Tuesday, November 5, 2013
The Rolling Stones - Undercover
Side one opens with “Undercover of the Night”, a political song about activities in Central America. As the first single, it reached number 27 in Australia, number 20 in Germany, number 18 in Switzerland, number 13 in France, number 11 in the UK, number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 4 in the Netherlands, and number 2 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. The thing that I have always liked about this one is that opening with the guitars and drums; they pull me in immediately. It was a solid track to dance to at college parties, especially with strobe lights flashing overhead and the volume cranked. It is clearly the highlight of the record for me.
“The second single She Was Hot”; it went to number 60 in Australia, number 54 in Germany, number 44 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 42 in the UK, number 18 in the Netherlands, and number 4 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. The song features pianos from both Ian Stewart and Chuck Leavell. I remember this one from the charts and from MTV video rotations.
“Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)” focuses on sexual domination and oppression.
“Wanna Hold You” shows off a heavily early Beatles influence; it sounds like something Lennon and McCartney might have whipped up. Not to mention, the title sort of plays homage to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with about six letters dropped off. Keith Richards, the primary author of the track, takes lead vocals here.
“Feel on Baby” fuses a Jamaican rhythm and a dub beat with interesting results.
Side two starts with “Too Much Blood” which charted at number 38 on the US Mainstream Rock singles list. This one, which includes a rap by Mick Jagger, and a saxophone solo by David Sanborn, focuses on the growing violence in the media at the time. Guest Jim Barber plays the main electric guitar parts on the track.
“Pretty Beat Up” is a post-breakup song with Jagger describing how wrecked the guy has become since his woman left him.
“Too Tough” is up next. It has a classic Stones sound to it.
The B-side to the first single was “All the Way Down”, this record’s country-twinged track. The lyrics are self-referential, with Jagger comparing his own early snotty attitude to that of the kids of the day.
“It Must Be Hell” closes the album with another bit of social commentary.
Having grown up with a huge Rolling Stones fan (my older brother) in the house, I definitely had my full exposure to the band’s albums. However, Undercover was out during a period where he and I were in different spaces most of the time; I was off at college and he soon enough had moved down south. So, except for the singles, most of this album remained an unknown to me. Listening to it all in its entirety for the first time for this review, I liked it. There were plenty of ups and very few to none downs for me. I definitely think I could get into it more with repeated listens in the future.
For 1979’s Some Girls, click here.
For 1981’s Tattoo You, click here.