In Quentin Tarantino’s classic film Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman’s character posits that people are either Elvis people or Beatles people. I think that’s sort of an outdated expression though and among music fans of my age group, you’re either a Beatles person or a Rolling Stones person. There’s the intellectual artistry of the Beatles and the thumping rock glory of the Stones. I”m a Beatles person myself but I still love the Stones to the very core of my being. Much like the Beatles, the Stones experimented with a wide genre of music and you can really feel the influences of American rhythm and blues the further and further they progressed in their career. This is especially true on their classic album Exile on Main Street.
The common occurrence throughout the 1960′s and 1970′s was that the exploding British Invasion had a major influence on the way that American artists were playing. Everything from the Beatles to the Who to the Stones themselves were going to affect the music stylings of generations of American performers. So what is so absolutely refreshing about Exile on Main Street is the way that the Stones explored such uniquely American soundscapes. They mix up blues-grass and what we’d now call southern Rock and combine it with their typical hard-hitting sound. Songs like “Tumbling Dice” and “Shine a Light” are instant classics in the Stones catalog. It’s extremely, extremely debatable about where this album stands in the ranks of the pantheon of great Stones albums and I’m not entirely sure if it’s one of my favorites, but you can not deny the immediate power that the album represents. There’s nothing worse than when a band clings desperately to the same tired formula over and over again, and you have to respect when a band is willing to take major risks in style and presentation.
This is without a doubt an “album” album. It’s meant to be listened to in order from beginning to end. Hence, there aren’t a ton of memorable singles on it but that’s ok because it’s meant to be digested as a whole. If you’re a Stones fan or a classic rock fan in general, I recommend it whole-heartedly. I really can’t imagine you being disappointed. This is not one of my favorite albums of all time but it’s one that if I put in, I know I’m in for an enjoyable ride.
Final Score: A-