Friday, 10 August 2018

The Rolling Stones - Bridges To Babylon (1997)


Released September 1997

Recorded in Los Angeles

On this album, in contrast to "Voodoo Lounge", which had seen The Stones revisit sounds from their previous two decades, they decided to utilise a few contemporary musicians and production assistants. They used tape loops, samples, drum enhancement and the like. Quite why you need drum enhancement when you have Charlie Watts is unclear. It is still a rock-ish album but these differences make it a slightly different album to listen to, as opposed to more of the same. For some, though, it seemed The Stones couldn't win - the same style would have brought accusations of "the same old formula", whereas dabbling in contemporary sounds had people saying "why don't they just stick to what they know best?". Either way, it is a pleasurable listen, although like "Voodoo Lounge" and "A Bigger Bang" it is probably one or two tracks too long. There is a big, thumping, full bass sound to the album which is good to hear, although at times the cymbal sound is a bit tinny, notably on "Low Down". It is overridden by the full bass though.


1. Flip The Switch
2. Anybody Seen My Baby
3. Low Down
4. Already Over Me
5. Gunface
6. You Don't Have To Mean It
7. Out Of Control
8. Saint Of Me
9. Might As Well Get Juiced
10. Always Suffering
11. Too Tight
12. Thief In The Night
13. How Can I Stop

"Flip The Switch" is a storming, drum-driven rocker to open with, featuring a great "proper" drum intro and a superb Keith Richards riff. It really gets the album off to a rousing start. There are also some soulful, atmospheric and brooding numbers, like the shuffling, percussive "Anybody Seen My Baby", with its "Fingerprint File"-style vocal, great bass and killer chorus and the addictive "Saint Of Me", both of which have a really mysterious feel to them and great vocals from Jagger. "Low Down" is archetypal riffy, slow burning Stones rock. "Already Over Me" is one of those laid-back Jagger rock ballads he does so well. As with most of the songs on here, it has an instant refrain.

"Gunface" is a rumbling, slightly menacing, industrial number while "Out Of Control" has a superb rock hook but also a rhythmic, contemporary tinge to the sound. All muddy and mysterious. Some great blues harmonica on it too along with some funky keyboards. One of the album's best tracks.  Keith Richards' horn-driven reggae on "You Don't Have To Mean It" is as convincing a piece of upbeat white reggae as you will find. The U2-esque "Might As Well Get Juiced" is bluesy, intense and experimental, with all sorts of weird electronic noises an a muffled, distant Jagger vocal.

"Always Suffering" is a slightly country-tinged Jagger slowie. "Too Tight" is the one real throwaway on the album, although its an ok upbeat rocker, just remarkable. Richards' two final slow, melodic cuts are excellent too - the bluesy "Thief In The Night", and the tender "How Can I Stop" with the slightly South African-influenced saxophone bit at the end.

It is common to criticise this, along with all the other Stones albums from "Steel Wheels" onwards. I don't though. I like all of them.


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