CK Retro Review: Emotional Rescue by The Rolling Stones

They don’t all have to save the world, right? Well, they shouldn’t have to, but when you’re a band like The Rolling Stones, folks expect something substantial every time down the pike. 1980’s Emotional Rescue, by contrast, feels like an effort by the band to put out something with far more concern for grooves than thoughts. As such, it goes down smooth, but, with a few notable exceptions, doesn’t stick with you too long after it fades out. Here is a song-by-song review:

TWO STARS

10. “Where The Boys Go”- Autopilot Stones guitar churn without a melody. Not much to hear here.

9. “Send It To Me”- It figures that the ever-anonymous Bill Wyman would get to come to the forefront on a disposable song from an album considered to be one of the band’s most disposable LP’s. Still his contributions here are the most notable thing on this endless quasi-reggae jam.

THREE STARS

8. “Down In The Hole”- The sustained intensity of this blues jam is impressive. Sugar Blue gets in some impassioned harmonica while Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood do some hypnotic interweaving on guitar. The downbeat vibe is a little out of place with everything else here, but the song makes you stand up and take notice nonetheless.

7. “Dance (Part 1)”- Wood takes over on bass here and creates the first of many hooks the song has to offer, with others coming courtesy of the frisky horns and the vocal harmonies. Jagger’s patter is really inessential here, because the music is potent enough to carry the load.

6. “Summer Romance”- The idea of Jagger having a summer fling with a co-ed might strike some as icky, but a) it probably happened and b) if the Beach Boys can still sing about surfing and high school, who are we to begrudge the Stones this dip into academia? Like so much of the album, it’s a catchy number without much ambition that’s played with more gusto than it probably deserves.

5. “She’s So Cold”- You could pretty much ditto what I said about “Summer Romance,” only here the MVP is Jagger, who pretty much willed this one into being a hit with the loony charisma of his performance. Again Wood is on bass, playing melodic runs while Richards’ flickering lead adds even more rhythmic heft. Charlie Watts is the steady heartbeat. Still a lot of fun on your local classic rock station.

4. “Indian Girl”- Kind of an out-of-left field that succeeds in an offbeat way. The title character, a little girl orphaned in a Central American war, is not your typical Stones’ heroine, but Jagger lends her a great deal of dignity and respect with the straight-faced tenderness of his vocal. Meanwhile, the music, a lilting mariachi, shows that these guys still had versatility to spare, even if they displayed it less and less in those days.

FOUR STARS

3. “Let Me Go”- This underrated track sneaks into four-star territory just on solidity alone. Wyman and Watts are a propulsive engine while the electric guitars tick along, providing nice tension and release, and the solo is good as well. Jagger has more than fifty ways to leave his lover but she’s having none of it. Nothing groundbreaking, but done so effortlessly and expertly that it sneaks up on you.

FIVE STARS

2. “All About You”- The album starts with Jagger hailing Richards; it ends with Richards lambasting Jagger. Oh, you could kid yourself and pretend it’s about a girl, but, considering its placement on the record, it’s as if Keith has listened to Mick’s disco nonsense for as long as he can stand and has to get his two cents in. This is one of those tipsy Richards’ vocals that confound some people, but it’s genius, especially with how it plays off the smoothness of the harmonies. And it’s no surprise that Bobby Keys takes Keith’s side with his bluesy saxophone commentary. I think it says something about Jagger that he would allow this brazen pot shot on a record bearing his name; maybe he inherently knew that Glimmer Twins infighting and drama was as much of the brand as the lips.

1. “Emotional Rescue”- Rarely does the bass part in a rock song wake you up like Wood’s does here, although it’s a fair argument to say that this isn’t really rock. It’s pop, or disco, or maybe R&B, but whatever it is, it’s a recording that holds you in thrall for its entirety. Watts’ rat-a-tat snares are somehow the beat and the hook all at once, allowing Wood to just bounce around wherever he’s needed most. And Jagger strolls through this limber rhythmic bed with dramatically-intoned pronouncements and falsetto cries, an wild, improvisatory collection of words and sounds that’s sensual, silly, and, like he says, steadfast. Keys puts the whole thing to bed, bits of passion sneaking out from under the urbane facade. The perfect poster child for his off-kilter yet ingratiatingly lighthearted album.

(E-mail me at countdownkid@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For a more in-depth look at The Stones, check out my new book Counting Down The Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs, available now at the link below.)

http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-The-Rolling-Stones/dp/1442254467

 

 

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