ALBUM REVIEW: The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome

blue-lonesome-58445556b918eThe first studio album in over a decade sees The Rolling Stones return to their roots with an incredible blues album containing nothing but covers of classic blues numbers. There’d been a lot of speculation over the last few years as to whether the band would ever return to the studio, and even though there isn’t an original number anywhere on the album, Blue & Lonesome is one hell of a musical statement from the greatest rock and roll band of all time.

Just Your Fool is the opening song which was the first single to be released on the 6th October after the album’s announcement. The song is a Buddy Johnson number and the band pull it off spectacularly, something they continue to do all through the album. Jagger is on fine form and at times you wonder if he’s ever aged at all. Howlin’ Wolf is one of the biggest names in the blues and Commit A Crime is the song of his the Stones decided to cover for the second song on the album. Even though they make the song their own you can still hear those Hubert Sumlin influences on guitar that made Howlin’ Wolf so legendary. It’s followed by the title track Blue And Lonesome by Memphis Slim which sounds great but it’s perhaps All Of Your Love by Magic Sam that is the highlight of the album. The original song is one of my favourite blues numbers because of the guitar and vocals and Jagger makes this version sound like it was recorded during the Exile On Main Street album sessions. He sounds incredible. The band as a whole sound fantastic too with Richards and Wood on top form and Watts as ever being the solid foundation the band play over, with Darryl Jones on bass throwing his own talents into the mix to create a wonderful performance.

  1. Just Your Fool
  2. Commit A Crime
  3. Blue And Lonesome
  4. All Of Your Love
  5. I Gotta Go
  6. Everybody Knows About My Good Thing
  7. Ride ‘Em On Down
  8. Hate To See You Go
  9. Hoo Doo Blues
  10. Little Rain
  11. Just Like I Treat You
  12. Hate To Quit You Baby

I Gotta Go by Little Walter sees Jagger lay down some fantastic harmonica lines as well as sounding as fresh as ever on vocals. They once again play some great blues here with the count in before the song proving it was all done live in the studio. The energy level in this song is through the roof and it’s all because it was recorded live, something that never fails to get the blood pumping. A long lost art these days considering most albums pre-mid 1960’s were recorded in this way. Everybody Knows About My Good Thing features some great slide guitar played by the one and only Eric Clapton who makes two appearances on this album, this song and the last song. If you’re familiar with Clapton’s slide playing you’re instantly reminded of some of his mid-1970’s albums because the sound and feel is so similar. I had to make sure I was still listening to The Rolling Stones at some points, but his presence on this song takes things to another level entirely.

Ride ‘Em On Down is the next song which was released for Record Store Day on Black Friday this year as a limited edition 10″ single. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy in Vermont and it’s one of the stand out tracks from the entire album. The driving rhythm doesn’t quit from start to finish and each member of the band, including Jagger on harmonica, play some of their finest moments. It’s followed by the catchy Hate To See You Go by Little Walter and yet again you’re left wonderingl if this is a recent Jagger vocal take or something that was recorded in the early 70’s. He sounds like he hasn’t aged a day since. Hoo Doo Blues comes next which may be the most dirty sounding song on the album. Haunting would be a good way to describe it which of course fits perfectly with the song title. Little Rain by Jimmy Reed comes next and it’s the first slow blues number on the entire record which really opens up the song entirely and allows Jagger to dominate on vocals and harmonica. There’s no guitar solo here but both guitar players play the riff beautifully until it fades out, and you’re left wanting more and more.

Just Like I Treat You sounds like a song the band could have recorded on one of their first two solo albums in the early 60’s down to the rhythm and blues style and, yet again, Jagger’s youthful vocals. At stages of his career he’s had noticeable qualities to his singing and in this song he sounds a lot like those original Rolling Stones recordings from the early 60’s. Incredible. Richards and Wood both take a solo each which injects a huge amount of energy into the song before it comes to and end in a Stevie Ray Vaughan kind of style. The last song is the stunning Hate To Quit You Baby by Willie Dixon and again features Eric Clapton on guitar. It’s a fantastic song to end the album on and at this point you can really hear the band are having fun, something that is a common theme throughout the whole album. Clapton’s solo during the halfway mark confirms his status as Britain’s best blues guitarist before Jagger returns on vocals with a loud scream, something he hasn’t done in years. What a song. What an album.

Overall it’s a superb album that should be in the running for album of the year. The fact that it was all recorded live is a testament to The Rolling Stones and how music used to be recorded before the early-mid 1960’s because the songs sound more fresh and free as a result compared to if everything had been overdubbed. Playing live also creates energy and this flows from the album by the bucket load. The inclusion of Eric Clapton on two of the songs is a nice touch as well and from the first song to the last you can really tell the band had a lot of fun recording this album. And I’ve had a lot of fun listening to it. More please!

10/10

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