The Stones Close
Every tour and record by the Rolling Stones over the last 30 years has sold under the heading “could be their last”, but in a year when so many great names have left us, and their last studio album was released 11 years ago, we could think that this time, it may be true. It wouldn’t be wrong on their part to think that ending their career like that would be the right thing to do, closing the circle the way they started, making their own version of the music that inspired them in the first place, the blues, paying tribute to artists who chose to share the stage with them.
At a time when record sales are low, and not even necessary to hit the road, the fact that they made one like this, can only be out of personal enjoyment. It’s true that this isn’t the whole story, nobody can forget the angular stone of their career, even on top of Muddy Waters (despite his name), is Chuck Berry. However, the Stones have decided to do something more homogeneous and left out the rock for a record devoted to Chicago electric blues. That’s not the only difference with its debut, more than a 60-year career and wisdom show in their performance.
The record starts without ceremony, Mick Jagger launches into a throat cutting harmonica rip while the band keeps a strong ‘groove’. It’s something that serves to shape the entire album, a band that sheds the showing off and enjoys letting themselves go, playing a series of songs that, at this stage, form a part of their DNA. In spite of what one might expect, considering Keith the blues purist, the real star of the show is a Jagger bursting vocally and on harmonica. The years and life experience (enough to fill 20 lives) have given grounds of wisdom and knowledge to a voice that fits like a glove on lyrics written by black men who would never see, in their lives, the kind of dosh Mick makes in a week.
The most outstanding moments are ‘Blue and Lonesome’, one of the 4 Little Walter songs that appear, with a slow and deliberate rhythm where Richards responds with his Telecaster to Jagger’s cringing voice and takes over the spotlight with his harp. ‘All of Your Love’, the Magic Sam classic, is the epitome of what this album’s all about; a Chicago blues passing through the dirty filter of the Stones. It wreaks of cigarette smoke and alcohol in a midnight den. ‘Everybody Knows My Good Thing’ features the slide guitar of one Eric Clapton. ‘Ride ´em Down’ is a ‘shuffle’ where Watts beats the drums with accustomed precision while the guitars sound splendidly filthy. ‘Hoodoo Blues’ from Lightnin’ Slim sees Jagger squeeze out every intonation, revelling his old ‘bluesman’ role. ‘Little Rain’ starts without drums, taking it easy, slowly building on guitars, when Watts makes an appearance with his brushes, until, like the icing on a slowly cooked cake, Jagger is back with his masterful harmonica. The closer is ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ by Willie Dixon where Clapton is back as invited starring guest with a serious and reserved performance.