Keith Richards, Crosseyed Heart: An Intimate Playback at Conway Studios, L.A.
Checking our cell phones at the door, with a promise not to review it until release date, and to keep the social media at a minimum, the only thing missing was the Rolling Stone himself, who was present that very evening at another listening event in New York.
So, instead of Republic Records’ Monte Lipman, we got West Coast GM Tom Mackay, who was an amiable-enough presence, along with copious amounts of cold cuts and cheese, as well as wine and beer, from the nearby Larchmont Village Wine Spirits and Cheese.
In lieu of our iPhones, we were provided with pads featuring the cover of the Crosseyed Heart album as well as classic #2 pencils to take notes, and I forgot how smoothly those things can write!
The album, Richards’ first solo studio effort in 23 years (since 1992’s Main Offender and only his third overall), featuring many of his X-pensive Wino mates, including drummer/co-writer Steve Jordan, guitarist Waddy Wachtel, keyboardist Ivan Neville, ex-LaBelle vocalist Sarah Dash and even the late sax man Bobby Keys.
Without giving too much away, I will provide the tagline, ‘The best Stones album in years!’ and note that Keith’s craggy, smoke-and-whiskey-stained voice is perfectly suited to this primer of rock ‘n’ roll roots, from the gut-bucket Robert Johnson acoustic delta blues of the opening title track and the evocative, Dylanesque take on Led Belly’s immortal ‘Goodnight Irene,’ to the Chuck Berry-inspired ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ riffs of ‘Heartstopper,’ the country-flavored ‘Robbed Blind,’ the honky-tonk guitars of the characteristically Stonesy first single, ‘Trouble,’ and the horn-punctuated ska-reggae of Gregory Isaacs’ ‘Lover Overdue.’
There are also Chicago blues rave-ups (‘Blues in the Morning’), soulful ballads (‘Suspicious’ and ‘Illusion,’ the latter a duet with Norah Jones) and even rousing ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?’-style funk jams (‘Substantial Damage’), all reminding you how vital Keef is to the Stones’ sound.