Friday, July 16, 2010

Rolling Stones 28: Tattoo You

What is arguably the last great Stones album came about as a fluke. Tattoo You was largely compiled from leftovers, some from the recent Emotional Rescue sessions and others going back as far as Black And Blue and even Goats Head Soup. But if you didn’t know this, you’d think they’d gone into the studio and banged it out as is, a testament to co-producer Chris Kimsey, engineer Bob Clearmountain and mastering guru Bob Ludwig.
It’s even divided into fast and slow sides, making for easy replaying depending on your mood. “Start Me Up” was the perfect single, anchored by that open-G tuning and happy vocals. “Hang Fire” is a joyful doo-wop song over words that make nearly no sense. Speaking of which, “Slave” is a five-minute jam leftover from Black And Blue that sounds better in your speakers than it does on paper. Keith gets his moment to garble in “Little T&A”, which really is about what you think it is. “Black Limousine” is fairly straightforward R&B, while the noisy “Neighbours”, wherein poor Charlie’s snare sounds like someone smacking a basketball, got more notoriety for its video.
The slow side is stellar. But it didn’t get as much radio play, with one exception. “Worried About You” resurrects another idea as well as Mick’s dangerous falsetto from Black And Blue. “Tops” has a similar tempo with ordinary lyrics from the point of view of a casting couch, but still rises above it all. “Heaven” is more of an experimental track, and not very Stonesy at all, while “No Use In Crying” piles on the harmonies. But “Waiting On A Friend” is one of their gems. Dating from 1972, as did “Tops”, it features Nicky Hopkins on piano, an uncredited Mick Taylor on guitar, and jazz legend Sonny Rollins contributing a perfect sax solo, both on the bridge and over the fade.
Since they had a tour booked, Tattoo You did the job of keeping the Stones in high profile. Its concurrent appearance alongside MTV’s debut gave them reason to make some silly videos, exposing them to a new generation of fans. Nearly two decades later, the album still brings a smile, despite the chintzy packaging. And to think it was all just a fluke.

The Rolling Stones Tattoo You (1981)—

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