Thursday, December 6, 2018


Image result for blue and lonesome rolling stones
--The Rolling Stones
Yes, yes, I realize the Rolling Stones started out, under the behest of belated founding member Brian Jones, as a blues band, more or less, with Chicago style as their touchstone. Blue and Lonesome, their new blues tribute album, is awful. Never a good blues singer--technically, he's a horrible singer, in fact--Mick Jagger's better to refer to as a "vocalist, distinct from someone who can truly carry a tune and remain on the pitch. His best vocals are studio-made performances, masterful assemblages of grunts, yowls, mewlings, and sundry other bull noises. In the context of great songs like "Satisfaction," "Shattered," "Start Me Up," or "Driving Too Fast," it has allowed him to still sound like a 19-year-old punk after all these decades. It was the perfect foil for the fire-fight guitar cross-rhythms of guitarists Keith R. and Ron W. As a soul man and bluesman. However, Jagger honestly sounds like a parody of blues singing, to no avail. I realize others will argue that what he does here extends the vocal genius I've already described, but that does not wash. Rock and roll vocals can get by on attitude, but blues, I think, requires vocal color, a bit of range, and a field that can twist the lyrics to emotional suggestion as much as a good guitarist or harmonica player could. Jagger obviously tries to channel Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf among other brilliant blues icons, but his vocal attributes, or lack of them, betray him fiercely. Jagger's harmonica work here is weak, goddamned awful, in fact. The band had the good sense to bring in Eric Clapton for a couple of tracks to give the session the needed fret-gritting it needed, but why didn't it call in an old hand like harmonica genius Sugar Blue to handle the harmonica parts. Jagger's harmonica work wheezes, honks, hits the marks but does nothing memorable once he gets to them. All that said, the band itself cranks it along just fine, what you expect from the Stones, a sturdy, ornery, crackling set of leg-breaking in 4/4 time. They may take a bow. The pity is the band's most famous member is this album's most significant defect.

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