- A KILLER early pressing of this Rolling Stones classic of Stripped Down Rock and Roll, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
- What earned this pressing Top Grades was its extraordinarily textured, practically grain- and grit-free midrange – the bad copies tend to be smeary and gritty in the midrange (where the music is) and that’s just not our sound
- The superbly talented Andy Johns engineered, so you can be sure that this is the sound the Stones were aiming for
- “Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of “If You Can’t Rock Me” and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation… all the more enjoyable.”
It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll is a consistently good, straight-ahead, no-frills rock album from the Stones with Mick Taylor still in the band. It was the last of its kind for a while; their next release was the reggae-influenced Black and Blue. The sound can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that that’s precisely the sound the Stones heard in the booth and were totally cool with. Andy Johns engineered and he’s made as many super-tubey, super-rich and super-smooth recordings as anybody this side of Bill Porter.
The Stones didn’t want that sound this time around. The Stones wanted this sound.
This album may have some of best The Rolling Stones music, but those looking for top quality sonics for the Stones should head in the direction of Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. They’re simply more audiophile-friendly recordings.
What the best sides of It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll from 1974 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 pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1974
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with the piano, guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
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 the best.
Recently we did one of our regular shootouts for It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll, using pressings we know from experience to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them as carefully as we always do. Then we unplugged everything in the house we could get away with, carefully warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next couple of hours playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.
If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.
The process could not be more simple. The first step is to go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
What We’re Listening For on It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll
Less grit – smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on Stones’ albums from this era.
A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.
More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a pure rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way Andy Johns wanted it to.
Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.
Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.
Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find.
Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.
If You Can’t Rock Me
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It)
Till the Next Goodbye
Time Waits for No One
Dance Little Sister
If You Really Want to Be My Friend
Short and Curlies
The songs and performances are stronger than those on Goats Head Soup; the tossed-off numbers sound effortless, not careless. Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of “If You Can’t Rock Me” and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation of “Luxury,” the aching beauty of “Time Waits for No One,” and the agreeable filler of “Dance Little Sister” and “Short and Curlies” all the more enjoyable.