As we move from the 60s to the 70s, we see sad endings for many, but some bands and artists stayed on the right track. Perhaps none more resilient than the Rolling Stones, in 1971 they gave us one of their most authentic and real albums, the straight up rocker “Sticky Fingers”. There is a lot to like here, and it is rated as album #104 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The album opens with the classic hit “Brown Sugar”, which merits some contemporary conversation. I honestly believe that Mick and the Stones are an ally and friend to the black community, and have always been so, but clearly this song is one, while perhaps meant with a degree of debauchery and affection, did not age well. The fact that they have altered the lyrics over time as they play it live, says it all.
Like the opening track, this album is pure Stones guitar rock. Reaching their stride with Mick Taylor replacing Brian Jones, this era is the Stones at their best. Following rocker “Sway” we have the beautiful ballad “Wild Horses”. Some believe this was meant as a tribute for his love for Marianne Faithfull, but he and Keith both claim it is more general, focusing on the sadness of being somewhere far from where you want and need to be. I certainly get that, and I love this song.
Side one continues with the riff-heavy “Can You Hear Me Knocking”, a great song that probably runs a bit too long. The first side ends with blues-heavy “You Gotta Move”, a rare track from this era not written by Mick and Keith, but instead created by Fred McDowell and Gary Davis.
One of their most aggressive and up-tempo hits “Bitch”, with awesome guitar work, Mick at his angry best, and a perfect horn mix, is probably my favorite song on the album. Other standouts on side two are the country track “Dead Flowers” and the eerie “Sister Morphine”.
I won’t go so far as to declare this the best Stones album ever, but it is not far off. It does make me appreciate their ability to evolve and stay relevant as many of their early contemporaries were headed in a much different trajectory.