I just watched the new documentary about Keith Richards (currently only available on NetFlix), guitarist and one of the songwriters for The Rolling Stones. I was fascinated to see how the once bad boy of Rock N Roll has transformed into elder statesman of the music genre. It seemed like yesterday when every guitarist in a rock band formed from the late 60s forward wanted to be Keith. The death-defying king of hedonism who produced more sweet riffs and memorable hooks than Carter has Little Pills. Somehow he’s morphed into a grand old gentleman, a grandfather and he’s having a great time making music with his friends. Nothing wrong with that!

Watching Keith inspired me to make a playlist with all my favorite Stones tunes. In doing so I revisited the many, many great releases in their catalog. From that I selected my favorite Rolling Stones music CDs to share with you.

Sticky Fingers (1971)

This was the Stones first release of the 1970s, the first without Brian Jones, the first to feature Mick Taylor on guitar and the first release with the new tongue & lips logo and it was on their very own Rolling Stones record label.

The band had been with Decca/London since 1963. That meant label executives weighing in on which tracks to include, which singles to release and how the albums would be presented (think album artwork).  Compound that with the royal screwing they received from American Lawyer Allen Klein who ended up with copyright control and royalties for all tracks released in the US through some very clever legal wrangling and the boys had plenty of impetus for creating their own record company.

Black and Blue is loose, irreverent, in-your-face music. It’s the Stones unpolished, WYSIWYG introduction to a new decade.

The highlights for me are Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Brown Sugar and Moonlight Mile.

Exile on Main Street (1972)

In the early 70s the Stones left the UK to avoid paying taxes to the British Government. Jagger settled in Paris with his new wife Bianca, Richards rented a villa near Nice with the remaining members of the band (Mick Taylor’s tenure) scattered around southern France. The basement of Richard’s villa became the de facto recording studio with help from their mobile recording truck. The result is a record that not only captures the Stones at their creative zenith, but it embodies the devil-may-care spirit of Rock N Roll itself.

Exile is hands down, the Stones best studio release, no exceptions and it may be one of the best Rock N Roll albums of all times, even without the addition of the bonus tracks in the 2010 remastered release.

The compositions for the record were written between 1969-1972. The band held back on releasing new material during that period because they wanted no more of their money going to Allen Klein (that could be a column by itself).

There’s not a single weak track on this disc although Rocks Off, Tumbling Dice, Let It Loose and All Down the Line are my faves.

Tattoo You (1981)

Some may argue with the inclusion of this record on my list, but I love it!

Tattoo You is the follow-up to the rather dismal, disco-focused Emotional Rescue (1980). For those of you familiar with the evolution of the Stones, you’ll remember that Ronnie Wood replaced Mick Taylor on guitar for the Some Girls sessions in 1977 . At the time Mick was making the rounds of the discos in NYC. It was rare that an issue of Rolling Stone magazine didn’t have a photo of him entering some club. And it was the beginning of the Mick & Keith feuds.

Most of the tracks were left over from various recording sessions in the 70s. Tattoo You may be the last great Stones studio release. My favorites are Waiting On A Friend, Worried About You, Tops and of course Start Me Up.

The library has copies of all of these great releases so head on down to your local library, pick one up and play it loud!

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