with the Beatles' explosive fame. This is where the album mainly falters, however, as The Stones are at this point still very
new to the concept of writing their own songs, and consequently those that end up here, while nowhere near bad instrumentally, mostly end up riddled cliched lyrics that drag the overall quality of the album down, which is a shame since many of the songs here are actually better than those in their debut. "Empty Heart" and "2120 south Michigan Avenue" would be exceptions to this mainly because in both tracks the instruments take predominance over lyrics, showcasing the band at their best with fun rhythmic rocking tunes.
Compared to their debut, 12 x 5
is more uneven. But this is not the band's fault, as it's just the members trying to evolve themselves past R&B cover band status. And while their original tracks are not very original or creative, the attempt would prove worth it when looking at their later albums. And besides, most of the album still makes for a very solid listen with the continued covering of old-school R&B artists still prevalent.