Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what their looking for in the "Review Body" section. The section titled "Track Reviews" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is probably not written by the point of view of a Rolling Stones fan.)
Overall Score: 4/5
Best song: “You Got Me Rocking,” “Sparks Will Fly,” or “Brand New Car”
Worst song: “Thru and Thru”
If the late '80s was the era of the fake comeback for aging rock 'n' roll icons, then the mid-'90s was the era of the real comeback. For you see, the '90s was a magical time when decadent things in the '80s such as bad synthesizers and stadium drums fell by the wayside, and people started to re-immerse themselves in the music of two decades ago. The Stones had been going on mega-selling tours, packing every stadium they came across with their wildly excited fan-base who clearly loved that they were performing their old monster hits the way they used to. (See Flashpoint.) Thus, they must have thought the time was right for them to release a new album along the same lines as Sticky Fingers.
Of course, this is nowhere near the level of Sticky Fingers, but this is clearly their most consistent and enjoyable album since Tattoo You. It has about as many weakish spots as it does strong spots, but, as a whole, this is one mightily fun album to sit through. “You Got Me Rocking” is a great stadium anthem. It hardly threatens to overtake their classics like “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” but it's on the same level. That is saying a lot. “Sparks Will Fly” has a really cool and complicated riff. Keith Richards' guitar-work might not be quite as great as it was in his prime, but he could nonetheless put forth some mightily compelling work. “Brand New Car” is a terribly tight and snappy mid-tempo blues rocker, which aims to do nothing other than entice you to get that foot of yours tappin'! Lemme tell you, my foot is tapping right now just thinking about it!
There seems to be an overabundance of ballads on this album, and they're fairly hit-or-miss. “The Worst,” contrary the title, is the best, and clearly one of the finest Rolling Stones songs ever to feature Keith Richards on lead vocals. It's a sweet song with a compelling melody, and it has some great slide guitar to boot. On the other side of the coin, “Sweethearts Together” is disappointingly hokey... it might not have been a bad ballad for 1958, but I wouldn't have liked it even if they recorded it in 1964. They brought the harpsichord back into their music for “New Faces,” and that's one of the album's more tuneful melodies. It's hardly a great song, but a likable one all things considered. “Out of Tears” is a decently passionate piano ballad, although I get too much of a Tori Amos vibe from it than I would like. (TORI AMOS, DEPART MY THOUGHTS!!!!)
“Love is Strong” is a mightily convincing and confident mid-tempo rocker where Mick Jagger snarls the raunchy lyrics better than he has for years. As the album opener, it immediately shows us that The Stones were ready to start ROCKING again! I also really enjoy the mid-tempo stadium rocker “I Go Wild,” which has a great swagger to it. The closing song, “Mean Disposition,” is a terrific '50s style rocker fully equipped with Chuck Berry guitar and Jerry Lee Lewis piano. It's completely derivative, of course, but that's the way we like it. The Rolling Stones used to perform these sorts of songs for a living, you know, and they are still great at it!
On the flip-side of that, “Baby Break it Down” really missed the boat. It has a potentially great riff, but the overall pacing of it is clunky and boring. A real missed opportunity. Also, “Suck on the Jugular” could have been a decent funk-pop song, but for whatever reason they decided to make it sound all modern like The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I mean, it was bad enough that The Red Hot Chili Peppers had to sound like The Red Hot Chili Peppers; the last thing we needed was The Rolling Stones to be following their lead! Bleccch! I'm also a little disappointed over “Thru and Thru,” which is an overlong song that begins very tediously and it never fully redeems itself despite the best intentions from the rhythm section. That's the album's weakest point, as far as I'm concerned. (Speaking of the rhythm section, Bill Wyman wasn't in the band anymore. Why the hell would he leave the band just as they were getting good again? HUH??? ...Oh, maybe he wanted to write and perform his own music, or something, which he hadn't been able to do with Jagger and Richards suppressing him and everything. OK, you're excused.)
But those weakish spots are still formidable songs for the most part. Really, everything on this album is quite good! So good that I would reckon that Voodoo Lounge was a special treat to any longtime Rolling Stones fan who was brave enough to still be following them by 1994. This album not only contains some terribly powerful rock 'n' roll with their classic signature scrawled all over them, but even some of the ballads are dang convincing as well. My main complaint about this album is that some of the songs seem a little bit cheapish and generic, but I think the strong points trump that. So there you go. The Rolling Stones might have been old, but they were BACK! This is by far the greatest thing to have happened to me this morning.
Love is Strong A-
This mid-tempo song is hardly anything up there with their finest material, but the '90s incarnation of The Rolling Stones is alright with me. They did away with those horrid stadium drums and the gritless guitars that plagued Steel Wheels, and brought those instruments back to their proper, rawer level. Mick Jagger gives a surprisingly sex-crazed vocals, something we haven't heard out of this guy for freaking ages. Of course, the main problem remains... They just didn't have it in them to create more monster hits like they used to. Sad to say, but that's not a major shocker. Even though this isn't something that you'd want to put it in a greatest hits compilation, it remains a pretty dang enjoyable song. Good harmonica, too!
You Got Me Rocking A
Nice. This is more like it. This is something that The Stones could very well have recorded in the early 1970s, and it might have been pretty notable. It has a really butt-kicking, awesome riff, a passionate performance from a riled-up Mick Jagger, and quite a nice guitar solo too. (Of course, Keef's soloing has seen better days than this, but whatever. It's still nice to hear that guy.) I'm sure this sounded great in their live shows! ...That's probably what they wrote this for.
Sparks Will Fly A
Wow, man, I'm really enjoying this new Rolling Stones album! (...OK, it's more than 15 years old as I'm writing it, but it was released in a year that actually I remember, which is pretty freaking new considering the typical album I review.) That rubbery riff they come up with is so solid that, again, it's on the lines of their classic days! This song has tons of energy, the guitar sounds awesome, and Jagger's lead singing is gruff and passionate. Very cool.
The Worst B+
Not the worst, but not the best either. While these guys were largely successfully recreating their hard-rock glory days, they still had a ways to go before they'd be able to recreate the level of ballads like they used to. Indeed, this ain't no “Wild Horses” or “Angie.” The melody is too forgettable. At the same time, this is a pretty pleasant song. Keith Richards gives a pretty nice vocal performance with those rough chops of his, and I like the slide guitar!
New Faces B
The ghost of Brian Jones must have appeared to them in the studio or something. When was the last time a Rolling Stones song had a harpsichord on it? 1967 or 1968, I can't remember that far back. This is such a cute song, too. Perhaps a little bit too cute, but whatever. The melody is nice. (Oh, and what's with the song title? Did Mick want to disband The Stones and reform Ronnie's old band?)
Moon is Up B
This has a little bit of trouble getting off the ground for me, although that pounding rhythm and the bass-line is pretty freaking cool. The guitar solo they put in the middle seemed like it was hastily conceived... Just a lot of sliding cat scratchings, it seems. The vocal melody could have stood to be more interesting.
Out of Tears B+
Ah, now here's a piano ballad that begins to recall their earlier strengths with that style. This has a mightily compelling and soaring chorus! It's not anywhere close to “Wild Horses” or anything... it seems a bit, I guess, plain. I might even call it Tori-Amos-ish, if I was feeling mean. But Jagger gives a very pleasant performance, and the hooks are solid enough for me to enjoy listening to it very much.
I Go Wild A-
Here is a good, solid rocker with a catchy melody. That's what The Stones have always done best, and so I continue to be smiling ear-to-ear that they've finally resumed writing songs like they used to in the early '70s. The riff is good even though it reminds me a little too much of Huey Lewis & The News! Jagger's lead vocals are awesome and attitude-ridden. It wants to be nothing else than something great to tap your foot to. (My only complaint is that descent into stadium rock in the final third... It's nice that it's *cocky*, but it didn't really add anything.)
Brand New Car A
I love this tight, mid-tempo rocker! It has such a cool funk-riff, which I guess recalls Black and Blue, awesomely enough. The guitar texture they bring us is particularly great with all sorts of great, tight sounds... It's been quite awhile since they seemed to take such great care in a song! It makes a great, toe-tapping listen, too!
Sweethearts Together B
This romance ballad is so retro that it sounds right out of 1958! Man... if only the recording quality wasn't so crystal clear, this could have been right out of December's Children! ...Oh, I think that they could have made the melody richer; this seems to be way too common for The Rolling Stones. But I like the accordion, anyway! (I think it would be cool if I learned to play the accordion one day. Never mind that I'm too klutzy to play an instrument very well. If I ever win the lottery, I'm going to buy an accordion... You can mark my words.)
Suck on the Jugular B-
Man... Is this some sort of vampire anthem or something? ... That would have been cool. What we have instead is this ultra-polished funk-pop thing. Very modern. Very '90s. Interestingly, 15 years later, this is by far the album's most dated song. Leave this sort of crap to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Blinded By Rainbows B
Surely one of the better ballads on this album. I'm sort of wondering why they thought they needed to have so many ballads... The Rolling Stones should concentrate on ROCK 'N' ROLL, MAN!!!! ... Seriously, this is a nice song. Again, the melody is a bit plain and common. Not nearly as juicy as their old ballads used to be. Ah... Why am I repeating myself?
Baby Break it Down B+
Wow... They definitely found a nice riff for this one. That thing is mean and wild! Weirdly enough, what's missing here is the spirit. It's at such a clunky, slow pace that it doesn't even seem to want to catch fire. That's such a shame, because there was too much potential here for them to have just thrown something like this away. (C'mon, guys! Up that pace, and play the crap out of your guitars! LIKE THE OLD DAYS!!!)
Thru and Thru C
Alright, here's the example of how bad Keith Richards' lead vocals can get. The song starts up boringly as he sloppily wails over pretty much nothing. Charlie Watts' drumming is loud and thunderous, but his drumming just makes the song sound clunkier than it would have otherwise. Things get a little better in the last half when the drums are steadier, but it's all too little too late. Making it worse is a way-too-bloated six-minute running length.
Mean Disposition A-
Whew... the last half of this album has been pretty weak, so it's a good thing The Stones decided to end the album with a ROCKING bang! This is an old-school '50s rocker fully equipped with an R&B swagger, Chuck Berry guitar, Jerry Lee Lewis piano, and a smoky nightclub atmosphere. It's completely derivative, but The Stones weren't concerned with being too terribly “original” anymore, so that's not a problem. It's a lot of fun. That's what matters.
The Rolling Stones' real comeback is a really enjoyable nod to their past. After all, they were turning into wrinkly old buggers, so there was no point in trying to be hip anymore. GOOD FOR THEM!
Read More Rolling Stones Reviews By Starcollector!
England's Newest Hitmakers (1964) | 12 X 5 (1964) | The Rolling Stones Now! (1965) | Out of Our Heads (1965) | December's Children (And Everybody's) (1965) | Aftermath (1966) | Between the Buttons (1967) | Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) | Beggar's Banquet (1968) | Let it Bleed (1969) | Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (1970) | Sticky Fingers (1971) | Exile on Main St. (1972) | Goats Head Soup (1973) | It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (1974) | Metamorphosis (1975) | Black and Blue (1976) | Love You Live (1977) | Some Girls (1978) | Emotional Rescue (1980) | Tattoo You (1981) | Undercover (1983) | Dirty Work (1986) | Steel Wheels (1989) | Flashpoint (1991) | Voodoo Lounge (1994) | Stripped (1995) | Bridges to Babylon (1997) | No Security (1998) | Live Licks (2004) | A Bigger Bang (2005) | Rarities 1971-2003 (2005) | Shine a Light (2008)