A Very Cursory Review of The Stones’ “Blue and Lonesome”


When I was a teenager, I came awfully damned close to becoming an idolater, a worshiper of Mick Jagger, whom I considered the coolest cat in non-Christendom. He provided non-athletes like I-and-I a deviant path to popularity. Rather than snagging winning touchdown passes on the gridiron, we could pump and grind on the dance floor, slouch down the halls instead of swagger, ditch rah! rah! rah! for so what.

Plus Jagger somehow transcended his ugliness. Livered-lipped and as muscular as a spear of asparagus, his charisma, aided and abetted by that 200-watt grin of his, dazzled away those physical shortcomings. He made us ugly boy children with pepperoni complexions feel as if we had a shot.

Actually, as far as music went, I preferred the mid-60s Animals to the mid-‘60s Stones, but when “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Honky Tonk Women” hit the airwaves, I became a true Stones believer. In fact, even now when I hear Charlie Watts hit the cowbell that initiates “Honky Tonk Women,” I let loose a beatific smile.

A string of Stones’ albums of the Late ‘60s and Early ‘70s are arguably the greatest rock-n-roll records in the history of the genre – Beggers’ Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street – a series of masterpieces. In both sound and sense, they expressed my anger, my disdain for society. I can remember fantasizing in high school about taking over the main building and blasting “Midnight Rambler” over the intercom system as a clarion call for destruction.

However, as the hormones settled down, my fascination with Jagger and Company waned. Truth be told, I haven’t bought a new Stones album since Tattoo You. Let’s face it: in the realm of rock, it’s hard for performers to maintain their creativity past middle age.

On the other hand, in the realm of the blues, it is not only possible but not all that unusual for a bluesman or woman to continue to improve –like Yeats, to continue to create masterworks right up to the end. Sure, Etta James lost some of her range over the years, but it didn’t diminish her artistry. She had so much more heartache to tap into. As they say, you got to suffer if you want to sing the blues, and I’m here to tell you getting old is all about suffering – looks fade, loved ones die, minds go bad, civilization declines.

As Willie B himself put it:

An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress.

Old age is all about tatters, and so is the blues.

Blind Willie McTell

Blind Willie McTell

So when I heard the Stones were going to come out with an album dedicated solely to the blues, I looked forward to it. Jagger actually plays a pretty mean harp. Charlie Watts is a great drummer. Keith and Ronnie can hold their own. However, after one, albeit cursory, listen of Blue and Lonesome, I have to express some mild disappointment.

The tracks sound to me – how should I put this – like approximations – maybe mannered? – though I wouldn’t go far enough to say inauthentic. My favorite cut on the record, “I Hate to See You Go,” is a fine rendition, but then again, as Mick himself once said in an interview way back when, “Why listen to us do ‘King Bee’ when you can listen to Slim Harpo do ‘King Bee?’” – or in this case, why listen to Mick do “I Hate to See You Go” when you can listen to Little Walter do it?


You can check out the Stones’ version here.

Maybe the problem lies in that the Stones tried to make these tunes sound too authentic instead of making them sound fresh. Certainly, their cover of “I Should Have Quit You, Baby” pales, not only to Little Milton’s version, but also Led Zeppelin’s.

That said, I’ll probably end up buying Blue and Lonesome anyway. Maybe it will grow on me. I wouldn’t be surprised.  When it comes to records, sometimes not being wowed at first is good for longevity’s sake.




10 thoughts on “A Very Cursory Review of The Stones’ “Blue and Lonesome”

  1. …wasn’t my bad habit, it was Brad Pitt’s. Then I thought back to a few Summers ago when I was doing very dangerous work on a ladder and instead of finishing up, I decided to go to a local church to get baptized. I’ve done a lot of roofing on giant structures and taken a lot of risks, but that was when I was a “young invincible”. So instead I suppose I jumped into ocean 🙂 As I was about to burn my own “livered-lipped” mouth on the beginning of the filter, I realized idolatry was my problem and not Brad’s, Johnny Depp’s, or Barack Obama’s. The cursory took me back to grade school was coincidental as well since my brother told me of a fantasy about the intercom blasthing Metallica and I confessed to the same dream of Aerosmith’s “Livin on the Edge”. In high school my “pepperoni complexion” was daunting enough that I wouldn’t take off my shirt in the locker room, and the football team regularly cracked on my using of the bar w/ no weights, lol 🙂 However, not playing sports, being a preppy, or an exceptional student put me in a strange situation that I actually benefited from in my political beliefs. I was obsessed w/ Propaghandi, a punk rock band of ex-soldiers and on their CD it said “Pro-feminist, animal friendly, anti-fascist, gay-positive”. So even though I wasn’t gay, I didn’t use the word in negative connotation in every other sentence, defiling their soles in the process. As a result I spent more time w/ homosexuals than straight, whereby I learned by choice what oppression meant and wherein I focused my support. I never went to a school dance, prom, and skipped every yearbook picture w/o buying one annual. However, at a time when a white girl was untouchable after they dated or had sexual relations w/ a black guy, a bi-racial girl and I almost had the guts to unclinch our jaws enough to talk. It was before the turn of the new millennium, though, and going against the grain for white guys to date African American women (statistically speaking). So while most people got over their crushes with rehearsed lines and an exchange of a phone number, it was a more like someone asking permission from their peers. Everyday we’d meet at the same place in the hall while my heart would always race too hard to break the ice of the stares from both races. On the African American side I saw friendly eyes, on the white there were judgy ones. I’d never had a girlfriend and actually had been beaten up by a few, but on the last day we sat back to back past 4-5 hours alone in the lunch room. I had a shot w/o ill-opinionated ppl around but experienced another case of verbal impairment so after about 4-5 min. of silence and a coke by we both gave up, and started Summer Vacation. You really do learn more from failure, and at least the white girls and I did try as opposed to not even giving MLK’s dream a chance.

  2. p.s. Idk if I have liver-lips but on 3 hits of Purple Jesus LSD I was told by a friend I looked like Ronald McDonald. From that point forward I never really knew when someone said I had a big mouth if they meant it figuratively or literally until after my process of elimination thought process had time to occur 🙂

  3. I tried to let it slide but it wouldn’t go away….Your mildly disappointed cursory review of Blue and Lonesome struck a raw nerve, like a cracked tooth…

    “Did you ever wake up to find
    A day that broke up your mind?
    Destroyed your notion of circular time?
    It’s just that demon life has got you in its sway.”

    The Stones are too authentic, instead of “fresh”? It’s the blues, man. They cut the album in three days! Can it be fresher? I’d say that’s pretty spontaneous, not much time to overauthenticate. Keith said they were playin(1) just to get the sound in the room right, warmin up….they were goin in the studio to cut an original record…Mick said long ago it’s all recycled past…It’s a constant recyclin…What is truly original? Mick says he has forty new ones.

    Not quite inauthentic, but mannered?? Keith and Ronnie can hold their own?? Whoa…I fear your aural sensitivity has been affected by the volumes of bullshit you certainly must have endured durin the campaign…. Or maybe it’s them hormones settlin….

    You still buyin music? A noble cause indeed…

    Professional help is available! Join me-and-me live next summer in Barcelona, Vienna, Paris, or Dublin to see The World’s Greatest Rock n Roll Band who are also right now The World’s Greatest Blues Band…It’ll fix what ails ya!

    “May the good Lord shine a light on you,
    Make every song you sing your favorite tune.
    May the good Lord shine a light on you,
    Warm like the evening sun.”

    (1) A g on the end of action verbs are not a required in some parts of the South (or by some in the South)

    • I did end up buying the record, if that’s what you call an MP3 and now have listened to it several times, the only thing that bothers me is Mick’s singing — even though he does play a mean harp. What can I say? His voice lacks that Lucinda Williams’ lived-in hurt.

      One thing the record’s done, though, has got me on a Howling’ Wolf jag, which is a pleasurable thing.

      Anyway, retirement’s around the corner, and maybe I’ll meet you in Barcelona. Ain’t never been there and have a friend down in Andalusia I need to see.

  4. “….as listeners and commentators we cannot become complacent. It is never wrong to praise, but we should not be lazy in our criticism. In discussion of whether an album is good, no opinion can ever be ‘safe’. This is how music stays interesting.”

    Perdi Higgs

    See ya in Barcelona!

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