Just because I felt like it, today I thought I would sort out my perennial dilemma over what Stones album is better – Beggars Banquet or Let it Bleed? To be honest, I prefer Exile and Sticky Fingers, and I am much more likely to listen to either of them all the way through. There are individual tracks on Beggars Banquet and Let it Bleed that are the best the Stones ever got, but I get mixed up which tracks are on which, so I’m never sure which of the two is the better album.
So, for no reason at all other than that we all secretly love listing and rating music, here is the result of my track-by-track listen through… Hopefully my scoring system is self-explanatory….
(* = the Good Tracks. Basically, the tracks I would listen to outside the context of the album)
Beggars Banquet (1968)
A1 – * Sympathy for the Devil – Unbeatable 10/10
A2 – * No Expectations – Solid 8/10
A3 – Dear Doctor – Poor, comedy song 2/10
A4 – Parachute Woman – Unremarkable light-hearted blues 3/10
A5 – * Jigsaw Puzzle – Brooding, effortlessly evil and deliciously on the verge of falling apart 9/10
B1 – * Street Fighting Man – World class 10/10
B2 – * Prodigal Son – Jaunty, irrepressible acoustic folk-blues 8/10
B3 – * Stray Cat Blues – Messy, chugging, a bit formulaic and goes on a bit… but decent 7/10
B4 – Factory Girl – Nice acoustic interlude, pleasant 6/10
B5 – Salt of the Earth – Too soft, too cloying (nice outro though) 5/10
* Verdict – 6/10 (60%) songs I would choose to listen to outside the context of the album, 2/10 (20%) songs are stone cold classics, overall aggregate score is 68% (68/100).
Holds together well as a cohesive statement, and the side one and two openers more than justify the album as a whole.
Let it Bleed (1969)
A1 – * Gimme Shelter – Unbeatable, Merry Clayton backing vocals are spine chilling 10/10
A2 – Love in Vain – Brave, but just doesn’t hit home for me, too lazy 4/10
A3 – Country Honk – Obligatory comedy song, amazing how much better this sounded when remade as “Honky Tonk Women” for the single, but this version is just a bit embarrassing 2/10
A4 – Live With Me – A bit Stones-by-numbers 4/10
A5 – Let it Bleed – More Stones-by-numbers (and getting fed up with Jagger’s affected “Southern” accent) 3/10
B1 – Midnight Rambler – Boogie blues, unremarkable and stretched out to seven minutes (!)… probably fun to play but a chore to listen to 3/10
B2 – You Got the Silver – The organ gives a nice change of tone, but still sounds a little bit stretched and inconsequential 4/10
B3 – * Monkey Man – Back to the sinister, brooding Stones with that trademark groove… nice intro 7/10
B4 – * You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Gospel rock, brave and unique 10/10
* Verdict – 3/9 (33%) songs I would choose to listen to outside the context of the album, 2/9 (22%) songs are stone cold classics, overall aggregate score is 52% (47/90)
A U-shaped album. The extremely strong opening and closing songs prop up a series of half-baked blues jams.
So there you have it! Turns out I much prefer Beggars Banquet. I hadn’t realised how weak Let it Bleed is as a whole. And to be honest I’m not even sure Their Satanic Majesties is too far behind… that one has aged quite well.
Ah well. The true winner is Sticky Fingers, obviously, which is clearly the best Stones album….
As you were.