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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Rolling Stones

A Bigger Bang

Review by Gary Hill

While the Stones have always produced entertaining albums, for a long time it has felt like they weren't entertained by them. It almost seemed like they were phoning in their performances much of the time. Listening to this album it's easy to believe that it's 1974 all over again as The Stones have put out such juicy chunk of authenticity that it seems like that long ago since we've gotten something this potent from them. They say that the best artistic endeavors come out of the greatest adversity. Perhaps this proves that fact as several of the Stones have had some rough situations since their last studio release. I wouldn't wish bad things on the guys, but I can't complain about the results. Those with kids, as is often the case with the Stones, might want to be a bit careful, though, due to lyrical contents. With that said, this is probably the best album they've done in at least a decade, maybe two. If you miss The Rolling Stones of the 1970's, by all means pick this one up, it will fill the prescription.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Rough Justice
This is a straight ahead Stones rocker that feels like it could have come from any number of their discs from the 1970's. They definitely jump right into it with this one, and it's a winner. The slide guitar fills here have a real blues touch, and I can't imagine a better album opener.
Let Me Down Slow
A somewhat punky approach, stripped down and bouncy makes up the main crux of this cut. It's not as good as a lot of the other material on show, but still works reasonably well. The chorus, although a bit generic (at least generic for the Stones) is quite good.
It Won't Take Long
This comes in slower and more tentative, but as it kicks full into gear it feels a bit like a cross between the "Gimme Shelter" sort of sound and something from Steel Wheels. The chorus is a bit typical, but still has a certain real rock texture that's been lacking for these guys for a while. The guitar solo here is a real smoker and carries forward past Jagger's re-entry into the song - I always love that sort of layering when anyone does it.
Rain Fall Down
This has a funky groove, a bit like "Miss You", but without the disco bass line. This is a bit grittier than that jam - and despite its detractors, that was a very cool song, anyway. "Rain Fall Down" is definitely a killer. Jagger just oozes cool on this one.
Streets of Love
This is a mellower ballad type track, that, in typical rock ballad form, gradually builds - then explodes out into strong Rolling Stones rock. This is another that, while not a standout track, would have stood heads above much of the material they've put out in the last decade.
Back of My Hand
This is an old time, back porch, Robert Johnson type blues number - talk about the Stones going back to their roots.
She Saw Me Coming
A gritty and bluesy raunchy rocker, this is another solid one. It's vintage Stones for the new millennium.
Biggest Mistake
A more groove oriented song, this one is a nice change of pace just when they really needed it. This one has a familiar feel to it. They aren't breaking any new ground here, but it's nice to see them make a return to this place.
This Place Is Empty
This slow, bluesy rock and roller (with a healthy dose of country thrown in for good measure) features Keith Richards on lead vocals. He's not the best singer in the world, but he definitely seems to enjoy himself. I like this song quite a bit, but wouldn't like to see Mr. Richards take over the vocal duties on a permanent basis.
Oh No, Not You Again
Once again, their timing is perfect. They take us back into the faster, hard-edged rock and roll territory here. This is a fun trip. Richards' solo is spot on. 
Dangerous Beauty
This one's slower than the last cut, but still a strong rocker.
Laugh, I Nearly Died
This one is a slow grind with a classic Stones sound. There's no question who this is, but it's really another satisfying number.
Sweet Neo Con
Starting with blues harp, it would be easy to assume this, like "Back Of My Hand", would be a Robert Johnson styled blues number. Not so, though, this is a mid tempo rocker with lyrics that present a scathing look at the current political situation in the United States, and it's not a pretty picture. When this one hits its abrupt conclusion, you just want to hit "repeat."
Look What The Cat Dragged In
This one feels a bit like "Undercover," it's a cool high-energy slightly funky rocker. This is another killer - and works much better than that aforementioned piece. It's an angry, but quite cool number. Richards is purely on fire on this one.
Driving Too Fast
Bouncy, fast paced and fun; this is another new Stones classic.
Infamy
This has a cool envelope filtered texture that, while a bit odd, is very interesting. This is another Keith Richards track, and feels a lot like something from one of his solo releases. His vocals work better on this track. It has an odd texture, but I like it a lot. It's a cool ending to a great disc.
 
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