Talk about bending the rules – not only is Beggar’s Banquet FAR from a lost classic, it’s also being blogged about by an author who wasn’t alive when it was released. I’m completely unqualified to write this post, other than the fact that I’m a huge Stones fan. I’m hoping by me writing this instead of John, it may inspire him to awaken from his blog posting slumber. With a gun to my head, I would probably say Exile On Main St is my favorite Stones album, but isn’t that what most people would say? To me, this is what makes Beggar’s Banquet a “lost” classic. I’d probably put Sticky Fingers third on my list, for the record. Six months or more could go by without playing this record, and then one day I will put it on, and remember just how much I love this album. Pure blues for sure – far less electric guitar or upbeat numbers – rootsy, bluesy, and incredible soulful music, without a lemon on it. The general theme of this album is doing less with more – that really is an art and although simple in concept, not easy to do right.
Released in December 1968, Beggar’s Banquet was the Rolling Stones 7th studio album, and the first album produced by Jimmy Miller according to Wikipedia. Beggar’s Banquet was sandwiched in between Their Satanic Majesties Request (not my favorite), and Let It Bleed (another classic). I’m a huge fan of music from the 60s, but there are so many different sounds from that era – it’s almost two distinct decades in one. The early and mid 60s are drastically different from the late 60s in my opinion. There is a huge shift in sound from Their Satanic Majesties Request to Beggar’s Banquet. Something I didn’t realize about this iconic album cover – it was initially rejected by the record company and released as a plain white album cover, not until the CD remaster release of the album did the original album art surface in general circulation. John and I both picked this album cover as a finalist in our “Best Album Covers Of All Time” post last year (one of my favorite blog posts we’ve ever done), but it lost out to Sticky Fingers, check out that article here.
Another really interesting fact about this album, due to a mastering error, it was actually originally produced slightly slower than the actual recordings – when they remastered for Super Audio CD they restored to original recordings which were at the actual speed – slightly faster – leaving the songs in a slightly different key and 30 seconds shorter according to Wikipedia.
For me, the true shining star from Beggar’s Banquet is the second track, “No Expectations”, that I don’t believe you will ever hear on classic rock radio. Beggar’s Banquet was the last full effort with Brian Jones before he left the band in ’69 and then his untimely entrance into the “27 club”, and his slide guitar on this track hands down is some of the best slide guitar I’ve ever heard. Keeping with the theme of Beggar’s Banquet, the slide guitar is not overly complex, and the genius is almost in what notes he doesn’t play vs. what he does play. I’m also amazed by Jagger’s vocals on this song, one of the more raw and emotional deliveries I’ve ever heard from him.
There are so many great bluesy tracks on this album – ”Parachute Woman”, the romping cover of Rev. Robert Wilkins’ “Prodigal Son”, “Street Fighting Man”, and of course one of the best Stones songs of all time, the opening “Sympathy For The Devil”. I’m assuming that Keith Richards is playing electric slide on “Jig-Saw Puzzle”, an awesome contrast to the Jones acoustic slide on “No Expectations”. Closed off by the excellent end of the night closing song “Salt Of The Earth”, kicked off with an opening verse from Keith. If it’s been a while for you, do yourself a favor and put on Beggar’s Banquet as you make dinner tonight.
Listen: The Rolling Stones – No Expectations
Download: Beggar’s Banquet here