REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/09/2007
After the lukewarm reception for their previous album Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Stones wisely returned to their roots with Beggars Banquet. Banquet is one of the best examples from their extensive catalog of The Stones' American roots influences. Their previous few albums had found them stretching out stylistically trying to keep pace with the volatile musical landscape of the time, and doing a lackluster job of it for the most part. This album feels like they took a step back and looked at what they had wrought, and decided to return to the formula of success that had worked so well in launching their careers.
Acoustic delta blues fits them like a glove on the tracks “Parachute Woman” and “Prodigal Son” and R&B flavored rockers like “Street Fighting Man” and “Stray Cat Blues” let them shine in a more traditional rock style. On top of that they throw in some country flavor on “Dear Doctor” and “Factory Girl." The styles are mixed up well and the disc flows nicely from one them to another.
Two big hits were spawned from this album. The classic rocker "Street Fighting Man" harkens back to an earlier band from a few albums back with its big guitar sound, and is really the only piece of its kind on Banquet. The majority of the disc features rather spare arrangements, but "Street Fighting Man" pulls out the stops and Brian Jones adds some sonic depth with some unconventional but effective sitar and tamboura.
The second hit "Sympathy For The Devil" was a true departure in stylistic terms, finding a nice middle ground between the stripped down sound prevalent on Banquet, and the psychedelic stuff that was en vogue at the time. The spare percussion, and the Motown style bass line create an unusual backdrop as Jagger escalates his vocal from soft and contained with the iconic opening verse "Please allow me to introduce myself / I'm a man of wealth and taste"; to a frenzy as he tells who the real devil is: "I shouted out 'Who killed the Kennedys?'/ When after all, it was you and me."
This would be the last recording that included founding member Brian Jones. Jones' contribution was minimal on the album, only appearing on a few songs due to his deterioration into drug abuse and failing health. His contributions include some excellent slide guitar on "No Expectations." Jones would die less than a year after the albums release.
The back-to-basics approach they took here works very well, and would give them a solid foundation for their future work. I had a hard time warming up to a few of the tracks, particularly the country-flavored ones, but in time I found they make a nice contribution to the cohesiveness of the album. I find I often judge an album in part by my tendency to hit the Skip button, and I tend to run this one all the way through, a good sign.