Review: Rolling Stones
Tue Jul 7 2009
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
Bridges to Babylon
Bridges to Babylon
A Bigger Bang (all Universal)
The discs that make up the last batch in Universal's rollout of the post-1971 Rolling Stones studio catalog (apart from Exile on Main Street, due for deluxe treatment next year) have one thing in common: Each was hailed by someone as the band's best album since what was arguably the last major Stones record, 1981's Tattoo You. True, the average shelf life of each new Stones offering has diminished year by year, but all of these albums hold up surprisingly well.
Dirty Work, from 1986, documents a nadir in the relationship between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The singer mustered genuine fire for "Harlem Shuffle" and "One Hit (to the Body)," but the album's best moments came when Richards asserted control, slashing through production as brash and slick as the LP's hyperchromatic cover. Steel Wheels, released in 1989, was a calculated reboot that brought solid singles ("Mixed Emotions," "Rock and a Hard Place"), a stylish tribute to fallen bandmate Brian Jones ("Continental Drift") and a monster tour that quieted the naysayers.
Producer Don Was pushed the Stones (now sans bassist Bill Wyman) to effect a stripped-down approach on 1994's Voodoo Lounge, a padded but animated gloss on the group's ragged glory years. Was lingered to smooth the seams between Jagger's stylistic wanderlust and Richards's rootsy classicism on 1997's surprisingly rich Bridges to Babylon. Add it all together, then factor in a relentless touring schedule: Suddenly, the consummate swagger of 2005's ferocious A Bigger Bang doesn't seem so unprecedented after all.
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A Bigger Bang (Universal)