Blues

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Blue & Lone­some The Rolling Stones Poly­dor/UMA Rolling back the years to the start of their ap­par­ently in­ter­minable ca­reer more than a half-cen­tury ago ap­pears to have re­ju­ve­nated the world’s great­est rock ’n’ roll band. With their umpteenth al­bum, the Stones re­vive mem­o­ries of the days when, as a dy­namic young R&B cov­ers band, they helped spark the Bri­tish blues boom. Blue & Lone­some is a throw­back to the mid-1960s in other ways. Recorded in just a few days rather than the mod­ern norm of weeks or months, it was not an al­bum they planned on mak­ing — merely a pre­lim­i­nary ex­er­cise for a resched­uled re­lease of new ma­te­rial. For Stones fans of yore who’ve long yearned for a re­turn to the post­war Chicago blues that got them rolling and in­deed in­spired their moniker, it’s a Yule­tide wind­fall. Recorded live with­out over­dubs in a south­west Lon­don stu­dio lo­cated within a stone’s throw of the clubs where the band cut its teeth, the set ex­udes an in­ten­sity, in­tegrity and spon­tane­ity that their al­bums have lacked since 1978’s Some Girls. It’s an ensem­ble al­bum in the true sense of that word. Mick Jag­ger’s still the King Bee but one op­er­at­ing from the bo­som of the band rather than the metaphor­i­cal cat­walk. The mer­cu­rial front­man’s singing has never sounded stronger or more au­then­tic. His har­mon­ica play­ing is not as au­thor­i­ta­tive — a tad short on wow fac­tor. With four of leg­endary blues harpist Lit­tle Wal­ter’s songs on the playlist, the scarcity of scorch­ing harp so­los might be an is­sue for afi­ciona­dos, along with the paucity of red-hot elec­tric lead gui­tar breaks — an­other fea­ture of clas­sic Chicago blues. The song se­lec­tion is im­pec­ca­ble and the qual­ity of the Stones’ per­for­mance is im­pres­sive. Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood’s finely honed gui­tar in­ter­play com­bines sym­bi­ot­i­cally with the equally tight back­line of drum­mer ex­traor­di­naire Char­lie Watts and their US bass ace Dar­ryl Jones to pro­vide ex­em­plary rhythm, with the band’s reg­u­lar key­board play­ers, Amer­i­cans Chuck Leavell and Matt Clif­ford, lend­ing as­sis­tance. A gui­tar cameo from Eric Clap­ton in I Can’t Quit You Baby helps Jag­ger cap­ture the de­spair­ing sen­ti­ments of Wil­lie Dixon’s song. In a riv­et­ing take on Lit­tle Johnny Tay­lor’s gut­bucket blues Ev­ery­body Knows About My Good Thing, scyth­ing slide from Slow­hand ig­nites the leader’s aptly raunchy de­liv­ery of lines such as: “Call the plumber dar­lin’, there must be a leak in my drain.” In Howlin’ Wolf’s sim­i­larly evoca­tive Com­mit a Crime, via pun­gent and pithy lines such as “you put poi­son in my cof­fee in­stead of cream”, un­der­pinned by mes­meris­ing gui­tar chords from riff-meis­ter Richards, Jag­ger con­veys the lupine com­poser’s men­ace with­out at­tempt­ing to mimic his dole­ful growl. A spell­bind­ing acous­tic pi­ano solo from Leavell il­lu­mi­nates Magic Sam’s All of Your Love, along with Jones’s walk­ing bass and Watts’s peer­less kit-work, which cli­maxes with a clos­ing drum roll. Blue & Lone­some is elo­quent tes­ti­mony to the Stones’ en­dur­ing love for and deep un­der­stand­ing of the blues.

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