|The Rolling Stones::
Between the Buttons Label: ABKCO
Released in February of 1967, Between the Buttons shows the Stones’ sound continuing to evolve from their R&B roots toward the more diverse and dynamic creative peak the band would reach from 1969-1972 in the Let it Bleed to Exile on Main Street period.
The American version of the album begins with one of the band’s most recognizable tunes in “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” The song is a musical departure for the Stones in that it features the piano as the lead instrument. Combined with Mick Jagger’s memorable vocal, the tune is one of the Stones’ catchiest. It’s also known for creating something of an uproar due to its sexually suggestive content – when the Stones played it on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” they were ordered to change the lyric to “let’s spend some time together.” Unlike Jim Morrison with “Light My Fire” later that year, Jagger complied, although he rolled his eyes in displeasure. They still aren’t allowed to play it in China.
Due to the controversial lyrics, most radio stations opted to play the flip side of the single, “Ruby Tuesday,” which became a #1 hit. The song’s melody and instrumental atmospherics still ring with originality 40 years later. Brian Jones was deep in a creative exploration of exotic instruments -- besides guitar, he plays harmonica, recorder, piano, trumpet, trombone, and banjo-ukulele on Buttons.
Many Keith Richards fans revere “Connection,” a tune featuring a dual vocal from Keith and Mick. Based on a simple rhythm and some Chuck Berry-ish guitar from Keith, the song about the long hours the band spent in airports is one of the album’s catchiest and was a highlight of Keith’s solo tours in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Another standout track is “Miss Amanda Jones,” which features the Stones doing what they do best. Keith throws down a super fuzzy riff in the best Berry mold and Charlie Watts lays down a tight, swinging rhythm that enables Mick to sing with a rocking flow. There’s also some nice blues licks in here. This is the kind of great rock and roll tune that makes you want to get up and boogie.
The rest of the album is a mixed bag, with songs that are good but not necessarily great and a couple of dated clunkers. “She Smiled Sweetly” has a maudlin vocal from Mick over an equally maudlin organ part, and may be one of the band’s weakest songs. Likewise, “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” has a vaudeville vibe that doesn’t quite stand up with, say, the Beatles’ “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”
“Cool, Calm & Collected” is rather unique with its ragtime piano part, walking bass line and a sitar-ish sounding instrument on the chorus. But why they put in a silly kazoo solo remains a puzzling mystery. “My Obsession” has a more dated sound, as the guitars take a back seat and the piano sounds like it was recorded in the bottom of a well. “Who’s Been Sleeping Here?” features acoustic guitars and Jones on harmonica, with Jagger emoting in more subtly. “Complicated” features some sharp drum work from Watts and more fuzzy guitars. One only wishes that Bill Wyman’s bass could have been recorded better, as it has a thin, flat sound throughout the album.
Overall, Between the Buttons features a handful of classics, some interesting sonic experimentation throughout, and is a vital document of the Stones’ progress from a fairly standard R&B band to the self-proclaimed “greatest rock and roll band in the world.”
~Greg M. Schwartz