BLUE & LONESOME

Recorded:
December 11-15, 2015: British Grove Studios, London, England

Overdubbed:
April 2016: British Grove Studios, London, England
The Parlour Recording Studio, New Orleans, USA

Mixed:
Henson Recording Studios, Los Angeles, USA

Producers: Don Was & The Glimmer Twins
Chief engineer: Krish Sharma
Release date: December 2016
Original label: Polydor Records



Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood, Darryl Jones, Chuck Leavell, Matt Clifford, Eric Clapton, Jim Keltner.
 

Just Your Fool
Commit a Crime
Blue and Lonesome
All of Your Love
I Gotta Go
Everybody Knows About My Good Thing
Ride 'Em on Down
Hate to See You Go
Hoo Doo Blues
Little Rain
Just Like I Treat You
I Can't Quit You Baby




 
 
 


THE COVER


I thought blues album = blue! Obviously. So then (the record company) sent me a blue, and it was all kind of grey and wishy washy. I said No, it's got to be bright, really blue, electric blue. So that's why we came up with that color. I think it works.

- Mick Jagger, October 2016

 
 
 
 





CREATION


The first discussion of recording came when I went to see the Stones play in Detroit on July 8, 2015. Then seeing Mick and Keith individually, they both expressed a desire to get back in the studio after that leg of the tour. By December, we were in London with a batch of new songs. Keith was first through the door usually. We started in the late afternoon - gentleman's hours - and were probably done by 10 or 11 every night. The way they've always set up - I think even when Glyn Johns recorded them - it's like a stage, with Charlie between Ronnie and Keith, and the bass on stage left, keyboard stage right. Mick would be facing everybody. But this time, it was a bit more like a semi-circle.
- Don Was, October 2016


We went in to cut some new songs, which we did. But we got on a blues streak. We cut 11 blues in two days. They are extremely great cover versions of Howlin' Wolf and Little Walter, among other blues people... When we heard them back after not hearing them for a couple of months, we were, Who's that? It's you. It sounded so authentic.
- Ron Wood, April 2016


We did sessions in London in December which suddenly gave us a whole load of stuff. In fact, the Stones have never cut so many tracks in such a short time.
- Keith Richards, April 2016


It was a little more than 3, I think it was 5 days (laughs) but we won't quibble about it. It kind of dripped off the fingers. The band knows this stuff so well and hadn't played it for so long that they were just ready. All you had to was push play and off we went. And to me that's the great beauty of this record - no sweat.
- Keith Richards, October 2016


We'd gone in the studio to start cutting some new songs. Around day three we just hit a wall and Keith suggested that, to cleanse the creative palette, we play Blue and Lonesome, the Little Walter song. Fortunately we ran the tape and it was just awesome. The whole mood of the room changed dramatically in those three-and-a-half minutes. So we said, Let's do another one, and let's do another one. They just called songs off that they knew and loved. It was very spontaneous. And by the end of the day we had six.
- Don Was, September 2016


(The band was) a little unsure of the studio and the sound of it... I know the Rolling Stones. I know that recording new music in a room they're not familiar with, there's sometimes going to be weeks before the room breaks in. The room is fighting me. It's fighting the band. The sound is not coming...
I looked at Ronnie and said, Let’s put a hold on this new stuff while we try and figure things out and get the room warmed up. O.K.: "Blue and Lonesome"... Suddenly the room is obeying and there's something happening – a sound is happening and it was so good... And then, That was damned good, man! Mick turns around and says, Let’s do Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit a Crime — and it really just led from there. No preplanning, no real instigation. Suddenly Mick just jumped on this train that he’s so good at... It just bloody happened. That was the amazing thing and the beauty of it.
- Keith Richards, October 2016


It's a pretty good set up (at British Grove). You know, studios nowadays are a bit like walking into hospitals. We had to funk it up a bit. It didn't really feel like it was going to be exactly the kind of climate that we needed to play songs in. We had to break it in, both physically and with our amplifiers. Just play the room in and move things around.
- Ron Wood, October 2016


(British Grove) is an incredible studio with a custom-made Neve 88R in Studio One where Blue & Lonesome was recorded. It also includes two old EMI mixing consoles: a very rare tube desk from the 1960s, like the ones used by George Martin and the Beatles, and a later console on which the album Band on the Run was recorded.
- Don Was, 2016


I didn't even have time to change my guitar. They were coming so thick and fast. It was like, OK, let's do it – this one, that one. Some of the harder riffs were making my fingers bleed, and Mick was going, Come, let's do it again, then! And we'll go, Hang on! My fingers! It was real hard work, but I love it.
- Ron Wood, October 2016


It was just like the Stones in the early days when you used to hear them do I’m A King Bee and Walking The Dog. It was a complete accident that it happened. It was just on the spur of the moment, very spontaneous. We suddenly had an album in two days which it’s a real kick up the pants for you, it’s great.
- Ron Wood, October 2016

I just followed Mick’s enthusiasm. I was letting the man roll. I was keeping my fingers crossed Mick didn’t get bored halfway through – What are we doing cutting blues? Once he got going, it was fascinating to watch. I’ve never seen him so intense on putting it down and getting it right and also making it much more part of the band than usually happens.
- Keith Richards, October 2016


It’s bloody hard to write songs. Here, instead of grinding out just one song, you’d do three or four. And the next day you do another three. Nobody bothered with retakes – it wasn’t conceived as an album.
- Charlie Watts, October 2016


It was funny because I'd been speaking to Don Was about doing a blues album already. And my idea of doing it was that it was going to be really relax because we do these blues in rehearsal. So we go into rehearsal... we would play blues versions and we played Commit a Crime, for instance, and we had played Blue and Lonesome. And I said Well we keep playing these tunes, maybe we should record the rehearsals a bit better. And then there's no pressure...  So I actually mentioned that to him, very recently... I think that it was all kind of waiting to happen at a certain moment and then the moment came. And so that was all good.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


I got a text from Mick saying The blues tracks are really sounding good. And I thought, is this from the Jagger that I know? Because he never, never says that things are happening well.
- Ron Wood, October 2016


(After the first day) Don Was said to me, Can you go home tonight and make a list of what we're going to do? If we're going to do more blues, you'd better make a list... I just went into my computer and went into the blues songs I had in there... and I made a list of what I thought we'd do that day and wrote it down and went into the studio and I just shouted out Let's do this. And if people said Yes then we did it, and if people said Oh, I don't know about that one, I'd say OK, then this one, because I had enough.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


All these songs, I mean, I'm not sure everyone knew all these songs, it's not true. Ronnie said Well I never heard that one and I'm not really familiar with that one... Hoo Doo Blues, for instance, I don't think Ronnie was terribly familiar with that... But most of them were stuff that we played since we were teenagers, to be honest. They're not the most well-known ones but they're all on those famous albums, aren't they? 
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


Just play it to me once and in the deep end!
- Ron Wood, November 2016


There's a few songs that are on the running order (of the album) there that I'd never heard before. But I said, You just play the song to me once and then start rolling the tape and I'll cut it - my way... Keith and me, we've been there and done it. It doesn't have to necessarily have been on that song but we'll make it our own approach.
- Ron Wood, October 2016


I tried to pick the ones that were not overly familiar to blues fans. They’re not the ones we’ve done over and over. I tried to find slightly obscure ones, to make the song choices as varied as possible – different rhythms, different emotions, different feels, different time signatures. 
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


We didn't want to do the obvious ones. And also we started to scratch our own brains about who could come up with the most obscure (laugs) record. Mick came up with Lazy Lester and I came up with Ride 'Em on Down, I think. We were actually testing each other's collective memory.
- Keith Richards, November 2016


I tried to pick slightly unusual numbers. As we'd done a Little Walter one, Blue and Lonesome, I thought we'd do some more. They seem to come off, the Little Walter tracks.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart are great artists, but Bob Dylan is kind of a blues singer, among other things. A bit like the Rolling Stones, he doesn't only do blues. If we had gone another day, my next list would have included some Bob Dylan blues songs. Think of those ones like Pledging My Time or one of the fast ones, like Tombstone Blues.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


We've never cut so many tracks in such a short time, but that's not necessarily a guarantee of a good record... (M)ake no mistake, the recording over the three days was emotionally draining for the band.
- Keith Richards, 2016


Not for a minute did we think we'd keep it up for three days.
- Mick Jagger, 2016


The thing is for me - I'm sure for all players, all instruments it's the same - but for harmonica it's to get the sound that I want to hear on the headphones, you know. It's not really about acoustics, playing harmonica. It's about putting thre harmonica through amps and echo effects and overdrive, compression and everything.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


Eric Clapton was recording next door. He just walked over and he had the same reaction as everyone else did. His jaw just dropped. Picture the Rolling Stones just set up in a circle in one room, the amplifiers are blaring. It reminded him of when he was a teenager, going to see the Stones playing in Richmond. He was just in awe, so he just grabbed one of Keith's guitars and started playing. It was quite a thing.
- Don Was, September 2016


We maintain that Eric never plays as good as when he plays with us. Something comes out of him. He likes to be a part of a band I think it is.
- Ron Wood, October 2016


(It was) an exercise in sprezzatura. You’ve got to concentrate, but it can’t sound like it’s difficult. And it doesn’t... It’s not like rock music or programmed drum music. It pulsates in a very weird way, where each bar is different. And that’s what’s interesting about this kind of music when it’s played properly. It has a swerve, and it has a dynamism about it.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


(Mick Taylor) would have analysed it too much I think. He would have dithered around too much. What he does best is play. Talk about it?  No.
- Ron Wood, October 2016


On some of these, I sound quite old, and on some of them, I don't. Some of it sounds like when I was in my twenties doing this stuff. I didn't really mean it to sound like that. I was supposed to be more mature!
- Mick Jagger, October 2016


It was only at the end, when we’d got 12 tracks and Don Was and I were talking together, and Mick was there and he was saying, This is an album. You can’t chop this up.
- Keith Richards, October 2016


We realized it was good but even when we finished them, we didn't say This is an album. It took us another couple of months of listening and saying, You know you can't break these things up - this is an album.
- Keith Richards, November 2016


There's no overdubs on it. A piano was added later, I think - a bit of piano. They're much better when they come out of the studio for me, they're much rawer and better. And this actually held up all the way through because we didn't put anything on it actually.
- Charlie Watts, October 2016


I've never made a record with less overdubs than this. I mean even our first record I probably overdubbed all the vocals. So I haven't overdubbed any of the vocals on this.
- Mick Jagger, September 2016

I was back in the U.S. during this time, and when I heard about it I was, Oh man, I didn’t get to go in. On the Latin American tour, Keith says you gotta come to my room and hear this stuff. It was amazing. He said, Chuck, we’ll get you on this stuff. A week or two later, Mick said the same thing – It wasn’t planned, we didn’t mean to do this, but we want you on it. So I went to New Orleans with Don Was, the producer, and worked in a really great studio, The Parlor, with a fantastic upright piano. They wanted all the sounds to be authentic, and that’s the case... I overdubbed my parts in six hours...

- Chuck Leavell, December 2016


It does feel like a live piece. But it's not live like it's in a club live. That's a whole different thing. You know, if you think "it's just played"; yes it is just played but you're using so much electronics to recreate the sounds that you want to hear. And you've got so many kinds of echoes, you have so many kinds of reverbs, you have so many kinds of distortions - there's a lot of electronics in this. And there was in the original records.
- Mick Jagger, September 2016


I just looked back at the original records, and we wanted some of these moods. Every track is different. We all thought it was going to be easy but it wasn’t.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016, on mixing the album


The whole thing about this particular kind of record was trying to get as cohesive a sound on everything — where you’re not picking out any star performances, in a way. That’s the essence of some of those Chess songs. You can make counter-arguments — that Hubert Sumlin jumps out of some of those Howlin’ Wolf records. But on a lot of them you can’t discern who’s playing what or what kind of instrument it is until you really listen. My thinking on the mixing of it was to re-create some of those things. You’re hearing the sound of a band; sometimes you can’t figure out if it’s Keith or Ron who’s playing the solo, or who’s playing the rhythm part. It’s not a wide stereo — it’s a very narrow stereo, and with the amount of distortion it sounds like this one ball of fire.
- Mick Jagger, November 2016


Ronnie and Keith interlock so well that when it was mixed we did not separate them too much. It's almost like they are mono, with the guitars close to the centre of the stereo mix.
- Mick Jagger, 2016


I said to the record company - which is, let's face it, they're not blues people, I mean they're very nice people and some I know very well - that: What we've made is a blues album but what do we do with it because we're in the middle of making a new album? Was it marketable as a separate album? Or would you like to wait till the new album is finished and put it out with it? So that you've got like 12 new things and you've got 12 blues things, which is kind of a nice package. I mean, you've got a lot of stuff suddenly. That would have been interesting. And I said, You think about that, you're the ones that are going to market it. Which way would you want to go? Cause I'm interested to see how you can (laughs) possibly market this blues album? Come on. Which traditionally is not going to interest any one - it's very niche. There's nothing wrong with it. But who's going to hear it? Is anyone going to go on Spotify and play this blues album? No one's going to listen to it. That to me is part of it, you know. You want to make a record but you want people to hear it, don't you? It's not supposed to just be for your family! That's nice, Dad... Probably the record company said, Well, the other (album)'s never gonna come - we might as well put this one out. I don't blame 'em. I probably would have done the same thing. 'Cause: Now I got something, might as well put it out.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016, on deciding to release the album








 


APPRECIATION



What we're playing on this album is actually the same time as we were making our first album. So they're very connected. At least to me and I think to the band. They take us back to our earlierst recordings and even pre-recording actually. So in a way a full circle, I guess, is the way the band feels about it.

- Keith Richards, October 2016


I like all of them.

- Charlie Watts, October 2016, asked what his favorite song on the album is


Sounds have changed. What makes you excited now is not the same. In music, everything’s different. But the blues still have something about them that’s really good. I love all kinds of music, and I still listen to the blues.

- Mick Jagger, October 2016


We’ve known these songs for 50 years. It is a learned idiom. It’s like me singing in Italian. If I’d been doing that for 50 years, you wouldn’t ask me, How do you feel about singing in Italian? I don’t feel anything about singing in Italian, I always sang in Italian. It works most of the time. It’s like, you just have to go with it and suspend disbelief. To me it’s a homage to all those people that we’ve always loved since we were kids. I can see why people might find it vaguely not correct, but we’ve always done it. And the artists themselves, they never objected.

- Mick Jagger, October 2016


It encapsulates everything we set out to do as a band. So, after 50-odd years, we’ve finally made an album that’s 100 per cent blues... All I’ve ever wanted to be able to say is I passed it on. With this album my wish has come true.

- Keith Richards, October 2016

This album is a homage to our favourite musicians, people who kicked us off in playing music. That was the reason we started a band. For my generation it’s the equivalent of suburban white kids doing rap. It’s so culturally far away from your own experience. We were proselytisers of blues music. In the end that’s what we’re still doing.

- Mick Jagger, October 2016


This album is the basis of what you came from. Can you still hack it in this direction? I play blues music at home, but we don't play as a band that much. The odd one in rehearsal. Onstage, we don't play a lot of blues, if at all. Midnight Rambler. Obviously, there are lots of bluesy things, but blues per se - as on this album - we don't do. So this is an extended, Are you able to do this stuff? I'm pleased that it sounds like we can.
- Mick Jagger, October 2016

On this album, you can hear how much (Mick is) a part of the band and what a musician he is. Because he’s such a showman, a lot of his actual talent gets hidden. But on this record, he can feel very proud of himself. I’ve always loved the man. It’s just that I have to kick his ass now and again!... This is the best record Mick Jagger has ever made. It was just watching the guy enjoying doing what he really can do better than anybody else. And also, the band ain't too shabby... He's an incredible harp player. And he also does that thing, when singing, knowing when to put the harp in and when to pull back... To me this record is a beautiful showcase of Mick's expertise. And also to capture him in full flow, enjoying himself.

- Keith Richards, October 2016

(Mick) plays Little Walter stuff with incredible insight. Almost like Louis Armstrong in a way.

- Keith Richards, October 2016

There ain't a guy around left that can play like that.

- Keith Richards, September 2016

I mean Little Walter's like the Charlie Parker of the harmonica. So you're really putting yourself on the line if you're doing one of his tunes.

- Mick Jagger, September 2016

They seem to come off, the Little Walter tracks. They're certainly not the most obvious songs to do.

- Mick Jagger, 2016

And while we're talking about Mick, his singing on this is staggering. He sounds like he's 22. He sounds the same as he did. He can hit all the notes. I think he's got more chops than he had when he was younger.

- Don Was, September 2016


I'm particularly knocked out by Keith's playing throughout the album; for me he is the leading purveyor of playing neither lead nor rhythm guitar. There's no differentiation. He's supportive and yet the musicality of his licks are lead guitar. It's done in a humble and generous fashion, and you can't do this if you are not a wonderful, humble and generous cat.
- Don Was, 2016

There’s a lot of roll on this — thanks to Charlie Watts and Darryl Jones, who played lovely bass on this. I love my rhythm section.

- Keith Richards, November 2016


Charlie is at the core of every musical conversation, his cymbal work is provocative. If you listen to his cymbal work, as a musician you know what to play. His power is amazing, but his playing is mystical. Listening to Charlie play you think he must be this huge guy wearing a tank top really hitting the drums hard.
- Don Was, 2016

The thing about the blues is it changes in very small increments. People reinterpret what they know - Elmore James reinterpreted Robert Johnson licks, as did Muddy Waters. So I'm not saying we're making the jumps that they made, but we can't help but reinterpret these songs.

- Mick Jagger, October 2016

There are things I can attempt now that I wouldn’t have attempted before. It’s all the blues, but there are a lot of different styles. Compare Hoo Doo Man Blues to I Can’t Quit You Baby, they are totally different vocal stylings.

- Mick Jagger, November 2016


I'm pleased with it because it sounds so good.

- Charlie Watts, October 2016


The hopeful thing, the surprising thing is that it still retains that enthusiasm — that’s the thing that’s the same, the enthusiasm you’ve got for the music.

- Mick Jagger, November 2016


Brian would have loved the blues album. Stu, too.

- Charlie Watts, October 2016


This record is basically the Rolling Stones of about 19, 20 years old. Except we can do it better now (laughs). And it can be recorded better.

- Keith Richards, October 2016


Some of them do sound like they could have been recorded in the '60s. There is a kind of youthful enthusiasm about them all. The atmosphere of the tracks and the way they are performed. Even my voice on them sounds quite young. We could have done this album in 1963 or '64, but, of course, it would not have sounded like this; we had not lived enough to make this record. Equally if we had made this a week later than we did, it would have been different again. It's the interesting thing about a record that is made really quickly: it reflects a moment in time - a time and a place.

- Mick Jagger, October 2016


I guess right now this blues record has thrown the Stones into a bit of a spin. It was not intended, it was not expected, but at the same time it is much loved in the band. Thee's a feeling like there's a new beginning, that we could clean the slate somewhere.

- Keith Richards, October 2016










REVIEW EXCERPTS


As Keith Richards tells it, the Rolling Stones' first-ever all-blues album is the result of the band learning how to play in the unfamiliar surroundings of Mark Knopfler's British Grove Studios... The Stones haven't worked at such swift speed in decades -- not since the early '60s, when they were churning out two albums a year -- and much of the appeal of Blue & Lonesome lies in its casualness: by being tossed off, the album highlights how the Stones play together as a band, blending instinct and skill. Blue & Lonesome isn't a showcase for virtuoso playing -- even Eric Clapton's two smoldering solos are part of the tapestry -- but rather a groove record, emphasizing feel and interplay while never losing sight of the song. Such commitment to song is one of the reasons Blue & Lonesome winds up as an unexpected triumph from Mick Jagger. A blues album from the Stones always seemed like a dream project for Keith Richards, who always championed the band's blues roots, but it's Jagger who dominates the album, playing searing harp and singing with nuance and power. Always a guarded performer -- back in 1974, he scoffed at the notion of letting his feelings flood on the page -- Jagger seems freed, pouring heart into the slow burners and uptempo shuffles alike. The rest of the Stones match his commitment and that's what makes Blue & Lonesome something remarkable. Conceptually, it's clever -- if this winds up being the last Rolling Stones album, it provides a nice bookend to their 1964 debut -- but it's artistically satisfying because it's the Rolling Stones allowing themselves to simply lay back and play for sheer enjoyment. It's a rare thing that will likely seem all the more valuable over the years. 5/5

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide, December 2016


In Just Your Fool, a Checker Records 45 for Little Walter in 1962, Watts presses the beat like a forced, precision march under the chug and spike of Richards and Wood's guitars. Blue and Lonesome, from a 1965 Little Walter single and caught here in a single take, opens with a rush of power-chord sustain, then drops into tense strut marked with jittery bursts of slalom guitar, Jagger cutting in with seething confrontation, especially on harp. Jones originally played that instrument in the Stones, but Jagger grew into their secret weapon. His hearty, supple attack and exclamatory accents are as exciting and decisive as Richards' bedrock ways on guitar. Made on impulse, as a much-needed break during other studio work, Blue and Lonesome is a monument to muscle memory. Solos are brief and tight, evoking the honed-punch effect of the original recordings. The running highlight throughout the album is the churning ensemble bond: the hot-plate jump of the guitars over the chasing rhythm in the Little Walter sprint I Gotta Go; the feral, stalking tension in Magic Sam's All of Your Love as Jagger tears at the title lyric like an upper-octave Howlin' Wolf.

Blue and Lonesome is not a record of mere returning, a look back at how it all started. The Stones were already big time when some of these songs were released by the originators including Howlin' Wolf's 1966 threat Commit a Crime and Magic Sam's defining version of All of Your Love on his 1967 landmark, West Side Soul. In fact, the younger Stones couldn't have tackled Jimmy Reed's 1957 lament Little Rain like the slow, advancing storm here. Watts comes in like stoic resignation, on brushed snare, under rolling clouds of guitar; Jagger fires lightning streaks of harp. It's barely a song – six lines of determined yearning and time running out. But it is dense with lessons, a reflection of the grip and wisdom that, for every bluesman, only comes with miles and age.  4.5/5

- David Fricke, Rolling Stone, December 2016

(W)hile there are fantastic contributions from Richards and Ronnie Wood – the grumbling twin guitars of Little Rain; the taut interplay that powers Hate to See You Go; and, especially, the woozy, chaotic backdrop they conjure on a version of Lightning Slim’s Hoo Doo Blues – it’s Jagger’s voice and harmonica that really drive Blue & Lonesome. At his least inspired, Jagger can sound like a man who isn’t singing so much as rearranging a well-worn series of mannerisms and tics, but here his vocals are extremely powerful and genuinely affecting, as if he’s digging deep within himself to find the emotions to fit the material. You expect him to be able to summon up the kind of swaggering lubriciousness requisite for Everybody Knows About My Good Thing, originally recorded by Little Johnny Taylor, which he does; more surprising is how authentically wracked he sounds on All Your Love, Hate to See You Go and the Memphis Slim-penned title track. There’s a really striking moment on the last one where he sings the line Baby please come on home to me, drawing out the word “please” into a chilling, agonised, vulnerable howl. Moreover, you wonder if Jagger’s fashion-conscious dilettantism might account for the album’s sound: Blue & Lonesome feels very much a record piloted by someone who’s heard the White Stripes or the Black Keys, or the raw blues releases on which Mississippi label Fat Possum’s reputation was founded. The sound is appealingly visceral and live: the guitars are spiky and slashing, the drums punch hard, everything – including Jagger’s voice – is coated with a thin, crisp layer of distortion, as if the band are playing at such volume and with such force that the microphones can’t quite take it... The last thing you hear on the album, after a version of Willie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby crashes to a halt, is Mick Jagger asking uncertainly was that OK? He sounds like a man who’s still slightly awed by this music in its original form; who knows he’s still paying homage to artists he can never entirely grasp, whatever Keith Richards thinks. But the answer to his question is an unqualified yes: it’s more than OK, which is not something you can say about many Stones albums over the last 30 years. 4/5

- Alex Petridis, The Guardian, November 2016


There is no attempt to slavishly recreate original arrangements, the modus operandi seems to be to get the chord changes down and then play the damn thing for the sheer thrill of it. And it is a thrill because there are not many bands left who could actually do what they do in a modern studio: just set up, face each other and play with such connection and commitment that the record is essentially a performance so alive to the music it needs no adornment or improvement. It would be wrong to say that Jagger is a revelation, because we all know what he can do, but it is a pleasure to hear him do it so well. Richards has always loved Jagger’s harmonica playing and here it is almost the featured item, with the singer taking everything he has learned from Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed and applying it with instinct and emotion. It is as if, unburdened by the self-consciousness that can inhabit his attempts to keep up with the kids, the frontman is free to just enjoy himself... If you have seen the Stones on recent tours, you will know they are playing better than at any time since their Seventies glory. The truth is they have never really been outstanding virtuosos but they have the secret to locking tight as a unit and keeping things shifting... Hopefully this will serve as a palette cleanser for the album of originals the Stones are still threatening to eventually deliver. But that would have to go some way to beat Blue And Lonesome for sheer pleasure. It may not be the kind of definitive album statement that will rock the music world to its foundations but it more than demonstrate that the world’s greatest and longest serving rock band have still got what it takes. 5/5

- Neil McCormick, The Telegraph, November 2016

For decades now, blues covers have been a staple of dully competent, forgettable bar bands, and this album has its share: for instance the unspectular opener, Just Your Fool - your archetypal fast-paced 12-bar, with almost every element, the turnaround, walking bass, uptempo shuffle, that you've heard a million times before. It doesn't have the grace to be awful, just predictable... (T)he edge, the unpredictability, emanates from that unexpected source: everybody's favourite hobo, Sir Michael Jagger, who steps to the fire three songs in, and dominates thereafter... (T)hree songs, Blue and Lonesome, Hoo Doo Blues and Little Rain (...) evoke the transformational quality of the Stones' original breakthrough... Three, of course, is a magic number, but not a large one. It's disappointing that there aren't one or two more inspiring moments, especially when there's a roughly equivalent number of duds. 3/5

- Paul Trynka, Mojo, January 2017

At its best, Blue & Lonesome finds the Stones fired up... Mick Jagger's harp playing is one of the album's defining features: driving and swooping through Keith and Ron's guitar lines, alternating between the raucous (Just Like I Treat You) and more sultry, soulful tunes (Blue and Lonesome). Jagger's vocal delivery, too, is forceful and direct, a reminder of how astute an interpreter of blues songs he can be... The work done by the two guitarists on Blue & Lonesome is essentially to bring swing and colour to the songs. Aside from Clapton's contributions, there are very few guitar solos on the album - the heavy lifting, so to speak, is done in the sympathetic interweaving bewteen Richards and Wood's playing... Throughout, Charlie Watts provides - as ever - unshowy yet powerful backing. His nimble percussion on All of Your Love or the cymbal crash that animates the second hall of Commit a Crime are every bit as characterful as the work done upfont by the guitars... For some bands, the idea of making an album of formative influences might be considered a mere stop-gap - a minor addition to the canon to keep the wolf from the door. Intriguingly, Blue & Lonesome feels like a mjor reassessment from a band, returning to the source and in doing so reminding us why they mattered in the first place. Where do the Stones go from here? 8/10

- Michael Bonner, Uncut, January 2017



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