The Rolling Stones – Stripped

Stripped (1995)

B+

1. Street Fighting Man 2. Like A Rolling Stone 3. Not Fade Away 4. Shine A Light 5. The Spider And The Fly 6. I’m Free 7. Wild Horses 8. Let It Bleed 9. Dead Flowers 10. Slipping Away 11. Angie 12. Love In Vain 13. Sweet Virginia 14. Little Baby

 

Um… question: if you decide to do an album of “rootsy,” “authentic” music, but you only do it because making “roosty,” “authentic” music is the hip thing to do at the time you do it, are you actually being “authentic?” Or are you just finding a brand new way to sell out? Aw, hell, it’s all bullshit… no one type of music is innately more authentic than another. It’s why, when big pop stars like Madonna loop samples of acoustic guitar playing in their songs because they think it’ll make them sound genuine, down to earth, and generally not terrible at making music, it actually just makes them sound like pandering whores. I guess people just perceive roots music, or whatever you want to call it, as more “real” or whatever. But it’s not true. In my mind, just because you play an acoustic guitar doesn’t make you any less susceptible to sucking ass and making shallow, purely commercial-minded music. Sure, you may be able to fool stupid people like me into thinking that’s not the case, because I have an uncontrollable predilection for American roots music (see: my inexplicable toleration of mainstream country), while hearing but two seconds of that damn blaring, overcompressed euro disco beat that every single fucking pop and R&B song on the radio uses makes me want to stab myself. But it’s all bullshit. Mumford & Sons blow just as hard as Nickelback.

The point is, the Stones only made Stripped, a largely acoustic-based hybrid of live and studio re-recorded cuts, because Mick was jealous that they didn’t get invited to do Unplugged on MTV. I get it… they asked freaking Rod Stewart to do one, but not the Stones? I’d be miffed too! Especially if the only guy who Rod was ever any good with at all was in my band (that would be Ronnie Wood). It’s just like when Mick got jealous that the Stones didn’t get invited to Woodstock so he went off and organized Altamont. And we all know how that turned out. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Stripped turned out better than Altamont. I mean, it hasn’t killed anybody. At least not that I know of. So it gets the thumbs up!

I’m kidding! It’s good! But sort of a lost opportunity. See, it could’ve been really cool, if they’d had the balls to really reinterpret some of their old hits and lost classics in a stripped down, acoustic context. You know, bring out the ever-present undertaste of folk and blues in all those electrified rock songs. Instead, they played it safe and did a bunch of perfunctory copycat versions of songs that were acoustic and countrified to begin with, like “Angie,” “Sweet Virginia,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Let It Bleed” and so on. Naturally, pretty much all these versions are noticeably inferior to their originals, being from the mid-90s and all. Excepting, amazingly, “Wild Horses,” which is so purty I may or may not at times blasphemously prefer to spin it instead of the Sticky Fingers version. None of the new versions are at all weak, other than perhaps “Shine A Light” (try as he might, Mick can’t recreate Exile by chewing the scenery). But there are only a couple of really memorable moments – probably my favorite cut on the album is the earthy revival of the oldie but goodie blues original “The Spider And The Fly,” in which Mick slyly alters his description of the seductress in the song from “She was common, flirty/She looked about thirty” to a more age appropriate “She was a hippie, thrifty/She looked about fifty.” Clever move there. Don’t wanna be sounding like Bill “I’ve never smiled, ever” Wyman or Ronnie Wood, with his teenage cocktail waitress girlfriends and shit.

So basically, other that one minor lyric change, Stripped’s only new contributions to the world are the two previously unreleased covers. Willie Dixon’s “Little Baby” is a nostalgic throwback to the band’s early days when they would, you know, cover Willie Dixon songs (they actually performed the song live in 1962), but the song and performance are fairy generic. The other new cover is—hardy har—“Like A Rolling Stone,” presented here in all its mass sing-along, organ-dominated glory. There’s more than a little bit of a wink wink, nudge nude, tacky quality to it, for obvious reasons, but man, it’s pretty hard to fuck up “Like A Rolling Stone.” And dude, it’s the Stones doing “Like A Rolling Stone.” That’s funny, right? So yeah, I’m glad it exists. And I’m glad this album exists. Yeah, it could have been a lot more. I can hear what the killer acoustic versions of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “All Down The Line” might’ve sounded like in my head now, while I won’t be surprised if I never hear this pointless version of “Slipping Away” from freaking Steel Wheels ever again. But 14 great Rolling Stones songs played well, without any bullshit added? Sign me up.