Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Rolling Stones, "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" (1971)


I'm not about to attempt sorting out better from best among the Rolling Stones albums from the late '60s and early '70s. It's arguably their best period, when they seemed to effortlessly achieve status as world's greatest rock 'n' roll band. For sentimental reasons, I still tend to prefer the 1964 to 1967 period personally. But if forced to make a choice, 1971's Sticky Fingers is usually the one I want to name from the great run. It's no knock on Let it Bleed or Exile on Main St.—it's just that the album with the zipper cover designed by Andy Warhol was the one I owned and thus tends to remain the most familiar. But there's also the matter of this amazing song, which truly closes the deal. It starts as classic crunching Stones electric guitar blues riff, up there with "Brown Sugar" and "Tumbling Dice" and all those. Then, at about the halfway point of a 7:16 length, it wanders off into "Layla" territory with another song entirely, one obviously built out of an impromptu jam led by Mick Taylor's lyrical guitar play, Bobby Keys's barrelhouse saxophone, and a band capable of locking into solid grooves at will, as second nature. There's little else like it across the Stones' entire catalog, and even as it strays a bit into the prog-inflected territory of the times (a feature I like about it as much as any other, as the Stones have always been slaves to fashion, which often plays out comically) it remains unmistakably a product of a greatest rock 'n' roll band: raunchy, swinging, funny, hairy, evocative, and beautiful. Look for it at the movies in Blow, Casino (in its entirety), and The Fighter, among others.

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