Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fact sheet: Let It Bleed

December 1969 the Rolling Stones released their eighth studio album, "Let It Bleed". Author James Hector puts the album in some fine perspective: "By the time "Let It Bleed" appeared, it had virtually been eclipsed by the band's winter tour of the States. The greatest noise of all came from the highly charged atmosphere of a bitterly divided America. Against this background, the group organised the free concert at Altamont, an ill-fated show which ended in the kind of chaos and murder that many felt was synonymous with the Stones' music.

Like "Beggars Banquet", "Let It Bleed" opened with the sound of cultural catastrophe, but while 'Sympathy For The Devil' was Mick Jagger in fantasy role-playing mode (albeit rather convincingly), 'Gimme Shelter' used no such distancing artistic device. No wonder the Maysles' Brothers closed their film of the band's US tour with the song: after the unrestrained violence which prevailed at the festival, and which provided the film's climax, the song's apocalyptic scenario seemed to be uncannily prescient.

But until that moment, "Let It Bleed", recorded during the last months of 1968 and the first half of 1969, was more a collection of personal revelations than the grand socio-political anthems that some of the songs later became. Things had altered considerably since "Beggars Banquet" provided the right cure for the psychedelic hangover. Brian Jones was sacked in May 1969, and his replacement, Mick Taylor, had little chance to leave his imprint on the album. By 1969 the Stones centred on Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, while exotic new courtiers, like Ry Cooder, Gram Parsons and Al Kooper were introduced into the inner circle for added musical muscle".

What about Ian Stewart? Stu played piano on the album's title track, and also on the non-album tracks 'Honky Tonk Women' and 'I Don't Know Why'. Nicky Hopkins (on four tracks), Leon Russell and Al Kooper were the other keyboard players on the album. Hector, on the album's title track: 'Let It Bleed' lays bare Keith's increasingly fluid slide guitar playing, prompted by his continued association with ex-Byrds guitarist and passionate country music fiend Gram Parsons. The song is also notable for welcoming pianist Ian Stewart back into the fold: with Nicky Hopkins almost always on hand, Stu only managed this one performance on the album".

Adapted from the following source: James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

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