Or, the one with the zipper on the cover. Sticky Fingers is the third in the series of Great Stones Albums, following on from Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed, and in many ways it’s a completion of the previous two, as the recording sessions overlap.
“Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” both come from a trip to Muscle Shoals, Alabama (as seen in the film Gimme Shelter), and show just how much the boys had grown—a classic riff with horns on the former, and a tender acoustic charmer on the latter. On side one, they come on either side of “Sway”, a great lost number with a sinister undertone that would be stolen 20 years later by the Black Crowes. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” starts simply enough with a snotty riff and a few funky verses and choruses, then changes gears for an extended solo guitar section that mutates and eventually resolves. It sounds spontaneous and structured at the same time. He may have only been in the band for a few years, but Mick Taylor more than made his mark on these albums. “You Gotta Move” is also from the Muscle Shoals sessions, and another straight country blues cover.
Side two doesn’t disappoint either. “Bitch” is an underrated classic that probably would have received more airplay with a different title. As ever, Charlie Watts bangs the drums like no one else. “I Got The Blues” is possibly the least impressive of the songs here, except for Billy Preston’s capably brief organ solo and Mick Jagger’s passionate yelling over the end. “Sister Morphine” is the oldest recording here, having been started during the Beggars Banquet era, and mostly written by Marianne Faithfull. Its spooky lyrics set the tone, matched by Ry Cooder’s bottleneck and Jack Nitzsche’s dungeon piano. “Dead Flowers” raises the mood a bit, a signature clever country song that’s a lot nastier than it sounds. The grand finale this time out is “Moonlight Mile”, a pretty thing with a Japanese feel and great atmosphere.
If you ever owned Sticky Fingers on vinyl, chances are you got so much mileage out of it that various other Stones albums have scraped back covers thanks to the zipper. And it’s another one to suggest that 1971 was one of the greatest years ever for rock albums.
Nearly 44 years later, after the band had finished milking their 50th anniversary, Sticky Fingers received the Deluxe Edition treatment. The two-disc expansion offered a few alternates of varying interest (“Brown Sugar” with Eric Clapton, an acoustic mix of “Wild Horses”, a longer “Bitch”) and some live performances. Those who sprung for the more expensive Super Deluxe Edition got a DVD teaser of a 1971 London gig, a book and an official release of the Get Your Leeds Lungs Out bootleg, the source of the obscure “Let It Rock” B-side.
The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers (1971)—5
2015 Deluxe Edition: same as 1971, plus 10 extra tracks (Super Deluxe adds another 13 tracks and DVD)