Review Summary: The most deceptive release in Rolling Stones history."At last, the titans are back in business! No more 80’s relics on this album, no more cash-ins, no sir; this is a true return to form with the world’s greatest rock’n’roll group doing what they do best: delivering high octane, no bull*** rawk that infects the ears and warms the soul! Gosh, just look at the work put forth here! The arrangements, the attitude, the sound! The boys have crafted rockers that will blow you out like candles and ballads that will tug at your heart like a boat that’s tugging a….never mind!!! It’s incredibly incredible, aaaaaaaaaaarrgh"
*hard, earsplitting face slap after which the victim falls dead on the floor*
No, no, no! If anyone ever meets a Rolling Stones fan who starts blabbering about the greatness of Voodoo Lounge
, follow that tiny step found between the bold asterisks above. You are not
committing a sin, it’s God’s will, it’s natural selection, you name it! Because, honestly, this is the single most glorified post 80’s release of the group.
However, let’s start with the positives. It’s true that the record illustrates a somewhat more self-assured band than Steel Wheels
; the generic 80’s production is all gone and, since it’s the mid-nineties, a retro approach is on the way, allowing the group to flex their muscles in a more familiar sound setting during the songs. The drums feel rich, hard-hitting and clear as they smash behind Keith’s gruff, fat and ringing riffs, while Mick has never sounded better since ’81. There is even the good ol’ acoustic/electric mixing prominent on many songs here, a variety of instruments like the harpsichord, the accordion or fiddle. In general, one feels that the group is at home; rock’n’roll, balladry, rich arrangements, diversity, what more can you axe"
Now, when dealing with the actual songs here, one will not be disappointed. The majority of the songs, save the Keith numbers, are catchy, memorable and the boys have landed a considerable amount of excellence on this release. For instance, it’s hard to deny the opening trio’s exemplary power; traditional rock as it might be, it’s also the most irresistible, lively and consistently stellar opening the group has mustered in its late years. It’s also hard to deny the strangely moving Moon Is Up
with its psychedelic leanings and naturally tender atmosphere, being actually the finest ballad throughout. For more standout rock, though, look no further than the loosely played I Go Wild
that serves as a playground for Keith’s soaring, large rhythm work.
But the other songs here" Don’t make me laugh! The large remainder of the record is taken up by ballads
, people. Which in itself is not a bad attribute, of course, but when dealing with mediocrities like The Worst
, New Faces
or Out Of Tears
, I lose hope in humanity. Mick is throwing one hockey, MTV-suitable sap after the other, while Keith offers somewhat more sincere, but sketchily written material that ends up on the trash bin anyway. What has happened to the masters" Try listening to the meandering Thru And Thru
or the sickeningly over-sweetened Sweethearts Together
without cursing and you’ll love the album, guaranteed. Sure, a little generic blues-rock filler like Brand New Car
or the closing Mean Disposition
makes the dreck a bit more digestible, but who wants to eat dreck anyway"
Summing up, there is way too much mediocrity and filler here to make this release stand out among the large catalogue of the group. The best songs here deceive the listener into thinking this is a worthy record, but it’s not the case. The banality of the ballads has to be heard to be believed, while the few fillers here rather prolong the torture than ease it, on repeated listens. Easily the weakest release of the 1989-1997 comeback as, apart from the five aforementioned standouts, the record can easily go out of print for all I care.