Albums Of The Week

Still got the blues

Tight musicianship from The Rolling Stones (comprising, from left, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards).
Tight musicianship from The Rolling Stones (comprising, from left, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards).PHOTO: REUTERS

The Rolling Stones return to their roots for their first album in 11 years

The refreshing vigour contained in The Rolling Stones' first album in 11 years is a brilliant reminder of why they are the world's longest-lasting rock band.

A collection of mostly Chicago blues covers, Blue & Lonesome is the sound of a band letting their hair down and joyfully digging back to their roots.

Mick Jagger, 73, might be known for electrifying stage moves that have spawned song tributes (Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger), but these recordings affirm the fact that he is still a stunning singer, injecting the songs with as much zest as he did back in the band's youthful days.

Jagger also works overtime on the harmonica, most prominently on album opener Just Your Fool, originally recorded by Buddy Johnson in 1953 and Little Walter's Hate To See You Go from 1954.

The other half of The Glimmer Twins, guitarist Keith Richards, 72, lays down the law with some blazing solos and sprightly rhythm work, most notably on the brisk rendition of Eddie Taylor's Ride 'Em On Down.

Drummer Charlie Watts, 75, is as solid as ever, holding down the fort with steady beats on the upbeat tunes and the slow burners.

  • BLUES / ROCK

  • BLUE & LONESOME

    The Rolling Stones

    Polydor

    4/5 stars

The funny thing is that this collection of a dozen tracks was not even meant to be a proper release.

As guitarist Ronnie Wood - who at 69 is the youngest among the quartet - told the BBC earlier this year, the band were in the studio working on new original tracks and decided to record these covers instead, finishing everything in a couple of days. "Just 'bang' - like that," he said, adding that they did not even rehearse before they laid down the tracks.

They even rope in a compatriot, British guitar icon Eric Clapton to add stirring solos on Little Johnny Taylor's 1971 song Everybody Knows About My Good Thing and Otis Rush's I Can't Quit You Baby from 1956.

Fittingly, like any good blues record, the production is raw and you can even hear Jagger spit while he is emoting his lines.

The musicianship is tight - a given for a band that have been playing together for more than 50 years - but what strikes you is the sense of exhilaration in the playing.

The Stones, despite their canon of certified rock classics, have always fancied themselves as a blues band and Blue & Lonesome sounds like a bunch of friends having a rollicking jam for kicks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Still got the blues'. Print Edition | Subscribe