[Review] Albums That Shaped My Youth, Part 1: The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main St. (1972)

9 Dec

If memory serves, I happened upon this album somewhere in 2000-2001, probably by perusing Amazon.com on my dial-up connection. I was immediately drawn to it by the collage of odd photos that make up the cover art. I happened upon this album back when I was going through a phase where I pretty much would refuse to listen to something if it were recorded after 1977. At the time, I had no grasp of the independent music scene and neither did my friends. In the sticks, there was just what was force-fed to you on the radio and TV. It was a dark, dark time.

If I have a particular memory of this album, it’s of listening to it on my iRiver mp3-CD player (SO AWESOME AT THE TIME) over and over again whilst mowing the lawn the summer between 9th and 10th Grade. It was during one of these mowing sessions that I was inspired to start an after-school music appreciation club at my high school. I think it achieved a maximum attendance of something like five or six people. Clearly, had I not started this group, I would not have gotten into the Ivy League second-tier school I attend today.

Having a better background in no other album, I proceeded to write a ten-page paper on why it could be considered a concept album from the popped-collar comforts of my fraternity house for my American Popular Music class a couple of years ago. My music taste has expanded and shifted drastically, and yet this album continues to stick with me. I can’t say it’s timeless, and I can’t say it’s made up of one gem after another, but “Tumbling Dice,” “Rocks Off,” “Happy,” and “Let it Loose” are all classics in my book (“Let it Loose” is also prominently featured in The Departed, thanks to Scorsese’s heavy tendency towards using songs back from his joints weren’t so creaky). The album has this delightfully unpolished sound, and loads of horns, if you’re into that sort of thing. It clashed with so much of what I heard in pop music when I first discovered it, and I reveled in this difference. Out of the music I had on heavy rotation when I was in junior-high/high school, this is one of the few albums that has endured. Hell, in ten years if I’m for some strange reason into post-Afro-pop/dance-hall, you had better believe that this album will still be stored in the chip behind my ear.

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