If you were British when this came out, and especially if you were a kid in Britain which didn’t have access to London’s blues scene (or any of the other blues scenes, if they existed), this record was likely a revelation to you – dirty, gritty, blues-based music (more blues-based than anything you’d ever heard before) that made the other rock bands sound like pop (at least on record). It probably seemed so unbelievably fresh and new. (The same might also have been true for some or even many white people in the US when the American version of this record was released there, though likely that would have been a far lower percentage of the record-buying public).
But this is primarily a covers record. And the covers – at least those I am familiar with – don’t depart significantly from earlier versions I’ve heard. Moreover, most of the originals – with the notable except of the first Jagger/Richards credit – sound like covers, calling to mind more famous and better songs. (As I said, “Tell Me” is the exception, sounding like the sound the Stones would soon move to in utero.)
But the performances are pretty damn good and believable, especially for a band that is made up of white British guys. I don’t really know why Gene Pitney sings lead on one track, and I’m not sure it adds anything, as Jagger was already quite capable, but that’s hardly a big deal.
And the record still sounds good today, in part because musical and recording technology hadn’t improved enough to give the instruments or the recording a specific sound to date the record, but it still doesn’t scream “1964” at me too much. (Except perhaps on their only good original song, which sounds very “Stones in 1965” to my ears.)
Anyway, it’s a covers album. But it’s a good one given the context – i.e. that very few people in Britain outside of the blues community would have ever heard anything like this before.