The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed – [Record 32]
Let It Bleed: is the eighth British and tenth American album by English rock band The Rolling Stones, released in December 1969 by Decca Records in the UK and London Records in the US. Released shortly after the band’s 1969 American Tour, it is the follow-up to 1968’s Beggars Banquet and the last album by the band to feature Brian Jones as well as the first to feature Mick Taylor.
1. Gimme Shelter.
2. Love in Vain.
3. Country Honk.
4. Live with Me.
5. Let It Bleed.
6. Midnight Rambler.
7. You Got the Silver.
8. Monkey Man.
9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
Background: Although the Stones had begun the recording of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in November 1968, before Beggars Banquet had been released, recording for Let It Bleed began in earnest in February 1969 and would continue sporadically until early November” Brian Jones performs on only two tracks: playing the autoharp on “You Got the Silver”, and percussion on “Midnight Rambler”. His replacement, Mick Taylor, plays guitar on two tracks, “Country Honk” and “Live With Me”. Keith Richards, who had already shared vocal duties with Mick Jagger on “Connection”, and sung separate lead vocals on parts of “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” and “Salt of the Earth”, sang his first solo lead vocal on a Rolling Stones recording with “You Got the Silver”.
Don Heckman of The New York Times characterised the album as “heavy, black-tinged, passionately erotic hard rock/blues.”Richie Unterberger, writing for Allmusic, said that it “extends the rock and blues feel of Beggars Banquet into slightly harder-rocking, more demonically sexual territory.”
Cover: The cover displays a surreal sculpture designed by Robert Brownjohn. The image consists of the Let It Bleed record being played by the tone-arm of an antique phonograph, and a record-changer spindle supporting several items stacked on a plate in place of a stack of records: a tape canister labelled Stones – Let It Bleed, a clock dial, a pizza, a tyre and a cake with elaborate icing topped by figurines representing the band. The cake parts of the construction were prepared by then-unknown cookery writer Delia Smith. The reverse of the LP sleeve shows the same “record-stack” melange in a state of disarray. The artwork was inspired by the working title of the album, which was Automatic Changer.
The album cover for Let It Bleed was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of “Classic Album Cover” postage stamps issued in January 2010.
Release and reception: Released in December, Let It Bleed reached #1 in the UK (temporarily knocking The Beatles’ Abbey Road out of the top slot) and #3 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart in the US, where it eventually went 2x platinum. In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone magazine, music critic Greil Marcus said that the middle of the album has “great” songs, but “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” “seem to matter most” because they “both reach for reality and end up confronting it, almost mastering what’s real, or what reality will feel like as the years fade in.”
The album was the Stones’ last to be released in an official mono version, which is rare and highly sought-after today.
The album was released in US as an LP record, reel to reel tape and 8-track cartridge in 1969, and as a remastered CD in 1986. In August 2002, it was reissued in a remastered CD and SACD digipak by ABKCO Records, and once more in 2010 by Universal Music Enterprises in a Japanese only SHM-SACD version.
In his 2001 Stones biography, Stephen Davis said of the album “No rock record, before or since, has ever so completely captured the sense of palpable dread that hung over its era.” Indeed, the day after its 5 December release is the date of the infamous Altamont Free Concert, but the album was critically well received.
Let It Bleed is the second of the Stones’ run of four studio LPs that are generally regarded as among their greatest achievements artistically, equalled only by the best of their great 45’s from that decade. The other three albums are Beggars Banquet (1968), Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile on Main St. (1972).
In a retrospective review, NME magazine said that the album “tugs and teases” in various musical directions and called it “a classic”. In 2000, Q magazine ranked it at #28 in its list of “The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever”. In 2001, the TV network VH1 placed Let It Bleed at #24 on their best album survey. In 1997, it was voted 27th greatest album by The Guardian. In 2003, it was listed at #32 on the “List of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In a five-star review for Rolling Stone in 2004, Gavin Edwards praised Keith Richard’s guitar playing throughout the album and stated, “Whether it was spiritual, menstrual or visceral, the Stones made sure you went home covered in blood.” Jason McNeil of PopMatters wrote that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed are “the two greatest albums the band’s (or anyone’s) ever made.”
Track listing: The track listing on the back of the album jacket did not follow the one on the album itself. According to Brownjohn, he altered it purely for visual reasons; the correct order was shown on the record’s label. Additionally, “Gimme Shelter” is rendered as “Gimmie Shelter” on the jacket.
All songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, except where noted.