The Rolling Stones – “Living in a Ghost Town” (Video – 2020)

April 24, 2020 at 4:31 pm (Music, The Rolling Stones)

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The Rolling Stones – “Rain Fall Down” (Video – 2005)

April 3, 2019 at 9:11 pm (Music, The Rolling Stones)

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Keith Richards – “My Babe” (Lyric Video – 2019)

March 11, 2019 at 11:21 am (Music, The Rolling Stones)

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Keith Richards – “Big Town Playboy” (Lyric Video – 2019)

March 10, 2019 at 11:18 am (Music, The Rolling Stones)

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The Rolling Stones – “She’s a Rainbow” (Lyric Video – 2017)

September 8, 2017 at 7:06 pm (Music, The Rolling Stones)

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The Rolling Stones – “2000 Light Years from Home” (Video – 2017)

August 31, 2017 at 1:58 am (Music, The Rolling Stones)

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The Rolling Stones – “Blue & Lonesome” (2016)

December 17, 2016 at 9:58 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, The Rolling Stones)

A review of The Stones’ excellent new blues album, from The Guardian. Written by Alexis Petridis, dated Nov. 24th, 2016…

More Alive Than They’ve Sounded for Years

Mick Jagger’s voice and harmonica drive an album of blues covers that returns the Stones to their roots.

Last week, a US journalist interviewing the Rolling Stones offered up a 21st-century spin on the old ‘Can white men sing the blues?’ argument. Wasn’t the Stones’ early repertoire, heavy on the songs of Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo, Muddy Waters et al, just an example of cultural appropriation, he asked? You might charitably describe Keith Richards’ response as a little confused. At one juncture, he appeared to suggest that the blues was actually “quite Jewish,” but the bulk of the answer consisted of Richards insisting that he was, in fact, black: “Ask any of the brothers.”

Tireless on your behalf, I’ve researched this thoroughly and can exclusively reveal that he isn’t. But equally, the charge of cultural appropriation feels deeply unfair. The biggest band of the British blues boom were always among the loudest cheerleaders for the real deal. They never pulled the grim Led Zeppelin trick of claiming they’d written songs they’d clearly swiped from old blues artists, never missed an opportunity to take BB King on tour or to try to educate their audience about the artists they were paying homage to. “I think it’s about time you shut up and we had Howlin’ Wolf on stage,” suggested Brian Jones to the presenter of U.S. TV show Shindig! in 1965, after the Stones had agreed to appear only if the show also booked Wolf and Son House, a ballsy move in a country where the Voting Rights Act hadn’t yet been passed.

The issue is being raised again because, for the first time in their career, the Rolling Stones have elected to release an album consisting entirely of blues covers. A skeptical voice might suggest it finally confirms what their last album, 2005’s lacklustre A Bigger Bang strongly hinted at: that, as songwriters at least, the Jagger/Richards partnership is out of juice. A less cynical observer’s first thought might be to wonder why they didn’t do something like this sooner: the opening cover of Buddy Johnson’s “I’m Just Your Fool” comes barreling out of the speakers, sounding more raw and vibrant than the Stones have done in years.

Their second thought might be that Blue & Lonesome sounds surprisingly like Mick Jagger’s show, which rather goes against the commonly held belief that Keith Richards is the band’s R&B heart and Jagger is a fashion-conscious dilettante who’d have the Stones recording tropical house with Kungs and Seeb if he thought it would make them seem relevant. You can see how that notion came about, but while there are fantastic contributions from Richards and Ronnie Wood – the grumbling twin guitars of “Little Rain”; the taut interplay that powers “Hate to See You Go”; and, especially, the woozy, chaotic backdrop they conjure on a version of Lightning Slim’s “Hoo Doo Blues” – it’s Jagger’s voice and harmonica that really drive Blue & Lonesome. At his least inspired, Jagger can sound like a man who isn’t singing so much as rearranging a well-worn series of mannerisms and tics, but here his vocals are extremely powerful and genuinely affecting, as if he’s digging deep within himself to find the emotions to fit the material. You expect him to be able to summon up the kind of swaggering lubriciousness requisite for “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing,” originally recorded by Little Johnny Taylor, which he does; more surprising is how authentically wracked he sounds on “All Your Love,” “Hate to See You Go” and the Memphis Slim-penned title track. There’s a really striking moment on the last one where he sings the line “Baby please come on home to me,” drawing out the word “please” into a chilling, agonised, vulnerable howl.

Moreover, you wonder if Jagger’s fashion-conscious dilettantism might account for the album’s sound: Blue & Lonesome feels very much a record piloted by someone who’s heard the White Stripes or the Black Keys, or the raw blues releases on which Mississippi label Fat Possum’s reputation was founded. The sound is appealingly visceral and live: the guitars are spiky and slashing, the drums punch hard, everything – including Jagger’s voice – is coated with a thin, crisp layer of distortion, as if the band are playing at such volume and with such force that the microphones can’t quite take it.

The obvious point of comparison would be the recordings the Stones made in the brief period between their rise to fame and the full flowering of Jagger and Richards’ songwriting. But if at least one track, a version of Willie Dixon’s “Just Like I Treat You,” might have slotted neatly onto 5 x 5 or The Rolling Stones No. 2, for the most part Blue & Lonesome doesn’t really feel or sound much like the stuff the Stones made half a century ago. They wouldn’t have thanked you for saying it, but back then, their skill lay in a perhaps unwitting ability to transform gnarled rhythm and blues into thrilling teen-friendly pop: listen to Muddy Waters’ original version of “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” next to their 1964 version and you hear a very grownup, slow-burning record, made by a man already in middle age, converted into something urgent and wired, the soundtrack to an overexcited fumble in the back of a Ford Anglia.

Now in their 70s, men who by anyone’s standards have lived a bit, they frequently seem to tap into something deeper about the music: they really inhabit its sense of hard-won experience. The last thing you hear on the album, after a version of Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby” crashes to a halt, is Mick Jagger asking uncertainly “was that OK?” He sounds like a man who’s still slightly awed by this music in its original form; who knows he’s still paying homage to artists he can never entirely grasp, whatever Keith Richards thinks. But the answer to his question is an unqualified yes: it’s more than OK, which is not something you can say about many Stones albums over the last 30 years.

Alexis Petridis

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The Rolling Stones – “Hate to See You Go” (2016)

October 27, 2016 at 6:51 pm (Music, The Rolling Stones)

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The Rolling Stones – “Just Your Fool” (2016)

October 24, 2016 at 6:49 pm (Music, The Rolling Stones)

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Keith Richards – “Crosseyed Heart” (2015)

October 3, 2015 at 1:54 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles, The Rolling Stones)

This review of Keef’s first new solo album in 23 years comes from Paste, written by Holly Gleason, Sept. 15, 2015…

As rock’s enduring pirate, Keith Richards embodies swagger, sangfroid and a certain delicious naughtiness. More than the Stones themselves, the guitarist exudes a dirt ’n’ salt earthiness that’s equal parts Rastafarian, broke-down cowboy and seen-it-all gypsy globetrotter.

On “Trouble,” the most post-modern Stones-evoking track on Crosseyed Heart, his voice is all worn rope and spark. The guitars tumble and swoop as co-producer/drummer Steve Jordan presses the beat with an urgency, Richards laughingly croaking “Maybe trouble is your middle name…”

For surface fans, the check is covered.

But the more eclectic material is where Richards’ wit and grit emerge. With the unfinished acoustic “Crosseyed Heart,” about loving two women, disintegrating into the frank admission, “That’s all I got,” Richards lets it all hang out.

There’s “Nothing on Me,” the low-slung blues shuffle of getting busted and getting out of it; a horn-flecked reggae undulation, “Love Overdue”; and the “Wild Horses”-evoking “Robbed Blind” basted in steel guitar—a tale of misadventure, a dusty half-spoken vocal, a plucked gut string guitar and an evocation of Gram Parsons’ finest hardcore country.

After random spoken riffing, “Amnesia” finds Richards sinking into the pulsing groove of the corner-of-mouth muttered mid-tempo. Fallout from being conked on the head (coconut tree, anyone?), its snarl suggests far darker pursuits. That misdirection to danger fuels his song and feeds his hungers.

“She’s a vegetarian, and me, I like my meat,” Richards enthuses in the “opposites attract” rocker d’amour “Heartstopper.” Waddy Wachtel’s electric guitar sweeps down, strangles the frenzy and drives it higher—like the great late mid-career Stones moments—but Richards’ snaggle-toothed confession of lust-fueled magnetism brings it home.

If “Something for Nothing” seems expected, the halting “Just a Gift,” all midnight and gravelly offer, has that gentleman rogue tinge that’s made Richards the most alluring of all rock stars. The smoldering, world-weary knowledge and always tender soul beneath the leathery exterior beckon.

Followed by a drawn-out “Good Night Irene,” delivered like the dissolute’s “Amazing Grace,” Crosseyed Heart is a hymnal for rascals, reprobates and ne’er-do-wells with hearts of gold—or at least kindness. Honor among thieves, love amongst scoundrels… Keith Richards has carved an encompassing survey of his own spirit and set it to a vast set of influences for all to see.

Holly Gleason

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