Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Rolling Stones - Blue and Lonesome (Polydor, 2016)

The Rolling Stones were always enthralled by the blues, from the very beginning. While their contemporaries The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who were fascinated by Motown and the English music hall tradition, the Stones proudly flew the flag of electric Chicago blues whether they were inviting Howlin’ Wolf to join them for a TV appearance or recording at Chess Studios. So it is very interesting to hear the group come full circle. They are old men now, wiser in some sense, and through triumph and tragedy able to connect with the blues on a deeper level than in their youth. Recorded in just three days about a year ago, the music sounds spontaneous and fresh and the band sounds fully alive and locked in like they hadn’t sounded in the studio for many years, ripping through a set of classic Chicago blues, in a no-nonsense, nothing to prove style. Mick Jagger in particular sounds genuinely thrilled, singing with great fervor and playing excellent harmonica to boot. Longtime bassist Darryl Jones (a Miles Davis band alum) and the immortal Charlie Watts provide an epic pocket, and Keith Richards is his own fine self with slashing rhythm guitar and soaring leads. “Just Your Fool” comes blasting out of the speakers to open the album, with a ferocious beat and powerful vocals driving the music forward. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit a Crime” burns with genuine menace, the danger and sense of longing and danger cutting like shards of glass. Fellow traveller Eric Clapton sits in on slide guitar for the swinging "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" and lead guitar for an incendiary run through the epochal Otis Rush song “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” The group shows superb taste in the music they cover, from Memphis Slim’s piano laced “Blue And Lonesome” taking the title track and pouring emotion and fervor into Magic Sam’s legendary “All of Your Love.” While the Stones’ versions of these classic songs won’t make you forget the originals, they certainly have to bona fides to pull off such a venture. They are able to take these songs and make them their own, paying respect to the musicians that inspired them, and hopefully in turn inspiring listeners to investigate the original versions of these classic songs. Blue and Lonesome -

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