This is something I don’t normally do, write about, and, or, review an album I purchased on the same day that I actually purchased it. But I want to write about the 1976 album by The Rolling Stones… entitled Black and Blue, the 13th British album by the Rolling Stones and the 15th American Studio album by said band (thank you wikipedia!). The late great rock music critic Lester Bangs wrote in Creem that “the heat’s off, because it’s all over, they really don’t matter anymore or stand for anything” and “This is the first meaningless Rolling Stones album, and thank God” (again, thank you wikipedia!).. But it’s been 36 years since all that.. So lets go for it.
OK, I could almost agree. ALMOST. As I put the LP on my platter and queued up the LP the first track “Hot Stuff” put me off because of the fact that it is just so funk and disco oriented and will always be trapped in that late 70’s disco era and I found myself almost agreeing with Lester Bangs’ ghost.. It’s trite. Plain and simple. The following song Hand of Fate, however, is pure 70’s Stones. The good 70’s stones. It would have fit fine on Exile on Main Street. Cherry Oh Baby follows as the third track and goes back into the funk groove explored on the album. Not as horrible as Hot Stuff. But yeah, a detour on this album. After Cherry Oh Baby follows Memory Hotel. A typical ballad from the Stones (a tale of woe, of love and loss with a dame doing Mick wrong). It’s good, though typical. A few too many sha la la’s for my liking. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger actually share vocals. LEAD vocals. However, despite the retreaded territory and the sha la la’s, It’s a very good 70’s Stone song that does remind you that they were still capable of being a good band despite wanting to give in to trends of that decade (DISCO… DISCO. DISCO…) So yeah, we flip the record and head into side two…
On the flip side, Hey Negrita opens side two and it dabbles in the funk a bit more. Actually, though, the riff is pretty sweet and one can see (well, hear) Ron Wood’s suprising reggae influence coming in. It’s pure funk. But in a good way. After that funk outing we find ourselves on another detour.. The track Melody inspired by Billy Preston… (Billy Preston was an African American artist pretty sweet on the keys.. piano keys). And that is what this song is. A great melody wrapped around some piano keys, a bit soulful. And, of course, another tale of love and loss by Mick as some dame left with something he owned. Then goes on a bit longer than it should. Then we get to Fool To Cry.. The simple reason I wanted this album.
Fool To Cry is a great song. Keith Richards famously fell asleep while playing this song live in Germany in 1976, but that might have had something to do with drugs, heroin maybe. This track is evident that they still had steam. That steam was running out though as the 70’s progressed and the 80’s crept up to them. Some Girls, Tattoo You, Emotional Rescue all had that one common theme, they all had those two or three Stones songs on them that reminded people they were great, despite the fact that some of the other tracks on the albums were just trite aimed for the pop charts. Probably because they had a lot of material from the early 70’s in the vaults that they could revisit.
Black and Blue closes with the rocker Crazy Mama, a stomping bulldozer of a song that as I previously said, reminds us that the Stones could rock. And they did. Sure, 1976 was a weird year. 1977 brought on a lot of great new music. The Stones didn’t release anything in ’77 but a lot of great bands did. Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Wire, Television. I will save that article for another posting. Oh, and Elvis died, the Sex Pistols and the Clash released their first LPs in 1977 too……. more to come.