I voted for Let It Bleed, which is a personal favorite thanks to “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” but it was a close contest among that one, Beggar’s Banquet, Exile on Main Street, and Sticky Fingers.
I’ll go with Let It Bleed, but it only just edges out SF and Exile. A great cast of players and the last album with Brian on it. The tour in support of that album gave us Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, one of the best rock documentaries ever, and Stanley Booth’s memoir The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones .
I voted for Beggar’s Banquet, but, if it is the same album that was originally issued in Britain as just The Rolling Stones, then England’s Newest Hit Makers is an underappreciated gem.
What happened to Between the Buttons? Also, Flowers was a compilation album never released in Britain. As you are not listing any of the other many greatest hits/compilation albums, how come that one gets in?
This is a very hard question, primarily because of the longevity of the band, and the fact that we are really talking about two or three (at least) eras in music. The Stones’ career can easily be divided up into similar eras, for example, “The Early Era” which would go up to, say, 1967, followed by “The Middle Era” which would go from 1968 to about 1980 and the Still Life album, which would herald in “The Touring Era”, in which while there was new product, it was few and far batween, and the main focus of the band turned to touring, even more so than before.
It would be quite easy to pick the best album out of each of these eras, and these albums would, predictably, be very different from one another, almost like they were from completely different bands.
I’m going to go with Aftermath (American version), which is the best of the classic Stones period. Later albums had some fantastic songs on them but Aftermath is the album that created the image of the Stones for eternity.
When I clicked on ‘Satanic Majesties’, I had a funny feeling that I’d be the only one. My excuse? I’m not really a Stones fan, but I did think that ‘Satanic Majesties’ was a very successful and interesting counterpoint to Sgt Pepper’s and all that was going on then. And, yes, I still listen to it from time to time.
So far Exile is winning the voting but Let it Bleed is winning the thread posts. I listened to a lot of Stones for a very long time (I have about 2/3 of the ones on the list above), and then one day I just got completely, utterly sick of them…some sort of musically toxic critical mass was reached. But I find I can still listen to LiB, because a lot of what made it great was he wide range of styles of song, and how great they are individually. Heck, I still startle my kids occasionally by singing “yes I am a monkey man…I’M A MONKEY!!”
Let It Bleed is actually a slightly (very slightly) better album than Exile on Main Street, but my emotional connection to the latter is so much greater than I voted for it anyway. Sticky Fingers is just a hair behind the two of them.