The Stones Shine On – Hackney Diamonds

© Madeline Bocaro, 2023. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part, in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.

The Stones are on a roll! Hackney Diamonds is their first offering of original material in eighteen years. I’ve heard nothing but gripes from people claiming to sorely miss former band members so much that they are determined not to like the new album. Keith defined the apathetic views of critics while reading the reviews of Goat’s Head Soup in 1973…

“When you’ve been around as long as we have, people have got their own fixed idea of what they want from the Stones and it’s never anything new… Although they’re interested and they’ll buy the new record, it doesn’t mean as much to them as the one they heard that magical night when they screwed fifteen chicks.”

Although there are several guest superstars on the album, nobody outshines the Stones!  Keith told The Guardian that he always wanted to record “just off a tour, when the band is lubricated.” The sweet little old rock n’ rollers are a bit light on the darkness these days (the guitarist admits to playing a bit differently now, due to arthritis), but the twelve tracks are still classic Stones.

They have refrained from using words in their album title such as “satanic,” “exile,’ “bleed” and “sticky.” The title Hackney Diamonds is a bit alienating if you don’t know the connotation. Mick explained that they were thinking of the title Smash and Grab (a lot of which is going on lately). “When you get your windshield smashed in Hackney, the glass bits are ‘Hackney Diamonds.’”

The streaming experience is much less dynamic than holding, unzipping or peeling a Warhol-designed album cover, or mixing and matching the wigs and faces on a cut-out sleeve.  In fact, this is one of the Stones’ worst album covers ever –  but I’ll put on my headphones, close my eyes and see what happens.

On September 6, 2023, during a worldwide live-stream interview, the track names were revealed. When asked about the song meanings, Keith didn’t know what any of them were about!

‘Angry’ is simple, punchy and catchy. It’s the new ‘Start Me Up!’ with a killer riff. If this came blasting out of your car radio unexpectedly (as it would have in the past) it would give you a huge shot of adrenaline! I was worried about the lyrics having to be really clean this time, but the last line is, “I’m still taking the pills and I’m off to Brazil” Classic! The video for ‘Angry’ is an homage to the old Sunset Strip billboards of the 1960s and 70s, on which the images were extended beyond the ad space (there is a book dedicated to them). So cool!

The second song revealed was ‘Sound of Heaven.’ While we are accustomed to the Stones singing about hell and its inhabitants, these lyrics are uncomfortably angelic. Unlike their last stab at gospel, there is no connection to meet, and no prescription to fill at the Chelsea drug store. However, this one grows upon repeated listens, if you just revel in Jagger’s immaculate performance. The Stones take us to church with Lady Gaga vocalizing on this 7-minute epic. Stevie Wonder fills the shoes of Billy Preston. Mick’s stellar lead vocal is powerful and masterful. Gaga backs him in a similar way to Merry Clayton on ‘Gimme Shelter.’ There is no comparison to Clayton’s pure magic of course, but Gaga is really soulful here.

Get Close’ has a ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ vibe. It has a nice drum break and some cool sax. Perfect!

I should just make a blanket statement that Jagger’s vocals are super strong on every track, because on Track 3, the nicely orchestrated ballad ‘Depending On You’ he continues to impress, and I can’t see him letting us down.

Paul McCartney joins the “blues band,” adding bad-ass bass on ‘Bite My Head Off.’ Producer Andrew Watt gifted Paul a custom 1964 Hofner fitted with Univox Super Fuzz, which surprised and energized McCartney to get down and dirty on this track – especially the fuzzy bass solo! (Paul collaborated on another song which will be on the next record). This has a vintage Stones feel in the vein of ‘Respectable.’ With these lyrics, all I am thinking now is, “They’re back!”

Howlin’ ’round your house / But I ain’t on a leash, yeah
Well, I ain’t on a chain / You think I’m your bitch
I’m fuckin’ with your brain, yeah!

Whole Wide World’ starts off incredibly like Iggy Pop’s ‘Five Foot One,’ then turns the corner onto bleak London streets full of broken glass, with some great guitar work.

And now comes the country tune ‘Dreamy Skies.’ While “taking a break from it all,” it’s too bad that Mick doesn’t have a glass of fancy waaaaaaannnn, like he does in almost every other country tune that he sings with his crazy American twang!

Mess It Up’ brings the typical Stones bad girl into the new age. Instead of screwing celebrities or taking drugs, she steals passwords and shares photos. Although Charlie is on this track, it sounds like it belongs on a Jagger solo album.

‘Live by the Sword’ is my favorite so far. Keith really shines on this, with the band’s original bottom end, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts. (Charlie’s personally selected replacement, Steve Jordan is on the other tracks). This features Elton John on piano.

‘Driving Me Too Hard’ isn’t much lyrically, but it’s a nice slow rocker that wants to go Country. And here comes Keith with an awesome vocal performance on ‘Tell Me Straight.’

The past dynamic of heavy lyrics about sex, drugs and societal issues is missing, but who wants to hear about the horrible state of the world today, when our only refuge and solace is a new Rolling Stones album.

We come full circle, closing with the band’s moniker, Muddy Waters’ ‘Rolling Stone Blues.’ Can’t wait for the next one!

This is the Stones’ 24th album (their first original material since 2005’s A Bigger Bang). It’s their first new release since the covers album Blue & Lonesome in 2016.

Hackney Diamonds was produced by Andrew Watt – the hot new producer who gave Iggy Pop’s latest album (Every Loser) a nice punch! He allegedly asked Iggy, “Are you ready to be yourself?” and he did the same with the Stones.

As a pre-teen in the early 70s, I begged my parents to allow me to see my idols in concert, certain that they wouldn’t be around much longer. After their first hit, the Stones thought they would have a good 2-year run, and then get normal jobs. Here we are, sixty years later and many of my favorites (those who are alive) are still going strong – especially The Rolling Stones!

Let’s just be thankful that they are still doing it in their eighties, while their fellow legends are relegated to posthumous holographic tours – most likely against their eternal will!

The only reason to be “Angry” is that the Stones excluded their fans from their secret gig in a NYC club last night to promote the album. It was “invite only” with passes extended exclusively to VIPs and celebrities I’ve never heard of. They played seven songs (three oldies).

Hackney Diamonds is available in a multitude of formats.

© Madeline Bocaro 2023. No part of this text may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or re-blogged in whole or in part, without prior written permission. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. All text written by Madeline Bocaro is protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without prior written permission.

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