The Rolling Stones have just made their best album since 1978’s Some Girls.
Dedicated Stones watchers will read that bold statement as faint praise, given that the band followed their initial 14-year run of thrilling, game-changing albums with another 30 years of increasingly lacklustre ones, but it is a huge achievement nonetheless.
Blue & Lonesome is the first Stones studio album since 2005’s A Bigger Bang and it consists entirely of the kind of Chicago blues songs Mick Jagger and Keith Richards first bonded over during their famous meeting at Dartford railway station on October 17, 1961.
This covers album is less a retrograde step; more a reclaiming of the band’s soul.
It went wrong for the Stones when they started sounding like technology - and trends were leading them rather than the other way round.
The joy of Blue & Lonesome is the way the band ignores whatever has been going on for the past 50 years. Popular wisdom has it that Keith Richards is the Stones’ bluesy heart and Mick Jagger its red-trousers-wearing fashion victim, but it is Jagger’s voice that brings these songs alive. “Aaaaall your love . . . can it be mine?” he wails against Richards’ fantastically lazy guitar on Magic Sam’s All Of Your Love, and you realise Jagger has a way of inhabiting the blues better than any other white singer, bringing out the sensuality, the amorality, the evil, even.
Jagger’s harmonica is pretty damn fantastic, too. There’s a sustained note towards the end of his rendition of Little Walter’s Hate To See You Go that sounds like a descent into Hell, while he blows through Lightnin’ Slim’s Hoodoo Blues with sustained menace. Jagger’s genius is in doing an imitation of black American music that is thoroughly white and English.
If Brian Jones had had his way the Stones would have remained blues purists, but Jagger, Richards and Andrew Loog Oldham, then their manager, had other ideas and turned the band into a songwriting machine. Now, years later, Jagger is coming back to the blues with an insouciance that suggests he isn’t going to lose much sleep worrying about what the purists think.
What keeps the Stones a fantastic live act is their looseness. Unlike almost every other stadium act, they play in the moment, missed beats and all, and Blue & Lonesome is similarly imperfect. Charlie Watts’s drumming on Willie Dixon’s Just Like I Treat You is positively unhinged, while Richards turns in some gloriously louche guitar on Jimmy Reed’s Little Rain; twelve-bar blues reduced to a primordial crawl.
It’s not a perfect album, and on the opener, Just Your Fool, the Stones could be any competent blues covers band in any theme bar the world over, but it’s the spirit of Blue & Lonesome that shines through. To hear the Stones go back to the music they love, and to be so confident and unapologetic about it, is a joy.
By Will Hodgkinson
With many thanks to The Australian
Are These The Top 10 Songs Named After Famous People?
'Vinyl' Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese's Mini-series
Televison 2016: Some Shows We Can Expect To See
Remembering David Bowie
The Fender Stratocaster: A Design Icon At 60
Is Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' Really The Best Guitar Riff Ever?
The Rolling Stones At Their Peak: 1965 Touring Ireland
The Rolling Stones at Villa Nellcôte and "Exile On Main Street"
The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts: A very Different Drummer
The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury after 50 years
Keith Richards - His Life with the Rolling Stones and His Book
Will the Rolling Stones Stop Rolling? No!
Singer Jordie Lane finds the soul of the Grievous Angel: Gram Parsons
Keith Richards Writes A Story Book For Children
Ronnie Wood: His Art and The Rolling Stones : Update - Australian Tour Dates Cancelled
Film Review: Twenty Feet From Stardom
Arthur Alexander: The Forgotten Songwriter Who Inspired The Beatles, Bob Dylan And The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones To Release Two Heritage Concerts On DVD & Their Australian "On Fire" Tour
Glyn Johns: Defining That Classic-Rock Sound
Jagger Gives Charlie Watts A Special Gift!
Rolling Stones Book To Cost $5,000 (or $10,000)
Altamont at 45: The Most Dangerous Rock Concert Ever?
The Rolling Stones: New Tour Announced - Zip Code Updated: Releases from The Vault And A New Album for Keith Richards
'American Pie' Lyrics Sell For $1.2 million In New York
Bill Wyman: The Rolling Stones Never Forgave Me For Leaving
Don Henley Recruits Mick Jagger And Dolly Parton For Country Album Cass County
The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers: Super Deluxe Edition
Keith Richard ‘Under The Influence’
Bob Dylan Named Greatest Songwriter Ahead Of Lennon and McCartney According To Rolling Stone
Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood’s - "How Can It Be? A Rock & Roll Diary"
Keith Richards Says Jagger’s Ego Sent Him Solo
The Rolling Stones’ 'Satisfaction' Was The Result Of A Faulty Amp
A History Of Mick Jagger On Film
The Rolling Stones To Create Their Own Museum - #StonesIsm
The Rolling Stones Guide To Business Success And Survival
The Rolling Stones Reveal ‘Totally Stripped’
The Rolling Stones’ ‘Havana Moon’ In Cinemas Worldwide
The Rolling Stones: A New Movie About The Making of 'Exile on Main Street'
Rollings Stones’ Keith Richards Is Evolving, Not Ageing
The Rolling Stones:Olé Olé Olé: A Trip Across Latin America
The Rolling Stones: First Music From New Blues Album