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Rolling Stones - Hackney Diamonds

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 25 / 10 / 2023

Rolling Stones - Hackney Diamonds
Label: Universal Music
Format: CD


Impressive and masterful album of new material in eighteen years from The Rolling Stones

Having had a chance to preview ‘Hackney Diamonds’, the first album of new Rolling Stones songs in over eighteen years, I can confirm that the self-styled “greatest rock'n'roll band in the world” are making a very strong return! Their supporting cast on this new album includes Paul McCartney, Elton John, Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder - but nobody outshines singer Mick Jagger, 80, plus guitarists Keth Richards, 79, and Ronnie Wood, 76. - In fact the Stones sound more powerful here than they have for years and New York producer Andrew Watt has done a superb job, adding contemporary touches when appropriate whilst ensuring all the Stones' great strengths are fully on display throughout. Some songs have a playing-live-in-the-studio feel but on others there is a 2020’s sense of clarity with a neat separation between vocals, guitars and drums. The opening track and recent single, ‘Angry’ intertwines Richards' and Wood's guitar work and is reminiscent of the staccato strut of the band's 1981 ‘Start Me Up’. ‘Get Close’ features Elton John on piano and is a raunchy soul-style number that might easily have come from 1972's ‘Exile On Main Street’ Jagger adopts his best “mockney” accent as he sings, “I walk this way a million times/With a blindfold on my eyes...”. ‘Depending On You’ is a country-style ballad where Jagger alternates between pining for a lost lover and contemplating his own mortality. Rousing punky-style number ‘Bite My Head Off’ sees Jagger roaring, “Come on, Paul – let's hear some bass” before former Beatle Paul McCartney obliges with a heavily distorted and very skilful bass solo. The punky mood continues on ‘Whole Wide World’ - another powerful rocker that sees Jagger reflecting on his life and concluding that, despite various hardships, the party has just begun. ‘Dreamy Skies’ is slower and another country-style tune about escaping from “the city, the suburbs and sprawl”. This is the first Stones record since drummer Charlie Watts died in 2021 - but Charlie does nevertheless feature twice. Most of the drumming is, however, by Steve Jordan whose jazz-influenced, laid-back approach adds a nice traditional bounce to ‘Mess It Up’. He also features strongly on ‘Live By The Sword’ where Elton John is prominent on honky-tonk piano with former Stone Bill Wyman providing a vibrant bass. Unusually, Keith Richards plays piano on the ballad ‘Driving Me Too Hard’ and provides lead vocals on ‘Tell Me Straight. For many, a highlight of ‘Hackney Diamonds’ will be the star-studded penultimate track, ‘Sweet Sound Of Heaven’ with a strong duet between Jagger and Lady Gaga accompanied by Stevie Wonder on keyboards. Starting like a blues ballad (in the style of 1973's ‘Angie’), the song gradually blossoms into a hymn-like piece rather like 1969's ‘You Can't Always Get What You Want’. The band end the album with an acknowledgement of their roots in the blues. Their cover of Muddy Waters' ‘Rolling Stone Blues’ is an affectionate tribute and a reminder of the time in 1961 when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met up again by chance at Dartford railway station for the first time since they were in junior school together. Jagger was carrying a prized Muddy Waters album and the two quickly bonded over their love of blues music. Now, an amazing 62 years later, this closing song brings the two full circle again. There's no question, ‘Hackney Diamonds’ rolls back the years for the Rolling Stones very impressively – it really is a masterful album!

Track Listing:-
1 Angry
2 Get Close
3 Depending On You
4 Bite My Head Off
5 Whole Wide World
6 Dreamy Skies
7 Mess It Up
8 Live By the Sword
9 Driving Me Too Hard
10 Tell Me Straight
11 Sweet Sounds of Heaven
12 Rolling Stone Blues

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