On the very Sunday morning I sit down to write this review, there is on the cover of Parade, the inoffensive family supplement ("yummy no-guilt desserts") that comes with the local paper, a familiar face grinning out at me from the cover: How Mick Jagger Still Gets What He Wants. Nearly 40 years after the Stones told us that we get what we need, it seems we still want and need them, or vice versa, and Let It Bleed is the reason why.
The album is one of a quartet of late '60s and early '70s Stones albums that have since passed into discographic legend, Beggar's Banquet through Exile On Main Street, ushering in that moment when the Stones were not only a band, but a cultural touchstone, a call-to-arms and a repository for our collective sense of sin and retribution: "We all need someone we can bleed on," Mick sings in the title cut, and the echoing need from "You Can't Always Get…", so coupled with want and desire and the toll exacted — in addiction, in death by misadventure, in riot and ruin and perhaps absolution — was the Stones 'bargain with the Devil.
Let It Bleed, released as 1969 shuddered the '60s to a close, is the one that made it all possible, bridging the gap between the Brian Jones years (Jones himself would be found at the bottom of his swimming pool in July of 1969, only two months after leaving the Stones) and all that would come after. It was a critical juncture for many '60s bands — even a primal force like the Beatles would not survive the decade; but the Stones, renewing their vows with the addition of guitarist Mick Taylor, who could be counted on to remain self-effacing, seemed to find a new resolve, and produced some of their best-remembered standards. They would always celebrate the blues — "Love in Vain" is one of the most affecting performances of those who would follow in the passway of Robert Johnson — but "Gimme Shelter" with its sense of impending maelstrom, and "Midnight Rambler" with its Hyde to Jagger's Jekyll (and Richards 'Hekyll) and Bryon Berline's sawing fiddle on "Country Honk" and Keith's croaking lead vocal debut with "You Got the Silver" and Mick's self-bemused "Monkey Man" and the holler-along "Live With Me…" Every cut a classic.