Released on April 23, 1971, Sticky Fingers was an important album for the Stones. Marking the beginning of a new chapter, it was their debut studio set of both the new decade and their new Rolling Stones Records label, and for the first time there was no contribution from their now late founding member Brian Jones (while his replacement, guitarist Mick Taylor, featured on nearly all tracks).
Wrapped in an eye-catching Andy Warhol-designed cover featuring a male crotch clad in jeans with working metal zip, Sticky Fingers demanded attention and didn’t disappoint. It was and remains one of their absolute best, from the distorted opening guitar riff of hit single Brown Sugar to the Paul Buckmaster-arranged strings that close weary, yearning ballad Moonlight Mile. Unsurprisingly, it topped both the UK and US charts.
The key sessions for the album occurred in December 1969 at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama where the band cut Brown Sugar, with its controversial lyrics and indestructible Keith Richards guitar groove, the tender ballad Wild Horses and a cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s You Gotta Move (with Mick Taylor on slide guitar).
Though the rest of the album was recorded at Olympic Studios in London and Jagger’s country estate Stargroves, the album remains steeped in Americana. Other highlights include the rocking Bitch, on which Bobby Keys’ sax and Jim Price’s trumpet duel with the guitars to great effect, the country rocker Dead Flowers and the Otis Redding-styled southern soul of I Got The Blues, on which Keys and Price emulate the Stax horns. Sister Morphine, started in early 1969 before Taylor joined the band, features fabulous slide from Ry Cooder, while Can’t You Hear Me Knocking goes into a Santana-esque jam led by Keys’ sax and Taylor’s guitar with accompaniment from percussionist Rocky Dijon.
Though there haven’t been any new songs uncovered for the Deluxe Edition, there is plenty of prime Stones to enjoy. It adds a second disc comprising five alternate studio versions and five incendiary live tracks taped at London’s Roundhouse in 1971. The studio out-takes include the much bootlegged, looser, bluesy cut of Brown Sugar laid down at Olympic in December 1970 on Keith’s birthday (with Eric Clapton playing slide guitar and Al Kooper on piano), an acoustic Wild Horses from Muscle Shoals and a fantastic extended version of Bitch over two minutes longer than that originally released. The live tracks show just how much Mick Taylor added to the band, his fluid, inventive playing shining on the Robert Johnson slow-blues Love In Vain and a scorching Midnight Rambler with Jagger wailing alongside him on blues harp.
Those with deep pockets can opt for a Super Deluxe Edition that adds an excellent 13-song 1971 performance live at Leeds University, bootlegged as Get Your Leeds Lungs Out with riotous versions of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Chuck Berry’s Little Queenie and Let It Rock, plus a 120-page book, DVD and vinyl single.