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Album Review: The Rolling Stones ‘Blue and Lonesome’


The phrase “If you’ve got a good recipe, don’t change it” has become a prevailing sentiment throughout popular music over the years. However, The Rolling Stones have stuck to this saying in its truest form. ‘Blue & Lonesome’ is the legendary outfit’s latest album, containing a dozen covers of blues numbers that define the band’s sound. Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Charlie are back with a bang as this album beholds a reinvigorated Rolling Stones’ sound that holds up against anything in their career.

The Rolling Stones are like a vintage car that never breaks down. Sure, they’re looking old, but man can they roll! Having been 11 years since their last album (2005’s ‘A Bigger Bang’), it was in contention as to whether the world would see another ‘Stones record. However, while it may not be original material, ‘Blue & Lonesome’ shows the English quartet has more than enough energy to deliver a fantastic collection of songs ripe with feeling, dynamics, and good time fervour.

Just Your Fool kicks off the album and sets the tone for what the group is about, feel-good blues in the flow of a casual jam. Commit A Crime follows in a similar fashion, and the inclusion of buoyant harmonica playing by Mick Jagger is a welcome addition to the sound. From the first note it’s clear ‘The Stones are making no apologies as the record bathes unashamedly in a sound that would have been considered somewhat old fashioned even when they first started in the early ’60s.

Jagger’s voice shows no signs of wear and tear despite his age, making for a pleasingly consistent performance throughout.

That being said, this older sound does not imply a lack of ideas, but rather with these tracks the ‘Stones have shown an abundance of ideas. A wealth of nuances and tones have been used to compose tasteful spins on numbers that have been around longer than anyone can remember.

The title-track Blue and Lonesome, a soulful tune by Memphis Slim, shifts the tone momentarily to sad blues before All Your Love caresses the ears with a repeating chord variation by Richards and swinging rhythm section. The highlight of this number however is Jagger’s individual take on the harp, the echoing tones and chimes during the harmonica solo set Jagger apart from other harp players as he hits the right notes at the right time, not overdoing or overblowing it.

As if reading our minds, I Gotta Go follows with an upbeat swing that begins with soaring harmonica and good-time guitar licks. You can almost picture Keith at that moment saying “So, you liked that? Wait ’til you hear this…”. Moreover, Jagger’s voice shows no signs of wear and tear despite his age, making for a pleasingly consistent performance throughout.

Everybody Knows About My Good Thing features a surprise guest in Eric Clapton, who adds character to the song with his howling slide guitar. Ride ‘Em On Down remains faithful to Eddie Taylor’s swinging original, featuring a wholesome guitar solo by Richards. Of course, that adds much to the fun for the avid listener, who can compare the original songs with The Rolling Stones’ versions, which further enriches the experience of the devoted fan.

The album favourite for me however comes in Hate To See You Go, a wonderful all-round blues rock piece that has everything. There’s rich harmonica interplaying with Jagger’s voice, Richard’s signature sounding guitar licks, Watts’ shuffling and ever classy drums, and an overall tone that makes you want to jump up and dance along with the music.

As Keith Richards once said, “Everybody talks about the rock these days, the problem is they forget about the roll”.

One of the many abilities of the ‘Stones I love is how they structure the feel and tone of their albums. A prime example can be seen in ‘Exile On Main Street’ (1972), in which they kick off the album with classic rocking numbers like Rocks Off and Rip This Joint before moving into sad acoustic numbers like Sweet Virginia and Torn and Frayed.

This same approach can be found on ‘Blue and Lonesome’. After the final chord of Hate To See You Go runs off, the slow and soulful Hoo Doo Blues begins, before the melancholy contemplation of Little Rain takes over. The feel picks up again with the more light-hearted Just Like I Treat You before ending in style with a great cover of I Can’t Quit You Baby, which sees Eric Clapton return once again a a guest.

As Keith Richards once said, “Everybody talks about the rock these days, the problem is they forget about the roll”. In an era of hit-and-miss experimentation within rock, the ‘Stones have gone against the grain and reconnected with their roots. The American blues artists that inspired so many English bands alongside the ‘Stones all those years ago have been brought to life again with these songs, and this album should be on everyone’s turntable, ‘Rolling Stones fan or not!

Album Rating: 4.5