Sound — 9
As if the band needed an introduction. "Blues & Lonesome" is the 25th album for living cultural legends The Rolling Stones, their first in 10 years. Although not a work of originals but rather a covers album, "Blue & Lonesome" sees the band dive completely into their own zone. The trappings of the current music industry have been completely disregarded: nothing fancy, just five men in a room jamming their favourite blues classics.
The live band rig is all one really needs for this musical direction. So little could go wrong and pretty much nothing has. A flawless, crisp air on the mix, the old school plate reverb of Mick Jagger's croon, raw and dirty drums, it all adds up to this authentic experience that is incredibly difficult to find in this day and age. The feeling is that they used the most of the room sound available to them to recreate as involving an album as possible.
It is pretty difficult to point out a flaw. Performance wise, it sounds as if they could all be in their prime albeit with the years of honing their abilities bolstering it all. Everything from Keith Richards' raucous lead playing to Watt's joyful sticksmanship to long time bassist Daryl Jones backbone of grooves is exactly as it needs to be.
Perhaps there's some fault in the song reel itself?
While the tracks are all bone fide classics, the overall movement from one song to another can feel somewhat blurry. Slow burners that are not very strategically punctuated by up tempo boogie tracks is the general setup of things, although it depends on what your listening preference is really.
Overall, it's a straight blues album that does what it needs to do, just the band engaging in fun without the tangible oversight of commitment or distraction.
Lyrics — 9
Mick Jagger is Mick Jagger, one of the most immediately recognisable vocalists that has ever existed, hyperbole be damned. But it's true: very, very few alive today could claim such a position.
And as much as critics, fans and non-fans may joke about how pretty much everyone is in their early '70s and on the edge of falling apart at any second, Jagger very confidently proves that that's not going to be the case. You can hear it as his vibrant warble breaks through the space in between: there's just so much more life to go.
Lyrically, it's a blues album filled with blues classics. Distinguished classics, songs that you can just follow along and listen then know the mood that the song is meant to give. A surprisingly difficult challenge as it turns out but one that Jaggers performance surpasses. He even manages to hit the high squeaks and peaks like the original blues legends, Howling Wolf and the like, surprising given how human biology likes to screw itself over in the audio department at older ages.
Overall Impression — 9
The Stones are the Stones and there's very little that should have or has changed. A top notch performance done in an authentic, honest setting between friends is a dream setup for pretty much any musician, one they make the most of.
Good to have you back, boys.
Songs to look out for: "Blue & Lonesome," "Ride 'Em Down," "Little Rain."