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Exile on Main St.
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Media Type: CD
Street Release Date: 07/26/1994

From the swaggering frustration in the first song ("I only get my rocks off while I'm sleeping," Mick Jagger sings in the hyper "Rocks Off"), the Stones speed through familiar neighborhoods of country, blues, and R&B on Exile. They never even bother to stop when they've crashed into something. They don't leap into new worlds so much as master the old ones, turning Slim Harpo's blues obscurity "Hip Shake" into a harp-and-piano steamroller and setting spines a-cracking in "Ventilator Blues." Both "Tumbling Dice" and Keith Richards's "Happy" have become hits, but the 1972 album is most notable for its overall murky adrenaline. --Steve Knopper

Before Keith Richards's bad habits took over for a time in the mid-'70s, his work ethic was quite high. Stories abound of the long, if somewhat off-schedule, hours he spent working on this classic album in the basement of his home in France. Hanging together as much because of great songwriting ("Rocks Off," "Soul Survivor") as its fabled grungy atmosphere, Exile caps the Stones' great 1968-'72 run with a force that belies their supposed spiritual tiredness. What some of these songs are about is anybody's guess--Keith claims "Ventilator Blues" was inspired by a grate, while the song plays like an ode to a pistol--but that's just part of this album's hazy game. --Rickey Wright

Customer Reviews:

  • Could Have Been Edited to One Very Good Album
    Everyone heaps praise on this, but like the Beatles White Album, I think it could have been condensed into one very good album. Don't get me wrong - there are some great songs here - Sweet Vriginia, Torn and Frayed, Tumbling Dice, etc. - but is Turd on the Run really top notch Stones material? Ventilator Blues and Just Wanna See His Face also could have been dropped without any big loss. I know that diehard Stones fans will disagree, but this album has way too much "filler"....more info
  • Rolling like there was no tomorrow
    Completing the sequence from Beggars Banquet, Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers (which was filled with drug references) to Exile (which exuded the stuff).
    First off, the LP double is a masterpiece. The CD is not bad, but does not compare, being thin and lacking balls. When this came out, and today a lot of people complain about the muddy, impenetrable sound. Compared to Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed, Exile on Main Street was tightly wrapped and everything seemed to be coming at you compressed in space. This was the complexity of the arrangements. A high quality turntable and ampflier demonstrate that both the recording of the individual instruments and voices and the mix are superb. The problem is, no cheap turntable and certainly no cheap plastic rack CD player has any hope of making sense of the dense mix.

    "Rocks Off", Mick's voice is center stage and in front of the band. If you can't make out the words its because he's purposefully slurring them.
    This is one of the great Stones albums, four high energy sides.

    Exile shines with a sparkle of cocaine while at hanging under the weight of heroin.

    A superb effort, but not what you would call "accessible". ...more info
  • A Lesson in American Music
    What you have here is the Rolling Stones giving us back exactly what we had been missing right under our noses, and taking it to places that the creators never could have possibly imagined. Every element of pure American music is here and there isn't a sour note. From the smoke filled juke joints of the deep south, to the slick blues of Chicago's West Side, to a Texas roadhouse, to a gospel choir, right back to Chuck Berry, it's all here. Everything great about American music deconstructed and built back up to reach places never before imagined.
    This is music one could imagine spilling out into Beale Street in 1955 or shaking the rafters of a Mississippi blues hall or belting out of some Baptist church. It's what every Saturday night should sound like. No need to break down each song here. They all have their charms. Needless to say no music collection is complete without it, and if you don't get it, you don't get American music and you surely don't get Rock and Roll....more info
  • Maybe the best
    This is just great..
    Keith, Mick, Mick, and Nicky are at their best....more info
  • A crude filler feast?
    I remember back in the summer of '72 buying two albums, Deep Purple's "Machine Head" and the Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street." Well, to this day I still feel the same, Exile isn't nearly as good. Not even in the same league. Matter of fact, I don't think I played it much that summer at all, it was all Deep Purple.

    "Exile" does have some bright spots, Rocks Off, Tumbling Dice, Sweet Virginia, Happy & All Down The Line, for example, but there's way too much filler. On the other hand, "Machine Head" had maybe one filler, but it was still very strong when compared to Exiles roster.

    Also, the production of Exile is also pretty rough which doesn't help when there is so much filler. I don't think Jagger even cares much for this effort. Overrated I think he said.

    With so many reviewers giving it "5 stars," what's Machine Head then? 1O stars? Well, in fact it is!!!

    I'd pick up "Exile on Main Street" used.

    ...more info
  • Great Album, But Not Their best Work
    By the time The Stones were working on Exile, they were in all sorts of trouble and had much more on their respective minds than making an album. That's my opinion. It is well known they were in financial trouble, Keith was heavy into "the heroin," Jagger was bored with Rock and Mick was pissed that he wasn't getting the attention he deserved. All of this added up to a not-so unified piece of work. When this album first came out, it basically received the same review, I'm giving it now. However, now it is like the fourth greatest album of all time, or something, according to Rolling Stone? This coming from the same magazine that said The Beatles deserve four or five in the top ten?, come on! This is a great album, don't get me wrong, but if you've listened to their previous works, it's not all that it's cracked up to be....more info
  • Great Double Release
    This disk was originally a two record set, that included post cards, and inserts. The release itself is wonderful, from cover to cover. Rockers like "Rocks Off" and "Rip This Joint" showcase the Stones with great backing support of horns and sax. Keyboards are wonderful, with the load shared between Ian Stewart and Nicky Hopkins, who provide a perfect complement to the Stones. Mick Taylor kills on the intro to "Tumbling Dice", which also features some of the most imaginative Stones lyrics. What was the second side features a more folksy feel, including "Sweet Virginia", "Torn and Frayed", and the stripped down "Black Angel", with tabla drums, harmonica and acoustic guitar. "Happy" is a great Keith Richards song, with strong vocals and honking horns. "All Down the Line" is a great Stones rocker, with strong instrumentation. This is an entertaining release from cover to cover, a must for all collections. ...more info
    The Rolling Stones are one of the most lousiest and overrated bands of all time. They only made 2 decent albums in Some Girls, and Tattoo You. This has a few of the lousiest songs in Happy, and Tumbing Dice. Don't buy this horrible album, go get Some Girls insted. ...more info
  • Better than the White Album
    If you want to compare the double albums of the two titans of British music, the White Album comes off as a Disneyish exploration of musical styles compared to the adult grit and soul Jagger and co. deliver with Exile. The music just gets funkier and more interesting with time - get yours today!...more info
  • greatest rock record ever? i just might be.
    it's been fashionable to bash the stones in some quarters for about a decade or so. heck, i've done it myself on occasion. true, they haven't made a great album since "some girls," but i think their releases over the last 20 years have not been as bad as some would make them to be. i believe they are current victims of their early work to some extent. take "exile on main st." is it fair to hold all of their work up to the standards set here? any band should be so lucky as to create one majestic piece of work as this. i listened to it on headphones at work today (the first time i had listened to it in over 4 years), and it was like some kind of musical epiphany. almost a religous experience; without all the wacky ideas. the religion of rock and roll. this really might be the greatest record ever made. the one two punch that kicks things off, "rocks off" and "rip this joint" are certainly as good a start to any album i know of. there's the sublime heights of "tumbling dice" for your soul to climb, the incredible beauty of "torn and frayed," the heavenly acoustic blues of "sweet black angel," the majestic power of "loving cup," the keith richards philosophy lecture "happy," "turd on the run," with its perfect blending of rock riffs and blues, the raw hard edges of "venitilator blues," with its wicked slide guitar work, "i just want to see his face," the strangest song on the record, a spooky sounding sort of anti-gospel with hazy vocals drifting over a rumbling bed of percussion. there's the heart-pumping beat of "all down the line," "stop breaking down," another outstanding blues rocker with a pulsing beat and fine slide guitar, the gospel asthetics of "shine a light," and the gritty anthem "soul survivor," which closes this soul stirring masterwork. if you do not have this, you need it. if you do not like this, we could never hang together. as a music (especially rock and roll) fanatic, this album brings me to rapture. enough said....more info
  • Exile on my street
    Exile on main street is one of the best. With a variety of styles it nrver drags. Great songs like Let it loose, Shine a light. Rocks Off, Soul Surivor Tumbling Dice and Ventilator Blues is a paint peeler. Sweet Virginia and Torn and Frayed are good country.Stop Breaking down and shake your Hips are good blues, good slide on stop Breaking Down Texas blues on Shake your Hips. Sweet Black Angel is great reggae. ...more info
  • The desert island album
    If you truly were stranded on an island...loneliness would surround you. You'd become restless, sexually frustrated? Here's your album. Maybe too urban in its muddy production and layers of guitars and vocals, but I doubt you'd really enjoy something pastoral like "Astral Weeks," within such despair. Not a dull tune on here: Keith & Mick--both individually & in tandem--never were better....more info
  • It coulda been a contender
    For classic rock bands, the double live album was an essential part of their discography. The double STUDIO album on the other hand was a different animal altogether. Keeping an audience's attention over the course of 4 LP (now 1-2 CD) sides isn't always easy. And the few that worked (The White Album, Physical Graffiti, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Blonde on Blonde, Electric Ladyland) are rock and roll classics. The Who actually accomplished this feat not once, but TWICE (Tommy and Quadrophenia). Unfortunately, the Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street" isn't one of them. "Exile" has always been a difficult album not only for fans, but the band themselves. In the book "According to the Rolling Stones", Mick Jagger says that Exile is not one of his favorite albums, admitting that while the atmosphere of the album is good, he'd love to remix it as it has some of the worst recorded vocals. And he's right. Half the vocal tracks sound like their buried under a combination of backing vocals and sonic sludge. It sometimes sounds like a badly recorded bootleg. And as gritty as they sound, they don't work well in a live setting either. So other than "Tumbling Dice", "Happy" and maybe "All Down the Line", tracks from Exile don't always figure highly when the Stones choose their set list. I resisted buying "Exile" for many years because of this, but also because ? the songs aren't all that great in the first place. If the band had wised up a little and sliced off about half of them they would've had the knockout punch to finish off the classic series of albums that started in 1968 with Beggars Banquet and through 1971's Sticky Fingers (with the live Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out thrown in as a bonus). If this was possible, Exile would've been a much different (and better) album with only the following songs;
    Rocks Off
    Tumbling Dice
    Shake Your Hips
    Loving Cup
    All Down the Line
    Sweet Virginia
    Casino Boogie
    Rip This Joint
    Torn and Frayed

    So Exile isn't necessarily a bad album, it's just one of those Stones albums that should've been much better given the time it was recorded and their previous album (Sticky Fingers). It's also one that now benefits from the "skip" button on your CD player or IPod.

    ...more info
  • 4.5 Stars - And #3 Of Their Top 3 Albums
    I am the Stones Authority. Whenever I listen to this album I cannot help but think of Keith's rented villa in the south of France with the strange comings and goings and open doors and music being created as they passed the time in pleasant weather and decadence wondering what future lay before them after departing England and the oppresive liberal tax regime. If you have never read "Up And Down With The Rolling Stones" by Tony Sanchez, then you should. I think it probably does paint a rather accurate picture of what the atmosphere behind this album was, the atmosphere that shaped what this album became. It is essential reading, I believe, especially if you want to fully understand where this album's genesis came from. The strong reaction of the Stones camp and some of their kep boosters against this book leads me to believe that the book hit a nerve and is probably closer to the mark than any other account of that time.

    Now to the album. Really it should be judged as a whole, that is where it stands the strongest. Some people love to cherry pick and nit-pick this album to death and dog it. That is their perogative, but it does miss the beautiful tapestry that is the journey that this album represents. If you don't get it, then you just don't get it. I understand that this album is not as accessible as many would like. I know they like "Brown Sugar", wish there was another "Gimme Shelter" on here somewhere - feel like there is not enough of that Rock 'N' Rolling Stones sound. Sorry, can't help you, you're right. But there is "Tumbling Dice", "Casino Boogie", "Torn And Frayed", "Sweet Black Angel", "Loving Cup", "Turn On The Run", "Let It Loose" and "Shine A Light". These rythms will stick in your head and haunt you after just a couple of listens. In fact, with each hearing of the album you sink deeper under its spell. And then soon you find yourself fully convinced that this is their best work ever. I am not one of those, because I am biased in favor of the Rock 'N' Rolling Stones, but I will say this about the album. It stands alone among all Stones albums. You can compare and contrast other Stones albums, but it is very difficult to do that with this album. It was almost as if they were channeling spirits while they recorded thses tracks. Channeling the spirit of the Mississippi River of the early 20th Century. And though these influences had always been there and would be there even after Exile, they would never quite be as "Under the Influence" as they were for this album. A psychic journey to the Crossroads and back again....more info
  • One of the Greatest Records of All Time
    I can't tell you how often I play this record and the images it conjures up. I can imagine Mick and Keith sitting around drinking Bordeaux wine as they go over the recordings in Keith's house in Nice. If ever there was a rock and roll record, well this is it. How can you not get up and dance to "Rip this Joint" or "Tumbling Dice?" How can you not slowly sway to "Sweet Virginia?" Mick really sings his heart out on that one. The music here flows without effort between Rock, Gospel, Country and Blues and you never notice. This is one of those albums you have to take as a whole and as a whole it's an experience that if relived over and over again, hearing something new, imagining something different, each and every time. Right now I'm listening to Mick Taylor's gorgeous slide guitar work on "All Down the Line" and I'm reveling in it even while I can hardly wait for "Stop Breaking Down" and "Shine a Light," which is my favorite song on the record. This record has made the top hundred on just about everybody's all time list. It's twelve on VH1's, seven on Rolling Stone's (the Magazine's not the band's) and something like five on mine. ...more info
  • Keith's basement tapes
    THey made this double album in France in Keiths mansion as tax exiles.
    It holds up as probably the best and worst set of songs the Stones will ever release, but it all WORKS as a great 90 minutes of enjoyable hard rock sludge...more info
  • Best record of the album era
    There has long been a Beatles vs. Stones battle. The Beatles, in my opinion, are in a class of their own. The Stones, though, deserve their World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll band moniker, the Beatles being more of a pop band. If I was stranded on the proverbial desert island with only one album, this would be it. It is the Stones at their finest. It is raw and emotional. It promotes hip shaking.

    I don't review music because it is so highly personal. I made an exception for this one....more info
  • rolling stones are terrific
  • Great Stones Album, but overrated
    This is one of those items in pop culture that has gained a reputation as something that is supposed to be fantastic. You are supposed to love it, to think it is one of the greatest albums of all time. It always amazes me that people buy into these things.

    I am a HUGE Stones fan, and while I like this album, it is definitely not five stars. Even Mick Jagger has commented that he doesn't understand why people say it is such a great album. It has four or five really great songs on it, but it also has a lot of filler. Not good enough for a double album -- should have been a superb single album.

    If you want a true five star Stones album, get "Sticky Fingers"....more info
  • you record on junk, see what you come up with
    Anyone who is a serious rock music fan will already own and appreciated "exile". is it the best stones' album ever as it's lauded? no, probably not. i'd vote for "sticky fingers", but that's academic and beside the point. what "exile" represents, best illustrated by the recent book of the same name, is a band whose hero and central talent ( keith )is in the throes of a heroin addiction that mere mortals without infinite amounts of the drug can only imagine. for anyone who has faced the horrors of opiate dependency, the idea that "exile" could be written and recorded within that nightmare is what elevates it to the legendary status it is accepted in today. an oversimplification? missing the point? glamourizing heroin use a la tarantino and "pulp fiction"? no.

    "ventilator blues", although mostly a mick taylor creation, shows a band in a literal basement bemoaning the irritating sound of an old, creaky home heating system. it seaped into the basement studio where the stones were exiled to at the time. exiled for tax purposes, but more importantly, exiled because of keith richards' and anita pallenberg's copius heroin use and the company of corsican criminals they kept at the time to keep the dope coming.

    so the album rambles, is wonderfully lo-fi, and has mandatory tracks like "sweet black angel" and "happy". but it never had a strong single. or a definable song like "sympathy for the devil" or "street fighting man", as in same-era albums.

    if you don't own it by now, i'm not sure how to recommend it to you. we're not the same, dear amazon reader, if you don't have "exile". we're also not the same if you have not experienced the devil that is opiates. and maybe the final lesson is that neither is really recommended, you've either been there or you haven't. ...more info
  • A fine representation of versatile Stones at their peak!
    I too am mystified by all the hype about this being one of the greatest albums of all time. It's very good and it rocks in spots, but it sounds like it was recorded in a cheap mobile home with a small tape recorder. This album features however more of a versatile look at the Stones as they cover not only rock but blues, soul, reggae and pop in many different styles. If you love the Stones, they can do no wrong. I really like them, but overall I don't think there as many memorable songs as their other albums and the sound seems tinnier than their previous albums. But this newest remastering on their newer CD sounds punchier and bolder than ever before. ...more info
  • From Start to Finish Exile Delivers
    This is certainly one of the best records ever made, everybody who is anybody in rock and roll agrees about this. I play it all the time. I personally own the record, the cassette and the CD of "Exile on Main Street." From the rocking "Rocks Off" to the dynamic "Soul Survivor," this record delivers. Mick Taylor's guitar gets under your skin, Keith's does too. Mick Jagger's voice has never been in better form. The band has never been so tight, kept in line by Charlie's Drums and Bill's Bass, but you can hear them straining at the bit as they push the music to new heights. When the record came out it was a hit right away, but it's my understanding that the reviews weren't all that good. I'd hate to be one of those writers who panned "Exile on Main Street," because did time sure ever prove them wrong. Exile is number seven on Rolling Stone Magazine's best albums of all time. It deserves the honor....more info