It’s been 11 years since one of England’s longest-serving, most prolific and legendary rock bands of all time has released a studio album. 2005 was the last time we heard a full LP of new music by the Rolling Stones when they released ‘A Bigger Bang’ and despite it being a fantastic album, and the band remaining active with constant tours, concerts and small releases (including solo efforts), I think we all assumed that may be the last in a line of masterpiece worthy records.
The the news came recently that the 2nd of December would be the release date for a brand new, original, blues inspired album called ‘Blue & Lonesome’ in which the four Stones would join with their accomplished backing band to reconnect with the style and the sound that made them a household name back in the 60’s, the genre that inspired them and started it all, the blues. What’s more is that, none of the songs are originals, they’re all covers of old blues tracks, written and performed between 60 – 50 years ago and the names behind them read like a hall of fame induction class. Lending sounds and lyrics from names such as Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed, the album serves as a love letter, or a nod of respect to the people who paved the way and made them who they are, whilst, I expect, getting the chance to play and record the music they enjoy the most.
There are multiple reasons why it’s a great record, firstly because the musicianship and vocal ability showcased throughout is a testament to why they’re considered one of the greatest bands of all time. Mick’s ages snarl gives a whole new sound to the Stones doing blues. If you go back and listen to their early blues recordings from the early to mid 60’s, as brilliant as they are, the edge he gives it now, reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf or BB King, sound better than anything he could have done in his youth.
The second great point to it is that it’s a humble album, of humble music, that even though the band playing is comprised of millionaires, deservedly so, that have played for 54 years together and travelled the world countless times, it feels like you’re listening to any other tight blues hall band, or you could be sat at a table in any of London’s great little blues bars, watching some evening entertainment. How a band can transport you into a feeling like that is a mystery, but normally it’d work the other way around and a smaller band might act a little grander, and exaggerate the sound to create a larger presence. Not in this case and what a thrill it is.
My third favourite point is perhaps a little hopeful but isn’t it just the greatest idea to have a high-profile band release an album of traditional, substantial blues like this in 2016? Wouldn’t it be amazing if it started a resurgence and a whole new modern fan base to the blues, opened up in front of us? Could it be the antidote to the ever-expanding retardation of society? In a couple of years time after a few more bands or artists have followed suit, wouldn’t it be great to see someone throw on a Lightnin’ Hopkins record, rather than try to correctly position their Snapchat filtered flowery head band? Or maybe even see a child pick up a guitar to learn to play like his hero Muddy Waters, rather than pick up an iPad to do a live tutorial on how to be a complete waste of space! As I said, it’s hopeful, but maybe! Could all be wishful thinking.
From start to finish the albums consistent and there’s no weak areas. The track choices aren’t obvious either, there are even some songs here that I want to find and listen to their original recordings. Highlights include ‘Just Your Fool’, the album opener and a classic Buddy Johnson track, although known by many for the Little Walter version. The seductive swing of ‘All Of Your Love’ is just perfect and slows the tempo down for a mid record break. Then new single ‘Ride ‘Em On Down’ is a big party tune that’d have any blues bar rocking and shaking the walls.
One final point, and a beautifully sentimental and important one… Brian Jones will be smiling all the way through this album. Welcome back, The Rolling Stones.
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)