Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Keith Richards 3: Crosseyed Heart

Decades after the mid-‘80s derailment and subsequent realigning of the Stones, both Mick and Keith have kept their solo output minimal. But on the four studio albums plus the handful of new songs stuck onto anniversary compilations, Keith’s lead vocals have generally been the standouts, and the songs that have endured. Being allowed a regular outlet likely tempered his need to record on his own, but perhaps the Stones’ reliance on older material played live to cash in on whatever anniversary they were celebrating inspired him to call Steve Jordan and reunite the X-Pensive Winos.
However, while a Keith vocal is generally a welcome respite from Mick, Crosseyed Heart doesn’t prove that all Keith, all the time is the answer. Cut down to maybe ten songs, the album would be much stronger.
The title track is an engaging snippet of acoustic blues, right down to its charming conclusion. “Heartstopper” and “Trouble” pile in like you hoped they would. “Robbed Blind” is something of a country weeper, complete with pedal steel and Keith himself on piano. (We checked the credits, thinking it just had to be somebody else.) “Nothing On Me” could be a single in another era, though the lead guitar going throughout should have been pulled back a bit. He goes all out reggae on a cover of “Love Overdue”, giving up a lyrical influence for “All About You” in the process. Late saxman Bobby Keys is featured on “Blues In The Morning”, a great blast of Chuck Berry via Chicago, while “Illusion” gets a surprise lift from Norah Jones. Towards the end of the album, “Substantial Damage” bubbles with funk and “Lover’s Plea” melds reggae and soul.
That leaves “Amnesia”, “Suspicious” and “Something For Nothing”—good, but not up to the level of their brothers. Likewise, “Just A Gift” is one slow song too many. While he avoids the cliché of closing with “Goodnight Irene”, this albeit pleasant rendition doesn’t add much to the song’s history.
Again, most of Crosseyed Heart is enjoyable, and if it scares Mick into rocking out again, then maybe we haven’t heard the last of the Stones. And since there’s no better place to mention it, even a casual listen to what passes for country music these days reveals a debt to Keith’s riffs. Whether it’s a guy with a twang or a blonde with a yodel, today’s country sounds like either a Stones ripoff or pancakes and sausage.

Keith Richards Crosseyed Heart (2015)—3

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