Stones Were Peaking During Exile
And if Richards was at his peak, so was the band.
Exile on Main St marked the last truly great album from the Rolling Stones, and it’s certainly a culmination of them coming together and leaving nothing on the table.
If you take a bell curve of the Stones body of work, the peak came with Exile and things were never quite as good after that.
Even Jimmy Miller, who produced the four best Stones records, was dabbling in drugs and, while he knew recording in the Nellcôte basement made for a bad sound, nobody cared and neither did he, probably in part due to his heroin indulgence.
But that muddy sound and “who cares” attitude is part of what makes Exile so great – it’s inherent rawness, clearly seen on “Sweet Virginia” where the chorus sounds like a bunch of drunk partiers belting it out and not caring in the least how it sounded. That’s part of the album’s je ne sais quoi as well.
Some of the Stones’ most underrated songs are lurking on Exile including “Ventilator Blues” a grinding blues track featuring some heavy guitar and growling Jagger vocals.
Certainly Exile isn’t as polished and clean sounding as its predecessor Sticky Fingers– an amazing album itself – but the whole process of recording and living like they were on holiday in France, away from Olympic Studios in London, produced an album for the Stones that stands alone – in the best way possible – from any other records they made.
It’s the vibe. The soul. The feel that comes across the record.
Some will argue against it, but Exile On Main St. is the best album by the Rolling Stones.