Pieced together from outtakes and much-labored-over songs, Sticky Fingers manages to have a loose, ramshackle ambience that belies both its origins and the dark undercurrents of the songs. It's a weary, drug-laden album -- well over half the songs explicitly mention drug use, while the others merely allude to it -- that never fades away, but it barely keeps afloat. Apart from the classic opener, "Brown Sugar" (a gleeful tune about slavery, interracial sex, and lost virginity, not necessarily in that order), the long workout "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and the mean-spirited "Bitch," Sticky Fingers is a slow, bluesy affair, with a few country touches thrown in for good measure. The laid-back tone of the album gives ample room for new lead guitarist Mick Taylor to stretch out, particularly on the extended coda of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking." But the key to the album isn't the instrumental interplay -- although that is terrific -- it's the utter weariness of the songs. "Wild Horses" is their first non-ironic stab at a country song, and it is a beautiful, heart-tugging masterpiece. Similarly, "I Got the Blues" is a ravished, late-night classic that ranks among their very best blues. "Sister Morphine" is a horrifying overdose tale, and "Moonlight Mile," with Paul Buckmaster's grandiose strings, is a perfect closure: sad, yearning, drug-addled, and beautiful. With its offhand mixture of decadence, roots music, and outright malevolence, Sticky Fingers set the tone for the rest of the decade for the Stones.
[The Rolling Stones cobbled together Sticky Fingers from a variety of sources, snatching some Let It Bleed outtakes to pair with recordings made down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama along with tracks laid down in their homebase of Olympic Studios in London. Whatever songs the Stones didn't get around to finishing for Sticky Fingers, they carried over to Exile On Main St, either in its initial 1971 release or the 2010 deluxe reissue, which means there weren't any incomplete songs left for the 2015 Deluxe Reissue of Sticky Fingers. There were, however, a few pretty different alternate takes of the album's songs, all of which surface here: a wild, careening version of "Brown Sugar" featuring Eric Clapton on slide guitar—a faster, interesting take that's not as dirty and funky as the original; an "acoustic" version of "Wild Horses" that notably lacks the lead guitar lines; a "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," which is essentially a demo version where Mick hasn't figured out the words and the band doesn't launch into the Latin jam at the end; an "extended version" of "Bitch," where Mick again doesn't have words ready, although he has the melody in place; finally, a rougher, rowdier "Dead Flowers." The heavily-bootlegged "Brown Sugar" is welcome—it's not as good as the officially released version but the differences are compelling—and it's especially great to hear Jagger work out the kinks on "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Bitch," particularly because such messiness has not surfaced on previous Stones deluxe editions. Still, the real selling point to both the Deluxe Edition and especially the Super Deluxe Editions are the live material. The second disc is rounded out with five selections from the Roundhouse in 1971, killers every one, but they're eclipsed by the first official release of Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out on the third disc of the Super Deluxe Editions. Long regarded as one of the finest Stones bootlegs, this performance doesn't disappoint. It's leaner, harder and groovier than Get Yer Ya-Ya's out, particularly in the final six song stretch that runs from "Honky Tonk Women" to a show-closing cover of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock." The Stones keep gaining momentum as they move from "Satisfaction" to "Little Queenie" to "Brown Sugar" to "Street Fighting Man," each swinging with serious abandon, the band yet to treat any of the songs like hallowed classics. If you ever needed proof that the Stones were the World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band, this it and it's worth ponying up the extra cash just to get this concert.]