“Aftermath – usually (and correctly) viewed as the Stones' response to the newfound maturity of the Beatles' Rubber Soul – is notable for a number of reasons, not the least being that it was the group's first album in stereo (courtesy of legendary American engineer Dave Hassinger). It was also the Stones' first completely self-penned LP, with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards rising to the occasion with a series of brilliantly commercial – and occasionally nasty – songs” (Simels). This “did much to define the group as the bad boys of rock 'n' roll with their sneering attitude toward the world in general and the female sex in particular” (Unterberger).
“The British version…was released earlier than its American counterpart and had several differences beyond its cover design: it runs more than ten minutes longer…and it has four additional songs” (Eder).
Paint It Black was omitted from the U.K. version of the album; “singles were usually kept separate from LPs in England in those days” (Eder). That song, "an eerily insistent #1 hit graced by some of the best use of sitar (played by Brian Jones) on a rock record” (Unterberger), evidenced that the group was “incorporating the influences of psychedelia and Dylan into their material” (Unterberger).
“Additionally, the song lineup is different…and the mixes used are different from the tracks that the two versions of the album do have in common -- the U.K. album and CD used a much cleaner, quieter master…It's also louder, yet curiously, because of the cleaner sound, slightly less visceral in its overall impact” (Eder).
The “Dylanesque” (Simels) “Mother's Little Helper, which was left off the U.S. album for release as a single” (Eder), “is one of the more in-your-face drug songs of the period, as well as being a potent statement about middle-class hypocrisy and political inconsistency” (Eder).
“Out of Time in its full-length five-minute-36-second version [on the U.K. album is] two minutes longer than the version of the song issued in America” (Eder). “There's no good reason except for a plain oversight by the powers that be for the complete version…never [was] released in America” (Eder). The song’s inclusion on the U.K. album “adds to the florid sound of the album's psychedelic component” (Eder).
Take It or Leave It, “which had been a hit for the Searchers” (Eder), is also absent from the U.S. version of the album. It “eventually turned up on Flowers in the U.S.” (Eder).
There’s also the U.K.-only cut “What to Do, which didn't surface in America until the release of More Hot Rocks more than six years later” (Eder). The latter two, “if anything, add to the misogyny already on display in Stupid Girl and Think" (Eder).
“Aftermath is also the album that revealed Brian Jones as the band's secret weapon; apparently he was able to play just about any exotic instrument he got his hands on, and his touches are all over the album, particularly in the ironic lilt his marimba lines add to the otherwise malevolent Under My Thumb" (Simels).
Also of note is “the delicate Elizabethan ballad Lady Jane, where dulcimer can be heard” (Unterberger), and the “obscure gem…in the brooding, meditative I Am Waiting” (Unterberger).
“Some of the material is fairly ho-hum, to be honest, as Jagger and Richards were still prone to inconsistent songwriting” (Unterberger). The 11-minute “blues jam, Goin' Home, was at the time the longest rock track ever recorded” (Simels). The song “was remarkable more for its barrier-crashing length than its content” (Unterberger). Still, “though not completely successful as such, there's no doubt that then embryonic San Francisco psychedelic bands like the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead took it as a template for much of their own work” (Simels).