The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy ROCKS from start to finish; fairly quiet vinyl too! 
  • Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time
  • The acoustic guitar sound and the rich whomp of the snare proves that Glyn Johns is one of the Greatest Engineers who ever lived
  • Top 100, 5 stars on Allmusic – Jason McNeil of PopMatters wrote that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed are, “the two greatest albums the band’s (or anyone’s) ever made.” 

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Love In Vain!

This is our favorite test track for side one. The first minute or so clues you into to everything that’s happening in the sound. Listen for the amazing immediacy, transparency and sweetly extended harmonics of the guitar in the left channel. Next, when Watts starts slapping that big fat snare in the right channel, it should sound so real you could reach out and touch it.

If you’re like me, that Tubey magical acoustic guitar sound and the rich whomp of the snare should be all the evidence you need that Glyn Johns is one of the Five Best Rock Engineers who ever lived. Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Alan Parsons and a few others are right up there with him of course. We audiophiles are very lucky to have had guys like those around when the Stones were at their writing and performing peak.

Killer Sound

Both sides have more ambience, more life, and more presence than you probably ever dreamed possible. It’s very transparent with super low distortion and VERY punchy drums.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want sounds amazing here — the breathtaking transparency allows you to pick out each voice in the intro. The vocals are present, full-bodied and textured.

There’s lots of deep, tight bass which is crucial for a song like Monkey Man, which is wonderful here. Gimme Shelter is pretty tough to get right but it sounds excellent here as well.

This copy does not have the typically warned-over, smeary sound that we’ve come to expect from import pressings of the album. We stopped buying them years ago. The ones we’ve played are clearly not made from the master tapes, which is immediately apparent the moment you drop the needle on the right domestic copy, of which this is of course one, and one of the best.

A True Masterpiece of Classic Rock

What the best sides of this Amazing Rolling Stones Album from 1969 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the choruses, horns, guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Track Commentary

The Track Listing tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For (WTLF) advice.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Gimme Shelter 
Love in Vain

One of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

This is our favorite test track for side one. The first minute or so clues you into to everything that’s happening in the sound. Listen for the amazing immediacy, transparency and sweetly extended harmonics of the guitar in the left channel. Next, when Watts starts slapping that big fat snare in the right channel, it should sound so real you could reach out and touch it.

If you’re like me, that tubey magical acoustic guitar sound and the rich whomp of the snare should be all the evidence you need that Glyn Johns is one of the Five Best Rock Engineers who ever lived. Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Alan Parsons and a few others are right up there with him of course. We audiophiles are very lucky to have had guys like those around when the Stones were at their peak.

Country Honk 
Live With Me 
Let It Bleed

Side Two

Midnight Rambler 
You Got the Silver 
Monkey Man

On the best copies this song will have Demo Quality Sound. The piano should have nice weight to it without sounding hard and there should be lots of ambience around the vocals.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

The intro to this song is a great test for transparency. On a Hot Stamper copy you’ll be able to pick out each voice in the choir. When the music comes in you should hear rich, full-bodied acoustic guitars. On the best pressings they sound every bit as rich, tubey, sweet, delicate and harmonically correct as those found on Tea For the Tillerman, Rubber Soul, Comes a Time or any of the other phenomenal recordings we rave about on the site. (Our Top 100 is full of others if you want to check them out.) .

Review

Released in December, Let It Bleed reached number 1 in the UK (temporarily demoting The Beatles’ Abbey Road) and number 3 on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the US, where it eventually went 2x platinum. In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone magazine, music critic Greil Marcus said that the middle of the album has “great” songs, but “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” “seem to matter most” because they “both reach for reality and end up confronting it, almost mastering what’s real, or what reality will feel like as the years fade in.”

According to Rolling Stone, Let It Bleed is the second of the Stones’ run of four studio LPs that are generally regarded as among their greatest achievements artistically, equalled only by the best of their great 45’s from that decade. The other three albums are Beggars Banquet (1968), Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile on Main St. (1972).

In a retrospective review, NME magazine said that the album “tugs and teases” in various musical directions and called it “a classic”.

In his 2001 Stones biography, Stephen Davis said of the album “No rock record, before or since, has ever so completely captured the sense of palpable dread that hung over its era.”

In a five-star review for Rolling Stone in 2004, Gavin Edwards praised Keith Richard’s guitar playing throughout the album and stated, “Whether it was spiritual, menstrual or visceral, the Stones made sure you went home covered in blood.”

Jason McNeil of PopMatters wrote that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed are “the two greatest albums the band’s (or anyone’s) ever made”.

In 2000, Q magazine ranked it at number 28 in its list of “The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever”. In 2001, the TV network VH1 placed Let It Bleed at 24th on their “100 Greatest Albums of R ‘n’ R” survey. In 1997, it was voted the 27th “Best Album Ever” by The Guardian.

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it at number 32 on the magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

Wikipedia

Condition Issues

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

Glyn Johns

As an aside, it was sometime in 2000 or so that I discovered what an amazing engineer and producer Glyn Johns is. A Hot Stamper of the first Eagles album blew my mind, produced by none other, so I quickly started looking around for other records he might have had a hand in. How about Who’s Next? On The Border (my personal favorite Eagles album)? And of course, Sticky Fingers, a record that I’ve always known had great sound — you can hear it buried under all that bad vinyl and groove wear.