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."
"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.