They’re the quintessential rock band, and for many old-school rock fans, they’re the image of what a rock group should be. As one of the biggest bands of The British Invasion in the 1960s, the Rolling Stones were considered one of, if not the finest. They’re certainly the ones with the most longevity if any of their recent concerts are anything to judge them by. This question stimulates a debate against the most ardent Stones fans, and there are at least three albums you could make a case for as the top of the pile.

Exile On Main Street (1972)

As the final album in a cluster of magical records from the Dartford collective, it is almost overwhelmingly these four albums that enter the discussion as the most fantastic Stones record, the first being Beggars Banquet in 1968, followed by Let It Bleed in 1969, and Sticky Fingers in 1971. The quality of Exile On Main Street stems from the range of tracks, from the foot-stomping “All Down The Line” to country rock one-two casino-themed combination of “Casino Boogie” and “Tumbling Dice,” which brings the A-side to a phenomenally strong close.

“Casino Boogie” draws inspiration from an eventful night at the casino, but “Tumbling Dice” is a far more in-depth and recognizable track about a gambler. It is often considered one of the great Stones tracks and is arguably the best song on the whole album. The boogie-woogie, country, and rock fusion provides a beautiful trifecta of sounds that creates a magical, timeless track and ended up in the top “year-end” lists. “Tumbling Dice” is, of course, a nod to craps, a popular American casino table game. Table-based casino games are a fairly common feature in Rolling Stone’s music, and some of their tracks have also been featured in movies about casinos, such as Martin Scorsese’s Casino in 1995. Not to mention Keith’s first notable guitar of note was an Epiphone Casino!

The Stones are one of several artists that helped build a cool brand image for casinos, which many still enjoy. However, aren’t always the ones with a classic Stones track named after them. By looking at some of the casino games available online, you’ll probably come across one or two that don’t fit into any Stones tracks and one or two that might grab your attention.

This bumper double album has it all, and even though it wasn’t reviewed with the highest acclaim at the time, many critics had to reassess with their tails between their legs, and it is now widely regarded as one of the best albums of the 1970s.

But Is It The Best Stones Album?

It is a four-way showdown of the albums we have already mentioned. Although Exile On Main Street is a phenomenal record, we’d say Sticky Fingers is probably the best Stones album, but it all depends on your preference. They really started to come into their own toward the end of the 1960s, and many fans and historians agree this was when they were at their peak, with most critics agreeing that their best albums are this cluster of four, bookended by Exile On Main Street.

Once they decoupled from a similar artistic journey that The Beatles pioneered and became more comfortable in their raunchy, abrasive, impertinent, and uncompromising set of blues and rock sound, there were few groups with the firepower to match them. When they were authentic and raw like they were on Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street, they showed exactly why they’re one of the best bands of the 20th century, continuing to wow audiences, despite being together for over 60 years.

Their catalog now spans seven individual decades, and their classic albums have gone through several remasters, which continue to sell exceptionally well. Although there are some legendary tracks from their 1960s records, as an album band, the Stones, alongside the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, defined early 1970s rock and roll, helping to shape the sound of that era and influence a new generation of artists.

The Final Say

Although Exile On Main Street ranks amongst the greatest albums of all time, in our opinion, Sticky Fingers is slightly above it in terms of overall ranking, with Exile in second place. The A-side of Sticky Fingers is one of the finest A-sides of all time, and although Exile is a phenomenal triumph, Sticky Fingers was the real definitive album for this version of the Stones’ sound.

Depending on what version of the Stones you’re most partial to, it could be a case of what fusion of sounds you prefer, and with Exile fusing more of a boogie-woogie sound and some gospel, it just highlights how excellently varied their discography truly is. Music is subjective, but many critics agree that Sticky Fingers pips Exile On Main Street to the title of the greatest Stones album.