Somewhere before the summer holiday I read two things (about The Rolling Stones). The first was that after the 2015 U.S. tour The Rolling Stones were heading towards the studio to record new songs; the first album containing new music in 11 years. And, that Keith Richards would release a new album in September. Was I rejoicing like it was 1975? No, far from, but Richards being the legend he is, I knew that I would buy the album anyway. Well, that became the cd. The price of the LP, € 35,=, is ridiculous. I would have loved to have the LP but not at that price.
At this point in time I have the cd in the home for two days and played the album three times. All doubts can be put aside. Crosseyed Heart delivers. What I hear is the music a 70 plus musician, including his passion for the music and the fun of creating and recording that music. No excitement, all skills and chops from long years of experience.
In that Crosseyed Heart is much more relaxed that Richards' two previous solo outings, 'Talk is cheap' and 'Main Offender'. As he has nothing left to prove. The mood is lighter and the music looser, wider and better. The album starts with a delta blues. Robert Johnson is recreated with the many years of dust on the vocal chords of the original rock 'n' roll animal. The blues continues until he says "that's all I've got" and the album really starts with 'Heartstopper'. A rich Keith Richards rocker. On the one hand I miss Ronnie's lead guitar at an early point, but that is dispensed with when that strange sounding piano plays its isolated notes between the many guitar layers that our hero has laid down, assisted by Waddy Wachtel. The Xpensive Winos are there here and there on the album. Steve Jordan is Richards' side kick again on most of the songs, although several were written alone or with even third parties involved.
Down the line some well-known names pop up. Two Nevilles, Sarah Dash, Norah Jones, Pino Palladino and background vocals from the Stones entourage. Notwithstanding the interesting assistance, this is a 100% Keith Richards album. The lead vocal can only be of one person. Even when Richards does his utmost to pronounce his lyrics 100% understandable. 'Robbed Blind' is a miracle of legibility.
The guitar sound and rhythmic way of playing is there and the songs nearly without a single exception could have been on the upcoming Stones album. No that this album would have been the new 'Exile on Main Street', but definitely a very exciting new the Rolling Stones album. How is it possible that it takes this band so many years to come up with new material when there is a bunch of songs available of this quality? 'Trouble' is the kind of song that would fit on any Stones album since the mid 70s and is better than nearly all songs after 'Tattoo You'. There are all these little guitar lines and hooks that bring the song forward and Richards is singing better than ever it seems.
Musically the album has a few sides to it that sound familiar by now. From acoustic blues all the way to reggae, classic Stones rock, rhythm and blues with a dash of soul. The typical Keith ballad. All comes by in a successful way. The songs on Crosseyed Heart are what is called inspiration.
There is also something which is a bit more mysterious. The singing and the sounds of some of the instruments can be extremely fleeting at times. As if recorded halfway to heaven or something. The more I listen to Crosseyed Heart the more I notice that element. Has Richards finally nailed down that elusive quality he has for picking up melodies as if he has an antenna to capture what is floating around in the ether? And make it sound like it is somehow floating? This sound is a distinct feature of the album. It gives Crosseyed heart a relaxed atmosphere, even in the rockers of which the album has a few excellent examples, starting with 'Trouble'. This is exactly the difference with 'Talk is Cheap' and 'Main Offender'. They were tense.
Was I waiting for Crosseyed Heart? No. Do I promise to play Crossheart Heart as much as I would have played the album had it been 1978 or even 1981? No, of course not. Was I surprised by Crosseyed Heart? Am I pleased? O, yes! Keith Richards is giving us his very best and I am enjoying his effort tremendously. It also makes me very curious as to what The Stones are doing in the studio right now. In the meantime we have the best surrogate possible, if not downright the real thing.
You can listen to 'Trouble' here:
or buy on Bol.com