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.)
Overall Album Score: 4.5/5
Best song: “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction”
Worst song: “Cry to Me”
Seven is the lucky number, and seven is also the number of original songs The Rolling Stones composed for Out of Our Heads. And let me tell you, some of this stuff is fantastic. Finally, they are not only writing originals that are equals to the covers, but they are writing songs that greatly surpass them. There's one in particular I'd like to talk about...
“(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” is one of those songs that I've heard about a billion times so far in my life, and I can listen to it one billion more times. I swear I'll never grow tired of it. Just the power of those 10 gruff notes Keith Richards figured out of his guitar was all it needed to attain immortality. Charlie Watts' fabulously pounding drums, and Mick Jagger's spirited vocal performance were just added bonuses. Obviously, the '60s was a decade of famous songs, but this one seems to top pretty much everything. Everybody knows it by heart, and everybody should know it by heart. Enough said?
Contrary to popular opinion, there are other originals on Out of Our Heads worth falling in love with. The enjoyment I get out of the poppy riff-rocker “The Last Time” is more immense than Roseanne Barr's behind. Not only does the song feature an instantly memorable riff and convincing attitude, but it has a melody so catchy that it can only be described as Beatlesesque. Awesome. It's obviously nowhere close to matching a Beatles classic, but hearing The Stones write something convincing in that arena is always nice to hear.
I'm also a particular fan of “The Spider and the Fly,” a laid-back bluesy rocker with a melody distinctive enough to keep me from accusing it of being “derivative.” The rhythm section keeps the texture bouncy, and Jagger's playful vocal performance is fresh. (Seriously, do people seriously think Jagger wasn't much of a vocalist? He might genuinely suck on songs like “Cry to Me,” but how can we deny him “The Spider and the Fly?”) Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the so-called composer Nanker Phelge came out with an excellent composition for once. It's a ballad called “Play With Fire,” and someone plays harpsichord on it! It not only points to the direction they would take later on in their discography, but it has a catchy melody.
Even though those originals were great, there are a number of others that just don't measure up. “One More Try” is a disappointing closing track with melody that's catchy, for sure, but it gets repetitive and annoying halfway through. Sir Phelge might have redeemed himself briefly for contributing “Play With Fire,” but his addition of the live-cut “I'm All Right” was terrible. I've always had something against inserting live tracks in the middle of studio albums, and there's good reason for that. It's tacky! This song itself is based on a startlingly simple two-chord riff while Mick basically screams the song title as crazily as he can. Bluh! Phelge also had the uninspired blues derivative “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” but at least it resembles a real song.
There are a lot of covers on Out of Our Heads, but they start to look pale compared to the originals. That said, I love hearing their ultra-clean rendition of Don Covay and Ronnie Miller's “Mercy, Mercy,” which opens the album on a memorable note. “Hitch Hike” isn't quite as good, but it's also a rightfully catchy pop-rocker. Unfortunately, the album drags when they perform Bert Russell's bluesy “Cry To Me.” Obviously, the source material wasn't too interesting, and The Stones don't seem to be giving it their best shot. Mick intermittently screams at the top of his lungs during the “soulful” bits, and tries to sound like Elvis in between. The choppy instrumentation is also far from getting me excited. “That's How Strong My Love Is” is much better, but it's also lacking chemistry. Hm. Methinks they forgot to balance their equations.
By all accounts, Out of Our Heads is a spotty album and still more than a stone's throw away from the glories this group would achieve later on in their discography. Even though it has one massively classic original song on it and a couple worthy minions, I can't quite muster the strength to give it that coveted 5.0 rating. But this is the closest The Stones have gotten to achieving that, so this is good progress.
Mercy, Mercy A
There's something I've always liked about their rendition of this song over their rendition of other songs, and I'm not immediately able to pinpoint what it is. Is it that the guitar-tones are so clean and pure? Is it Charlie Watt's ultra-deep pounding on the drums? ...Yeah, maybe. That makes it sound as fresh today as it probably sounded in 1965. Nobody could treat these old rock 'n' roll songs quite like The Stones!
Hitch Hike A-
This is less appealing than the previous, but their cover of this Marvin Gaye song is excellent, of course. They picked a song with a nice melody, if a bit non-distinctive. I think we'll all admit that it seems like child's play compared to the originals that are in this album.
The Last Time A
Ah yes! Listen to this original! That ultra-clean riff is almost as awesome as it gets, and the melody is so hooky that it's close to being Beatlesesque. I know, it doesn't quite have the chemistry of a Beatles song, but that's OK. The Rolling Stones were a completely different group. More rustic and leathery! (Even in their young days.)
That's How Strong My Love Is B
Hey, after that catchy original, I'm feeling a little bit down that they're doing another cover! Ah, I guess my relative disappointment is proof that these guys have finally figured out how to write excellent tunes. Well, congratulations! Not that this is a terrible song at all—it's just nothin' special. Mick Jagger gives an energetic vocal performance, though, which helps make it more interesting to hear.
Good Times A-
You know, when I listen to this, I can swear that I hear a vibrating xylophone in the background. And yet, I get no evidence of that anywhere that I've tried looking it up. Anyway, that ringing sound in the background, whatever it is, gives this lightweight rocker such a nice, friendly vibe! We know that the Stones were well-known for their harder rocking songs, but let it be known that they've created excellent songs that you can sit back and soak up.
I'm Alright C
This is a Nanker Phelge composition, so you know it has to be good, right? ... Eerrrrr. What's more, this is a live track that comes with their screaming female fans completely intact. They play a very simple riff whilst Mick Jagger and another singer (who I can't identify) screams “I'm Alright” at the top of their lungs. Um, thanks for this.
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction A+
Oh, here's a song that nobody's ever heard before ... Oh wait, I'm thinking of something else. Yeah, I'm thinking of “Cowboys and Indians” by The Smoke. Nobody's heard that. Anyway, this riff is so classic that it ground itself in my brain and it'll stay there for all eternity! ... No, I'm serious, there's a permanent dent in my brain thanks to my experiences listening to this song. Do I even need to tell you about what this song sounds like? I doubt it, because it probably ground itself in your brain, too. Needless to say, this is a song for the ages... and the ages have treated it well, and if I have anything to say about it, the ages will continue to treat it well. Needless to say, it's the first of the many BIG Rolling Stones songs...
Cry to Me C+
Oh, for crap's sake! The problem with a song like “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” is that it makes all other songs seem lame in comparison. And the follow-up song to that one, a cover of a Bert Russell ditty, takes the brunt of it. Though to be honest, I probably wouldn't have liked it anyway. It's another one of those tracks that can be deemed “nothing special” with its boring melody and passable instrumentation. Mick Jagger, at least, gives another one of his cool performances in which he screams at the top of his lungs.
The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man B-
As far as the Nanker Phelge compositions have gone, this it one of the better ones. But that doesn't mean this is particularly great. Where “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” was a giant leap forward for the band in terms of songwriting, this derivative blues song is a bit of a step back. Nothing here in terms of originality, and their straitlaced instrumental performances don't make it anymore notable. Ah well. It's fine, though.
Play With Fire A-
Oh... About the Nanker Phelge compositions... This one's very good! In fact, considering how much it sounds like the Jagger/Richards stuff in Aftermath I wouldn't be too surprised if they were the principal forces behind this. It's a pretty ballad with a nice melody and featuring a *gasp* a harpsichord. That's right, a fruity instrument made it into a Rolling Stones song. And that brings me to another point... This ballad sounds like the stuff from Aftermath! So, they were making significant strives forward as a group! Very cool. Great song.
The Spider and the Fly A
Another great original! Seriously, I think I'm going to have to quit awarding such high ratings, but these guys' original compositions become more and more impressive... This is a very laid-back song with a nice, leisurely shuffle to it and some subtly catchy hooks in them. And even though it's laid-back, it has that bold confidence that only The Stones could ever do. Good stuff.
One More Try B
This is an original pop-rocker, and it provides a rather weak ending to the album, unfortunately. The instrumentation is nowhere near as edgy as most of these tracks. The vocal hook is very simple and it's catchy, but it's also too repetitive for my taste. Even the song production seemed a little bit off... It's rather muddy and murky. That's a shame, because it sounds like Charlie is playing a nice, clicky drum beat!
Can you get no satisfaction? I'm not sure you'd be saying that if you had this record...
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)