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Goats Head Soup
The Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones Records 59101
Released: September 1973
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 37
Certified Gold: 9/25/73

Mick JaggerOn Exile on Main St., the Rolling Stones were able to make one of their finest albums, in spite of heavy drug use. On the follow-up, Goats Head Soup, the drugs began to take their toll on the band, which continued to experience commercial success, even after losing favor with critics.

"It was getting a little more bizarre by then," says Andy Johns, who served as chief engineer and mixed the record. "That album suffered from drugs and alcohol. You can hear it in the music. Just about everyone was getting high, except for Bill [Wyman, the bassist] and Charlie [Watts, the drummer]."

"Heroin was now playing a bigger factor in what was going on," he adds. "It definitely was not helping. It was very negative." The primary user was guitarist Keith Richards, but Mick [Jagger] wasn't exactly straight and I definitely wasn't," Johns says.

To make matters worse, Richard was to face charges for use, supply, and trafficking of cannabis and heroin in Nice, France, while Wyman's wife, Astrid, was raped in her Jamaican hotel room. "That stuff was definitely on their minds," says Johns.

With the exception of "Silver Train," which was recorded in Ireland, Goats Head Soup was recorded at Dynamic Sound Studios in Kingston, Jamaica. "There was an attitude of 'Let's get it done,'" says Johns. "It was just pure momentum. I don't know that there was much of a direction at all. It was like, 'Let's do an album,' and those were the songs that came out during the four or five months."

And, as was the case on the previous albums, the Stones spent days attempting to perfect the recordings. Johns recalls that Richards had a particularly rough time with "Doo Doo Doo Doo [Heartbreaker]," which went on to become a number 15 hit. "The track was really out of tune," says Johns. "Everyone was so out of it that instead of recutting the track, Keith spent four days trying to get the bass in tune, and there was no way to make it work, because the electric piano and the guitar were out of tune with each other. Things were getting a little fuzzy there."

In all, Goats Head Soup simply wasn't up to par with the Stones' previous few efforts. "There weren't as many good songs and the recording was pretty shabby," Johns admits. "It's not their greatest effort, although there are some gems on it." John's personal favorites are "Winter," which he calls "one of the best things that they ever did," and the coyly titled "Star Star," (better known as "Starfucker") which he says "is a classic rock 'n' roll song."

The big hit from Goats Head Soup was "Angie," an acoustic ballad that became the Stones' seventh Number One single on October 20, 1973. It's rumored that David Bowie's wife, Angela, inspired the song.

The week before "Angie" went to Number One, Goats Head Soup hit the top in its third week on the chart. It wasn't the Stones' finest hour, but it was good enough to give the band its third straight Number One album of new material and fourth chart-topping LP overall.

- Craig Rosen, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 1996.

Bonus Reviews!

The group many people feel is the greatest band in rock history has put together another fine album, characterized as always by a series of fine, hard rock cuts from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and superb guitar work from Mick Taylor. The surprise of this set, however, are the three ballads, "Angie," "Winter" and "Coming Down Again," which work so well from a band associated with the raunchiest brand of rock. Jagger's vocals are refreshingly simple, and the harmonies of Richards are excellent as always. The set on the whole is more basic than their last effort, with fewer horns and a far superior mixing job. The horns that are heard are beautifully woven in, with solos from Bobby Keys and Jim Horn standing out. As usual, credit to producer Jimmy Miller. The group gets in their usual debauchery, of course, especially on "Star-Star" and "Hide Your Love." Best cuts: "Coming Down Again," "Angie," "Winter," "Hide Your Love," "Star Star."

- Billboard, 1973.

Except for the spavined "Dancing with Mr. D." and the oxymoronic "Can't You Hear the Music," these are good songs. But the execution is slovenly. I don't mean sloppy, which can be exciting -- I mean arrogant and enervated all at once. Mick's phrasing is always indolent, but usually it's calculated down to the last minibeat as well; here the words sometimes catch him yawning. Without trying to be "tight" the band usually grooves into a reckless, sweaty coherence; here they hope the licks will stand on their own. Only on "Starfucker," the most outrageous Chuck Berry throwaway of the band's career, does this record really take off. B

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Compared to the monumental Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup is bound to sound inferior, and it does. Nevertheless, the album doesn't deserve its bad reputation. It might be careless and decadent, but that excess is quite intoxicating, as the nasty rocker "Star Star" and the finely crafted ballad "Angie" prove. * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

There are those who suggest that on Goats Head Soup the Rolling Stones are going through the motions more than they had ever done previously. Whatever the album's weaknesses, perceived or otherwise, it is still a "typical" Stones album, albeit less frenetic, less angry, than earlier work. Recorded at Dynamic Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, it is more measured and thoughtful than previous albums.

Critics said at the time that Goats Head Soup didn't stand out from the rest of the releases of the day in the way a Stones' album normally did. True enough, there are few standout tracks aside from the lilting "Angie," popularly believed to be about David Bowie's new wife but in reality another of Keith Richards' odes to his then-muse, the Italian actress Anita Pallenberg. The making of the record was not helped by another legal battle over drugs, this one dating back to their stay in France.

The band's fanbase appears not to have heeded the downbeat assessment of the record, and it topped the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic soon after its release in the autumn of 1973 and the single, "Angie" reached Number One in the US and Number Five in the UK.

Occasional funk breaks are provided once again by keyboardist Billy Preston.

As of 2004, Goats Head Soup was the #71 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

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