THE ROLLING STONES

"Blue & Lonesome" (Interscope; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

The Rolling Stones have delivered what might be rawest, most stripped down album, and it's nothing short of incredible.

Collecting about a dozen of their favorite classic blues tunes -- and we're talking vintage tunes written by legends such as Buddy Johnson, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf and many others -- the veteran band went into a studio in London and recorded these tracks, basically live, over the course of three days.

The result is what may be the most honest Rolling Stones album ever, with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the gang delivering a pure, raw performance that not only captures the essence of the original tunes but layers on the Rolling Stones influence as well.

There's no single stand-out performance on this album, everyone sounds great, but its Mick Jagger's vocals that stuck in my mind the most. His bluesy-edged performance on this record is amazing and at times had me wondering if it was Mick at all. He gets a lot of harmonica-playing in here as well.

The best thing about "Blue & Lonesome" is that it is an album by one of the richest bands in the world, yet it sounds like a vintage recording from the 50s or maybe 60s. It's the whole package and, if you're a blues fan -- whether a big blues fan or a passing blues fan -- you'll find a lot to like here.

For more information, check out http://www.rollingstones.com

"Truth and Lies" DVD (Eagle Media; 2006)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn Jr.

Okay, so let’s look past the fact this is one of those documentaries made under the radar, which means the British producers had licensing limitations, hence there are no original Stones songs to be found anywhere on this disc. There’s a cool, early Kinks-like riff line that pops up intermittently, so that’ll have to do, I suppose. Normally that spells disappointment to my eyes, but actually, "Truth and Lies" is a pretty decent bit of fast-paced knuckleball reporting. 

About two years ago I read Stephen Davis’ sharply-written book "Old Gods Almost Dead: The 40-Year Odyssey of the Rolling Stones" and most of it was far from shocking, considering I was a wee sprat when a lot of the Stones’ most notorious media moments occurred and not even alive during the Swinging London era that churned these supposedly roughneck pop sensations into rock history. Yeah, I figured there was a lot of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll ... even The Beatles couldn’t escape the miasma of rock'n'roll hedonism. Sure, we’ve all figured Mick Jagger can probably boast as many bed partners as Gene Simmons, and I suspected the once-puritanical Marianne Faithfull (for you young ‘uns, known as the old crone da da da da voice for Metallica’s “The Memory Remains”) was a bit of a circle jerk cracker for the Stones altogether. Keith Richards is Keith Richards ... future history bears his forlorn pastiche as Captain Grant Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." It’s almost painful to see Richards surrender a lot of the lead guitar duties to Ron Wood, as much as it is to hear the Stones piss and drone, bored out of their minds through “Satisfaction” today. Charlie Watt seems as deadpan as his drumming technique.

And then there’s Brian Jones ...

One thing I never knew was how much of a rat bastard Brian Jones was. "Truth and Lies" lends suggestion to Jones’ immoralities, but have a read in Davis’ book, and you’ll unravel that while Brian Jones was a gifted guitarist, the “soul” of the Rolling Stones in their sixties heyday (which this DVD accurately denotes), he was reportedly a soulless creep who punched the crap out of his girlfriends and wallowed in his own misery, seeking acceptance, then crushing it once he had it. Sadly, one of rock’s bigger tragedies.

Naturally when you’re the longest-running rock'n'roll band in history, you can’t precisely contain a life documentary to a mere hour and a half. However, "Truth and Lies" steams ahead with the Stones’ foundation and rise to popularity in the wake of The Beatles, a time when Andrew Loog Oldham (who I listen to almost every night on the commute home on Sirius radio’s Underground Garage) had the savvy to realize the Stones were the potential antichrists to the wholesome façade The Beatles projected. 

However, was all of this bad boy imagery of the Stones a sham? Were they, in fact, the Backstreet Boys of their time, a possible corporate package that has sold a ridiculous amount of records over four decades? That’s what "Truth and Lies" purports as it goes along, even as it spends gratuitous time hashing over the Stones’ multiple court infractions for weed and drug possession. As The Beatles were likewise dragged into this mess, the suspicion of witch hunting through Swinging London is obvious, and the rejection of conformity and conservatism lingering in both England and the United States at the time of the British Invasion contributed to the Stones’ popularity. Everyone likes the bad guys; many are just too afraid to admit it. That element of danger is why the Stones sold like they did.

While the attendance of the vibrant sounds of the Stones’ earlier works would’ve made "Truth and Lies" nearly indispensable, what it does present is some fabulous footage that not even the rock channels are able to cough up. From the coif hairdo of mod maven Mary Quant to Mick Jagger’s defense of marijuana legalization to the infamous Altamont incident to the band’s eventual breakups and reunions to some pretty harrowing facades of Brian Jones that perhaps substantiates a few stories, "Truth and Lies" is a neat outsider’s look with a number of insider’s materials. The quirky film piece of the Stones hitchhiking on the side of the road with people obliviously passing them by is perhaps the last time you’ll see footage of them without a mob scene around them. So that leaves the final question: were the Stones for real or were they posers who still became rock'n'roll's living testament? I’ll leave that to you to ponder.

For more information, check out http://www.rollingstones.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2016 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08 Oct 2017 14:06:07 -0400.