Top critical review
THE STONES ON AUTO-PILOT
April 17, 2003
Journalist Nick Kent once pointed out that early on the Stones were tauted as "Not just a band, but a way of life." On their '69 tour they lowered this credo to "The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band". With this album it was diminished to "it's only rock and roll".
Of all the Stones albums, this may be the least interesting. Which is not to say it's their worst or that the songs are bad, just that the album lacks a truly cohesive personality and any real inspiration throughout. This was the period where the creative and personal schisms between the Stones - Mick's jet set lifestyle, Keith's drug dependence - became such a issue that it seemed either the Stones were due to breakup or Keith would OD any day now ("I was number one on that chart longer than I ever was on the albums!", Keith once joked).
The songs are good, but you can almost hear Mick wanting to get back to the disco, and Keith was content to exert himself less and less. So much so that the album's most enjoyable and most inspired performances are a cover (Ain't Too Proud to Beg) and a throwaway (the My Dingaling-esque Short and Curlies). A number of the tracks show potential that never gets fully realized - If You Can't Roick Me, Till The Next Goodbye, Luxury - and there's a couple that they should have had the good sense to leave off the album altogether - Dance Little Sister.
And what of Time Waits for No One? The song features a great, extended guitar solo from Mick Taylor. But the Stones appeal has always been the songs and the interaction within the band, not virtuoso performances. The fact that Taylor had such a spotlight is just another display that Keith was just not putting his own greatest efforts into the album.
The title track and Fingerprint File are the best, most pleasing things on here. We all know the title track, but the lesser known Fingerprint File is a classic, featuring Mick's most foreboding, scary lyrics since "Gimme Shelter".
So what to do? Borrow a copy, find the songs you like most from this and Goat's Head Soup, and burn yourself a disc featuring your favorite songs from each album. You'll have one less disc filling up your library, and you'll omit a lot of the staler, less inspired moments that unfortunatelty are readily available. It may only be rock and roll, but that shouldn't mean it can't also be a way of life.