The Rolling Stones - Bridges To Babylon
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
By Tony BonyataThe Rolling Stones are back on the music scene with their latest album , Bridges To Babylon and accompanying world tour, and the question that comes to mind is, "Should anybody really care about this aging rock band anymore?".
The answer is a whole-hearted yes. Sure these guys are as old as the hills, but age shouldn't measure talent. Did anyone ever criticize the Stone's early musical mentor Muddy Waters when he was making great music in his 60's or John Lee Hooker, who just turned 80 and released a stellar blues album earlier this year? Of course not. But the Stones, unfortunately, are viewed differently than their traditional blues heroes. They were the original bad-boys of rock music who encountered numerous drug busts, had harems of women, while at the same time pleading for us to have a little sympathy for the devil.
While the Stones current clean lifestyle; strenuous exercise, no drugs and monogamous relationships, may not fit the bad boy image anymore, their music is still strong, if not altogether genuine.
Bridges To Babylon opens up with "Flip The Switch", a off-the-rack Stones rocker which would have fit nicely onto their last release, Voodoo Lounge. On their latest hit "Anybody Seen My Baby" Jagger exudes an impressive vocal range over a haunting melody as he sings of lost love. "Lowdown" and "Too Tight" are both aggressive little rockers that are brought down to fighting weight with Keith Richard's punchy riffs and Ronnie Wood's searing lead guitar solos.
The Stones are no strangers to black music and it shows through on the gospel-inspired "Saint Of Me" as Jagger preaches, "I do believe in miracles/ and I want to save my soul/ and I know that I'm a sinner/ I'm gonna die here in the cold/ You'll never make a saint of me". "Out Of Control" gives a nod to the Temptations, "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" as Jagger plays an incredibly, passionate harmonica solo. On Keith Richards reggae-flavored "You Don't Have To Mean It" the rhythm section of drummer Charlie Watts, percussionist Jim Keltner and bassist Darryl Jones keep the song afloat amidst bouncy keyboards and horns.
Two of the stronger numbers on Bridges are the ballads penned and sang by Richards, the tender "Thief In The Night" and the Motown inspired "How Can I Stop", which also features a wonderful drum / sax interplay between Watts and jazz great Wayne Shorter. Ironically, Jagger doesn't perform on either of these songs.
The bulk of the album was produced by Don Was who also worked on the Voodoo Lounge album. Jagger, who insisted on keeping things fresh for this album, also brought in state-of-the-art producers Danny Saber (U2, Garbage) for the stark rocker "Gunface" and The Dust Brothers (Beck, Beastie Boys) for "Saint Of Me" and the album's true gem "Might As Well Get Juiced". On this wonderfully original number the Stones take a gritty traditional blues tune and turn it inside out with the addition of the techno electronics, phat bass lines, and The Dust Brothers demented touch of chaos. The blues are blasted into the 21st century with this number and what better band to take it there.
The Stones have managed to put together a solid album of classic rockers and soulful ballads with enough refreshing twists and turns that should please their fans, and maybe even a few detractors who have dismissed them as nostalgic, oldies act.
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