“Sliding out of perhaps the greatest winning streak in rock history” (Erlewine) “following the enormous success of Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street” (CdUniverse.com), “Goats Head Soup stands as the antithesis of Exile” (Scoppa). “Soup is a romantic work, with an unmistakable thread of life-affirming pragmatisms running through it. It is set apart not only from Exile, but every past Stones’ LP, by its emphasis on the ballad” (Scoppa).
“The Stones slipped into decadence and rock star excess with Goats Head Soup” (Erlewine). “The Stones’ image began to eclipse their accomplishments, as Mick ascended to jet-setting celebrity and Keith slowly sunk deeper into addiction, and it's possible hearing them moving in both directions on Goats Head Soup, at times in the same song” (Erlewine).
“The sex and sleaze quotient is increased, all of it underpinned by some genuinely affecting heartbreak” (Erlewine). “This may not be as downright funky, freaky, and fantastic as Exile, yet the extra layer of gloss brings out the enunciated lyrics, added strings, wah-wah guitars, explicit sex, and violence, making it all seem trippily decadent” (Erlewine).
“As usual, …the Stones continue to work within existing frameworks, redefining and personalizing everything they touch. In this case, they make brilliant use of the styles of some protégés – Van Morrison on ‘Winter’ and Gram Parsons on ‘Comin’ Down Again’ – while picking up a few things from groups as disparate as the Allman Brothers Band and War. The string arrangements are…close in texture to Elton John’s. But they use all of their influences in a fashion superior to the current recordings of their originators. Other artists have built careers on modes the Stones have kicked away without a backward look” (Scoppa).
“If it doesn't seem like there’s a surplus of classics here, all the songs work well, illustrating just how far they've traveled in their songcraft, as well as their exceptional talent as a band – they make this all sound really easy and darkly alluring, even when the sex'n'satanism seems a little silly” (Erlewine).
“The Stones picked up the thread of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and gilded their already hedonistic reputation with some Satanic allusions” (CdUniverse.com) on Dancing With Mr. D.. However, the song is “hopelessly silly” (Scoppa), making for “the weakest opener ever so positioned on one of their albums, and they've never performed with less conviction” (Scoppa).
“Soup emerges as a consistent piece of work, even if its classic moments are confined to four songs. 100 Years Ago is the album’s real introduction and contains in equal portions the two basic strains of the album: the churning, repetitive R&B of the fast songs and the solemn melancholy of the ballads… The R&B eventually suggests violence and irrationality while the slow music suggests reason and vulnerability” (Scoppa).
“Soup offered up some of the Stones' more heartfelt ballads including Angie, Winter and Coming Down Again” (CdUniverse.com), all of which are “suffused with melancholy” (Scoppa).
“’Angie’ will inevitably be the most durable and well-loved song on the album. There are several reasons for its significance: a vocal of practically unprecedented conviction by Jagger, the lovely interplay of strings and single electric guitar that dramatizes the romantic core of the song, and a consummate piano performance by Nicky Hopkins. But the key is in the tune itself, as emotionally complex as it is lyrically straightforward” (Scoppa).
“It contrasts the traditional view of romance (and its mystical principal of adoration), with the more recently conceived notion of pragmatism in relationships. The singer has a simultaneous and irreconcilable investment in both values, and they're at war within him. Haunted by Angie's image, he tells the mystic in him that the conditions for romance are still present. But reason patiently answers that despite their efforts, it won't work. It wins the struggle, but every so often the voice burns through the velvet lining” (Scoppa).
“‘Winter’ is the offspring of the incandescent ‘Moonlight Mile,’ although it seems also influenced by Van Morrison…[whose]…ideas are in evidence in Jagger's vocal, which moves from a reading of patterned verses into improvisations. As he sings, the Oriental-styled guitar…and an elegant string section swirl around him. And as Mick finds the crucial line to climax the piece with – ‘I'm gonna wrap my coat around you’ – the surrounding track is blowing fierce, icy winds right across him” (Scoppa).
‘Coming Down Again’ “is closely related to ‘Wild Horses,’ from Keith's frayed but loving vocal to the Burritos-related broad metaphor at its center” (Scoppa).
“Being known as ‘The World's Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band’ means a number of songs more than back up this moniker. Among them are Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker), propelled by Mick Taylor's wah-wah pedal and Billy Preston’s electric piano, and the twang and slide guitar of Silver Train” (CdUniverse.com).
The former is “a broadly drawn third-person narrative…[that] …relates an incident of big-city violence hardly uncommon in the real world…The agony resulting from a failed love relationship is still ultimately affirmative, and it's relatively easy to bear compared to the agony incurred by some random violent act emanating from a stranger” (Scoppa).
The latter, ‘Silver Train,’ is “a rock & roll song with a pre-rock flavor. The Stones’ approach…[uses]…lots of whiny slide guitar and harp. They also emphasize, with their ragged ensemble shouts, the song's appealing chorus” (Scoppa).
“Hide Your Love, dominated by Jagger's crude piano and blackest vocal, continues the rustic blues flavor of ‘Train.’ It is the descendant of ‘Prodigal Son’ and ‘You've Gotta Move’” (Scoppa).
“To top it all of, they cap off this utterly excessive album with Star Star” (Erlewine), “it’s real title is ‘Starfucker’” (Erlewine). This “backhanded tribute to groupies” (CdUniverse.com) is “a nasty Chuck Berry rip that grooves on its own mean vulgarity” (Erlewine) and “rings out with classic Stones’ sass” (Scoppa). “Those unswerving drums, ringing guitars and straining voices are all daring us to try and keep from moving to the music” (Scoppa). The Stones “never again made something this dirty or nasty. And, it never feels more at home than it does at the end of this excessive record” (Erlewine).
“There are too many secondary songs on Goats Head Soup to rate it an ultimate Rolling Stones album. The content-defying title expresses the group’s uncertainty about its performance. But those three great ballads place the album among their most intimate and emotionally absorbing work. At the same time, ‘Starfucker’ maintains the stature of the Stones as grand masters of the rock & roll song. If they've played it safe this time, their caution has nevertheless reaped some rewards. Soup stands right next to Mott, the thematically similar LP of the Stones' brightest students, as the best album of 1973” (Scoppa).
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
- Bud Scoppa, RollingStone.com