Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I Got The Blues, Alright.

A reader, Pete, recently commented:

"I think you slam the Stones a bit too hard and a bit too frequently. A world with the Stones in it is better than a world without them. Voodoo Lounge is my least favorite album of theirs, but I'm glad it exists, and I'm glad they didn't break up after Undercover even if I don't listen to their later albums very much."

I replied:

"That is just not true. I am the guy who's been slamming the guys who claim the last good Stones album was "Exile." I have come to the Stones defense on countless occasions, as well as raving about records right thru and including "Steel Wheels." What is true is, I don't like what they are now, and a lot of that has to do with Jagger, who is probably responsible for Don Was. And yes, I've been very clear that I think their records after "Steel Wheels" are lousy, as is their practice to charge up to $500 for concert tickets. Of course the world is better with than without the Stones, but that doesn't mean I have to pretend to like their recent records or pretend they still sound good live, because they don't."

Well, Pete. Here goes nothin'!

I've been seeing this phrase a whole helluva lot, "The Stones album you wanted them to make."


No, it isn't.

I did not want a one vibe, Jagger-centric, badly produced collection of one-take blues covers. "Blue & Lonesome" doesn't even sound like the Rolling Stones. The production is so hot and so brittle, with Jagger's harp blowing relentlessly into your face, this might as well be a Jagger vanity project. There is no vocal play at all between Mick and Keith to remind you that Keith is in the band. The guitars sound exactly the same on every track, as if they are being played through a bullhorn.  There is no subtlety, no sweetness. (Yes, the blues can be sweet.) Every song sounds like a half time show.

Who is to blame? Don Was? Mick, for allowing Don Was to produce the record? Everyone? Was there no one around to suggest an acoustic guitar for at least one or two songs? A couple of things work, like both "Hate To See You Go" and "Little Rain," because they both seem effortless. Why are the Rolling Stones trying so hard? They don't need to. Their age should have worked for them with this type of record.

In 2016, a "blues record" sounds a lot better on paper than a new Stones record with special guest vocalists John Mayer and Ke$ha. But let's be honest with ourselves. We wanted 12 songs that sound like "Love In Vain" and "Little Red Rooster," not 12 blues songs that sound like "Might As Well Get Juiced" from "Bridges To Babylon."

"Blue & Lonesome" comes and goes in a little over 40 minutes. Am I happy to have this record in my world than not? I don't know. If it's this or nothing, I guess the answer is, this. But it really is nothing.


Gene Oberto said...

I have listened to the "new" Stones' pre-release singles with decreasing hope for an honest return to form, it's still better than video releases with of the band with whoever the current rave is on the pop charts. After all, Mick must always be au courant.

Still there is a way to hide another let down from the world's used to be greatest rock band. Kids, head on over to the LP, "The Rolling Stones - in Mono." Here is not only the album I hoped they would release, but the steps they took to becoming "The World''s Greatest Rock'n' Roll Band."

It also is Exhibit A in my belief that the band never recovered from the loss of Bill Wyman.

Anonymous said...

Ah, shit, too bad. I've only listened to one of the singles, which was unmemorable. I'd been holding out hope for this, though guessing it would probably strike me somewhere along the lines of Dylan's early 90s folk covers albums or his more recent takes on Sinatra songs: records I admire but don't listen to very often. This sounds less than that, but I'll still listen, of course. Hope springs... whatever.

Bruce H

buzzbabyjesus said...

I regularly bash everything after "Exile", in fact I've even whittled that down to a single lp.

I passed on an opportunity to download this latest unsult last night. I don't think the world benefits from more dull product from the Stones.
Their existence is a reminder of what was, and the further away that gets the less relevant they are. Pissing on their legacy for a cheeseburger today.
I personally don't give a fuck whether they are in the world or not.

I read "Life", but I liked Bill Wyman's "Letter from Mick" better.

"Crosseyed Heart" is a piece of shit. Too many "Yes Men" telling him he's great and they're so happy to be involved in a sort of "historic" moment.

I saw a video of "Commit A Crime", with Jeff Beck guesting, in a sort of tribute to Hubert Sumlin, which is funny because no one sounds less like Sumlin than Beck, anyway, Charlie isn't even playing drums, and I'd swear the professional hack sitting in had his faced blurred.


Anonymous said...

So should we hold out hope that the album that they were working on comes out and it' great, good,mediocre,a Bigger Bang part 2,dull,horrible,instant cutout,buys Mick another Rolls?

mauijim said...

with how poorly Bang sold even before streaming, Mick couldn't buy a Vega after releasing a new new material album

steve simels said...

What kind of sick sadistic world do we live in where the Rolling Stones can make a lousy blues album?

This is incomprehensible to me.

sclinchy said...

Just listen to a little of Havana Moon. These guys can't even play the same note at the same time. It's pathetic, but not as pathetic as people shelling out big bucks to see a shadow of what they were forty years ago.

steve simels said...

On the other hand I just got the video of their Marquee Club show from the early 70s where they were trying out the Sticky Fingers material and it's fucking amazing.

Sal Nunziato said...

The Marquee show is da BOMB, as the kids say. (The kids say that, right?)

Anonymous said...

Hey Sal, as a playlist or just as list, I'd be curious about your pick of the 10 best Stones songs since, say, Undercover, or Steel Wheels. I feel like most of the records have had a few decent nuggets once you get past the sad attempts at singles and/or contemporary relevance. In my memory there's a whole stretch of Bridges to Babylon that's quite listenable, but it's been a while and maybe I'm burnishing.

Bruce H

Sal Nunziato said...


I don't think I could do it. The songs I remember, I don't like. I would have to listen to both Bridges To Babylon and Bigger Bang again. I do think Steel Wheels is mostly great.

kevin m said...

Ok here's my attempt at 10 really good Stones songs since Undercover:
-Mixed Emotions
-Almost Here You Sigh
-Slipping Away
-Love is Strong
-Low Down
-Out of Control
-Thief in the Night
-How Do I Stop
-Back of My Hand
-Doom & Gloom

buzzbabyjesus said...

The only song I know on that list is "Doom And Gloom", which I detest. Sorry.

mauijim said...

heres my alternative to kevin's
one hit
had it with u
harlem shuffle
rock and a hard place
can't be seen
continental drift
sex drive
nothing from voodoo
you don't have to mean it
might as well get juiced
back of my hand where they show they can play the blues

vanwoert said...

Here is my list:
."Big Enough"
."Take It So Hard"
."I Could Have Stood You Up"
."Make No Mistake"
."You Don't Mo
."How I Wish"
."Whip It Up"
."Locked Away" –
."It Means a Lot

Anonymous said...

New Stones is excellent. You are an idiot. Don't fuck up my day. http://nypost.com/2016/12/01/the-rolling-stones-blue-lonesome-is-their-best-work-in-years/

Sal Nunziato said...

Well if the NY Post says so...

Dr Wu said...

EVERY review I've read this morning states that this new Stones' album is a classic and a rebirth. Full disclosure: I've only heard two songs, but I don't hear it. 'Trust in Sal', I say.

dogbreath said...

The UK mags Uncut and Mojo both give it 8 out of 10 in contrast to most of the above. Perhaps it's an opposite side of the Atlantic thing, a post-Brexit fallout. Anyway, I can't comment as I haven't heard it yet (Get on with it - Ed) so will tackle it hoping for the best this weekend. Cheers?

Dr Wu said...

Just gave the album two full listens. It's not terrible. It's not great. It just 'is'. I won't run from it if it comes up randomly. But, I also won't be seeking it out. I seem to recall that the Stones were going to let Jack White produce an album for them some years ago. That might have been the way go here. Or even Rick Rubin - but, as he produced Jagger's one listenable solo album, that seems unlikely at best. Thanks for your (and your readers) take on this. Side note: very much enjoyed the vintage Mustang in the video! (Important to seek out the good in any situation)

Gene Oberto said...

However, this song or is the video seems to be gaining a better opinion...


kevin m said...

So far I'm liking this record; not loving it. It's not the performances; it's the sound which Sal has clearly and correctly addressed.

Then again, Mrs Kevin M remarked this AM that she was enjoying this so what do I know?

Reading Dr Wu's post makes me wonder what Jack White would have done with these boys and a project like this. Or even Dan Auerbach.

Bombshelter Slim said...

Hi Sal, I finally broke down and listened to the album... what can I say? Any real blues band that's been together for more than a week could bang this sucker out in 3 days. The sound AND the performances are lame in my book. There are moments, but only a few, that point to what this mess could and should have been. It doesn't sound like Keith on guitar, it doesn't sound like Charlie on drums, it does (unfortunately) sound like Mick on (overwrought) vocals and lame (there's that word again) harmonica. Maybe this is all Ronnie's fault...

Chris Collins said...


Gene Oberto said...

My last comments on this:

In the initial incarnation of the band called the Rolling Stones, I can't remember MIck Jagger's harmonica taking any lead breaks. Adding color or a flourish, yes. Harmonica breaks, no.

The cover of "I Can't Quit You, Babe" is blasphemy!! Jagger's exaggerated inflections are fit only as a joke in a drunken charade among friends. "Go on Mick, do your impression of Jagger!" It wouldn't make the cut at your local bar's impression karaoke night.
The disrespect to Willie Dixon and Otis Rush is astonishing. Their rendition makes Led Zeppelin's paean seem religious.

Bombshelter Slim said...

Gene, for the most part, those harp parts were played by Brian Jones, who knew his limitations and yet was at least twice the harmonicat that Mick is today...

M_Sharp said...

Very disappointing. I liked a few songs, but that's it. If Jagger weren't the singer, you wouldn't know that it's the Rolling Stones. His vocal on "I Can't Quit You Baby" is truly horrendous.

Gyro1966 said...

Sal - I've heard a few songs and they are good. I have the album, just haven't played it all yet. Most reviews I've read of the album are positive. I'm not sure what more we can expect from this band, but this is certainly not an embarrassment at all.

Sal Nunziato said...

Well Gyro1966, you are right in that the reviews have been positive. But some people here agree with me. As for what to expect from this band at this point? I think the main problem is that if they just did what we expected, they'd be fine. Jagger tries too hard to exceed and they just aren't capable.

Jonathan F. King said...

I played it with trepidation, after all the buildup and my own foolish geezer hopes and dreams. My trepidation was rewarded. Jagger might as well be in blackface here: His worst stylistic tics are on full display. And yet, as someone else pointed out, if it weren't for him, and an occasional Keef lick that emerges out of the mud, you'd never know it was the Stones