Exile On Main Street
Many if not most of the world’s most admired albums attained their fame slowly. In the case of Exile on Main Street which was released forty years ago on May 12, 1972, it took years for its ragged, bluesy charms to percolate into the collective psyche and eventually emerge as if not the best, then one of the contenders in the Stones catalog. The debate over an alternative champ has raged for years. Let It Bleed? Some Girls? Sticky Fingers? Beggar’s Banquet? Aftermath? Worthy choices all but when it comes to revelatory experiences, genuine five star records that changed the world, the apex of all the juice that Jagger and Richards could muster, Exile has gotta be the choice. The radio hits, “Happy” and “Tumbling Dice,” were solid. “Sweet Virginia” is the band’s most convincing foray into country rock. Tunes like “I Just Want to See His Face,” were downright scary. And the whole project still has a vaguely alien vibe to it, much of it due, for example, to touches like Jagger’s squeaking harp on “Stop Breaking Down,” or the odd background voice arrangements and guitar tones on “Let It Loose.” Exile is also the rare double album that justifies being four sidesno mean feat. It also has some of the most memorable art direction in the history of album cover art and features a much wished for appearance (but probably not), in the fade out of “Sweet Virginia” by the late Gram Parsons who was hanging around the chateaux Nellcôte, in VillefranchesurMer, near Nice, France where the band was recording in the basement. Finished in Los Angeles in early 1972, the album is reputed to also be the sound of a band riven by addictive behavior (Parsons was eventually asked to leave), which is also part of that odd otherworldly feeling as it occasionally pops into full view as in the opening of the album’s classic closer, “Shine a Light,”: “Saw you stretched out in room ten o nine/With a smile on your face and the tears right in your eye/Could not seem to get a line on you, my sweet honey love.” Squashed by a regrettable remastering job in the 2010 reissues (in both LP and CD form), this album is probably best heard on the original American LP pressings, though the 1994 reissues on Virgin run a close second.