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Posted by Fleabit Peanut Monkey on February 19, 2000 at 22:23:58:
In Reply to: Re: I'd Like To Discuss Exile on Main St.- The Greatest Album of All Time posted by Leonard the Lizard on February 19, 2000 at 16:33:49:
: Exile was nothing but a poor imitation of the 3 fantastic records that immediately preceded it....
Interesting take, but not one I can agree with. I don't consider Exile the Stones best album, at least not most nights (I favor Let It Bleed), but I do hold it in the highest esteem. I do not find Vic's use of the word Art and comparisons to literature too far out of line, although I might not have said it myself.
When Exile came out, I did NOT get it. I understood Tumblin' Dice and Rip This Joint and Happy. The rest of the album was indecipherable. It took some time to take it in, roll it around, look up the references, puzzle over lyrics - I had to drink with it and ride around with it and stay up all night with it. What emerged was a coherent whole - yes, it's true (as with just about every other album) last minute overdubs were done. So what? It SOUNDS like a band just playing. One song leads naturally into the next, so well that they would sound WRONG in any other order. Many of their albums try to achieve a similar overall sound and identity, and succeed or fail to varying degrees. Some Girls and Sticky Fingers have a recognizeable "sound"; to my ears, VL and B2B don't. But Exile, for whatever reason,hangs together like it's all carved out of the same knotty wood. It can and should be swallowed whole, like it's one big song, and if it IS one big song it's the best damned song anyone's ever written.
I don't see Exile as an imitation of the previous 3 albums, not at all. The themes of the songs are more personal, for one thing. On Beggar's Banquet and Let It Bleed they were singing about characters, whereas on Exile they are singing about themselves. The overt flirtation with evil is gone, or perhaps absorbed into the bones of the music. Sticky Fingers was an album (my least favorite of the big 4) that saw a major reinvention of the band following the burst of live touring in '69 and '70. Everything they'd learned in the 60's was coalesced into a formulaic sound. I know "formula" is a dirty word but I don't mean it that way - because they happened to hit on THE formula. They reached a plateau, and following it up with a double album while they were at such a landmark only made sense. Strike while the iron's hot. And then following THAT with one of the greatest tours in history sorta cemented the deal.
It's funny, I guess. There are a lot of things about BB and LIB I love more than Exile, and there were a lot of things about the last 4 tours that make them better than the 72 tour. But overall I consider the 1972 Stones to be the most perfect manifestation of Rock & Roll that has ever been or ever will be. They hadn't hit 30 yet, and they hadn't started imitating themselves yet. They had taken on the system and won and were taking a victory lap.
:....but you've got to admit that it's a little lackluster after the three previous brilliant attempts, and CERTAINLY doesn't carve out a new direction.
No I certainly wouldn't call it "lackluster". It's the sound of a band at its peak, at least to my ears. Playing some of the best songs they'd ever written. You're right, it's not a new direction. It's what they were aiming at, and they nailed it. They've established base camp and are exploring the interior.
: in fact, it sounds a lot more "Stones, paint-by-numbers" to me than VL does.
Only in hindsight. It's the album where they established what "Stones, paint-by-numbers" should sound like. I'm not one of those who criticizes VL for that, anyway. When it came out and I listened to it the first time, loud with the lights off, I said "Damn! Sounds like a Stones album!" That is a GOOD thing. The only thing I noticed was the harpsichord in "New Faces" made it sound like something off "Flowers".
So, I guess my summation would be: I don't think Exile is the Stones' best album, but YOU should because I almost do. Or something.
Pass me the smack, please.