MUSIC MONDAY Rolling Stones New Album Part 5
Rolling Stones – Everybody Knows About My Good Thing
Before the Rolling Stones were rock icons, before its members turned into sex symbols and their sound inspired a generation of imitators, they were a blues cover band. Taking their name from Muddy Waters’ Rollin’ Stone and launching their career 50 years ago with ramshackle covers of blues tracks, the backbone of the band’s bones-rattling rock ‘n’ roll has always been their chosen genre’s more soulful predecessor.
But with the group’s first studio album in 11 years, Blue & Lonesome (*** out of four, out Friday), the blues isn’t just the subtext in their songs. Instead of offering a collection of original music, which they still promise to be working on, Mick Jaggerand company covered 12 blues songs from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, going the route Bob Dylan most recently explored with his 2015 Frank Sinatra cover album Shadows in the Night.
But unlike other straightforward covers albums, which are often more exciting in theory than in self-indulgent practice, the songs on Blue & Lonesome are a homecoming for the Stones, as they cover blues greats like Waters, Willie Dixon and other artists whose songs the band cut their teeth on.
As the Stones have explained in interviews, Blue & Lonesome wasn’t the album the band originally set out to record. While they were in the studio recording new material, they started riffing on a few old blues songs to warm up — and had so much fun, they blew out their jam sessions into an entire collection of songs.
Buoyed by this enthusiasm, the album sounds like the best kind of passion project. Blue & Lonesome proves to be a brilliant vehicle to reintroduce the band, a high-water mark in the Stones’ later era, making the case that they’re as eternally youthful as ever.
And in more aspects than one, Blue & Lonesome is an album of teachers learning from their students. Over the past few decades, rock revivalists like Jack White have built careers imitating the Stones, and in turn, Blue & Lonesome buzzes with the noisy production quality you’d hear on a newcomer’s garage-rock demo. Similar to many of his peers, Jagger’s voice has colored slightly with age; but when muddied with distortion, his haggard yowls are electrifying.
As always, Jagger is the center of attention here, and he clearly enjoys playing the role of tortured bluesman, from the crashing title track to the stripped-down Little Rain. The album’s plodding moments linger a little too long on his wailing performances; more enjoyable are the team efforts, as Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood trade rough-and-tumble riffs on the rollicking Ride ‘Em on Down and I Gotta Go, with Jagger winking at the band’s mischievous streak on their deft Howlin’ Wolfcover Commit a Crime.
Yes, it’s still a collection of covers, and some Stones fans may not be thrilled about their detour away from recording new songs. But for every stellar classic-rock comeback album, there are five duds, the Stones’ 2005 effort A Bigger Bang among them. The freewheeling vigor of Blue & Lonesome suggests that their new material will have a newly heightened pulse.
In a way, Blue & Lonesome feels like a cosmic gift to Stones fans; after conquering rock ‘n’ roll, the genre’s elder statesmen return to the songs that taught them how to play music in the first place.