For a debut album this is about as raw and raucous as you can get. I remember Keith Richards saying that the most indelible feeling from recording the album was the disappointing feeling that you would never again be able to capture that feeling of recording for the first time, that sense of relief and achievement at getting there. You can hear that sense of unbridled enthusiasm and joy in the record, it was certainly a first in terms of a British band cutting a R&B album and one deeply mired in the Chicago variety.
The album is unpolished but I think that is part of the charm, it was such a departure from what was on the airwaves only 12 months previously. This maybe controversial but in some ways this a better debut than the Beatles' first album. Route 66 is an amazing album like a bullet Charlie Watts laying into that snare as Mick Jaggers exhorts in almost sneering fashion the benefits of hitting the road on Route 66 as it wind it's way from Chicago to L.A. Keith gets his first opportunity to show what a superb rhythm guitarist he was and how he had mastered those flashy Chuck Berry runs. It's hard to know who is playing lead on some tracks, I think on the more meatier blues songs Brian Jones is playing most of the lead guitar parts, and he was a seriously underrated guitarist, very much from the Elmore James school of slide players.
The bands take on the the Willie Dixon penned I Just Want To Make Love To You, takes the blues to tempo that had rarely been seen before, it was explosive rough and ready in it's interpretation. Their take on Jimmy Reed's Honest I Do also has a loose jam like feel to it with Jones and Richards doing some nice trade offs, one starting where the other has left off. The Stones then head into the Bo Diddley songbook for a suitably disjointed version on Mona replete with that familiar distorted Diddley rhythm, probably parlayed by Richards, who was a true devotee of the Chicago style. Now I've Got A Witness (Like Uncle Phil and Uncle Gene) is an instrumental with prominent harmonica work probably from Jones who was beginning to display his multi instrumental abilities. Little By Little had a sound that was the framework for the U.S garage sound, the song also features Gene Pitney on piano and Phil Spector on maracas and some fierce guitar work. The Stone's re-working of Chuck Berry's Carol is incredible it's got a vicious opening from Richards who plays those Chuck rhythms as good as Chuck. It's also a song that showcases the dynamic of the rhythm section, Charlie Watts on drums and Bill Wyman on bass just lock that rhythm and give it a sense of swing. Tell Me You're coming Back is an early Jagger/Richards composition but it lacks poise and polish and doesn't fit the album. You Can Make It If You Try is an early stab at soul, but Jagger just doesn't have the vocal presence to carry it off and the production is not sympathetic to the needs of the song, this would be rectified when the band started recording in the U.S.
The Stones close their debut with a suitably funked up version of Rufus Thomas' Walking The Dog, Jagger is in his element as the strutting protagonist, the band set a solid rhythm with Richards swooping in and out and over the top of Jaggers vocals and the solo is a standout. Not sure too many debut albums have opened and closed in such a manner, especially for that period where an English band covering American blues was unheard of other than in small London based circles. The album was recorded in all of five days in January 1964 and released at the end of May that year, it topped the U.K and Australian album charts and reached U.S#11.