Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Sticky Fingers is the third of the Rolling Stones’ three records (the other two being Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed) that defined their transition from great singles band to “the greatest rock and roll band in the world,” which at the time seemed no mere hyperbole. Furthermore, the 44 years on re-issue set is just out, both uniting and dividing its critics, and the band have just revisited the album by way of a complete live concert performance, arguably their strongest work this century (and it’s now available on iTunes).
First released in 1971, the Stones classic was notable on a number of counts, not least as it was the 1st release on their own eponymous record label. No strangers to controversy, the band commissioned its famous album cover via Andy Warhol, the generous bulge in the model’s jeans attracting wrath in certain zones: in Spain the offending image was replaced by the equally iconic fingers in treacle. In Russia the gender of the be-jeaned model seemed to have changed, the jeans belt-buckle bedecked by a hammer and sickled star.
Swiftly topping the charts in both the UK and the US, it didn’t please all the contemporaneous critics, but time brought a mellowing and even a warming of opinion. Maverick rock journo (the late) Lester Bangs, however, was convincingly in no such doubts, naming it both his best of and most played of 1971. Little surprise it eventually hit triple platinum status, adding to that status still further with this year’s 2015 re-issue hitting # 7 in the UK album charts and #5 in the U.S. Consider what writer Lewis Grossburger had to say:
“…it was not simply a matter of musical taste; whether you preferred the Beatles or [the Rolling] Stones said much about your personality and character. People who were happy, intelligent, well-adjusted, popular, clean, decent and punctual tended to be Beatles fans. Those who were evil, cretinous, scabby, drug-ridden, filthy, criminal perverts liked the Stones.”
That makes for a lot of us perverts, don’t it?
Most of the songs are so ingrained and familiar that I set myself a couple of rules for this piece: try to avoid the overly familiar covers, even where I love them dearly, and try to avoid selections from other Stones-specific cover collections, of which there are quite a few. To my shame/credit, I myself have collections in blues, blues again, bluegrass, country, psychedelia, reggae, soul, and Latin. Most of them are good – but again, you’ll find none of their selections here.
So, hang on to your hairpieces, off we go:
Little Richard – Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones cover)
Yikes, Little Richard dives into this like a man possessed! By comparison, Jagger seems like the 71 year old great-grandfather he is (he’ll be 72 on Sunday). Keep in mind that Richard is ten and a half years older than Jagger, and that this was cut less than three months after the Stones version was released. Phenomenal!
Alejandro Escovedo – Sway (The Rolling Stones cover)
Alejandro Escovedo is no stranger to gritty authenticity, with a colorful back story and back catalog I thoroughly endorse. He seeps “Sway” in swampy Americana that makes it feel like an original. Some accordion would have nailed it, though.
Labelle – Wild Horses (The Rolling Stones cover)
Spoilt for choice here, with zillions of covers, from the sublime (the “original” pre-Stones version by The Flying Burrito Brothers) to the ridiculous (*cough* Susan Boyle *cough*). Patti Labelle and her girls give it a hefty gospel kick and remove a little pathos, even as they imbue a soul lacking in the original.
Santana – Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (The Rolling Stones cover)
Dunno about this – it’s OK in an AOR sense, sort of Aerosmith-lite, which is ironic, given their leitmotif. Of course, it is from Carlos’ critically reviled guitar solos “cover album,” but it is in the solo that this comes to life, recognizing and expanding the Taylor Latinesque tinges belittering his time in the band. (What is so bad about a covers record where you interpret other folks’ songs in your own voice, anyway? Santana’s voice is his guitar, and the griping here smacks of muso snobbery to me. As to whether it’s any good, well, that’s another point entirely…)
The Zionaires – You Gotta Move (Traditional / The Rolling Stones cover)
The only non-original on Sticky Fingers. I had to listen to this a number of times to make sure it actually was the same song, and it is. After listening to this, I think it shows how ghastly the Stones could be on occasion, with their ersatz recreations of older traditions. Makes me wish I hadn’t looked.
Herbie Mann – Bitch (The Rolling Stones cover)
With Albert Lee on guitar duties, this all-instrumental is fab. Bring the flute back into rock music, say I. Am I right in thinking this could be the reference, or an inspiration, for, of all people, (the) Prodigy’s 3 Kilos?
Solomon Burke – I Got the Blues (The Rolling Stones cover)
Another showstopper from Burke’s late purple patch, consummate vocal and a perfect, perfect arrangement – think Stax with 2005 studio wizardry. Blues is so not a young man’s game.
Ren Harvieu – Sister Morphine (The Rolling Stones cover)
This is from the UK music mag Mojo and their commissioned soul version of Sticky Fingers. Where Jagger and Richards co-wrote “Sister Morphine” with the person irrevocably associated with the song, Marianne Faithfull, Harvieu just might be singing it in an homage to another Sister Morphine, Nico. Whether she is or not, it still wreaks an opiate yearning that is more than a little believable. A young British singer, with 2012’s recommended Through the Night her only long-player thus far, Harvieu’s career then stalled after she broke her back in a freak accident. Perhaps the line about lying in her hospital bed wondering as to the next shot carries some personal credence?
Caitlin Rose – Dead Flowers (The Rolling Stones cover)
Another song done to near death by just about every country-rocker, most knocking spots off another of Jagger’s hideous impersonations of authenticity, the vocals on the original quite spoiling the song, otherwise quite decent. (Thankfully, the Stones’ version on 1995’s Stripped embarrasses less.) Caitlin embodies it it as straight C&W in the Lucinda school of raddled and slurred femininity. For which I’m a sucker.
Turin Brakes – Moonlight Mile (The Rolling Stones cover)
Struggling to survive their legacy as the alleged favorite band of disgraced ex-UK premier Tony Blair, Turin Brakes offer up a pleasant acoustic take of “Moonlight Mile” that is that and that alone.