Rolling Stone magazine loves the Rolling Stones. Then they hate them. At least if you look at successive album reviews.
Since 1989, every new Rolling Stones’ studio album has been awarded 4.0 or 4.5 stars on the magazines’ famous five-star rating system, before getting discarded by the next time the band puts something out. What to do about this?
I’ll get to that, but first let’s answer a triplet of questions.
Is Rolling Stone magazine linked with the band?
No, not officially anyway. The magazine appeared in 1967, four years after the Stones’ first single. The band named themselves after the Muddy Waters song “Rollin’ Stone.” The magazine’s name, the editors claim, refers to this song, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Wait, Muddy made up “rolling stone”?
No. It’s from that hit proverb: “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” That was written by Pubillus Syrus, a former slave and Syrian writer who won success in Julius Caesar’s Roman Empire for his mimes and pithy sayings. If you came up with a clever tweet or axiom back then, you got FAMOUS. Pubillus died in 43BC.
Should we read Rolling Stone on the Rolling Stones or not?
Yeah do. Drink up and have a ball. Then wait-and-see to find out how they really feel.
Let me show you how this plays out.
STEEL WHEELS (1989)
Mick and Keith bickered through ‘80s solo albums and clumsy, back-to-back separate performances at Live Aid. Then they made this, with “Mixed Emotions.” (For his part, Mick wore a Michael Jackson jacket to champion his new line of unwanted clothing.) Best moment: Keith’s “Slipping Away,” the Stones’ finest track since 1981. Now, compare Rolling Stone’s varied takes…
VOODOO LOUNGE (1994)
Features “Love is Strong” and a truly awful cover. It dares to have a song called “You Got Me Rocking” with a faux “Brown Sugar” outro. Best moment: probably “Love is Strong.”
BRIDGES TO BABYLON (1997)
The lead single, “Anybody Seen My Baby?,” sounded so much like a kd lang song, they gave her a co-credit. Best moment: Keith’s “Thief in the Night.”
A BIGGER BANG (2005)
To date, their last collection of originals. “Rough Justice” was the single and finest moment along with Keith’s brief “This Place is Empty.” The political “Sweet Neo Con” is a nice idea, and got a lot of pre-release press, but is plain awful.
ERROR MARGIN: RATINGS
Because the magazine cannot be trusted in real time on any future Rolling Stones’ album reviews, I’ve created an error margin by comparing the original Rolling Stone rating of Rolling Stones’ albums with the magazine’s own REVISED RATING. In each case, the magazine freely downgraded their original rating by an average of 0.875 stars.
Steel Wheels 4.5 stars –> 3 stars (-1.5)
Voodoo Lounge 4 stars —> 3 stars (-1.0)
Bridges to Babylon 4 stars —> 3.5 stars (-0.5)
A Bigger Bang 4.5 stars —> 4 stars (-0.5)
When Rolling Stone gives the next album 4 or 4.5 stars (and they will), subtract at least 0.875.
MORE ON THE STONES
While we’re on the subject of Stones rankings, can I interest you in a ranking of EVERY Rolling Stones sax solo?