Big Enough/Take It So Hard/Struggle/I Could Have Stood You Up/Make No Mistake/You Don't Move Me/How I Wish/Rockawhile/Whip It Up/Locked Away/It Means A Lot
Keith Richards' first solo of "Keith songs" from 1988, is not a bad effort at all. It was released during the period when Richards and Jagger had fallen out. It contains some excellent material that would not have disgraced any Stones album from the period. In fact, it puts much of Dirty Work into the shadows, and Steel Wheels, for that matter.
The sound on the latest (2019) remaster is excellent - big, punchy, bassy and muscular. Just as I like it.
The opener, Big Enough, is a great track, all funky guitars and saxophone riffs. A sort of un-Stonesy sound that has a real refreshing, lively appeal. The new remaster makes it sound even better. It now has a huge punch to it.
Struggle has more classic Richards riffage, and sounds very Stonesy, let's be honest. If you heard it, unaware, you would say "a mid-late eighties Rolling Stones album track". It still sounds energising and punchy, however.
You Don't Move Me has an intoxicating drum intro, matched by Richards' choppy riff. The powerful remaster has once more really opened this one up. Great bass on it too. As Keith songs go, this is a very good one. It would have been much better had songs like this ended up on Stones albums, even if Jagger was to sing them, like he did, successfully, on Almost Hear You Sigh, in fact. Apparently, though, the song was thinly veiled swipe at Jagger so maybe that would not have been a good idea!
Whip It Up is another riffy number. A bit of hiss at the beginning (as there is on a few of the songs). A big, rumbling bass powers this one along, matching Keith's riffs.
The 2019 Bonus Tracks are:- Blues Jam/My Babe/Slim/Big Town Playboy/Mark On Me/Brute Force
These previously unreleased numbers are far more blues, on the whole, than the riffy rock of the main album. It is a shame that a couple of them hadn't found their way on to the album.
Blues Jam is, as you might imagine, a blues jam. If you like blues rock, you will enjoy it for what it is, as I do. Of course, it is nothing really new, but I like jams. I like the Eric Clapton ones and the George Harrison ones.
Big Town Playboy is a mid-pace piano and guitar driven blues number, and Eddie Taylor cover, with old Stones mate Mick Taylor's guitar to the fore. Ex-Chuck Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson is on piano.
So, in conclusion, if you are hoping for a good new remaster, you will get it. If you are in search of a cornucopia of unreleased gems, you will probably be left still looking. The bonus tracks are three songs and three instrumental jams. This satisfies me, but it may not do for some. I wouldn't say any of it is essential.
999/Wicked As It Seems/Eileen/Words Of Wonder/Yap Yap/Body Talks/Hate It When You Leave/Runnin' Too Deep/Will But You Won't/Demon
This is a slightly more polished album than Talk Is Cheap, Keith Richards' raw-eged debut solo album. The same writing and production team was involved, but there is something a bit better in the sound quality on this one.
It is pretty much accepted opinion that Richards' solo albums would have made great Rolling Stones albums and, oddly enough, the material on them is, on the whole, far more vibrant and rocking than the usual one or two tracks he had had been contributing to Stones albums (and would continue to do). The grinding, rocking opener 999, for example, or the particularly impressive Wicked As It Seems (which has an absolutely knockout Richards riff) are far superior to anything he put on a Stones album for years before. The Stones tracks tended to be either wheezy, sleepy ballads or rockers which highlighted his vocal limitations. On this album his voice is stronger, more rocky, more bluesy, gruffer and the riffage is more powerful, more potent. As I mentioned in my review of his first solo album, these songs would sound great sung by Jagger.
Eileen is a bit closer to his usual Stones material, but it still has a strong riff and drum backing. Oddly, his band here seem to have more Stonesy punch than sometimes The Stones themselves have. It as a great guitar and drum interplay bit at the end. Not too many white rock artists can play reggae successfully - witness Led Zeppelin and Elton John's clumsy attempts in the seventies - however, Richards is the exception to the rule.
Hate It When You Leave is a lovely, tender, yearning love song, while Runnin' Too Deep has one hell of a riff. That can only be Keith Richards. The song has a great groove to it. It seriously rocks. Will But You Won't is a bluesy grind, and Demon is a typical, quiet Stonesy Richards number to finish off.
In many ways, this album is the equal of Steel Wheels or Voodoo Lounge. I still prefer those two, but this album is certainly not without merit. It would be twenty-three years before Richards recorded another solo album, which was a shame.
Crosseyed Heart/Heartstopper/Amnesia/Robbed Blind/Trouble/Love Overdue/Nothing On Me/Suspicious/Blues In The Morning/Something For Nothing/Illusion/Just A Gift/Goodnight Irene/Substantial Damage/Lover's Plea
Twenty-three years since his previous solo album, old man river Keith Richards returns with an excellent album that while containing much of what you would expect, is played with a verve and vigour that is irresistible.
Beginning with an authentic-sounding plaintive acoustic blues in Crosseyed Heart, Richards leaves listeners in no doubt as to his influences, which, as we know date right back to the early sixties. The track would not be out of place on Beggars Banquet. It comes to an abrupt halt and some muscular drums pound in to the upbeat rock of Heartstopper, a track full of trademark backing riffs and some wry lyrics from a croaky but still robust-sounding Richards - "she's a vegetarian, but me I love my meat."
Amnesia is a an excellent grinder of a song, just solid chugging rock, nothing more, nothing less. Tracks like this find Richards more confident in his vocal approach than on some of his Stones material, more up front, louder, less sleepy. That sleepiness is back, though, on the vaguely country-ish slowie Robbed Blind, but even on this, he sounds more bullish in his delivery. Again, it is a fine track, with a lovely guitar solo in the middle. The subject matter concerns Richards being deprived of his stash. Old concerns never die.
Richards riffery is back on the powerful Stonesy thump of Trouble. The drums and guitar are great on this. Sure, it's nothing new, but I personally wouldn't want it any other way.
Love Overdue is a cover of a Gregory Isaacs song. Richards merges his riffy style with a reggae-rock and brassy backing. He has always been a good interpreter of reggae and this is one of his best examples.
Nothing On Me sees a paranoid Richards claiming his innocence from those who have always been out to get him. Musically, it rocks slowly along in typical Richards fashion. Suspicious is an archetypal Richards walking pace number.
Blues In The Morning combines a rocking bus sound with some late fifties-style rock 'n' roll saxophone from the sadly soon-to-be late Bobby Keys. It is a great track that bristles with down 'n' dirty energy from beginning to end.
Something For Nothing is another copper-bottomed insistent riffy rocker while the slow Illusion has a melody that I am sure has been used before but I can't put my finger on it. Locked Away, from the Talk Is Cheap album, is I think the one I'm looking for. Just A Gift is also a typical bar-room maudlin number.
By now, though, however enjoyable the album has been, I am starting to suffer from the curse of recent musical times - CD bloat. Too many tracks. Simple as that. An album's good impression can be dulled by three or four too many tracks. Give me ten to twelve tracks all day long.
Goodnight Irene is a dirge-like cover of what has always been dirge-like song, for me. I have to say it suits Richards' laconic delivery, however.
Substantial Damage sounds a lot like some of Elvis Costello's recent material while Lover's Plea ends the album in predictably somnolent style, albeit enhanced with some punchy horns at the end.
Overall, a healthy serving. Just take it in half hour portions.