Monday, December 14, 2009

Rolling Stones 11: Their Satanic Majesties Request

Try as they might, the Stones were simply not a psychedelic band. Their Satanic Majesties Request proves this repeatedly.
That’s not to say there aren’t some great songs from this album, or even this period. But the “indulgence” of the time—and possibly the lack of influence of manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who for the first time isn’t listed as producer—likely spurred the Stones to get all wacky.
“Sing This All Together” tries to capture the communion of “All You Need Is Love”, and just misses. Luckily the guitars kick in for “Citadel”. Bill Wyman gets his first and only solo singing and writing credit on a Stones album with “In Another Land”, immediately undermined by the sound of him snoring at the track’s end. “2000 Man” is a fun one, if only for trying to figure out the meter in which Charlie’s playing. The side ends with the much-too-long reprise, “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”, which meanders over what can barely be called improvisation.
After a holiday-based interlude and what sounds like a carnival barker, “She’s A Rainbow” starts the second side with promise, based around Nicky Hopkins on piano, John Paul Jones on strings and a lyrical idea stolen from Arthur Lee. “The Lantern” sounds like the Stones again, with layered guitars and subtle orchestration. “Gomper” doesn’t go much of anywhere, but “2,000 Light Years From Home” gives Brian Jones a chance to play around on his Mellotron. “On With The Show” attempts to be the big finale, but it seems the guys forgot they did it already (and better) on Between The Buttons.
Their Satanic Majesties Request isn’t as bad an album as some (or the above) would suggest, but we can be thankful they got the psychedelic era out of their system so quickly. From here they’d stick with the guitars, and with much better results.
Fifty years after its release, most likely in the wake of the greatly expanded Sgt. Pepper, the Stones took the anniversary to reissue an expanded version. Well, kinda; this expensive box set contained the same music repeated on four discs (mono and stereo, on both vinyl and CD), with the obligatory lenticular cover and larger artwork. The average Stones fanatic probably had it on vinyl and at least one of its previous CD editions already, and the real fanatics would have bought the previous year’s Stones In Mono box on either vinyl or CD too, so this was truly a missed opportunity.

The Rolling Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)—3

1 comment:

  1. This is obviously a flawed album, but I've always found it interesting. Even though this is the Stone's "flower power" album, it has an intensely negative vibe to it. The maze inside the gatefold with its groovy dayglo "It's Here" in the center is totally unsolvable. Many of the songs are about dislocation, distance and failure to communicate. It would have been a better album if a couple tracks had been cut in favor of "Dandelion" and "We Love You." Still, it's an interesting effort.