Monday, October 25, 2010

Keith Richards 1: Talk Is Cheap

While Mick went off to do another solo album, Keith stewed for a while, and decided to do his own. Talk Is Cheap reminded the world how good the Stones had been, on an album where the only other Stone present was Mick Taylor. Several other guests appear, from Buckwheat Zydeco to Johnnie Johnson, but the nucleus is a band of session veterans dubbed the X-Pensive Winos. These guys managed to mesh so well together you can practically hear Keith smiling on every track.
Much of the credit should go to Steve Jordan, the onetime drummer for the band on Late Night With David Letterman, who co-produced and co-wrote the entire album with Keith. Most of the bass comes from Charley Drayton, who could ably switch spots with Steve Jordan at the drop of a dime; no other rhythm section can do that. Keyboards, mostly in the form of clavinets and electric pianos, are handled by young Ivan Neville, while Waddy Wachtel, known mostly for his work with the likes of Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and Stevie Nicks, is Keith’s six-string foil. (He had no misconceptions of his place in this particular pantheon; when asked which guitars on the album were his, Wachtel replied, “The other ones.”) Several notable musicians stopped by, including Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, the legendary Johnnie Johnson, Bobby Keys, and in a massive middle finger to a certain lead singer, Mick Taylor even showed up. (Several jams featuring this crew would appear on the bonus disc to the belated 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, along with two further unreleased originals.)
What made the album so satisfying wasn’t just the guitar work, though “Struggle”, “How I Wish” and “Whip It Up” certainly delivered the goods. Quite simply, the songs were all there. “Big Enough” is James Brown funk (think “Hot Stuff”), “Make No Mistake” brings back the sound of sexy soul with Sarah Dash cooing alongside him, “Locked Away” is a sneaky slow burner, and “I Could Have Stood You Up” is all early Chuck Berry. A lot of critics drooled over “You Don’t Move Me”, an attack on Mick so obvious it could be used as a windshield. But the clear winner is “Take It So Hard”, which some also took as a swipe; it’s just terrific.
Obviously empowered, Keith took the Winos on a theater tour, filling his sets with tracks from the album and well-chosen Stones classics. One of the gigs was filmed, recorded and released three years later (after making the rounds as a popular bootleg, naturally). Live At The Hollywood Palladium survives as an artifact of a time when, even though we might never see the Stones again, at least we’d have Keith, and he’d be just fine. (This too was reissued three decades after the fact, but only the box set edition included three extra tracks and the companion video on DVD.)

Keith Richards Talk Is Cheap (1988)—4
2019 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition: same as 1988, plus 6 extra tracks
Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos Live At The Hollywood Palladium (1991)—3
2020 Super Deluxe Box Set: same as 1991, plus 3 extra tracks

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