The Rolling Stones

Blue & Lonesome Universal

The Rolling Stones

by Michael Dwyer | December 1st, 2016 7:20:AM EST

This must be harder than it sounds. That's the only answer to what took the Stones so long to slam out an album of vintage Chicago blues grinders in some concrete echo chamber out Twickenham way. However simple the three-days/no overdubs construction, it's the weight of passion and experience – on both sides of the mixing desk – that makes it such an intense, soulful and joyous experience.

The songs hail from sources whose lofty renown owes plenty to these very upstarts – Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon – as well as lesser known greats like Miles Grayson and Lermon Horton. Their "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" is the high point of the swamp, with its stinging soloing by Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger near combustible with sexual jealousy.

Jagger sounds unleashed here, a revelation even now both for his scalding vocals and his scorching blues harp, each brutally compressed to a hair's breadth from distortion. He howls like an ill wind on the slow sleaze of Magic Sam's "All Your Love" and hollers cocksure and smooth in the rattling train of Little Walter's "Hate to See You Go".

Meanwhile, the telepathic entanglement of Keef'n'Ronnie's lazy riffing and slicing counter-attacks remains, rather like the unhurried whiplash of Charlie Watts' punctuation, gobstopping wonders of the rock & roll age. Kids could do worse than start here.

Rolling Stone