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Sixteen Reviews - Overall Average Rating -   6.7 Tongues

(We are accepting fan reviews for this album once again, for a limited time)

by Mark Gauthier
April 10, 2008
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All right, it's 2008. The Stones legacy is intact and Martin Scorsese has finally made a film about them. I figured I'd go back and revisit Undercover.

Not that it's underappreciated, overlooked or even horrible. This album rocks hard in the way the Stones have always done. The reason I'm writing this review is they finally performed "She Was Hot" and it's on the Shine a Light soundtrack. I'm trying desperatly to get radio stations in our area to play that song. Maybe it's an attempt to bring this fantastic song back in the charts, who knows?

Ok, for every new fan of the Rolling Stones--here's my advice: pick up, Shine a Light, thenA Bigger Bang and Undercover (turn this one up to 8.5), a real treat!

To listen to some sound clips from UNDERCOVER or to buy it click here: Undercover [Remastered]

More fan reviews:

by Andy Croft
July 19, 2007
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Although not without its share of lazily executed, hackneyed riffing from Keith (She Was Hot, Wanna Hold You, Too Tough, All The Way Down and It Must Be Hell), Undercover also contains what would be the Stones' last significant contributions to world rock and pop music until A Bigger Bang twenty-two years' later. Opener "Undercover of the Night" is the last truly great Stones single. This is because it pulls of the impossible trick of reuniting the core Stones lyrical values of establishment-baiting political insight and sexual aggression with the core Stones musical values of thrusting, raunchy guitars and groove and STILL be trendily in tune with the synthetic 1980's music scene. "Tie You Up" sees Jagger revelling in sado masochism and sleaze and the band, once again, playing with aggression and purpose. "Feel On Baby" sees the Stones' sense of adventure continue by giving reggae a dark, salacious lyrical makeover and distorted, rythmically unpredictable musical pallet. "Too Much Blood" is as good a 1980s dancefloor- filling plastic funk number as you will hear - its a shame the violence contained within its lyrics prevented it reaching a wider radio audience. The final highlight is Ron Wood's "Pretty Beat Up", featuring menacing riffing, lyrical violence, hook-laden Saxophone from David Sanborn, all underpinned by Keith Richard's funkiest bass playing since 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' (it is Keith, not Bill - check the album credits).

In a nutshell, Undercover is, like Black and Blue before it, a criminally overlooked album which is desperately deserves a more positive critical reappraisal.

By  Pavlov's Dog
November 27, 2005
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Right out of the box; how many Stones songs start out with Charlie’s drums? I can’t think of any! Right then and there I get a sense that this album is going to be a little different. Then the dance beat starts up. So it’s clear, that the trend to start each of the past 3 Stones albums is continuing (Tattoo You was an album made up of old tracks and an aberration, no matter how well it sold). The biggest difference between 'Undercover if the Night' and 'Hot Stuff', 'Miss You' and 'Dance (pt.1)' is the lyrical content and the tone. 'Hot Stuff' is playful, 'Miss you' is Melancholy, 'Dance' is exuberant but each are personal or talk about interpersonal relationships. 'Undercover if the Night' is dark, violent and political. The smell of sex, the smell of suicide All these things I can't keep inside. Obviously Mick is changing, maybe turning 40 the year this album was made had something to do with it.

She Was Hot
Here we’re back in more familiar territory, a straight rock n’ roll rave up with classic Keith riffing and a song about anonymous sexual encounters. similar in feel to 'Summer Romance' and 'Let Me go' from Emotional Rescue, a genre of Stones songs I am coming to identify as “Neo-Berry Keith Rockers”. A killer track!

Tie You Up (The Pain Of Love)
Back into the miasma of sex and violence. The spare sound, caustic vibe and and killer down beat make a heady brew. This is another indicator of a new Stones sound created by the presence of Ron Wood’s guitar.

Wanna Hold You
Aside from 'Before They Make Me Run' and 'Little T&A' most Keith songs are kind of sweet or at least bittersweet. 'Wanna Hold You' is no exception. The song is pretty straighforward mid-tempo rocker. Sounds like there are some synths in the background. I believe this was Chuck Leavell’s debut album with the Stones.

Feel On Baby
There is a slight Reggae influence in this song that has some very interesting percussion. Lyrically the song is about being sexually addicted to someone. Lots of interesting percussion; triangles, wood blocks plus a sharp sounding reed instrument buried in the mix, don’t know if it’s an alto sax or not but it creates this dry heaving plane of sound. A great song for headphones.

Too Much Blood
On the vinyl version of the album this song kicks off side 2. Like the 1st song on side 1 this song is about blood and violence. This time it’s not political , it’s just about serial killers and sadists. I believe its David Sanborn’s sax that punctuates this song.

Pretty Beat Up
The next three songs on the album are really a tryptich. I believe they all describe the same woman, same relationship. The first is the most plaintive. He’s telling her simply you fucked me up. This is one of those Stones songs built on a groove and not a riff with more killer sax .

Too Tough
In my opinion, the best song on the album. A very complex song. For most of the song he’s telling her: I’m Too Tough, that she’s bitten off more than she can chew. But if he’s so tough psychologically why is he singing to her on his wedding day to another woman? Furthermore he he says: if you want to wreck my life, go ahead my love. Now there are two things at work here. One he’s not really giving her permission to wreck his life, he’s giving himself license to indulge his still very strong feelings for her and he’s not really too sure he wants to go ahead with his new life. ‘l still see you in my dreams with a kitchen knife.” A song about hope mixed with despair, optimism with pessimism, the school boy with a broken heart mixed with the world weary cynical survivor of a sex war.

All The Way Down
Trying to come to grips with this relationship in a more philosophical way. Here he’s distanced himself a little but the memories are still fresh. Interesting tempo changes for the chorus and vocal bridge on this slightly quicker than midtempo rocker.

It Must Be Hell
At the end equilibrium has been reached. All of the terrors and nightmares, the despair, the sense of loss and irredemption has been cleared away by Keith’s killer riffing and Mick’s rebel yelling.

Overall Impression
Thanks to Undercover the Gasser I have really come to appreciate this album. I now put into the 2nd tier of Stones albums below the Big 4, slightly below It’s Only Rock & roll, Goat’s Head Soup and Emotional Rescue and ahead of Black n’ Blue, Dirty Work and Steel Wheels. It’s a shame that so many people judge Stones albums by the presence or absence of one or two anchoring classic tracks because in a way this album is more about the vibe than the songs.

By Derek Z.
October 7, 2005
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Coming after Tattoo You and before Dirty Work, Undercover is unfairly and undeservingly considered to be one of the Stones' worst albums. But if you get past the naysayers, you'll find that it is actually their most underrated effort ever, more so then 1973's GHS. IMO, I think it's superior to Tattoo You. The entire band is really tight and focused, and they rock harder than they did on the previous two albums. The title track is the best song on the album, with Mick's trendiness working once again.. One track that really surprised me was 'Tie You Up(The Pain of Love)'. Many people don't like this song, but let me tell you, it is fantastic! Keith and Ronnie's guitars are cranked up all the way, Keith plays a raunchy, cool riff, and Ronnie supplies some great lead guitar and solo. and Mick sing-screams S&M lyrics with passion. Charlie also shines on this song with a great drumbreak and pounding drums. Charlie actually shines all over this album, he pounds his drums like there's no tomorrow and he gives the album a strong presence. The disco-eye 'Too Much Blood' is another awesome song with some hilarious slasher monologues by a drunken Mick and a weird chorus. Many Stones fans dismiss this song as crap solely because it is disco, but it truly is one of the best songs on the album. Keef's 'Wanna Hold You' is another highlight, being the only positive song on the album. It's a fun and simple song. 'Feel On Baby' is some of their best reggae, with cool electronic percussion. 'Pretty Beat Up' is a murky, dark song written by Ronnie and has a great bass by Bill Wyman and some great guitar. 'Too Tough' possesses a 'Satisfaction' sounding riff by Keith, great solo from Ronnie, and thumping drums from Charlie. 'She Was Hot' is a fun rocker about a one-night stand. 'All the Way Down' is one of the best rocker's on the album, with a fun chorus. The album closes on a high note, with 'It Must Be Hell', a great re-working of the classic 'Soul Survivor'. There are really no weak tracks on the album, all the songs are great, and it's really a good LP.

By Nate Mesics
January 20, 2004
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Ok, I know that when looking at albums to review by the Stone's, it is real easy to find the brilliance in Exile on Main Street (the best), Let it Bleed or Sticky Fingers. The real trick is reviewing a lesser known album like Undercover. This album isn't necessarily underrated, just one that is forgotten and overlooked. This is a good album for a novice Stone's fan who would like to hear them tackle the 80's music revolution. They rolled with the times on this one... I really like it. You'll see that it is a very sexual album. For instance, "She was Hot," "All the Way Down" and "Tie You Up(The Pain of Love)." These songs have the vintage lyrics from Jagger and Richards you expect with a much different sound. It has an energy unlike any other Stone's album, it doesn't contain the great riffs by Keith, but has an attitude none-the-less. Also, it has, for my money, the best sung Keith Richard's song ever, "Wanna hold You." I recommend it for a cool alternative to the usual bluesy effort by the Stones..

By Chelsea Drugstore
July 9, 2003
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This album gets a bad rap. Not touring didn't help. Ronnie is very strong here, Jagger slips into a tongue in cheek emcee du horror. Keith is strong as always, as are Charlie and Sly and Robbie. Their influence is heavy throughout the entire disc. Noteworthy is that the Stones seem rather unaffected by the "eighties" sound going on around them. Jagger delivers the goods by ushering in new sounds with "Undercover Of The Night", the hilarious "Too Much Blood", charming "All the Way Down". Keith chimes in with "I Wanna Hold You", and "Feel On Baby" with it's otherwordly groove. Ron is strong on "Pretty Beat Up", "Too Tough". I even dig "Tie You Up" with that great drumbreak. Weakest tune:"It Must Be Hell". Forced rehash of "Soul Survivor" that never gets off the ground. There is something about this album, where the whole is more powerful than the sum of it's parts. When there wasn't much r&r around the Stones delivered "She Was Hot".

By Oklahoma Zeppelin
May 15, 2003
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Sometimes trying isn't enough. The Stones are re-engaging themselves creatively here, following Tattoo You's heavy borrowing of old songs, but failing miserably at nearly every step. Concepts are interesting -- 'Undercover's' take on Latin American politics (a sequel to 'Indian Girl'), 'Too Much Blood' for gore. But less energy was spent on the hooks. Most songs drift too long on a single uninspired progression ('Too Tough', 'Feel On Baby', 'It Must Be Hell') or suffer from tin-drum overdubs ('Undercover', 'Too Much Blood'). Mick is thinking solo. Keith's input seems offhand (his 'Wanna Hold You' is quarter baked and repetitive -- one of his worst songs). The best song is, no doubt, the album's shortest, 'All the Way Down,' for its refreshing changes, all-in-a-room-playing-together feel, absence of tinny drum overdubs and Mick's honesty at 40 -- a rarity from Mick ('I was King, Mr cool. Just a snotty little fool, like kids are now.') Charlie's great subtleties -- particularly inspired from 1978 to 1981 -- are a no show. The album is not a keeper.

By Locked Away
November 30, 2002
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A difficult album. Although it holds together reasonably well there is too much mediocrity here, too much filler, and frankly 'Too Much Blood'. Some of this material just isn’t bona fide Rolling Stones, much of it too gimmicky. Its saving graces are to be found in the clear production- a rarity for the Stones, some nifty guitar work, and 'It Must Be Hell', the only really classic song on the album. Why, for example did they feel it was necessary to enlist Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar when they have Wyman and Watts who were more than capable? Why, after the success of Tattoo You did they feel it was okay to write lyrics as trite as those on, for example, 'She Was Hot'? Some songs even abandon the concept of a lyric altogether- like 'Pretty Beat Up' and 'Wanna Hold You'- memorable only for the chorus. It’s a poor effort but still as a Stones fan I can listen to it frequently, but couldn’t recommend it to a non fan.

September 7, 2002
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This album and Dirty Work are often called the worst of the Stones output. When it was released, critics said it was the (superlative) since Exile. It's trickery to mention Exile in the same breath as this. There are reasons for this albums unpopularity:

1. No tour. Dirty Work didn't have a tour either. When they toured behind the even less exciting Steel Wheels years later, fans dug into the songs.
2. Angry lyrics. Tattoo You and Some Girls were their summer's respective party albums. The Stones have released politically expressive songs before, but never a whole bad trip album.
3. Mediocre songwriting. These are nice songs for the most part, but nothing outstanding. The last song, the big encore, 'It Must Be Hell', was their most self-imitative, least interesting song ... ever.
4. This was a new decade, a Republican era decade, new fans who had no connection to the socialist ideology expressed on this album or the 60s musical icons. It was time to rock out to Metallica's best years and Van Halen.
5. Undercover is not a world of lush bedchambers, silk robes, red wine, and stretch limos. It's a world of dirty slush, cold feet, and predatory, friendless streets

But obscured in all this is some vintage Stones jamming, in the spirit of their Andrew Loog Oldham days. Gone is the lush 70s sound. This is shrill. I've always liked Undercover. It's not great by Stones standards, but I can play it two times consecutively without a problem. .

By the chipper
April 2, 2002
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With lyrics laced with references to murder, suicide, blood, mutilation and cannibalism, this is the Stones' most violent album... and, perversely, their most danceable. "Undercover Of The Night" is a seething, percussion-heavy samba-styled tune with some of Mick Jagger's most political lyrics, as he rails against the chaotic state of affairs then prevailing in Central America. "Pretty Beat Up" and "Tie You Up (The Pain Of Love)" are two of the group's more palatable forays into funk rock; "Feel On Baby" is their best original reggae. And then there's "Too Much Blood", the story of a bloke who kills his girlfriend, dismembers her, stores her in the freezer and eats her piece by piece... all set to the Stones' catchiest disco beat since "Miss You"! As for the rockers, "She Was Hot" is a great boogie number with good old Ian Stewart on piano. "Wanna Hold You" is a relentlessly upbeat track featuring the cheeriest vocals of Keith Richards' career. "Too Tough" is the hardest driving song here, with a curiously watery sound on the chorus, almost as if it dates back to the Between The Buttons sessions. "All The Way Down" is energetic enough, but comes across as the poor man's "Shattered". The closing tune, "It Must Be Hell", showcases some ambitious lyrics but musically is the album's least interesting song. The final verdict? Go buy this one! It's not one of the Stones' masterpieces, but it is pretty good... after all, if you're going to condemn everything that's not of the same caliber as Let It Bleed or Exile On Main Street, you're gonna have an awful small CD collection.

By John Wallen
March 4, 2002
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I honestly don't know why this album gets panned so much. I think it's the first where Jagger begins to use graphic 4 letter lyrics, so maybe that puts some people off. The themes are also black as hell. However, paradoxically, it's a very up-beat album. Another possibility is that many people didn't like the contrast between the rather slight, but popsy, Tattoo You and this. Undercover is an awesome rocker and while there may be a nod to the fads of the time, it is very definitely hardcore Stones.

Highlight are 'She Was Hot'-- an all time great Stones track--'Too Much Blood' and 'Too Tough'. All the tracks are at least OK and there are no obviously duff tracks. The album listens through very well from beginning to end and there is no temptation to skip a track: the balance is very good.

To sum up then, this is a very good album. I would place it at number six in a top ten list of Stone albums.

January 13, 2002
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To the casual Stones fan - steer clear of this one. To the die-hard Stones enthusiast - go ahead, buy it and complete your collection but don't expect the same car-radio friendly guitar licks as found on Tattoo You. Undercover was the Stones nod to MTV, creating a batch of decent songs and then drenching them in a puddle of synthesizers, voice-overs and drum-machines. The only track that I've been able to enjoy is "Feel on Baby" which if mixed differently might find a better home on Black and Blue. Overall, the people who are most likely to enjoy this album are those who have a sentimental attachment to it and/or the '80s. Everyone else - make a detour past this one and Dirty Work.

By John
May 29, 2001
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This album is what the Stones are all about. Rough, (Too)Tough, sex, violence, etc. Keith Richards was quoted as saying that he likes the unpolished sound of this one. Some wondered why the band got into social commentary with the title track. Well, they did it before with "Street Fighting Man" and "Sweet Black Angel" (inspired by a radical named Angela Davis).
"Undercover of the Night" is a great opening cut that completely rocks. "She Was Hot" continues the rough sounding guitars, yet I think it's one of the weaker tracks. "Tie You Up" is pure Stones hard core sex. Truly one of their most underplayed/underrated songs ever. Keith's "Wanna Hold You" sounds very Beatlesque which is exactly what they wanted it to sound like. Jagger gave one interview plugging this album and mentioned how they semi copied the Beatles style for this cut. Next comes what I think is the gem of the album. The reggae/road song "Feel On Baby" which is an extended jam session that is very long and simply great. "Too Much Blood" starts off almost like a jazz cut then gets into some pretty graphic lyrics about chainsaws and murder. Apparently it is based on a real event in France, which is why Jagger says "...truth is stranger than fiction..." "Pretty Beat Up" has a nice chugging guitar groove courtesy of Ron Wood. "Too Tough" was the first choice as opening single before "Undercover of the Night" was chosen. "All The Way Down" continues in the mold of "She Was Hot". "It Must Be Hell" closes the album. The riff is borrowed from Exile's "Soul Survivor" and continues the social commentary. Many didn't like this album after Tattoo You, and it seems to be one of the lost albums of the Stones. Perhaps because they didn't tour to support this one it is at times forgotten or unjustly written off. When I first heard this one I loved it and it continues to grow on me. Definitely one of my favorites and in my opinion one of their best.


By christophoros
April 5, 2000
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UNDERCOVER isn' t as bad as it is often made to be. However, it definitely is the strangest Stones album. It continues where EMOTIONAL RESCUE stopped, which doesn' t mean that it' s as good, because it' s more disco and less Rolling Stones. UNDERCOVER is more a solo album by Mick than a product of the whole band as usually. The only track on which Keith shines through is WANNA HOLD YOU, which he also sings on stage. From the title song I first thought What' s this again?, then I found out that by listening carefully and maybe even reading between the lines you find a lot of socially critical stuff in it. SHE WAS HOT- I expected it to be a dance remix of SHE' S SO COLD, but it' s the most rocking track of the album, as bizarre without being less pornographic. Both of the songs can also stand alone. TOO MUCH BLOOD starts completely unaccessibly, but don' t turn it off, it turns out to be a wild tune and even MIDNIGHT RAMBLER II. TOO TOUGH and ALL THE WAY DOWN sound surprisingly black for such an album. ALL THE WAY DOWN can also be interpreted as about the sinking quality of the Stones' albums after SOME GIRLS, as can be BACK TO ZERO. A better album without TIE YOU UP (THE PAIN OF LOVE)(Mick Jagger extreme!), FEEL ON BABY (there' s already enough sexism on the cover), PRETTY BEAT UP (filler) and MUST BE HELL (so-so).It shows, how high disco was already developed at that time, so that even THE rock band played it so strongly, and it comes much closer to a disco sampler than does EMOTIONAL RESCUE. UNDERCOVER doesn' t use modern elements as securely as BRIDGES TO BABYLON, as you can already hear the beginning of the differences that finally led to the disaster called DIRTY WORK.

By Kevin Poynter
March 8, 2000
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The Stones in 1983 had to follow-up the incredibly successful "Tattoo You", which was filled with hits and a fresh, less-demonic atmosphere. So when "Undercover" was released, it seemed to turn some fans off with its sleazy, rather unattractive cover art and the graphic nature of some of the lyrics. The album featured themes of brutal violence ("Too Much Blood", "Undercover") and sordid sexual references ("Tie You Up", "She Was Hot"), and the videos exaggerated that image to MTV's new young audience. With the Stones now obviously in their late thirties and forties, "Undercover" would make little headway in this new audience. The fact that 1984 saw the Stones breaking their tradition, begun in 1966, of touring the States every 3 years meant that "Undercover" received no live support. Too bad, because for all it's flaws, "Undercover" was the Stones hardest-rocking LP since "Exile on Main Street", and their first LP of all-new material since "Some Girls" ("Emotional Rescue" and "Tattoo You" being composed mostly of outtakes). Musically, the title song is compelling and inventive, but its theme of political chaos is cheapened by Jagger's gratuitous sexual references. "She Was Hot" is a catchy rocker, a "Star Star" for the '80's. "Wanna Hold You" is a melodic, rather sweet love song from Keith Richards. Side One ends sluggishly with the murky "Feel On Baby", and the salsa horn sound on "Too Much Blood" is not what most people want from the Stones. But "Pretty Beat Up" has an appealing garage sound, and wouldn't sound out of place on "Between the Buttons". The best is "Too Tough", a fine rocker with one of the Stones most riveting guitar solos--it sounds like Ronnie (or Keith?) is splitting atoms. On "All the Way Down" Mick rates himself honestly: "Still I play the fool and strut..." And It Must Be Hell" borrows the mighty riff from "Soul Survivor" to whip up a driving rocker in which Mick actually seems to be alarmed at the moral decay in the world, a world he helped create. One of the last albums in which the Rolling Stones sound natural and unforced; they were still locked into their groove. For all of "Undercover"s flaws, this was still unquestionably "the Stones"!!

By Steve Cronen 
July 13, 1999
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I've read a lot of reviews elsewhere which totally pan this album. To tell you the truth, I like this one more than I do Tattoo You. It's delving into the 80's pop sound, but there's still enough Stones in it to keep it afloat. "Undercover of the Night" and "She Was Hot" are the most enduring, and definitely are two of the best. "All the Way Down" shines like a gem, Keith's "Wanna Hold You" rocks out, and "Too Much Blood" is an odd, quirky song about a cannibal, chainsaw massacres, etc. Hm... Anyway, it's a great album, not up there with ones like Beggar's Banquet or Exile On Main Street by far, but it's still a great one.

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Keno's mini review, song list, lyrics and more info on UNDERCOVER

Stones Fans Album Reviews

To listen to some sound clips from UNDERCOVER or to buy it click here: Undercover [Remastered]