Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mick Jagger 3: Wandering Spirit

With everything supposedly hunky dory in Stones land—mostly because we hadn’t heard otherwise—a new Mick Jagger solo album was a little surprising, but not when you consider it came on the heels of a Keith Richards solo album. Plus, given the less-than-legendary legacy of his first two works on his own, anything wrapped in yet another photo of Mick on an unmade bed—shirtless this time—couldn’t bode well.
However, Wandering Spirit defied expectations by being, shall we say, Stonesy. Perhaps we can thank co-producer Rick Rubin for that; most of the tracks involve guitars, bass, drums, and traditional keyboards. “Wired All Night”, “Out Of Focus”, “Don’t Tear Me Up”, “Put Me In The Trash”, “Mother Of A Man” are only missing Keith’s riffing and Charlie’s swing. And the few trips outside genre could hardly be called attempts at sounding contemporary. Even “Sweet Thing”, with its sampled vinyl crackle and falsetto, has enough funk to rock. The title track has a terrific rockabilly feel, updated for shredding. “Hang On To Me Tonight” approaches lonesome country, but it’s bested by far by “Evening Gown”, which should have been a Stones track with Keith harmonies.
In addition, some covers divert from the all-Mick show. “Think” is a revved-up take of a song most might have known from James Brown, while “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long” is a Stax tune given a slight Jamaican feel in the vocal. But given the length of the album, we could have done without “Use Me”, which doesn’t add anything to Bill Withers’ classic original except bring Lenny Kravitz in to take a few verses.
The album’s strong enough to keep you interested all the way through the last two, wholly unexpected tracks. The minor-key “Angel In My Heart” is accompanied by harpsichord and strings, of all things, then he sings “Handsome Molly” in a brogue, with only a fiddle by his side.
He didn’t tour behind it, and there wasn’t any real gimmick to the album, so Wandering Spirit was received well and soon forgotten. It’s too bad, since it remains a strong album—certainly the best one he’d done on his own to date—and deserves wider appreciation.

Mick Jagger Wandering Spirit (1993)—

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