Classic Rock Review

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The Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue (1980)


The Rolling Stones had such a huge commercial and critical success with Some Girls that they decided to follow it up with a clone, Emotional Rescue. Well, it was a big let-down; these songs aren’t even close to being as infectious as the ones from Some Girls and the instrumentalists are much, much, much sloppier, too. This points to the woeful direction that The Stones were headed towards in the 1980s—lazy old rock stars looking and acting like extra-terrestrials who don’t give half a darn about their music anymore. But, you see, the thing about The Rolling Stones is that even when they’re bad, they still rule. Thus, while Emotional Rescue is a disappointing moment in The Stones’ discography, it still rules.

For some reason, the order of these songs are all wrong. The awesome stuff doesn’t start appearing until the second side. So, let’s talk about those songs first. The second side begins with an insatiable punk take-off “Where the Boys Go.” You can tell right away that these guys weren’t going to come even close to playing as tightly and mightily as they were for the punk take-offs of Some Girls! But at least they had a generally good reason to play like that’s more like how real punk bands played. The melody could have stood to have been catchier, surely, and it could have been more energetic, but I still have a lot of fun with it. They follow that up with one of the album’s major highlights, a blues song called “Down in the Hole.” Once again, they’re playing very sloppily there, but the blues generally benefits from sloppiness! They’ve done better blues songs in their day, but this is what The Stones started out doing, and they prove to be still pretty great at it.

The title track is one of the few moments in this album when these guys really concentrate and come out with a catchy and tightly-played groove. It’s a very toe-tapping mid-tempo funk song with a particularly good bass-line from Wyman. The real star of the song is Jagger, who is hilarious from beginning to end. He starts out singing in a very outrageous falsetto voice, and by the end of the song, he sounds like he’s narrating a B-movie science fiction picture. It’s very jokey! I’m also a fan of their extremely entertaining new wave send-up “She’s So Cold,” which does it just as well as Elvis Costello could, I reckon. (Hey, give me The Stones’ goofing off over Elvis Costello’s seriousness any day of the week!) I also like the Keef-led album closer “All About You” even though I find it to be a little to druggy for its own good. Keef sounds like he’s about to pass out, and the extremely loose instrumentals seem to be helping him do that. It’s an interesting ballad with a good melody, but I just wish I could get myself more captivated by it.

The first side contains some good stuff, as well, but I wouldn’t consider anything there to be a highlight. It starts out with “Dance (Pt. 1),” which is a fun and catchy disco ditty, but it’s not even close to the spirit and infectiousness contained in “Miss You.” …But the important thing is that song is very energetic, Jagger’s vocals are funny, and it inspires me to shake my tail feathers. “Summer Romance” is a Pistols-esque punk ditty, and it’s not bad. It’s not particularly great, either, and the melody surely could have been more memorable. “Send it To Me” is a white reggae that attempts to give The Police a run for their money, but it only ends up being hugely disappointing. Not that The Stones didn’t create a tight groove—they forgot the catchy melody! So, The Police’s distinction as the kings of white reggae was safe. “Let Me Go” sounds like country-rock combined with punk, and it’s pretty fun. Nothing more.

I would say the major disappointment of this album is the ballad “Indian Girl,” which is the first major piece of evidence that The Stones were really starting to stagnate. The Rolling Stones used to always come out with great ballads, but this one seems to miss the mark. The melody doesn’t do it for me, the extremely loose instrumentals don’t seem to work very well in harmony with one another, and Jagger gives a really weird vocal performance. Sorry, but that song is crap. It’s not captivating in the least bit.

Emotional Rescue’s status as one of the most major disappointments of The Rolling Stones’ career is pretty much justified, but it still has its fair share of brighter spots. I think it’s pretty safe to say that if The Rolling Stones didn’t have such high reputations, this would probably be considered a moderately well-loved album today. But as it stands, Emotional Rescue is Some Girls’ little brother, and a fairly insubstantial blip in The Rolling Stones’ mighty discography.

April 2, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue | | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue (1980)


1978 found Keith Richards starting to get clean and falling in love with a 22 year old model named Patti Hanson. While he continued to drink heavily at times, his worst addictive days were behind him.

There is a story about Hanson bringing the 36 year old Richards home to meet her parents. I have two daughters and can only imagine one of them walking through the door with Keith Richards.

Emotional Rescue, released in June of 1980, was more a victim of disinterest than anything else. Richards was recovering from addiction and carving out a new relationship, Mick was more into jet setting and vacations, Charlie Watts was breeding sheep dogs, and Bill Wyman was threatening to quit the band. In the midst of all this unrest the Rolling Stones recorded an album.

In many ways Emotional Rescue is a poor second cousin to Some Girls. The styles and musical textures are similar but the songs were not as strong. Overall this can be considered an average, at best, Rolling Stones effort.

I have always considered this release to be a little off kilter as the stronger songs were at the end of the album. I have the original LP and side two was played a lot more often than the A side.

“She’s So Cold” is an above average rocker with some frenetic drumming by Watts supported by Bill Wyman’s bass. “Emotional Rescue” would reach number three as a single release. It was another Rolling Stones disco effort complete with Mick Jagger’s falsetto vocal. I am not a fan of disco and particularly Stones disco, but this song was wildly popular in the dance clubs of the day. More telling though is the fact that it has never been a part of the Stones live act.

Keith would play some fine blues guitar on “Down In The Hole” with Mick’s harp floating in and out. “All About You” was a Richards vocal that may or may not have been his closure to the Anita Pallenberg relationship.

Side one of the original album release was more problematic. “Dance (Pt. 1)” was another disco tinged tune that ultimately was uninteresting. “Send It To Me” was a failed experiment in reggae. Charlie Watts either did not get this form of music or did not care. “Indian Girl” is one of the strangest songs in Rolling Stones history. This song about revolution against United States aggression in Central America and featured mariachi brass, a marimba or two, and odd guitar sounds.

The most interesting song was “Let Me Go.” This average country based tune with Ron Wood’s steel guitar would be re-released in a much different form on the Still Life live album. This far superior live version would show that the Rolling Stones could interpret their own music and elevate it to a higher level.

Despite the quality of the music, Emotional Rescue would continue the string of Rolling Stones hit albums. Shortly after its release The Stones would begin a re-grouping process as a new decade dawned and would plan to finally head out on the road again.

March 3, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Emotional Rescue | | Leave a comment