It would be accurate to say that I once disliked The Rolling Stones. I had at one stage thought that Mick Jagger couldn’t carry a tune and that his hip-gyrating during (I Can’t Go No) Satisfaction was crass. Oh, those were dark days and only goes to prove that one should never judge a book by its cover, or in this case a music video or live performance. It would have been sometime in the 90s when I saw the offending performance and sadly that subjective opinion lingered until the release of Grrr…, on the Blu-ray High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) format, in 2012.

Speaking of the Blu-ray Pure Audio format, it is fair to say that many non-audiophiles have a tendency to criticise the types of music audiophiles choose to listen to. They often believe that we only listen the purest of recordings, whether we like the music or not. Well, I can’t deny that when the Blu-ray Pure Audio format emerged, I became smitten and ended up expanding my library of music extensively. I remember picking up the Genesis album Selling England By The Pound because it was on the format. I didn’t have much experience with the Genesis catalogue and I disliked it immediately as it was different to the much of the music I normally listened to. However, after listening to it a few times I came to not only respect it as a piece of art but as valued addition to my collection.

Yes, I do acknowledge my own fickle behaviour. However, if I were not this way inclined, my music interests would be extremely limited and this blog would be rather monotonous. You see, throughout my teenage years, I listened to roughly the same artists and albums. While radio was there, for making a mixtape, I never really used it for exploration.

During this naive time, Guns N’ Roses were always better than Nirvana, and the Metallica self-titled 'Black' album was always superior to their earlier thrash metal recordings. However, Guns N’ Roses were only subjectively better because I had all their albums; I did not own any Nirvana albums at the time. Similarly, I owned Metallica’s self-titled 'Black' album, but not Master Of Puppets. What occurs to me is that our music appreciation is often limited to immediate family and social influences, along with the music we own. 

I’m sure that at least one of you reading this review is wondering why this was a limitation, given the flexibility of music streaming services. You must remember that in the 90s, music streaming was nowhere to be seen so the only exposure you had to music was those individuals around you, what you heard on the radio or saw on television, and the music you owned. It was rather limiting and while I was initially opposed to music streaming services, I must say that the integration of TIDAL Hi-Fi, into the audiophile world, has cemented my appreciation for the all you can eat buffet. Without a doubt, I now listen to more music than ever before. While I do still have preferred artists, albums, and songs for various occasions, I find it liberating to be fickle about music I once judged so harshly and perhaps inaccurately.

If it were not for the Blu-ray Pure Audio format, the vinyl revival, and TIDAL High Fidelity Music Streaming, my music interests would have remained closely linked to those when I was a child and adolescent.

As a child, Abba and The Beatles were introduced to me before I understood what music was, as was Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl. Similarly, my first cassettes were Icehouse’s Man Of Colours and Michael Jackson’s Bad. These albums were not chosen by me; they were gifted to me for my seventh birthday. I’ve always wondered how my life and love of music would have been different if I was given a David Bowie album instead. I mention Bowie as I recall a friend, at school, was obsessed with Bowie; most likely because his parents were fans. These influences aren’t negative though, as they subjectively make us who we are as individuals. That said, I’m extremely pleased that my children listen to more than just Abba and The Beatles. While all the artists listed are exceptional, and should be included in any music collection, I don’t want my children’s experience and knowledge of music to be limited to the subjective sounds that gave me my identity. I want them to explore and to understand that there is more music in the world than any individual can ever experience. Music is truly a great wonder of humanity and I’d like to thank each and every musician ever, regardless of proficiency or popularity, for giving us a form of art that speaks all languages. You guys rock! 

Anyway, getting back to the audiophile humour, it is true that on occasions we will listen to a recording because it is on an audiophile format, or because it is a ‘must listen to’ album. For the most part, music streaming has eliminated this argument. Perhaps not entirely though as one would argue that TIDAL et al don’t often accommodate for different masters of the same album. Regardless of how you come to appreciate music, exploration is without a doubt a key to happiness for music lovers; for I am elated to have the majority of the world’s music, in CD-quality, at the touch of a button.

I also don’t like being limited by a set of genres. I’ve known people that are only into metal, classical, or jazz. Frankly, I love all genres and I feel sad for those individuals who doesn’t explore music beyond their comfort zone. There truly is a world of amazing music to experience. You won’t like everything, but you may surprise yourself.

Well, will you look at that, I’m digressing again. By now, long-time readers would understand that it simply wouldn’t be a Subjective Sounds review if I didn’t go off on some tangent to try and explain why it is that I now adore The Rolling Stones.

Yes, dear reader, The Rolling Stones are now essential to my music collection. So much so that I even have a set of Rolling Stones imitation-vinyl drink coasters.

I also have many of their albums on vinyl and of course the infamous Grrr… album with over three hours of music, on a single Blu-ray (HFPA) disc. At the time of purchase, I reasoned that if I didn’t like it I could simply sell it and allow someone else to have the pleasure of listening to the compilation. Well, that didn’t happen. The song selection is superb and as I continued to listen, I got a sense of the band maturing and becoming something special. I’d love to say that you could simply stream the Grrr… album, but it is no longer appearing on any of the popular digital platforms. While that will obviously deter some people, I encourage everyone to listen to the Grrr… album, even if the only option, at the time of writing, is to purchase the physical product. It showcases the evolution of the band through five decades and it also allowed me to come to peace with (I Can’t Go No) Satisfaction. While the preconceived images remained in my mind for the first couple of listens, it began to dissolve like a bad dream.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you think that you dislike an artist, album, or style of music, perhaps it is worth re-visiting it on different terms.

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s get back to discussing what we are here for, the review of The Rolling Stones Aftermath (UK Version/Remastered) album.

It is important to note Aftermath is also available in a US edition and it is included in the mammoth 10-hour (186 song) In Mono collection. I will likely undertake a review of the US Edition in the future, as it has a varied tracking to the UK edition, but I’m not sure when I will find the time to listen to In Mono. That said, a comparison review between the stereo and mono versions could be interesting, especially as I am impartial when it comes to the discussion of stereo vs mono.

Released in 1966, Aftermath was the fourth album by The Rolling Stones and features one of my favourite songs by the band, Under My Thumb. However, it is Mother’s Little Helper that I feel steals the show as the theme behind the song was not only relevant in the 60s, but remains so in modern society. I love the sitar-ish styled elements that Keith Richards has stated was created by using a 12-string electric guitar with a slide. The experimentation Richards has done over the years is nothing short of extraordinary and I was blown away when I saw some of the recording techniques he was attempting the Netflix Documentary Keith Richards: Under The Influence.

Stupid Girl is an excellent song that, in my opinion, perfectly highlights the 60s era from a musical perspective. It is simple, yet evolved in its composition. I also find the tune to be highly addictive.

Lady Jane (Mono Version) is a simply gorgeous song. Jagger can certainly perform a ballad and while it isn’t necessarily a song that immediately identifies The Rolling Stones, I would love to see Jagger do a solo album of nothing but ballads.

Under My Thumb is a song that defines psychedelic pop. The musical solo is uniquely placed and is thoroughly enjoyable as it keeps the beat going.

Doncha Bother Me is very rough around the edges and sounds more like a demo than a completed recording. Yes, I know the album was recorded in the 60s, but it is reminiscent of their earlier works and lower production standards. That said, the sound reminds me of the intent that Keith Richards was going after with his 2015 album Crosseyed Heart. It is almost the anti-quality approach where music is expressed as a form of art, instead of aiming for perfection.  

Goin’ Home (Going Home on the In Mono collection) is an epically long song for an era when songs were not expected to exceed the approximate 3-minute length for radio playback. While the song is arguably repetitive, it continues to evolve as the song progresses and while it could have been an excellent 3-minute track, the 11-minute epic is reminiscent of a live jam session. There are some cases where excessively long tracks are superfluous, and only relate to the ego of the artist, but this isn’t one of them as every note played in this song is worthy of being included on the album.

Flight 505 is a song that I simply don’t like. Even the smoothness of Oppo’s HA-2 (ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018K2M) DAC can’t help the harshness that is in this song. It is very fatiguing and the edition that is present on TIDAL Hi-Fi is from the 2002 remaster. The strange thing is, this is the only song on the album that exhibits such fatigue. It would be interesting to see if the SACD, undertaken during the same mastering sessions, exhibits this same effect. That said, the edition featured on the In Mono collection is significantly smoother and is much preferred.

High And Dry is boxed in from a sonic perspective. While there is left and right stereo separation, the soundstage is very narrow. That said, I do enjoy the song and if I wasn’t looking at it from the perspective of undertaking a review, I would likely dismiss the shallow sound stage and simply enjoy the music.

Out Of Time has one of the coolest song entries that I have ever heard. It is important to note that this version is only on the UK release as the song did not appear on the US release of Aftermath. While this is the original mix of the song, an alternative mix was also released on the Flowers album in 1967. Subjectively, I enjoy both renditions of the song and I find that I can listen to them interchangeably. Of course, there is also the excellent strings version of the song that appears on the compilation album Metamorphosis. However, as much as I enjoy the strings version, I don’t feel it is as solid as the earlier mixes, but I do appreciate the experimentation in style. The bottom line is that I can listen to this song for hours, regardless of the mix, it is that good (addictive).

It’s Not Easy is an enjoyable blues rock and roll song with a little distortion in the bass track, but it works for the song and isn’t disruptive.

I Am Waiting is a strange song from my perspective as I’m not sure which beat I’m supposed to be connecting with. Is it the guitar strum, the maracas in the background, or the vocal track? It gets even more complicated when the drum track kicks in. I feel all these elements are fighting to be heard. That said, there is something enjoyable about the song. Perhaps this is simply one of those songs that will forever be an enigma in my mind.

Take It Or Leave It has a slow melody that I enjoy, I just wish the song was recorded and mastered with a little more precision. I find many elements, such as the organ/keyboard track in the soundstage, are simply too distant and you must listen intently to hear them. While I like the stereo mix of Take It Or Leave It, I much prefer the monophonic mix as all elements, while still somewhat distant, are evenly placed in the soundstage. It is fair to say that this is more of a concern when listening on headphones, as loudspeakers are often more forgiving when it comes to the psychoacoustic effect found in mono to stereo conversions.

Think is a fantastic song. The rhythm is incredibly engaging.

What To Do (Mono Version) isn’t a bad song, it encourages me to listen to the album again, but it is definitely a B-side.

At the beginning of this review, I publically acknowledged my once flawed beliefs regarding The Rolling Stones. Yes, I acknowledge my fickleness, but as I continue to explore music, I find that I am increasingly captivated by that which I have previously rejected. It is an interesting juxtaposition, but one I gladly accept. While I haven’t tallied the number of times I have listened to Aftermath, during the review process, it has quickly become not only my favourite Rolling Stones album but one of my favourite albums that captures the zeitgeist of the British rock and roll music scene of the 1960s.

Aftermath (UK Version/Remastered) is currently available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, iTunes, and in FLAC from the TIDAL Store.

The album is also available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.

Click here to read other Rolling Stones reviews by Subjective Sounds.