Friday, April 12, 2024

52 Years Later, The Rolling Stones Come Full Circle with “Blue and Lonesome,” Show Why We Love Them


Fifty two years ago the Rolling Stones debuted with their self-titled album. It was full of blues covers (there was just one original song) and gave a preview of what was to come.

Now, 11 years after their last studio album, they’re releasing what may be their last album. “Blue and Lonesome” is a genius idea: a dozen covers of blues standards that hearken back to the Stones’ origins. The songs are by the same heroes they had in 1964: Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Memphis Slim, Little Walter.  And Eric Clapton, their comrade in arms, is featured on two of the tracks.

If this is the end, then it’s the best ending anyone could have dreamed. Mick Jagger sounds as fresh as he did in 1964, and the band is just as tight. You kind of know Keith Richards curated this collection. He was smart to ditch another album of Rolling Stones soundalike songs and just go back to the roots. No one appreciated American blues like the Stones, the sound informs their best records. So on “Blue and Lonesome,” it’s like wiping away the layers of dust and finding that original burnished wood.

Will kids understand this now? Probably not. Fans of modern pop only know the processed cheese they’re fed on the radio. “Blue and Lonesome” is a gift to the adults. I’m loving Willie Dixon’s “Just Like I Treat You” and Magic Sam’s “All of Your Love.” I am reveling in Clapton’s solos on “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and digging the harmonicas, the rolling piano solos. Clapton is also featured on the big finale, Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” the longest track on the album that showcases everyone. Is this the end? The last track sums up the 52 years.

So here’s what you do: after “Tattoo You” skip to the live album “Stripped,” and then to “Blue and Lonesome.” Those other albums– Steel Wheels, et al– they aren’t necessary. We finally have a meaningful end to the story.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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