Keith’s first new album since 1992’s Main Offender is, in one word, superb. It’s been 11 years since we had a new album from The Rolling Stones so in many words this is the next best thing. However on first listen you can tell that the quality on Crosseyed Heart is as good or if not better than anything the Stones have done since the 90’s.
The album opens with the title track which is pure acoustic blues in the vein of Big Bill Broonzy. In fact if you take a listen to Broonzy’s track Key To The Highway you’ll instantly hear the similarities between the two as they share the same 8 bar blues chord sequence and almost the exact same guitar playing. This is 100% Broonzy, not a bad way to open an album. Next up is Heartstopper which is the first rocker on the album. During the chorus there’s an almost dream like texture to Keith’s vocals and he sings backing vocals as well which leads to a beautiful effect. The vocals during this part of the song are dripping with reverb. The next song is Amnesia which is pure Stones, especially that gorgeous guitar riff during the verse sections. It couldn’t be anyone other than Keith Richards playing the guitar! The level of musicianship during these two rockers sets the tone for the rest of the album, with the great Steve Jordan laying down the foundations behind the kit.
Robbed Blind is a beautiful ballad which features piano playing from Ivan Neville and lap steel guitar to add a dream like effect. In fact the lap steel makes me think of Thorn Tree In The Garden by Derek and the Dominos for some reason, probably because of that great slide playing from Duane Allman. Robbed Blind is followed by Trouble which was the first single to be released from the album back in July of this year. That was the first taste we got of this album and the song sounds even better alongside the others in the track listing of Crosseyed Heart. Love Overdue, originally written by Gregory Isaacs, follows and takes a completely different musical direction due to the reggae influences. It bursts with flavour from the get go and this track alone shows how diverse Crosseyed Heart is as an album, especially after the rockier numbers that opened the album. Nothing On Me is a song which could have featured on any of the albums The Rolling Stones released in the 90’s. It just has that feel and it could fit on 1994’s Voodoo Lounge effortlessly. Suspicious rounds off the first half of the album in a beautiful way, with the level of musicianship really shining through strong on this one.
- Crosseyed Heart
- Robbed Blind
- Love Overdue
- Nothing On Me
- Blues In The Morning
- Something For Nothing
- Just A Gift
- Goodnight Irene
- Substantial Damage
- Lover’s Plea
Blues In The Morning is probably my favourite track on the album, I love how effortless the song sounds. The perfect blues song, loose, fun and exciting to listen to. The addition of a horn section gives it that old blues feel which adds even more flavour to an already tasty number and the piano playing in the background is pure Chuck Berry in terms of the riffs being played. Something For Nothing is next up and starts with a number of female vocalists before the instruments and Keith ease into the equation. Just like Nothing On Me, this is a track that could have fit perfectly on Voodoo Lounge. Norah Jones is one of the worlds leading female singers and songwriters and having her guest on the song Illusion is a huge highlight on the album. Her voice floats effortlessly over the band and alongside Keith’s. She sounds fantastic on this song which she co-wrote with Keith and Steve Jordan. I only wish she had featured on another song but perhaps that’s me being biased, I love Norah Jones.
Illusion is followed by Just A Gift which is another slow number in the same vein as previous songs, but one of the gems on Crosseyed Heart is Goodnight Irene. It’s an old blues number originally written by Huddie William Ledbetter, more widely known as Lead Belly. It’s exquisite to hear Keith attempt this song because of his blues roots which stretch back to the 50’s and he really makes the song his own. It’s followed by the last rock number on the album, Substantial, which adds some dirty blues riffs that every music fan associates with Keith Richards. Vocals don’t come in until nearly a minute and a half into the song but the lack of vocals are made up by the presence of that down and dirty electric guitar playing. The final track on Crosseyed Heart is a slow number called Lover’s Plea and it’s a lovely end to the LP. Yet again it features Keith on top form vocal wise which has been a regular thing on this album, his voice sounds as good as it ever has.
Overall it’s a great album, the songs themselves are fantastic and as I’ve mentioned a number of times, the musicianship is absolutely outstanding. Steve Jordan on drums adds something that he always does when he plays, a solid foundation and a musical landscape for everyone else to play over. The general feel and sound of the album is exquisite as well, you can tell it’s one of those albums that’s going to sound just as good in 50 years time which is a rare thing these days. But this is an album of pure music, it’s as simple as that.
I’ll go back to that one word I used at the start of this review and that is: superb. The album contains fantastic songwriting mixed with top musicianship and the result is one hell of an album.