The Rolling Stones
Blue & Lonesome
Question: What do you get when you take a rock-and-roll band that's seemingly been around longer than the earth itself, lock the members in a room for a couple of days and push 'play' on the recording console?
Answer: You get Blue & Lonesome, the most consistent - and best - album The Rolling Stones have issued since 1978's Some Girls.
Granted, Blue & Lonesome is a covers album, made up of Chess-era Chicago blues tunes originally done by the likes of Little Walter, Magic Sam, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon and Eddie Taylor, but man ... The Stones sound super-relaxed and like they were having the time of their lives when they cut this album.
The Stones' version of Eddie Taylor's "Ride 'Em On Down" is almost worth the price of admission alone for Blue & Lonesome.
Maybe it was because there was no pressure of having to come up with original material of their own, but this is how I like my Rolling Stones to sound - energized and intent on turning back Father Time with passionate and enthusiastic playing. Mick Jagger sounds especially good on Blue & Lonesome and it's a real treat to hear him blow the harmonica like he used to back in the band's early days, when they were basically a blues cover band starting out in England in the early '60s. One of Jagger's earliest heroes was Little Walter and it's no surprise that The Stones perform four songs associated with the late, great former Muddy Waters' sideman on Blue & Lonesome.
To The Stones' credit, they really didn't mess a whole lot with the arrangements of the tunes on Blue & Lonesome, rather they just pinned their ears back and laid down a red-hot set of blues songs.
Fellow blues lover - and fellow Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famer - Eric Clapton makes an appearance and plays guitar on a pair of cuts - "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" and "I Can't Quit You Baby." It sounds like Clapton was grateful for the opportunity to get back to his roots, as well, and blow off a bit of steam. In addition to the guest spot by Slowhand, it would have been too cool had The Stones invited former member Mick Taylor to sit in on a few songs. That would have been the icing on the sweet cake that is Blue & Lonesome.
Oh, well ... I guess a person can't have everything.
Hopefully the energy and passion that The Stones played with on Blue & Lonesome will carry over into the sessions for the new studio album that the group is in the midst of finishing.
Nonetheless, Blue & Lonesome is highly-recommended for fans of The Rolling Stones, as well as for fans of traditional electric Chicago blues.