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The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon (1997)

MI0001536761From starling.rinet.ru

Now don’t blame me. The hype was enormous, the tour was great, and most of the songs here are just fine. But overall I wouldn’t think of this album as belonging to the Stones’ finest work. They sure do not stagnate, and they’re certainly willing to take a few risks and make a few experimentations, and the playing, singing, mix, and production are as flawless as possible. However, musically it’s not as strong as some make it out to be…

Voodoo Lounge has always been defined as the Keith album, what with all the retro production values, very few abuses of modern technologies and, well, just mainly the traditional “Stones formula” working its way through. On the contrary, the far more experimental Bridges To Babylon is certainly a ‘Jagger’ album. Keith’s presence here is definitely felt, as most of the guitar riffs are trademark Mr Richards; but the ‘aura’ of the songs, many of them dark and dreary, strongly reeks of Jagger, and where Voodoo Lounge tended to avoid trends, Bridges jump into the whole Nineties’ nightmare with gusto.

That said, Keith does get to have as much as three of his own “solo” numbers on here – no mean feat for the man, who had so far been strictly and severely limited to two. None of these are rare gems, though, a la ‘Slipping Away’. ‘You Don’t Have To Mean It’ is a rather dull reggaeish whine, monotonous to the point of hysteria and abysmally produced at that, with the voices and instruments merging together to give one a headache. And the closing two tracks – ‘Thief In The Night’ and ‘How Can I Stop’ belong to the same Keith-unmelodic-wailing-dustbin that has already accumulated so many of his so-called ‘ballads’. I’ll have to repeat it again: I am an active believer in Keef’s utter sincerity and everything, and I have no problems whatsoever with his ragged singing, but what I need is a melody. Keef is a master of riff, both loud and brash and thin and subtle; why it is so tremendously hard for him to write an interesting and outstanding melody when it comes to ballads is way, way beyond me. Oh well, at least ‘How Can I Stop’ is slightly touching and nostalgic, with a warm, lush sax solo towards the end, and I’m not willing to make a punch about the title. Even more, I’d say that it was a sly move to put the song at the end – that way, if Bridges To Babylon for some reason turns out to be the Stones’ last studio album, the final notes of ‘How Can I Stop’ will always… ah, well, you know. I can feel ’em tears jerking up already. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they usually end up all their albums with nostalgic introspective Keith ballads.

But enough about Keith. Mick is captain-in-chief on the rest, and it produces mixed results. On one hand, we have a couple of good old ferocious dark rockers – the opening ‘Flip The Switch’ is, as they boast, the fastest song they ever recorded (for some reason, though, it still sounds slower than ‘Rip This Joint’ to these ears), and ‘Too Tight’ is certainly an improvement over ‘Too Tough’. ‘Flip The Switch’ is, in fact, the ultimate late period Stones rocker – I mean, the sight of Jagger flying his hair around and producing evil grins as he shouts ‘what would it take to bury me? I can’t wait, I can’t wait to see!’ on stage sure was one of the most dramatic moments of the tour.

The ballad ‘Already Over Me’ is a cross between ‘Almost Hear You Sigh’ from Steel Wheels (grandiosity) and ‘Fool To Cry’ (subtleness) and is thus quite good. Late period Stones’ ballads have rarely been able to fascinate me – they definitely lost the golden touch after spending most of the Eighties in gutsy raunchiness – but this is a rare and treasurable exception, with a fascinating vocal delivery from Mick. He stands so close to the mike that you get to scrutinize every single subtle detail in his vocals, which is simply grand; in fact, Mick’s singing and particularly the mixing of his voice on Bridges is definitely the best since God knows when. Unfortunately, ‘Already Over Me’ is still an exception – on the album’s second ballad, ‘Always Suffering’, Mick tries to pull an ‘Out Of Tears Part II’ and fails, with the song going for atmosphere rather than for a firmly planted hook.

The more experimental numbers are also fifty-fifty. On one hand, Mick gets a winner with the magnificent ‘Out Of Control’, a song that’s a definite must for any Stones fan with enough self-respect. The way the band alternates slow dark sections with fast crashing rockin’ moves, the stop-and-starts, the wild harmonica break, it’s all ace, although it would be fair to say the song didn’t really come to full life until the stage performance (my theory is that anybody who sees the Rolling Stones perform ‘Out Of Control’ on stage, even on tape, will never again resort to using the expression ‘old farts’ in their address, nor will he or she ever say a stupid phrase like ‘why don’t they finally go their own ways?’). Plus, he gets even more adventurous with the synth-led “slow-technofest” ‘Might As Well Get Juiced’ which I used to hate but now love dearly – the ‘juiced-up’ bass line and Mick’s slowly ‘melting’ vocals are a marvel. The song almost reminds me of Peter Gabriel, and it’s the closest the Stones ever got to becoming “alternative”, whatever that means.

On the other hand, a particularly low point includes the hit single ‘Anybody Seen My Baby’ which is just so 90’s-like and so un-Stones-like I can hardly stand it. The generic bass, the idiotic ‘rap section’, everything about the song is so stinkingly commercial… ugh. This is clearly an example of Mick trying to get the younger generation into the Stones… all he got was a dumb younger generation straddling through the streets chanting ‘anybody seee-eeen myyy baaaaa-by?’. I daresay not too many of these kids ever decided to try out Let It Bleed after this memorable event.

The rest of the tracks are okay – ‘Gunface’ features ‘disco rock’ or ‘funk rock’, if you prefer it, and has a strangely annoying metallic guitar tone, ‘Saint Of Me’ is not bad, but hardly the next ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ as has been proclaimed by Stones fans. And the guitars on ‘Lowdown’ just don’t seem Keith-ish to me… more Aerosmith than the stones.

Like I already said, the atmosphere here is much darker than on Voodoo Lounge, which is rather surprising especially since everything else was so good and bright – the expectations, the tour, etc. But Mick isn’t a very ‘bright’ guy in any case, if you know what I really mean. That said, I am in no way trying to diminish the record’s importance; frankly speaking, I doubt they could have made a better album than this at such a time. It has many flaws, but it has one big advantage: the Stones are still able to make records that would manage to sound musical and melodic, on one side, and hit all the right contemporary nerves, on the other. Not that they’re setting any trends or anything; they’re following them. But it’s one thing to follow a trend blindly, and another thing to make a tasteful, intelligent, and, on the whole, worthy album as Bridges. And hey there, I’d be the first to put ‘Flip The Switch’, ‘Out Of Control’, and ‘Already Over Me’ into the Golden Fund of the Stones, so this alone should probably say something.

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March 3, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon | | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon (1997)

MI0001536761From sputnikmusic.com

3 years after the Gramy winning Voodo Lounge (1994), the stones hit the studio again in 1997 to make a new record to be titled Bridges of Babylon. As the writing process progressed Mick Jaggar summoned Beck and the Beastie Boys to bring the stone’s music into the 90’s and you can see this change throughout the album. Unfortunately, this album is considered a failure. Though, some great tracks have come out of it such as Flip the Switch and Saint of Me.

1. Flip the Switch. Starts out with a cool drumming part than a great riff that goes into a great verse and chorus with some cool stones guitar work.A very fast upbeat song with a good guitar solo. A great opening for this album. 4.5/5

2. Anybody Seen My Baby. Starts with a slow bass line. Mick Jaggar comes in with slow lyrics that go into a soft pre chorus that jumps into a chorus with kinda a mystical feeling to it. It’s an okay song that appeared on forty licks. Than toward the end of the song, the unthinkable happans. Rap! Yes a rapper does some short rapping at the end that shows the attempt to change. 3.5/5

3. Low Down. Sarts with a slow double guitar riff and Mick Jaggar singing. The Chorus is rather boring and this isn’t a bad song but is pretty plain. This song does sound like something that could come from an early album though. Nothing much more to say about it. 3/5

4. Already over Me. A very slow song with some piano and acaustic guitar with some quiet singing. Soon some drums and cool guitar fills come in. The Chorus is good and makes Mick sound like a country singer. Without that chorus this song would be boring, which basically it is for it is 5 minutes long and doesn’t change much. 3/5

5. Gun Face. Interesting vocals on this one. Has a nice beat and guitar to it with a fitting chorus. Has a great bridge though that goes into a cool chorus. Another 5 minute song that drags on. Its a cool song though. 3/5

6. You Don’t Have to Mean it. A really fun almost raegae song sung be Keith Richards. Has some nice brass in it. A great upbeat happy song that really grabs your ear when you first hear it. One of my favorite Keith Richards vocal songs and one of my favorite off the album. 4/5

7. Out of Control. This song is a very unique song that is very long and repatitive but is still very good. Starts with some bongos drums and some humming. Mick’s vocals are soft and mysterious as most of the song is. Than a good pre chorus leads very well into a loud great chorus that goes back into the quiet verse. After the second chorus there is some really great trumpet that goes well with the song. The song repeats like this until the end. Good song and chorus. 3.8/5

8.Saint of Me. A favorite off the album. Starts with some soft chords and vocals that get louder and better until it leads into a fun chorus that leads into a verse with a beautiful acaustic guitar in the background. Eventually a beautiful bridge with great backing vocals does alot to add to the song. Again a Beautiful song. 4.5/5

9. Might as Well get Juiced. Techno? the begining to this song has some very strange keybords and vocals with some harmonica. This song is basically a componation of classic stones and techno. Those two really don’t go together and this is a terrible song, especially because it’s 5 minutes long. 2/5

10. Always Suffering. A soft acaustic song with a great melody and vocals done by Mick Jaggar that sound like Keith at first. It’s really a beautiful song with a good chorus with great backing vocals. It picks up a little at the end but is mainly a quiet song. 3.5/5

11. Too Tight. This is a good song with a really cool fast moving guitar part that is truly awsome. It has great fitting vocals to it that leads into an okay chorus that is similar to the verse. Again good backing vocals on this one. 3.5/5

12. Theif in the Night. Starts with some interesting soft sounds that lead into an annoying drums and few Kieth Richards Vocals. This song is really boring and slow and long. Not recomended. 2/5

13. How can I Stop. A soft 7 minuete song that is again sung by Keith Richards. Very boring, very slow. Nothing more to say. 2/5

Overall, this album is not the best stones album, but has some good tracks. Most of the songs are very long and can get pretty boring. Though you can tell a the stones made an effort to try to adapt to the 90’s. This album is only recomended to big stones fans. Overall 2.5/5

March 3, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon | | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon (1997)

MI0001536761From starling.rinet.ru

Now don’t blame me. The hype was enormous, the tour was great, and most of the songs here are just fine. But overall I wouldn’t think of this album as belonging to the Stones’ finest work. They sure do not stagnate, and they’re certainly willing to take a few risks and make a few experimentations, and the playing, singing, mix, and production are as flawless as possible. However, musically it’s not as strong as some make it out to be…

Voodoo Lounge has always been defined as the Keith album, what with all the retro production values, very few abuses of modern technologies and, well, just mainly the traditional “Stones formula” working its way through. On the contrary, the far more experimental Bridges To Babylon is certainly a ‘Jagger’ album. Keith’s presence here is definitely felt, as most of the guitar riffs are trademark Mr Richards; but the ‘aura’ of the songs, many of them dark and dreary, strongly reeks of Jagger, and where Voodoo Lounge tended to avoid trends, Bridges jump into the whole Nineties’ nightmare with gusto.

That said, Keith does get to have as much as three of his own “solo” numbers on here – no mean feat for the man, who had so far been strictly and severely limited to two. None of these are rare gems, though, a la ‘Slipping Away’. ‘You Don’t Have To Mean It’ is a rather dull reggaeish whine, monotonous to the point of hysteria and abysmally produced at that, with the voices and instruments merging together to give one a headache. And the closing two tracks – ‘Thief In The Night’ and ‘How Can I Stop’ belong to the same Keith-unmelodic-wailing-dustbin that has already accumulated so many of his so-called ‘ballads’. I’ll have to repeat it again: I am an active believer in Keef’s utter sincerity and everything, and I have no problems whatsoever with his ragged singing, but what I need is a melody. Keef is a master of riff, both loud and brash and thin and subtle; why it is so tremendously hard for him to write an interesting and outstanding melody when it comes to ballads is way, way beyond me. Oh well, at least ‘How Can I Stop’ is slightly touching and nostalgic, with a warm, lush sax solo towards the end, and I’m not willing to make a punch about the title. Even more, I’d say that it was a sly move to put the song at the end – that way, if Bridges To Babylon for some reason turns out to be the Stones’ last studio album, the final notes of ‘How Can I Stop’ will always… ah, well, you know. I can feel ’em tears jerking up already. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they usually end up all their albums with nostalgic introspective Keith ballads.

But enough about Keith. Mick is captain-in-chief on the rest, and it produces mixed results. On one hand, we have a couple of good old ferocious dark rockers – the opening ‘Flip The Switch’ is, as they boast, the fastest song they ever recorded (for some reason, though, it still sounds slower than ‘Rip This Joint’ to these ears), and ‘Too Tight’ is certainly an improvement over ‘Too Tough’. ‘Flip The Switch’ is, in fact, the ultimate late period Stones rocker – I mean, the sight of Jagger flying his hair around and producing evil grins as he shouts ‘what would it take to bury me? I can’t wait, I can’t wait to see!’ on stage sure was one of the most dramatic moments of the tour.

The ballad ‘Already Over Me’ is a cross between ‘Almost Hear You Sigh’ from Steel Wheels (grandiosity) and ‘Fool To Cry’ (subtleness) and is thus quite good. Late period Stones’ ballads have rarely been able to fascinate me – they definitely lost the golden touch after spending most of the Eighties in gutsy raunchiness – but this is a rare and treasurable exception, with a fascinating vocal delivery from Mick. He stands so close to the mike that you get to scrutinize every single subtle detail in his vocals, which is simply grand; in fact, Mick’s singing and particularly the mixing of his voice on Bridges is definitely the best since God knows when. Unfortunately, ‘Already Over Me’ is still an exception – on the album’s second ballad, ‘Always Suffering’, Mick tries to pull an ‘Out Of Tears Part II’ and fails, with the song going for atmosphere rather than for a firmly planted hook.

The more experimental numbers are also fifty-fifty. On one hand, Mick gets a winner with the magnificent ‘Out Of Control’, a song that’s a definite must for any Stones fan with enough self-respect. The way the band alternates slow dark sections with fast crashing rockin’ moves, the stop-and-starts, the wild harmonica break, it’s all ace, although it would be fair to say the song didn’t really come to full life until the stage performance (my theory is that anybody who sees the Rolling Stones perform ‘Out Of Control’ on stage, even on tape, will never again resort to using the expression ‘old farts’ in their address, nor will he or she ever say a stupid phrase like ‘why don’t they finally go their own ways?’). Plus, he gets even more adventurous with the synth-led “slow-technofest” ‘Might As Well Get Juiced’ which I used to hate but now love dearly – the ‘juiced-up’ bass line and Mick’s slowly ‘melting’ vocals are a marvel. The song almost reminds me of Peter Gabriel, and it’s the closest the Stones ever got to becoming “alternative”, whatever that means.

On the other hand, a particularly low point includes the hit single ‘Anybody Seen My Baby’ which is just so 90’s-like and so un-Stones-like I can hardly stand it. The generic bass, the idiotic ‘rap section’, everything about the song is so stinkingly commercial… ugh. This is clearly an example of Mick trying to get the younger generation into the Stones… all he got was a dumb younger generation straddling through the streets chanting ‘anybody seee-eeen myyy baaaaa-by?’. I daresay not too many of these kids ever decided to try out Let It Bleed after this memorable event.

The rest of the tracks are okay – ‘Gunface’ features ‘disco rock’ or ‘funk rock’, if you prefer it, and has a strangely annoying metallic guitar tone, ‘Saint Of Me’ is not bad, but hardly the next ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ as has been proclaimed by Stones fans. And the guitars on ‘Lowdown’ just don’t seem Keith-ish to me… more Aerosmith than the stones.

Like I already said, the atmosphere here is much darker than on Voodoo Lounge, which is rather surprising especially since everything else was so good and bright – the expectations, the tour, etc. But Mick isn’t a very ‘bright’ guy in any case, if you know what I really mean. That said, I am in no way trying to diminish the record’s importance; frankly speaking, I doubt they could have made a better album than this at such a time. It has many flaws, but it has one big advantage: the Stones are still able to make records that would manage to sound musical and melodic, on one side, and hit all the right contemporary nerves, on the other. Not that they’re setting any trends or anything; they’re following them. But it’s one thing to follow a trend blindly, and another thing to make a tasteful, intelligent, and, on the whole, worthy album as Bridges. And hey there, I’d be the first to put ‘Flip The Switch’, ‘Out Of Control’, and ‘Already Over Me’ into the Golden Fund of the Stones, so this alone should probably say something.

March 3, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon | | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon (1997)

MI0001536761From blogcritics.org

It had been three years since the last Rolling Stones studio album and the group was preparing to leave on another massive tour. The Stones would play 108 shows over the course of a year before four million fans and gross over a quarter of a billion dollars. Mick Jagger was writing songs for another solo project and did not want to record a new Rolling Stones album. Ronnie and Keith outvoted him 2 to 1 and so Bridges to Babylon was born. It would be their last studio album for eight years.

Bridges to Babylon was recorded over a four-month period during which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were constantly at odds over the album’s vision. Richards wanted a back- to-basics sound and Jagger wanted a modern-techno sound. This animosity created an album of disparate and varied songs that ultimately turned out all right. Eleven years after its release I call this album good but not great, pleasurable but not overly creative and very playable but not essential.

I tend to think the Keith Richards contributions are the strongest. He sings an unprecedented three songs on this album. “You Don’t Have To Mean It” is a nice reggae effort and he provides superior guitar lines to support the vocal. The final two songs of the release, “Thief In The Night” and “How Can I Stop” are typical Stones songs of sex and rock ‘n’ roll. Richards vocals strain successfully to provide a strong ending to the album. These are totally Keith Richards’s creations as Jagger had walked out of the sessions and did not appear or work on the tracks.

The most interesting track was the funky and interesting “Anybody Seen My Baby.” It is an infectious song with some rapping and you almost want to sing along. After the track was completed Keith Richards realized that they had inadvertently copied the melody from a K.D. Lang song. It all turned out well as she did not really care and was happy to accept a writing credit.

“Might As Well Get Juiced” was the prototype Mick Jagger song on the album. It featured drum loops and a dance beat. Jagger played some fine harmonica but I have never been a big fan of the Stones in dance mode. This song and others carried on Jagger’s inclination to make music similar to what was hot at the time.

“Gunface” was the hardest rocking song on the album and possibly of the Stones 90’s output. Keith’s guitar rips along in support of lyrics of violence. “Low Down” and “Saint Of Me” are average rockers but are not offensive. Mick does hit the spot with the ballad, “Always Suffering.” He seems to be focused and proves that most of the time, at least for the Rolling Stones, less is more.

Sometimes The Rolling Stones’ members were their own worst enemies and victims of their past successes. This was most apparent in the studio but rarely so in concert. I thing Bridges to Babylon is under-rated but could have been better. My feeling is that there were just too many people in the studio. There are nine bassists credited on the album and Charlie Watts hired veteran studio drummer Jim Keltner to sit in when he was disinterested. Still, while the album produced no breakout or truly memorable songs, when taken as a whole, it remains a good listening experience.

March 2, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon | | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon (1997)

From users.skynet.be

Among those who care, rumour often circulates the month or so before a new Rolling Stones album about what “direction” the leathery old warriors have taken this time. Thus, in the same way that some reckon that It’s Only Rock’n’Roll and Goats Head Soup are “camp” and Their Satanic Majesties Request is “psychedelic”, we have heard the unlikely epithet “techno” mooted about Bridges To Babylon. Certainly it features three contributions from The Dust Brothers and certainly there is a sense of post-modern knowingness on some tracks, At last, though, it can be told: the new Stones tour may come courtesy of Sprint communication technologies, but its accompanying CD artifact is more Dr. John than Dr. Who.

Bridges To Babylon is an entirely competent modern rock record saved from mediocrity by a handful of stand-out songs and the Stones’ innate cachet. The air of dissolution, tended carefully over three decades of Hell’s Angel murders and sexual hi-jinx, lends a raffish air to fairly ordinary songs like “Low Down” and “Might As Well Get Juiced”, “Gunface”, featuring Jagger at his playful best and “Flip The Switch” are better, both getting a jolt from nicely discordant guitar riffs. “Anybody Seen My Baby” and “Already Over Me” manage to get away with their mix of wounded male pride and sexual bluster. Whether they would were it not for their Stones imprimatur is another matter entirely, but you can’t disinvent 33 years of album making.

Perhaps the most genuinely likeable tunes here are both sung by Keith Richards and both, to varying degrees, are exercises in pastiche. “You Don’t Have To Mean It” shows the band audibly kicking off their shoes and having fun with a featherweight but musically perfect recreation of a Trojan Records single, circa 1974. And better still is the concluding track, “How Can I Stop” : beautifully moody, ersatz soul whose emotional punch is 100 percent authentic. Producer and pianist Don Was, Detroit born and bred, understands this stuff like few others and even he hasn’t done it so well since Was (Not Was)’s What Up Dog? album in 1988.

Strangely, Bridges To Babylon often recalls R.E.M.’s Monster album, Both are functional and capable and both will be absorbed into fans’ collections but neither will be remembered by neutrals in a year or two or win new admirers. But as several thousand people discovered last night somewhere in the midwest, Bridges To Babylon does the job it was made for.

February 23, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon | | Leave a comment