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Blue & Lonesome
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On 2nd December 2016, The Rolling Stones will release Blue & Lonesome , their first studio album in over a decade. Recorded in just three days in London, England, Blue & Lonesome takes the band back to their roots and the passion for blues music which has always been at the heart and soul of The Rolling Stones.
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Every note sounds like I've heard it before on some blues album somewhere, but it sounds so natural here.
In his recent autobiography, Bruce Springsteen wrote about practicing 'Tumbling Dice' with the Stones before joining them at a New Jersey concert, and how much in awe he was of 'the world's best bar band.' Exactly. This is the Stones in a club at 2 am, playing the blues for patrons who are more than a couple drinks in.
And with a heaping amount of Mick playing blues harp. Finally. He played harp on early Stones albums, and then moved on to just singing and writing. Keeping that gift under a hat was shorting listeners for years, but he's back.
Good for them and for us--a real shot of energy.
Those early Stone’s albums covered some blues, and we loved it. They then segued into rock, but many of us yearned for more of their blues covers. After all, they drank from the same fountain of Chicago blues that all of us trying to play the blues back then did. So, it is wonderful to finally hear a whole album of blues covers by the Rolling Stones, honoring the originals, but in their own style, and kudos for daring to expose themselves in this way.
Everyone seems to be highlighting Jagger’s harmonica playing, and no doubt, he’s giving us all he’s got, putting it right out there. However, what I find most satisfying are Jagger’s vocals. Many of us attempting to play the blues back in the 1960s clung to the songs of Little Walter, because they were sing-able, danceable, and often had a touch of lightness and fun to them. Jagger does a great job. His voice pushes past doing covers and we hear him out there on-the-edge just singing the blues and it sounds great.
As for my background, I came out of the folk music scene in the late 1950s, hitchhiked with Dylan in 1961, helped put on an early show of Dylan’s in Ann Arbor, etc. Later, I was lead singer in the Prime Movers Blues Band (founded summer 1965) doing the same style tunes that this new Stone’s album covers. A young Iggy Pop was our drummer. We opened for Cream at the Fillmore during the Summer of Love (1967), and later I founded the All-Music Guide, etc. I know this music well and thanks to the Stones for daring to jump into the swimming pool as they did, thus keeping it real. Some stones, Stones!
[Photo of me interviewing Muddy Waters back in the 1960s, one of scores of interviews of great blues performers I did back then.]
The album was recorded over a three day period, and according to the liner notes had no overdubs. It was simply four talent musicians who have played and lived together for decades and a couple of backup musicians playing a collection of songs by their childhood hero's Mike did a great job on the vocals and for once it was not overdone. I was also surprised with his work on the harp, while Ronnie and Keith took turns exchanging licks. All the time Charlie keep the group going with his understated drums. It was the drummer that caused me on a number of occasions to start tamping my feet in time. One of the things that made this album work was that entire band was on equal footing with Mick's vocal. This was most appearance on the last "I can't quit you baby" where Mick stood back and let Eric Clapton lead the way. The same can be said for the Eric Clapton appearance on "Everybody knows about my good things"
The best tracks on this album is "Hate to See you go" and "Just Like I Treat You". Which to me showcase what good blues is and that is simply and to the point.
One of the other reviewers complained that Mike vocals not being out front. I consider this a good things since it allowed everyone including the keyboard/piano/organ player with added to the overall sound stage. Is this the best blues album of all time? Everyone have a different choice. It would get my vote however for the best Stones ablum since 1972 Exile on Main Street.
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