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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).
Stoned is available on Spotify, Amazon, etc.
May 7, 2022
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.
Feb 25, 2022
Aug 25, 2021
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.
Apr 6, 2021
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"I want to be a country singer too"
I sleep in a van with other dudes and sing country songs
so people will buy t-shirts
♫ ♬Under my thumb...♫ ♬
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When Santa complains about Rudolph listening to Kane Brown during the reindeer games
Gary Levox's favorite toy
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