Classic Rock Review

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Ronnie Wood Slide On This (1992)


While Ronnie did have a more or less independent solo career, unlike Keith Richards or Mick Jagger whose solo careers were rather, er, rudimentary and always reeked of the true Stones’ spirit, it wasn’t until Slide On This that he fully demonstrated all his possibilities: he grew up, oldened and wisened, burned out and came back, and delivered a set of songs which should definitely rank among his best. In fact, while I haven’t yet heard any previous albums of his, I’d be amazed if any of them turned out to be better.

On a normal, ‘technical’ level, there ain’t really nothing special about Slide On This. What Ronnie does is basically write up a series of simplistic R’n’B melodies and cover some older standards, and that’s about it. There’s nothing ground breaking or particularly interesting about this kind of music in 1992, unless, of course, you want to count such gimmicks as string arrangements sometimes overdubbed over plain rock’n’roll numbers innovative. And thus, when I first listened to the record, I couldn’t help but feel bored: after all, why not put on Voodoo Lounge instead?

Nay, friends and countrymen. I was wrong. Remember, always remember that Ronnie Wood is not just a second-rate Rolling Stone; Ronnie is just as well a first-rate Face. And the Faces always had that magical power to charm you with their restless energy, booze and grittiness even when the actual melodies were non-existent. Well, now that Ronnie Lane is gone and Rod Stewart is mutated, Ronnie Wood carries on the legacy. And thus, when I listened to the record for the second time, I couldn’t help but feel totally enthralled. To hell with Voodoo Lounge; in places, the ferocious rock’n’roll of Slide On This makes the Nineties’ Stones sound like pathetic wimps, much like Rod Stewart himself.

Only in places, though. I do hold a couple of grudges against Ronnie. First of all, he’s a nearly worthless balladeer. Okay, I know fans will flame me for this, just like they would flame me for my disliking Keith Richards’ ballads. But what’s to be done? I simply don’t like sloppy, overlong stream-of-conscience ballads with a primitive structure, sung in a shaky, ‘passionate’ voice. I know they’re heartfelt, sincere, from the very soul blah blah blah and so on and so forth, but, after all, we all have hearts and souls and sincerity. Gimme some musical ideas in addition, and then we’ll start talking. Until then, I’ll openly state that I don’t give a damn about the ballads on here.

‘Always Wanted More’ passes me by like a fly with a muffler, in particular, and “Thinkin'”, while a bit more powerful and hard-hittin’, is still not among the highlights. And ‘Breathe On Me’, the track that closes the album just annoys me: the melody is simple as a doornail, and Ronnie’s duet with Bernard Fowler is unimpressive. For some reason, I also detest the lyrics in the chorus – ‘Open your mouth and breathe on me/I need your Sen Siti Vity’. There’s no question, of course, that the song would make a great anthem for DUI-checking cops, but as a passionate ballad, it doesn’t exactly fit in. And it gets so repetitive near the end that I can hardly wait for it to end.

Fortunately, Ronnie seemed to realize it himself. Out of the thirteen album tracks, there are but the above-mentioned three that are ballads. A fourth one is a short sympathetic country instrumental (‘Ragtime Annie’), and all the rest are rockers. And this is where the fun begins. Ronnie’s harsh, hoarse, but finally well-trained voice is put to perfect use, as it’s less pretentious and a bit more ‘user-friendly’ than Jagger’s: when you hear it, you know you’re in for a good rock’n’roll party time. His guitar plaing is unparalleled: he lets loose with such a tremendous force that it really gives the impression he’d always been muffled by Keith as a Stone.

All kinds of guitar sounds are on here, from wah-wah to slide, and they’re awesomely produced: virtually no traces of the dratted Nineties’ computer-ish sound at all. The instrumentation, in fact, is the major advantage of the album: even if you don’t like some of the melodies (which is easy to do, as many of them sound alike), just dig in to that guitar sound! It ain’t innovative, right, but it sounds a million times more fresh, clear and crisp than all that electronic crap we’re so used to nowadays. Sometimes Ronnie is joined by guests, too, notably The Edge of U2 fame, and together they make hell freeze over with the unbelievable guitar poliphony on ‘Like It’. Basically, the fury of that number is due to a very simple trick: overdubbing of four or five lead guitars soloing like mad, but has anybody really thought of it before? Well, I have never heard anything like that. Pity they didn’t extend that jam at the end, I thought I was going to rock’n’roll heaven.

Other wonders on here include a flabbergastingly wonderful cover of Parliament’s ‘Testify’ – never has a simple R’n’B number been so magically effective on your brains. Sure it’s monotonous as hell, too (everything on here is monotonous, with refrains being repeated over and over a hundred times – it’s simply a part of Ronnie’s whole schtick), but I could care less, what with that beautiful ringin’ guitar sound in my right speaker and the endless squeak-squeak-squeak of more guitars taking turns to come out of both speakers. ‘I wanna testify what your love has done to me’.

I’d like to testify, too. Then there’s ‘Ain’t Rock And Roll’, a surprisingly gloomy rocker where Ronnie complains about how ‘this life is good, but it ain’t rock’n’roll’, with spooky wah-wahs poking out at you from every corner. ‘Josephine’ is so straightforward and dumb, it can’t be anything but genius, and ‘Knock Yer Teeth Out’ is surprisingly aggressive: I sometimes feel uncomfortable while listening to it, since hearing the refrain ‘I’m gonna knock your teeth out I’m gonna knock your teeth out I’m gonna knock your teeth out one by one’ gives me a toothache. Needless to say, the song is great, just like every other rocker on this record.

I suppose I also have to mention the rhythm section – Doug Wimbish plays some impressive bass lines, and the drums are for the most part handled by Charlie Watts who also highly contributes to the addictiveness of the sound with his trademark steady, unerring, minimalistic beat. By gum, the old chap is getting better and better with every year, like fine wine.

I also suppose I should stop this review here and now, as there’s really little else to say about these songs except they’re all oh so exciting bar the ballads. So far, it’s my best bet for a ‘pure rock’n’roll’ record to come out of the Nineties; the Stones’ Voodoo Lounge comes close, of course, but Slide On This is tons more sincere and, above all, it ain’t product, unlike the kind of stuff the Stones are currently putting out.

It’s fun to know somebody’s actually still doing some good old rock’n’roll on this planet and not giving a damn about anything else.

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Ronnie Wood Slide On This | | Leave a comment