The Rolling Stones had released in order, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main Street. These three albums are rightly considered some of the finest rock ‘n’ roll releases of all time. Goats Head Soup had the unenviable task of being The Stones next release. While it did not quite measure up to the excellence of the aforementioned three albums; when taken on its own individual merits it is very good.
Goats Head Soup marked the beginning of musical change for the Rolling Stones. Their music was a little slicker and smoother in style. Ultimately, this would not be a positive development as it would move the band toward almost self parody and the constant need to re-invent themselves. This album, however, is only the beginning of that process and contains some very strong music.
The Stones recorded most of Goats Head Soup in Kingston, Jamaica. Keith Richards said many years later that Jamaica was the only country besides Switzerland that would let him in. While he was still deep into heroin addiction, he was more at ease in Jamaica and contributed at a fairly high level to the recording process. They rented a recording studio for four weeks, 24 hours a day, and produced more than twenty songs.
“Angie” would become their first number one single since “Honky Tonk Women.” The song featured an intimate Mick Jagger vocal set against Nicky Hopkins piano and a string section. This catchy ballad received massive radio airplay and was a look at what would be popular on play lists during the next few years.
The second single release from the album was “Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” This song reached number fifteen. It was a typical Stones rocker and featured excellent dual guitar work by Taylor and Richards. This gritty song about a young girl’s addiction featured a dynamic vocal by Jagger with a horn section forming the background.
“Dancing With Mr. D” has a Jamaican feel to it. Keith Richards repeats the same guitar line while Mick Taylor riffs over it. Jagger provides an understated vocal about possession and fear.
Other highlights include “Silver Train” which features some fine blues guitar by Taylor in conjunction with Ian Stewarts piano playing. “Coming Down Again” is a forgotten ballad with a nice vocal by Richards. “Hide You Love” features Mick Jagger on piano with the rest of the group jamming behind him.
“Star Star” is a good old fashioned Rolling Stones rocker with lyrics so crude it would never have much, if any, radio exposure. It is not a song to play with your children in the room.. The song would appear in many incarnations in their live act over the next three plus decades.
Goats Head Soup was a commercial success and reached the top of the charts. Today it gets forgotten sometimes but it is still an excellent listen. Just don’t play it right after listening to Exile On Main Street.