photo courtesy of Wikimedia under the Creative Commons License

Pion-Ear: Blue & Lonesome review

January 14, 2017

As the Rolling Stones’ lead guitarist Keith Richards said back in the day, “If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you may as well use two feet.”

The Stones lived this mantra to the fullest throughout the 60s and 70s, and while dodging police and for the most part avoiding legal trouble, they put together one of the greatest, most influential collections of music the world has ever seen during a 10-year span, from 1968 to 1978.

Guitarist Brian Jones died in 1969, his replacement Mick Taylor quit the band in 1974 and longtime guitarist Bill Wyman did the same in 1993, but as the remaining members continue to age, the only authority left is time. Despite almost disbanding in the mid-70s, and again in the mid-80s, the Rolling Stones have kicked time in the teeth, and on the eve of their 55th anniversary, the group released their 25th U.S. studio album Dec. 2, 2016.

The Rolling Stones’ newest LP may not compare to their era-defining records that changed music forever and have heavily influenced pop culture ever since, but then again, almost nothing does. While Blue & Lonesome isn’t their best work, Exile on Main St. is the Sistine Chapel of rock and roll (or was the Sistine Chapel the Exile of the Renaissance?), so there’s no shame in producing a simple, back-to-their-roots American Gothic.

The album features 12 covers of blues songs that influenced the Stones in their early days, and while Mick Jagger (lead vocals and guitar), Keith Richards (lead guitar), Charlie Watts (drums) and Ronnie Wood (guitar) had an average age of over 72 at the time of release, the foursome sounds decades younger than they really are.

Blue & Lonesome begins with its most rowdy song and first single, “Just Your Fool,” a lyrical ballad but rhythmic rocker. The next song, “Commit a Crime,” defends why the narrator should leave his woman, who “tried so hard to kill me.”

The third track, “Blue and Lonesome,” slows things down and tells the tale of a heartbroken narrator perplexed by the troubles of his love life. The least exciting song of the bunch, “All of Your Love” has the same message as the song preceding it, but the repetitiveness leaves listeners bored halfway through.

The fifth song, “I Gotta Go,” puts the album back on track and reminds of the Stones’ early days, when about half their content consisted of blues covers. “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” sets a change of pace at the halfway point of the record, considering it’s the first song not screaming “lovesickness.”

“Ride ‘Em On Down,” the third and final single, edges out “Just Your Fool” as the album’s best song. Jagger kills his harmonica solo, Richards and Wood produce riffs of Tattoo You caliber and Watts couldn’t set the rhythm from the background more perfectly.

The second single and eighth song on the tracklist, “Hate to See You Go,” once again showcases Jagger at the harmonica, and fits in well with “Blue and Lonesome” and “All of Your Love.” Dark and somewhat mysterious, “Hoo Doo Blues” provides another change of pace, almost as if Mick is ready to break out into 1978’s “Miss You.”

This flows into the album’s slowest song, “Little Rain,” a three and a half minute 12 liner. “Just Like I Treat You,” originally by Howlin’ Wolf, sounds vaguely Chuck Berry-esque, and the Stones show they still have their classic rock and roll flare. Blue and Lonesome finishes with its longest track, “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” a five-minute combination of all the messages given throughout the first half of the record.

While it doesn’t display Jagger’s and Richards’ lyrical genius, Blue and Lonesome proves the Glimmer Twins are still in the game and alive as ever. Recorded in a three-day stretch in December 2015, the Stones cranked out the LP like it was still 1972. Time may wait for no one, but the Stones sure have given it a nasty toothache.

All images courtesy of the Rolling Stones and Wikimedia

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