There is a website called Vinyl Me, Please, which is a bad name for a website. It’s a neat site though. Part of its plan is to sign up for a random piece of vinyl each month — most of it appears to be reissues of past albums, often precious, that fulfills a piece of your indie-rock heart. It’s a nice idea. As long as I don’t have what they send, or like it if I don’t. Because I don’t know if I can really bear an Animal Collective LP in my vinyl racks.
The reason I bring them up is because Marcella Hemmeter wrote an erroneous article for them on the 10 Rolling Stones albums you should have on vinyl. This shouldn’t matter. Opinions are opinions. That is until they’re wrong.
And Vinyl Me is wrong. And it makes me mad. So I’ve decided to get pro-active about it.
To get to the TEN Stones records you must have, let’s talk about what there is no debate over including:
- Exile On Main Street
- Beggar’s Banquet
- Some Girls
- Let It Bleed
- Sticky Fingers
Vinyl Me included England’s Newest Hit Makers, which is an acceptable choice — even if it’s just a tacky marketing term for the Rolling Stones US debut album. OK, that’s an acceptable six.
They add Aftermath, which is the first Stones album with all originals. It’s overly coddled by critics, getting high up on Rolling Stone albums-to-own lists. But it’s good. The US version is the one with “Paint It Black” and “Under My Thumb.” Also “I Am Waiting,” which makes it into one of those cuddly scenes in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore film. I grant it at seven.
But then Vinyl Me just gets weird. So much so that I’m kinda concerned about them.
They add Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out, the Stones’ most lauded live album, and one with a great great great cover. Maybe it gets in there (more on that in a bit). But it’s a little milky, and downie — considering the slowed-down versions of songs, and the whole “Gimme Shelter” stain connected with it. (Honestly, and no one else dares say this, but Still Life and Stripped are probably better live albums…) Then Vinyl Me includes Goat’s Head Soup (!), the on/off — mostly off — follow up to the best rock album ever made (“Exile”). I like it a lot, despite its notoriously muddy mix and poor sequencing choices, but I’m weird.
It’s definitely not Top 10.
Then they get plain nuts by fashionably including Blue and Lonesome, the Stones last studio album, which is basically 42 minutes of blues covers they put together in a few afternoons.I like it, but it’s deeply flawed. PARTICULARLY in the vinyl format. I will explain.
I’m a Stones fan. (Have a look at my Top 50 Stones songs — though note that I’m considering moving “Loving Cup” up to #1.) I have all their stuff. Even their bad studio albums, bad greatest hits albums, bad live albums, and often in various formats: CD, tape, record (stereo and increasingly mono). I even have that horrible Flashpoint live album where bearded Chuck Leavell programmed ELECTRONIC TRIANGLE on a song about the devil.
But, for the first time since 1981, I didn’t buy a new Stones album when Blue and Lonesome* came out late last year. I didn’t for two very damning reasons (and not because simply Blue would have been a better name):
It costs $40 on vinyl. I only buy vinyl anymore and that’s way too much money. You might say, “market and demand, bro!” But why is it that indie rockers and everyone else can release albums on vinyl for $20 to $24 but not the Stones? I tweeted the Stones (no response) and emailed the record company (no response). Then I asked this question to the older-guy clerk at Music Millennium and he noted they put it out on two records. That’s no excuse. A 42-minute album doesn’t need to be a “double LP.” Which brings me to…
It’s a double album for no reason. This hurts the listening experience, having to turn a side every 10.5 minutes as opposed to every 21.
Like I said, it’s kinda good. But it’s not Top 10 material. PARTICULARLY on vinyl.
Now let me introduce you to the orange elephant.
Tattoo You is not in Vinyl Me’s Top 10, which is indefensible. In fact, I’d argue it could be the Stones’ second-best album (and will argue so). It is certainly their last great album. Released in 1981, it’s made of left-over tracks from the ‘70s, mostly. Yet, miraculously, no guitars have ever sounded better than “Start Me Up” out of the gate. It’s neatly thematic too. The first side rocks (“Start Me Up,” “Hang Fire,” “Slave,” “Little T&A” etc), while the second side rolls (“Worried About You” to “Waiting on a Friend”). Which is best captured while listening on vinyl. “Worried About You,” in particular, is a lost classic, with the greatest Stones guitar solo ever (done by Wayne Perkins, not a Stone — but no matter). The cover — with an orange portrait of an inked-up Mick up on front, a green portrait of an inked Keith on the back — is super. Even the one- or two-shot, $80 budget videos are hilarious.
THERE IS NO WAY THAT GOAT’S HEAD SOUP IS BETTER THAN TATTOO YOU.
And so! Here is the correct Top 10 Stones albums you should have on vinyl. [EDIT: I only consider officially released studio and live albums, so not Hot Rocks or greatest hits were considered.]
- Exile On Main Street — perfect
- Tattoo You — first side rocks, second side rolls; and the cover is much better than “Goat’s Head” or “Blue”
- Beggar’s Banquet — a bit overrated, but so cohesive; art-wise I prefer the plain “white album cover” — perfect for 1968 — to the toilet graffiti one
- Some Girls — how do you spell “shadoobay”?
- Let It Bleed — slightly penalized for inferior studio recording of “Midnight Rambler”
- Sticky Fingers — despite “Moonlight Mile,” the zipper cover is worst of the big four from ’68 to ’72
- England’s Newest Hit Makers — it’s their first, and they were bursting with energy
- Aftermath — a bit reluctantly, apologies goes out to 1964′s Now
- Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out — goddammit, it’s here for “Midnight Rambler” and the Charlie-jumping-with-a-mule cover
- Their Satanic Majesties Request — yes I did! sure, it’s pretty bad, but it’s fascinating how FAR they’d go with the psychedelic thing (several clicks past Sgt Pepper’s), plus the 3D cover is all-time — and face it, the full-sized artwork is an added appeal of going for a vinyl version; plus they even let Bill Wyman sing a song on this one
These are not my favorite Stones albums (I prefer several to “Ya-Ya’s” and “Aftermath”), but ones the best to get on vinyl. I write this because it’s true and you deserve nothing less.
* I have only heard Blue and Lonesome via Spotify. Call me a 2000 Man.