The Rolling Stones return with one of their best since the 70’s with Hackney Diamonds the first album of original material in eighteen years.
‘Hackney Diamonds’ is The Rolling Stones’ (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood) first album produced by Grammy Award winning producer and musician Andrew Watt and is a joyous reminder of everything that makes the Stones great. The late Charlie Watts is on there, alongside an appearance by original bassist Bill Wyman. This is a summation of the band’s remarkable 60-year journey, and proof that the journey is far from over.
Circumstances made the album a long time coming, not least with two years lost to Covid, but with the passing of the band’s beloved drummer Charlie Watts in 2021 bringing life’s passing into focus, Mick Jagger resolved to go in fast and hard.
Mick started looking for producers for the project and came across Andrew Watt, an energetic 32-year-old New Yorker whose productions for Ozzy Osbourne and Iggy Pop revealed a classic rock sensibility. The bulk of the album was cut at Henson Studios in Los Angeles and Sanctuary Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, most of it within the space of a month, as various high profile guests dropped by at the invitation of the band to surrender themselves to the groove the Stones were locked into. Paul McCartney played bass for one track. Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga and Elton John make appearances. It is that unmistakable Stones spirit, however, that shines throughout.
‘Hackney Diamonds’ is filled with some of the best Jagger-Richards songs in years. It kicks off with Angry, a classic rocker and Jagger asking: why is everybody so angry? Why indeed? From there it is straight into the funky drums, bluesy riff, seesawing Wurlitzer and jumping piano from Elton John on the good time groover Get Close, a reminder that the Stones are ultimately a rocking bar band, however big that bar might have become.
Depending On You is a grown-up pop song about the realities of relationships, complete with elegant strings, a slow build on a simple arrangement and gorgeous slide guitar from Ronnie Wood, while Bite My Head Off makes you wonder: are the Stones a punk band? They were the original punk band, all the way back in 1964, when a concert at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool ended in a riot. The spirit of rebellion continues, not least when Paul McCartney contributes to the song a fuzzed-out bass guitar verging on collapse.
Whole Wide World has something of a punk spirit too, as it recalls the legendary squalor of a flat shared in the early 60s by Jagger, Richards and Brian Jones at Edith Grove in Fulham, with its smell of sex and gas and general mood of hopelessness. Dreamy Skies is one of the prettiest songs on the album, an ode to dropping out of city life and escaping to the country. Mess It Up, featuring the late Charlie Watts, is a four-to-the-floor dance groover. And Live By The Sword, the second of two tracks to feature Watts — alongside Bill Wyman, reviving his former role as the Stones’ bassist, and Elton John adding a touch of T. Rex boogie on piano — dates back to 2019, prior to the band recording Living In A Ghost Town.
Keith Richards came up with the original idea for Driving Me Too Hard, a beautifully lamenting country rocker. Meanwhile, Tell Me Straight is Keith at his best: a sparse, moody ballad filled with an affecting blend of resignation, lamentation, and acceptance.
Sweet Sounds of Heaven is a gospel-infused Stones epic in the lineage of You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Shine A Light.. It features a bravura vocal performance by Lady Gaga alongside Stevie Wonder on Fender Rhodes, Moog, and piano, building on a song Jagger wrote at his home in London one sunny afternoon. There began a song to take its place in the canon of the Stones’ emotional greats.
‘Hackney Diamonds’ finishes where the Stones began: with Rolling Stone Blues, a fantastically febrile cover version of the Muddy Waters song that gave the band their name. It features Keith Richards knocking the hell out of an acoustic guitar as Jagger blows away on harmonica and growls through the words in a way that pierces the throbbing heart of the blues. So ends an album that celebrates and captures the best rock’n’roll band in the world: raw, alive and still knocking ’em dead, after 61 years in the business.
You can order/stream Hackney Diamonds wherever you get your music on vinyl and CD formats plus Rolling Stones merchandise here: