In my opinion, The Rolling Stones never again reached the heights of creativity, song writing brilliance and spook factor that they achieved on "Gimme Shelter" in their post-Brian Jones career. Sure, they released some great groove based songs, but the heights of genius achieved during the Brian years was gone forever as the '60's waned.
I would never deny that Mick turns in one hell of a performance on the Stones original version, as his voice conveys the fear and paranoia of the lyrics. However, the song lifts into another atmosphere when Merry Clayton comes in at the coda and sings the chorus in a way that, , changes the ownership deed of the song to Merry, and (even after thousands of listens) still scares the hell out of me and sends chills down my spine.
Luckily for us, Merry recorded her own version where she takes on the entire song, making for one of the greatest cover versions ever cut to wax. After a relatively subdued intro, a fury of ass whipping is unleashed in which Merry DEMANDS shelter in a way that erases Mick's aura of paranoia and turns it into a call to action.
Merry Clayton's list of credits is truly incredible, and stints as one of Ray Charles Raelettes, Tom Jones, Joe Cocker and (in another of my favorite performances) wordless, haunting vocals on Neil Young's debut LP ("The Old Laughing Lady"). Merry has also had a side career as an actress.
The b-side, "Good Girls", is too good not to share as well.
MERRY CLAYTON - GIMME SHELTER
b/w GOOD GIRLS