The Rolling Stones (1968)
I’ll address a popular untruth first: this record is NOT a nonstop hard rock behemoth. But it did more or less invent hard rock on a couple of its songs. (“Sympathy For the Devil” counts as hard rock simply because it is the most badass, vicious song ever written. It subtly asserts that the ultimate evil could be God, mankind, or Satan, and that there’s really no difference between the three. Plus, it has congas!) It also ushered in a new era of back-to-basics values (at approximately the same time as the Beatles’ White Album), which begat blues rock and roots rock. Finally, it gave the Stones a coherent “identity” after a few years of fruitful experimentation. They wouldn’t stray much from the bar rock sound after this, but they remain the genre’s best practitioners.
On this landmark record, country, blues, rock and folk are blended and mutated into countless different sounds and arrangements, and every second is incredibly polished. The status quo and social norms are questioned here in ways that were incredibly provocative and dangerous for their day (for example, “Street Fighting Man”, which remains relevant). But there is also a very nostalgic, traditional side to the album, which finds the English lads imitating the grit and soul of American blues and country legends in an unprecedented and convincing fashion (“Prodigal Son” and “Parachute Woman”). Somewhere in between, these influences get woven into a rustic blend of musical purity (“Dear Doctor”, “Factory Girl”). There’s even some folk balladry (the gorgeous “No Expectations”) and a bit of psychedelic rock (“Jigsaw Puzzle”)! And of course, the highly original hard rock sound is created on the phenomenal “Stray Cat Blues”. Oops, there’s one song I haven’t mentioned yet – the closing “Salt Of the Earth”. It’s good too. And don’t even get me started on how breathtakingly wonderful Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main St. are (in my opinion, the first two are slightly but measurably better than this masterpiece). The point is, that great sound started here.
Key track: “Stray Cat Blues”
See also: Let It Bleed – the Rolling Stones (1969), Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969), Bayou Country – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969), Willy And the Poor Boys – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969), Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! – the Rolling Stones (1970), Cosmo’s Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970), Tumbleweed Connection – Elton John (1970), Sticky Fingers – the Rolling Stones (1971), Every Picture Tells A Story – Rod Stewart (1971), Exile On Main St. – the Rolling Stones (1972), Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd – Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973)