Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what their looking for in the "Review Body" section. The section titled "Track Reviews" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is probably not written by the point of view of a Rolling Stones fan.)
Recommend this product?
Overall Score: 5/5
Best song: “Let's Spend the Night Together”
Worst song: “She Smiled Sweetly”
Was it the calling of the times, or did The Rolling Stones just want to give the rock 'n' roll a rest for a bit? I have no bruddy clue! What I care about is Between the Buttons has melodies, melodies, melodies. It has a lot of spirit, also, which is something that can easily be overlooked.
Mick's lead vocals are more confident and flavorful than ever, and Charlie Watts comes up with plenty 'o fascinating drumming patterns. Brian Jones was given a lot more room to flex his creative muscle, helping usher in horn sections, flutes, strings and jangly things. Even the guitar sounds vastly different here. Part of that is because this just ain't a guitar-centered album, and you don't hear it that much. But when you do, they give us these dark, gruffy textures that add a hugely valuable extra dimension to every song that it graces. And that brings me to my next point: This album is MIXED EXTREMELY WELL. Oh. Man. It beats the pants off of Aftermath, and I thought that was pretty good. Huge kudos to the sound engineers.
And the piano! Oh, yes, the piano!! Don't you love the menacing way it plays on “Let's Spend the Night Together?” I sure do! Plus Charlie Watts' incessant boom-boom-boom-boom gives the song more incredible drive than it probably deserved. Mick's vocal performance is so raucous and gritty here, perfectly matching the infamously dirty lyrics, that I scoff at every single person who tries to tell me that he wasn't an excellent singer. Oh, and that song has a melody! And it's catchy! Weirdly, the melody is somewhat robotic, but that goes along with the menacing beat wonderfully. Oooo... That's a good 'un.
Warning: “Let's Spend the Night Together” might have exhibited much of that famous Rolling Stones verve, but they get considerably fruity in the second track. But I do declare: It is the best kind of fruitiness! “Yesterday's Papers” is a minor masterpiece; it's a gorgeously produced ballad with a melody as lovely as the dickens. Watts comes up with a low-key but complicated rhythm, and Brian Jones contributes all sorts of twinkly things in the background. A very subtle, but dark, fuzzy guitar plays delicate fireworks, and a somewhat woody bass helps keep the rhythm sprightly. It's a highly absorbing, oft-overlooked beauty! Listen to it
And this album also has “Ruby Tuesday!” That might be a crappy restaurant chain, but it's an excellent ballad. The only thing good about going to that restaurant is I get this song stuck in my head. Mick sings it with as much conviction as he ever sang anything. It's a gorgeous experience; I especially like that phenomenally interesting flute in the background. I swear, I'm never sure if I want to pay attention to the vocal melody or that flute!
The rest of the album isn't quite as good as these opening three numbers, but that doesn't mean they don't pull their weight in this awesome album. “Connection” is a more plainly-favored pop-rocker, but that muted drum lends it a punchy, super-clean quality that I like. “All Sold Out” is also a relatively straightforward pop-rocker in which, if you listen closely enough, you can hear Keith play some really awesome guitar kinda all by himself. “Who's Been Sleeping Here?” has a distinct Dylan vibe, although the melody is so original that I can't really imagine Dylan having composed it. What I particularly love about that one is that dirty harmonica, and Jagger's rough and arresting vocal performance. “Miss Amanda Jones” marks a brief return to roots-rock, but I really dig it, especially that rough fuzzy guitar that surfaces occasionally to give us a few mighty chugs.
They're even trying to sound kinda Kinks-like with a couple music hall numbers. (Yeah! The Rolling Stones tried music hall! Twice!! That's something the general public forgets about.) “Cool, Calm & Collected” is a bouncy and fun song, and “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” is very silly. While they might not be quite as original and entertaining with the genre as The Kinks, they're still pretty freaking good!
I'm a little less than enthusiastic about the organ-led ballad “She Smiled Sweetly,” which just ain't that interesting. And “My Obsession” has this annoying tendency to stop all the time, leaving Watts to play the drums all by himself. I don't like that. But that's just nitpicking. Those are two attractively strapping songs if I say so myself. I like them despite their shortcomings.
In fact, after coming off reviewing an album as great as Between the Buttons, I can say that I pretty much like everything in the world. Even Paris Hilton's huge nobby knees! (...Er, please forget I said that...)
Let's Spend the Night Together A+
This is one heck of a hard-driving piano-led pop song. It's strikingly mid-tempo, but it has a certain menacing quality to it that can only be attributed to that certain Rolling Stones magic. Oh! Listen to that melody! Doesn't that ring as a pure unforgettable classic to you? Mick Jagger's vocal performance is laden with pure conviction. Charlie Watts' drum beat is simple but determined. Doesn't everyone like this song? No??... Well everybody should like this song. The world would be a better place if everyone was a hopelessly dedicated Rolling Stones fanboy like me. For example, I'd get to hear songs like this blaring out of other people's car windows than that Kayne West baloney I'm hearing all the time. ...I don't actually know it's Kayne West, but he's probably responsible for it. Plus, the lyrical subject matter is pretty dirty! I like dirty music!!
Yesterday's Papers A+
This is another real crackerjack tune from the boys. It's not quite as bold and dedicated as the previous one. In fact, this one has a distinct fruity flavor to it (specifically those falsetto back-up vocals... yeah... fruity!) Oh, but The Rolling Stones can do fruitiness with as much conviction as they could do those R&B covers, so bring on the fruitiness! Plus, they seem like they're at the peak of their songwriting powers. This melody is probably one of the least distinguishable ones of the album, and yet it's excellent. Yeah. I like this. (Keith? ... Oh! I see you! He surfaces in the middle with a rather subdued solo...)
Ruby Tuesday A+
Looking back on my reviews of The Stones' early albums, I did complain endlessly that The Rolling Stones couldn't pen a ballad to save their lives... Yeah, the reason I complained like that was because I knew that every single one of their ballads in this period of their careers would be incredibly great. Not only is the melody nice, but there's a very light flute riling up some of that fruity magic that made these late-'60s pop albums always such a delight to listen to. (Yeah, and this is a great flute... I can't express that enough. Other bands from the '60s would use the flute in a cheesy way such that it's almost unbearable to today's normal audiences. But this flute has a more windy tone to it, and it picks up on some really unique, rhythmic patterns. Not to mention the notes the flutes play are a gorgeous contrast with the vocal melody. Oh look at me dedicating half of this track review to the flute. WELL, I LIKE FLUTES!!!)
Fairly straightforward this time, but it's not necessarily worse off for that. It's also why I'm only giving it an A- as opposed to the higher ratings of its earlier brethren. It's a very nice song; the melody is catchy and it's performed tightly. But it doesn't go out and do anything much more than that. Well, there's one exception. I'd say the star of this show has to be Charlie Watts' whose weirdly muted drumming gives it an interesting texture.
She Smiled Sweetly B
Not exactly the great shakes this time. It's one of the least intrinsically enjoyable songs from the album. The melody is formidable, but it's just that. The instrumentation prominently features thick chords from an organ and a plain piano. The guitars are nowhere to be found! Somehow, it doesn't seem to flow together all that well. ...It's a decent song, but not one of the ones you'll probably remember.
Cool, Calm & Collected A-
They're taking a distinctly Kinks vibe with this enjoyable music-hall number. I believe this is the first time they ever attempted such a song, and I've got to commend them on it. It just goes to show that they were willing to not only attempt but succeed at a multiple genre of styles. Sure, nobody does this sort of song better than The Kinks, but The Stones have created a pleasantly bouncy melody, playful instrumentation and a funny bit at the end where they play it as fast as they could.
All Sold Out A
Count this one as one of the “normal” rock songs. When I say that lately, I think that means we can hear Keith's guitar a little bit! It sounds very gruff and dark. Even louder is Charlie Watts' drumming, which is pounding away mercilessly! The vocal melody is catchy also, which is an important thing in pop music as always. The playful back-up vocals were put to especially good use here! The mixing sounds utterly pristine... It's such a nice, crispy song...
My Obsession B+
Not terrible, but it takes a little bit of work to completely get into this. The vocal melody doesn't work in a usual pop-rock; it seems more like a dramatic idea than a real melody. I'm also not a huge fan of how often everything stops and were just left with Charlie's drumming. It was OK once or twice, but it happens about a dozen times here. What I like about this song, ultimately, is that texture. The ultra-gruff rhythm guitar pounding away with a spirited piano surfacing in a few pivotal spots.
Who's Been Sleeping Here? A
Yummy! They're taking some sort of Dylan influence here with the sort of undisciplined sounding instrumentation with a Dylan-style harmonica, and Jagger's apparently trying to rough up that singing style. The melody isn't very Dylan-esque, though, but it has a sort of Dylan feel. It's a great song, too. Some really excellent melodic hooks in this one, and I must say, Jagger's Dylan impression is surprisingly powerful and sincere.
Geez, this is another excellent song! I have to say, though, that drumming pattern starts out too much like that thing I was getting tired of in “My Obsession!” (Am I too obsessed?) They're giving Charlie quite a showcase! Well, his loud drumming usually sounds awesome, and it does here too. Ah, that doesn't matter. The melody of this song is OK, but not extremely distinctive. In fact, I have to work a little bit to get myself to truly like it, which I don't have to do with the other songs.
Miss Amanda Jones A
This is something of a roots rocker! Yeah, you could say that this is exactly like their early R&B-aimed songs in their previous albums, but this is has a definite different feel to it, and the melody is also a little nicer. That really gruff tone they play gives it a nice texture while Keith (I assume) delivers a few nice stabs here and there. All in all, this is one of the more enjoyable toe-tapping rockers!
Something Happened To Me Yesterday A
Oh man! They're bringing out the bowl of fruit again! TAKE A BITE! This is a funny, upbeat number with traces of Americana. The horns, the tooting tuba and the bubbly acoustic guitar are all here along with a playful vocal performance from Jagger. Occasionally, someone whistles cheerily, and Keith Richards burps a few lyrics in the background. Seriously! Keith would make a good cartoon bullfrog voice! And it all ends with Jagger delivering a silly monologue as though he were hopped up on cotton candy.
The Rolling Stones finally go POP! And lemme tell you, it's their best album yet. By far.
Read More Rolling Stones Reviews By Starcollector!
England's Newest Hitmakers (1964) | 12 X 5 (1964) | The Rolling Stones Now! (1965) | Out of Our Heads (1965) | December's Children (And Everybody's) (1965) | Aftermath (1966) | Between the Buttons (1967) | Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) | Beggar's Banquet (1968) | Let it Bleed (1969) | Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (1970) | Sticky Fingers (1971) | Exile on Main St. (1972) | Goats Head Soup (1973) | It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (1974) | Metamorphosis (1975) | Black and Blue (1976) | Love You Live (1977) | Some Girls (1978) | Emotional Rescue (1980) | Tattoo You (1981) | Undercover (1983) | Dirty Work (1986) | Steel Wheels (1989) | Flashpoint (1991) | Voodoo Lounge (1994) | Stripped (1995) | Bridges to Babylon (1997) | No Security (1998) | Live Licks (2004) | A Bigger Bang (2005) | Rarities 1971-2003 (2005) | Shine a Light (2008)