I remember, many years ago, being told that Exile On Main St. was the best Rolling Stones album. And I remember buying it, bringing it home, flipping on the stereo and thinking what? Why this one? So it made me happy when Ben Ratliff, in last Sunday's New York Times, shared my sentiment:
I find most of “Exile” good, but not great. (That era of Stones music, fantastic. The album, not so much.) I can’t see it as a masterpiece, not only because I distrust the idea of masterpieces, but because I especially don’t want one from the Stones, who make songs and albums like birds’ nests — collaborative tangles with delicate internal balances — and have a history of great triage work, assembling bits and pieces recorded over a long period. But “Exile” remains the preference of the most judicious Stones fans. Why? What is its essence?
But Ratliff's essay does much more than judge Exile and it's newly released disc of previously unheard material. It explores—and debunks—many the myths surrounding the record while exploring the nature of albums themselves.