KEITH RICHARDS – Crosseyed Heart

KeefTo be honest, isn’t solo projects by famous musicians in big bands usually really underwhelming? Think about it, when was the last time some dude from a band you really made a killer solo record? The bigger the band, the crappier the solo record. Maybe that is unfair, because I know there are some really good ones out there, but those are in minority. Look at Kiss. It’s not like the members and ex-members of that band flood us fans with killer efforts in that department. Sure, their 1978 solo albums are all very underrated and at least Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley gave us two killers there. But not many great solo albums has come out of that group since then. And The Rolling Stones? Well, Bill Wyman did three really lousy albums – Monkey Grip (1974), Stone Alone (1976) and Bill Wyman (1981) – but luckily enough he has put that career to rest now. Ronnie Wood’s records has passed by unnoticed and the fact is, I can’t even name one single title of his and Mick Jagger’s solo albums has been very up and down, to put things mildly. She’s The Boss from 1985 had its moments but was for the most just dull and its follow-up 1987’s Primitive Cool was complete shite. But both Wandering Spirit (1993), that was a real killer, actually and Goddess In The Doorway (2001) showed that he could come up with the goods. Then we have Keith Richards – Keef – the coolest motherfucker who has ever set foot on this planet. That guy is rock and roll embodied. I am convinced that without Keef, The Rolling Stones would be a pure pop band. Therefore, if there was one guy in that band that I would have guessed could release some great solo music, then it was him. I had such high hopes for his debut solo record Talk Is Cheap (1988), but that record fell flat to ground. Sure, Keef’s very own guitar sound was all there and he had some cool riffs and it rocked, but the songs were mediocre. Same thing with the second album Main Offender (1992), nothing stuck – nothing at all. Since then, Richards hasn’t made any efforts to release any solo material. All this prove the point that a band is like a hockey team – together the members will make magic but individually, not so much. When Mick Jagger and Keith Richards work together, the result is usually never worse than good (that said, the last great Stones album was Tattoo You from 1981, but every album since then has been at least good and none of them bad), but when they go solo none of them manage to create the magic spark they have together. It was 10 years since The Stones released any new material – the surprisingly fresh and vital A Bigger Bang (2005) – so I’m not surprised that ole Keef wanted to release some music instead of doing nothing. My expectations on this album were actually pretty low, but I hoped that the Stones’ hiatus had made Richards really hot and eager to kill. After all, he had almost 10 years to write new songs and build up some steam and it was 23 years since he last released a solo album.

So let’s see what the old Keefer have come up with this time, then. The opening title track is merely a song, but a short Robert Johnson influenced blues intro with only Keith and his guitar and shattered voice. To be honest, there’s no structure here and the intro is kind of lost, just a forgettable bracket. “Heartstopper” is the first “real” song and it’s an ok pop/rock song, much in par with the stuff he’s been singing on the later Stones-records and it doesn’t really affect me at all. “Amnesia” is pretty good, a raw groover, but it’s too polite sounding, I would have liked a bit more attack and bite. “Robbed Blind” is a country smelling ballad that brings out another Keef. His broken voice sounds really good here and the melody is memorable. “Trouble” rocks pretty well and has a rough groove, but I lack the big dynamics and soul. “Love Overdue” is a decent reggae-influenced pop song. I know that Keef has a weak spot for this kind of music and therefore it works. “Nothing On Me” is awesome – a raunchy blues groover with a big pop vibe that hits right on the spot and the whole thing really swings. It’s a little ominous that song number six is the first really great song on the record. “Suspicious” is slow and bluesy, but frankly it sounds more like lounge music. It’s ok, but it doesn’t really stick. “Blues In The Morning”, however, is brilliant. This is old-time rock and roll and this song could just as well been written sometime in the 50’s. Keith really knows this kind of music and the whole performance here is really killer. “Something For Nothing” is also a brilliant Stonesy rocker with the groove from Hell. It will most definitively work like a charm live. On “Illusion”, Keith duet with Norah Jones. It’s a slow and jazzy blues ballad, an ok song, but the Jones involvement do give the song some dynamics. “Just A Gift” is a soft ballad, the boring kind that he persists on doing on the latest few Stones records. I’m getting a Bob Dylan vibe on “Goodnight Irene”, a folk ballad with an Irish touch. But since I’m not a Dylan-fan, it doesn’t really rock my world. “Substantial Damage” is great. It’s a heavy blues groover with a hard rhythm and some ace Keef riffing. THIS is the kind of stuff he should be doing! Keef leave us for this time with “Lover’s Plea”, a ballad. Another one. When did Mr Rock become Mr Ballad? Well, the good thing is that this one happens to be brilliant. It has groove, a horn section, a catchy melody and he sings with soul and conviction.

I’m sad to report that there are a few wrongs too many with this album. First, there’s too many ballads and many of them are fillers. If I listen to a Keith Richards record, I want to hear him rock out. This is the guy who sang stuff like “Happy”, “Before They Make Me Run” and “Little T&A” with the Stones for crying out loud. And then we have the number of songs here – fifteen. Fifteen songs are so overkill. What is it with aging rock stars that make them believe that they just have to fill every inch of a CD with music just because they can? 12 songs should be the limit, but for me, ten is enough. But it’s not just that, there’s also that little thing called memorable songs. Maybe Keith Richards is the master of the rock riff, maybe he has so much attitude and charisma he could sell half of it and maybe the guy is a stage persona deluxe, but the thing is, I get the feeling that he might not be such killer song writer by himself. I believe that he needs Mick and Mick need him for that purpose. I also have an issue with Keith’s voice, it’s not that strong and he more than often sound both sour and off-key. I like it when he sing a song or two on a Stones record, but 15? Another overkill. This album was just another underwhelming solo record experience for me, I’m afraid. But Keith Richards will always be the coolest cat in the rocking world for me. The Keef!

5/10

Tracklist:

1. Cross Eyed Heart
2. Heartstopper
3. Amnesia
4. Robbed Blind
5. Trouble
6. Love Overdue
7. Nothing On Me
8. Suspicious
9. Blues In The Morning
10. Something For Nothing
11. Illusion
12. Just A Gift
13. Goodnight Irene
14. Substantial Damage
15. Lover’s Plea

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