England's Newest Hit Makers

The Rolling Stones

London, 1964

http://www.rollingstones.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/01/2007

Question: How do you review an album that was released 42 years ago?

 

Okay, if I need to ask that question, then I shouldn’t have been writing music reviews for two decades.

 

Let’s re-word the question: How do you objectively review an album that was released 42 years ago, while forgetting about all of the history of the band behind it?

 

That’s the challenge facing listeners to England’s Newest Hit Makers, the birth cry of The Rolling Stones. It’s far too easy to look down one’s nose at this disc and berate the lack of tracks like “Satisfaction,” “Mother’s Little Helper” or “As Tears Go By” – casually forgetting that even Mick Jagger and crew had to get their musical start somewhere. (Even in the early days, it seems like the fans were there, as this disc just missed cracking the Billboard top ten.)

 

And in 1964, that start was the same place that so many other British bands were seeing as a lauchpad: the blues. Why not? Fleetwood Mac did it; Eric Clapton did it – hell, Led Zeppelin did it to an extent. So the boys – including a rather odd assortment of guests, including Ian Stewart and Phil Spector – brought to life the blues, and did it fairly well, even if the overall presentation wasn’t as exciting as one would hope for.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

 

Make no mistake, the Stones were the polar opposites of The Beatles – where the Liverpool lads were the kind of clean-cut boys you’d want your daughter to bring home, the Stones seemed like the Eliza Doolittle of the scene. (You know, you can dress them up, but not take them anywhere.) That’s why there does feel like there’s an edge to songs like “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” “Walking The Dog” and “Carol,” though the real vocal bite that Jagger would come to be known for was still very much in development.

 

Also in development were the songwriting skills of Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards; of the 12 songs on England’s Newest Hit Makers, only one is an original composition. If only “Tell Me” were a track worthy of adulation. As it is, it’s not a terrible effort, and does pay respect to the other artists whose work they were covering in terms of style. But if I were living in 1964 and was told that Jagger and Richards would become two of rock’s most beloved songwriters, I’d have told you to lay off the laughing gas.

 

At times, the energy of the Stones – Jagger, Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts – feels like it’s going to burst through the speakers, such as on “Carol” and the instrumental “Now I’ve Got A Witness”. But at other times, it feels like the band is on auto-pilot, as on “Route 66”.

 

This is where things get difficult. You obviously know when you pick up England’s Newest Hit Makers that you’re not going to get an early version of “Start Me Up” – but you still might not be prepared for the 31 minutes of music you do get. While this disc is worth checking out to experience the first act of one of rock music’s greatest pieces of musical theatre, it does require a very open mind. If you can somehow forget four decades of Rolling Stones history and take this disc for the starting point that it really is, you’re in for a fairly enjoyable experience. Quite possibly, this is the Rolling Stones at their hungriest, looking forward to days of superstardom. Ironically, theit first glimpse at the bright lights was just one album away.

Rating: C+

User Rating: C+


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© 2007 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of London, and is used for informational purposes only.