Showing posts with label Rolling Stones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rolling Stones. Show all posts

May 26, 2022

Blackberry Smoke’s Stoned: How to do an album of covers



By Kevin Broughton

Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke released Stoned, an EP of Rolling Stones songs, back in November (as a Record Store Day release) to little fanfare. Under the radar or not, this is the way to do a cover record. 

At least that’s what discriminating Stones fans will think. The first thing that got my attention was the track listing for the seven-cut set; Charlie Starr and the boys put some serious thought into it, and it shows in the distribution: Three songs from Sticky Fingers (“Sway,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” “I Got The Blues”); two from Exile (“All Down The Line,” “Tumbling Dice”); and one each from Beggars Banquet (“Street Fighting Man”) and Some Girls (“Just My Imagination.”) This last is a cover of a cover, a song first made famous by Smokey Robinson – and the best cover the Stones ever did. 

It spans a decade of Stones history (1968-78), with one song each from the Brian Jones and Ron Wood eras, and a supermajority rightly plucked from the band’s golden (a/k/a “Mick Taylor”) age. 


The tributes in song themselves are exquisite in form and true to the Stones’ blues-based vision of rock ‘n’ roll. “All Down The Line” kicks the record off with a faithful sendup of Keith’s stop-go riff for six bars, and the rhythm section falls right into the pocket. “Tumbling Dice” is so true to the original that you can appreciate why Blackberry Smoke is one of the few bands who could credibly pull this off; they’re just that good, top to bottom. (The Black Crowes could have done this once, but Robinsons.)



My favorite cut might be the aforementioned cover/cover, “Just My Imagination,” one I was exposed to as a 15-year-old on the Tattoo You tour. “What the heck,” I thought. “Why is Mick playing a guitar, and how have I never heard this Stones song before?” 



As faithful as the Stones were to Smokey, Blackberry Smoke is to the Stones.  And on “Sway” and one or two other numbers, the rough edge to Starr’s melodic voice adds a hint of Keith to all the vocals. So much in fact I found myself wishing for a cover of “Happy” or “You Got The Silver” or “Before They Make Me Run.” For that matter, Blackberry has but scratched the surface; Stones fans should be reasonably optimistic about a sequel. Because for all the great renditions on this seven-song EP, they can now envision at least twice that many for any follow-up effort(s).


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Stoned is available on Spotify, Amazon, etc.

May 7, 2022

Saturday Night Music / Rolling Stones / "Loving Cup"

From a 1972 rehearsal, The Stones perform a classic cut from their masterpiece, Exile On Main St. So maybe it's not 100 percent authentic -- we don't see Bobby Keys or any horn players, yet we hear them -- but what's better than the Glimmer Twins singing into the same microphone? Keith's harmonies aren't the purest, but they're damned sure rock 'n' roll. 

Just one drink, and I'll fall down drunk.

      -- KB

Aug 25, 2021

Rest In Peace, Charlie

By Kevin Broughton


A few weeks before I turned 12, Mom said, “Grandmama wants to know what you want for your birthday. They’re coming down.” Because “Beast of Burden” had been all over the pop stations in Orlando, I said, “A Rolling Stones album!” On the happy day, I greedily went for the flat, album-shaped object first, shredding the decorative paper. 


“Thank you, Grandmama and Grandaddy!” Scanning the back cover, though, I may have looked perplexed. There was no “Beast of Burden,” or even “Satisfaction.” And who was this weird, jumpy guy on the front? 


I didn’t know who Mick was referring to before “Honky Tonk Women” when he said, “Charlie’s good tonight, innit?” It would be many years before I appreciated the greatness of that live album, recorded over several nights in New York and Baltimore in 1969, before the release of Let It Bleed. I’d be in college before I realized how sublime the Mick Taylor years were. 

But listening to some of these raw, menacing cuts – “Stray Cat Blues,” a nine-minute “Midnight Rambler,” “Sympathy” – it was all over, man. At 12, I was a Stones guy for life. (Beatles guys were, and remain, pansies. Sorry.) Three years and change after that birthday, I'd see The Stones on the Tattoo You tour at what was then called the Tangerine Bowl. The opening act, Van Halen, showed me spandex style. Then I lived substance with the greatest rock band ever. 


But that image of a joyous, goofy, leaping Charlie Watts – flanked by a donkey – that’s the icon I’ll always associate with the beginning of my rock ‘n’ roll education. 


He was a jazz drummer in a blues band. He took no shit from Mick. One night on tour, the up-late, partying front man rang Charlie’s room. “Where’s my drummer?” he demanded, laughing. Charlie got out of bed, changed into a suit and tie, knocked on Jagger’s door and punched him square in the mouth when it opened. “Don’t you ever call me ‘your drummer’ again,” he said. “You’re my singer!” And then went back to bed. 


Charlie Watts (and Ringo, for that matter) would be overshadowed by a couple of game-changing contemporaries, Keith Moon and Ginger Baker. But if you ask any great drummer today to name the masters, Charlie’s name (and Ringo’s) will inevitably come up. To find out how unique and vital Watts was to the Stones’ sound, ask his mates. 


“Most bands follow the drummer as he sets the band,” Bill Wyman said. “In our band, Charlie follows Keith.” And it’s so true. Keef, a/k/a The Human Riff, would kick off “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Street Fighting Man,” with a signature hook. Charlie jumped in, Wyman filled in the pocket, and it was just magic. It also has this weird vibe that a song might go off the rails any minute.


Yet they sometimes followed him. Who but a jazz master could kick off “Paint It, Black” and maintain that manic tempo? What sets the table on “Sympathy?” A seductive, hypnotic groove that still raises the hair on your neck as you think of it right this minute. 


“Everybody,” Keef said, “thinks Mick and Keith are the Rolling Stones. If Charlie wasn’t doing what he’s doing on drums, that wouldn’t be true at all. You’d find out that Charlie Watts is the Stones.”


He was. I’ve cried plenty today, and I’m not done. This one hurts, and Mick & Keith should shut it down now. Thank you, Charlie, for being the backbone of my favorite band. Thank you, Grandmama, for setting the table.


And thank you, Martin Scorsese, for this precious footage from 2006. The perfect sendoff. 


Dec 5, 2019

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Nov 8, 2019

Hard To Handle: page-churning Black Crowes memoir pulls back curtain on dysfunction, wasted potential


By Kevin Broughton

The Black Crowes could have become the greatest American rock and roll band of all time, or at least in the conversation with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Around the time the scourge of hair “metal” was fading and the fad that would become grunge was just kicking up, the band from Georgia revived Stones-style, blues-based rock in a way only Aerosmith had done (and then, briefly) before them. 

Fans of the band saw the potential immediately; within a few years and albums, though, they became vaguely aware of the dysfunction that would cripple the band. Sure, Chris and Rich Robinson didn’t get along, but how bad could it be?

Worse than anyone could have imagined, it turns out. And thanks to former drummer Steve Gorman’s enthralling memoir, Hard to Handle: The Life and Death of The Black Crowes, fans get an intimate look at a slow-motion train wreck. Think of Almost Famous in real life, with fist-fights.

Gorman, the youngest of eight kids from Hopkinsville, dropped out of Western Kentucky University in the late 1980s to move to Atlanta and join a band – a band that didn’t yet exist. He didn’t own a drum kit; bought his first one about a week after arriving. He had only “air-drummed.”

It was also about a week into his Atlanta residency that he met Chris Robinson, then fronting Mr. Crowe’s Garden. When Drivin N Cryin poached drummer Jeff Sullivan, Chris (who had recently gone cold-turkey off his antidepressants after his therapist committed suicide) gave Gorman the hard sell. He soon relented and along with Rich (still in high school), formed the core of what would become the Black Crowes.

Steve Gorman
Fortune smiled on the band early. It was a different era in the music business, obviously, but they were on the fast track after being signed to Ric Rubin’s label, Def American. George Drakoulias prudently informed the band they needed to tour and practice more before hitting the studio. Before heading back to Los Angeles, Drakoulias gave them some sage advice: Start listening to the Stones, like Beggars Banquet- and Exile-era Stones. And to young Rich Robinson: Learn to play in open G tuning, like Keith does. This, without question, impacted the Crowes’ sound on their first three albums – and their overall sound -- more than anything else. Gorman, incidentally, refers to Rich as a guitar savant; the same applies to himself behind a drum kit. Those two were the instrumental backbone of the Black Crowes.

Drakoulias produced the first two records, Shake Your Money Maker and (to this day the band’s masterpiece) The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. So, after massive record sales, universal critical acclaim and touring all over America and Europe, what’s the next move? Chris decides the band doesn’t need a producer anymore. Oh, the hubris that ensued.

Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind about their third album, Amorica? Probably the album cover: a young lady’s midsection clad only in American-flag bikini bottoms, with, uh, some grass showing on the field.

Gorman: “Chris, what the hell are you thinking? Places like Wal Mart and K-Mart will never carry this album.” (They didn’t.)

Chris: “I don’t care. Black Crowes fans don’t shop at those places.”

Predictably, album sales absolutely tanked as a result. (It’s a shame, too, because Amorica is probably the band’s second-best record.) It would be the first of many times Chris Robinson would presume to speak for Black Crowes fans, and over the years he’d be proven wrong manifestly and continually. At one point Gorman, sick of the presumption, told him, “You have no idea how to relate to our fans. How much money would you say you spend on weed in a year?” Not batting an eye or catching the gist, Chris deadpanned, “About a hundred grand.”

Over the next dozen years, Chris would – time and again – drop a grenade into the band’s midst. There’s a clinical term for someone who is incapable of empathy and engages in destructive behavior when success would otherwise abound. Gorman never calls Chris Robinson a sociopath, or even bipolar. But he’s surely thought it. The Robinson brothers were toxically codependent, and it spread through the band. Rich had been bullied by his older brother all his life, and rather than stand up to him, he took it out on his band mates in passive-aggressive fashion. Gorman, the runt of his own (much larger) familial litter, exasperatedly gave Rich some advice: “Next time, take a folding chair and smash Chris right in the f*cking face with it. Send his ass to the hospital, and I promise you, this will stop.” If Rich had taken it to heart and followed through, Gorman’s book would be alternate history.

But he didn’t. Many, many times, Gorman – after enduring a Chris Robinson tantrum of verbal abuse – offered him a free first punch. Had Chris taken him up, we’d again be looking at a different Crowes retrospective. He’s a bully who’s never endured a good ass-whipping, and Black Crowes fans are the worse for it.

Gorman would leave the band after the 2010 tour and return a few years later in response to the pleadings of the Robinsons and the band’s manager. This time, they promised, it would be different. And it would, for a little while. Then, in 2014 it was all over again. Rich released a letter explaining that the band was done, seemingly taking the high road: “I love my brother and respect his talent, but his present demand that I must give up my equal share of the band and that our drummer for 28 years and original partner, Steve Gorman, relinquish 100% of his share, reducing him to a salaried employee, is not something I could agree to.”

Oh, the irony. Several years earlier, the Robinsons – both of them – had written Gorman and demanded he give up his ownership in the band they’d formed together. The drummer called their bluff and was ready to walk until they quickly relented.

Each of the book’s 40 chapters are packed with vignettes that will leave fans shaking their heads at what might have been. No spoiler here, but the one that sums it all up involves Jimmy Page. You remember they toured together and made a double album, right?


Of all the infuriating episodes in Gorman’s tell-all, it’s the one that will piss you off the most.

Still, it’s a book you can’t put down. As in, buy it on a Friday afternoon and you’re up till 3:30 a.m. reading.

And you’ll finish it while watching your favorite team the next day…in between plays.

Gorman says, “This isn’t the story of the Black Crowes, but it’s my story of the Black Crowes.” It’s one well told, but ultimately sad. I hope the movie isn’t a letdown. Meantime, let’s remember what was, and what could have been.


Feb 2, 2018

Weird, I Guess I Like the Stones More Than the Beatles Now

by Robert Dean

I don’t know at what fork in the road I took, but apparently, I turned left somewhere around "Gimme Shelter." For the longest time, I’ve always packed the Beatles vs. Stones conversation away as a waste of time because both bands are amazing at what they do and to compare them is moot. Both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones changed the face of music. But, the older I get, that comparison, at least for me, starts to have a lot more dimensions than it had in the past.

I’ve always loved the Beatles. For most of my life, the standard, “who’s your favorite band” question was always met with The Beatles and….” Usually, the other band is Nirvana, but others have come and gone. My wife and I like the Beatles so much that our youngest son’s name is Lukas Lennon.

In the realm of pop, The Beatles are the greatest of all time. You cannot move the Rock of Gibraltar that is their catalog. The harmonies are bright and sumptuous. The innovation is unprecedented, and then there’s the sheer genius of the Lennon/McCartney competition of songwriting. But, I’ve heard these songs so many times, there’s no nuance anymore. They’ve been examined to death. For a band who was only around for less than ten years, we’ve microscopically obsessed about them to an infinite degree.


Somewhere though, the Rolling Stones crept up on the Beatles and stole my attention away. There’s something underlying there; there’s chaos to the music that the Beatles cannot compare to. As I get older, I want danger, sex, sacrifice, and mystery – "Penny Lane" doesn’t exactly have that, but "Street Fightin' Man" sure as hell does.

When I hear The Rolling Stones, I continually find a band who did not give a single shit about what was popular and did their own thing without consequence. The albums, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup, etc. – there’s always an off-putting sleaze to them that still adds a sense of danger. But, what the Rolling Stones can anchor emotionally feels greater because of the stripped away bare bones realness vs. the layered studio effects of The Beatles grand orchestral orgasms.

Granted, we could be living in a world where Martin Scorsese movies have altered what a Rolling Stones track felt like and will continue to feel like. But, that’s the thing, The Rolling Stones don’t feel out of place in a dirty garage with bikers puffing on hog legs while wrenching on their Harleys. The White Album wouldn’t fit that scene; it’s too polished, too clean. The Beatles are the soundtrack to every day, the series of moments, while The Rolling Stones amplify scenes of excess and wonderment.


Getting older, I obsess about how my time is spent, about investing worth more than value because they ain’t the same. As the Beatles showcase the brightest and best of humanity with their neon harmonies, I’ve felt more Stones-like as the world has thrust its boot at my crotch more times than I care to count.

This world is hard, and nothing is easy, I guess it’s why sometimes we need a mile marker, something to stab a kitchen knife into and claim it as ours. The Beatles were that for me and, will forever be, but as I evolve as a person, the sense of danger is more valuable than a few ditties about love.


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