The al­bum Stones fans were wish­ing for

Ven­er­a­ble rock and roll band’s re­turn to its mu­si­cal roots on new al­bum shows a thrilling unit still adept at play­ing live

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CULTURE - By NEIL MCCORMICK

The Rolling Stones have got the blues. I won­der what took them so long? This is the al­bum any Stones fan could have wished for, on which the Glim­mer Twins gleam again.

It is a swag­ger­ing, heart­felt blast of dense, deft blues rock, with Char­lie Watts swing­ing on the back beat, Keith Richards spilling slip­pery chords and magic licks, and Mick Jag­ger wail­ing on the blues harp like the last lonely sur­vivor of an apoc­a­lyp­tic flood on the Mis­sis­sippi delta. Even Ron­nie Wood keeps his end up, break­ing out crusty riffs and sput­ter­ing leads that mesh and weave with Richards’s ever-shift­ing rhythm guitar, com­bin­ing in a thick, pli­able elec­tric groove that is uniquely the Stones’ own.

It is amaz­ing they haven’t made this al­bum be­fore. Holed up in Mark Knopfler’s Bri­tish Grove stu­dios last De­cem­ber to start work on orig­i­nal ma­te­rial, they warmed up with an old blues cover and just kept go­ing. Knock­ing out one old favourite after an­other, they recorded enough for a whole al­bum in just three days.

It is the Stones’s first al­bum to com­pletely com­prise cover ver­sions. Even their 1964 de­but had a trio of orig­i­nals (some cred­ited to the pseudony­mous Nanker Phelge be­cause Jag­ger and Richards weren’t ready to call them­selves song­writ­ers). But this has to be viewed as an over­due act of love, not a re­treat to safe har­bours.

Be­ing afi­ciona­dos of the genre, choices are eclec­tic and im­mac­u­late, off the beaten path but straight down the blues line. They rip up Howl­ing Wolf ’s Com­mit A Crime, breathe steamy vigour into Mem­phis Slim’s Blue and Lone­some and play Magic Sam’s All Of Your Love as if they are down on their knees beg­ging for one last chance at hap­pi­ness.

There is no at­tempt to slav­ishly recre­ate orig­i­nal ar­range­ments, the modus operandi seems to be to get the chord changes down and then play the damn thing for the sheer thrill of it. And it is a thrill be­cause there are not many bands left who could ac­tu­ally do what they do in a mod­ern stu­dio: just set up, face each other and play with such con­nec­tion and com­mit­ment that the record is es­sen­tially a per­for­mance so alive to the mu­sic it needs no adorn­ment or im­prove­ment.

It would be wrong to say that Jag­ger is a rev­e­la­tion, be­cause we all know what he can do, but it is a plea­sure to hear him do it so well. Richards has al­ways loved Jag­ger’s har­mon­ica play­ing and here it is al­most the fea­tured item, with the singer tak­ing ev­ery­thing he has learned from Lit­tle Wal­ter, Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed and ap­ply­ing it with in­stinct and emo­tion. It is as Ex­hi­bi­tion­ism:TheRollingS­tones

if, un­bur­dened by the self-con­scious­ness that can in­habit his at­tempts to keep up with the kids, the front­man is free to just en­joy him­self.

Jag­ger has never had a lovely voice, but his phras­ing and de­liv­ery, his sheer com­mit­ment and brav­ery in go­ing for notes he has ab­so­lutely no right to reach is per­fectly glo­ri­ous. He con­jures up a dirty, growl­ing old shaman on Otis Hicks’s sleazy Hoo Doo Blues whilst on Buddy John­son’s Just Your Fool, the 73-year-old singer sounds like ex­actly like the rock­ing young rooster of yore, only now he’s kick­ing it with a band of vet­eran’s ut­terly at ease and in charge of the ma­te­rial (ably sup­ported in the stu­dio by long­stand­ing live tour­ing mem­bers Darryl Jones on bass and

Chuck Leavell on key­boards).

If you have seen the Stones on re­cent tours, you will know they are play­ing bet­ter than at any time since their Seven­ties glory. The truth is they have never re­ally been out­stand­ing vir­tu­osos but they have the se­cret to lock­ing tight as a unit and keep­ing things shift­ing.

This se­lec­tion of cov­ers al­lows them to just do what they do so well and not over­think it. That said, when Eric Clap­ton guests on two tracks (be­cause he just hap­pened to be mix­ing in the same stu­dio com­plex), his nim­ble, sen­si­tive play­ing re­ally does switch things up a gear.

Their raw take on Lit­tle Johnny Tay­lor’s Every­body Knows About My Good Thing is sen­sa­tional, while Clap­ton’s solo­ing on Wil­lie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby ends with the band break­ing out in spon­ta­neous ap­plause. Peren­nial new boy Ron­nie Wood might be get­ting a bit ner­vous about job se­cu­rity. The Stones have shown they are not averse to chang­ing the line-up, and he has only been with them 41 years.

Hope­fully this will serve as a pal­ette cleanser for the al­bum of orig­i­nals the Stones are still threat­en­ing to even­tu­ally de­liver. But that would have to go some way to beat Blue And Lone­some for sheer plea­sure. It may not be the kind of de­fin­i­tive al­bum state­ment that will rock the mu­sic world to its foun­da­tions but it more than demon­strate that the world’s great­est and long­est serv­ing rock band have still got what it takes.

MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS

The Rolling Stones (from left) Ron­nie Wood, Keith Richards, Mick Jag­ger and Char­lie Watts ar­rive for the ex­hibit in New York.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.