The Rolling Stones Now is in many ways the most blues oriented of the early Stones releases. That may have been because the Stones went a little farther a field for their cover songs.
The Rolling Stones Now is another hastily thrown together affair. The Stones were constantly touring at this point in their career, including a long tour of Australia at the time of this album’s release. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had not reached the point where they would completely pull the group off the road when they wanted to record an album.
Now also shows very well how the Rolling Stones were the polar opposites of the Beatles and just about every other British invasion group. (Apologies to the Yardbirds and John Mayall.)
Drummer Charlie Watts hits his stride on this album as the foundation of the Rolling Stone sound; a place he would hold for over forty years. Is there any other drummer of his caliber and longevity who does not take extended solos?
Brian Jones continued to be the instrumental star as the lead guitarist and harmonica player extraordinaire. His guitar playing is wonderfully clear here as he molds that sound into a blues structure and tradition. It is albums like The Rolling Stones Now that make a person sad knowing what the future would hold for Brian Jones.
Two original compositions form the core of the album and hint at the Stones future. “Heart Of Stone” is a ballad that rocks in a unique way. It has a precise blues-rock structure and features an excellent Mick Jagger vocal. “Surprise Surprise” closes the album and finds the Stones just rocking away. It leaves the listener wanting more.
“Little Red Rooster” would become a number one hit in England. This song is Stones blues at its best. You can almost see Mick Jagger strutting as he sings this song with Brian Jones guitar and harp providing the sound.
Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody” lets Mick Jagger take command of a song. Jagger is still feeling his way but this song shows that he is a superstar in the making. It would remain a staple of The Rolling Stones live act for years.
“Mona (I Need You Baby)” had been released in England and fits well here. It is an example of the sexual tension that the Rolling Stones would produce though their music as well as their attitude.
The Rolling Stones Now is the Rolling Stones last great hurrah as a blues band. Following this album the Stones would speed up their transition toward rock & roll.
There are only four original songs on The Rolling Stones Now. The more songs that Richards and Jagger would write, the less control Brian Jones would have over the direction of the group.
The Rolling Stones Now was a commercial success as it reached number 5 on the National American Charts. I would love to hear this blues album played live today.