Why The Rolling Stones have earned the right to be a cover band | Music | DW | 30.11.2016
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Why The Rolling Stones have earned the right to be a cover band

With "Blue & Lonesome," The Rolling Stones have released their first album in 10 years. The naked recordings take true fans back to the band's blues-inspired beginnings - and the birth of the rock star.

The track "Hate to See You Go" from The Rolling Stones' new album "Blue & Lonesome" also seems to be their motto.  The Stones are back - or, rather, they're still around - without a bunch of modern hype.

The new songs could just as well have originated in the band's early years in the 1960s - pure Chicago blues with limited drums, virtuosic blues harp and and raspy guitars, neatly separated on the right and left stereo channels.

In his well-known style, Mick Jagger screams his texts into the microphone and would sound exactly like he did back then - if you didn't know that the guy is already a ripe 73.

First studio album since 2005

Are we listening to a band that is longing for its roots? The Stones themselves have said the passion for blues has always been the heart and soul of the band. Still, it seems they forgot that a few times over the past five decades - which is perfectly understandable. A band with such a long shelf-life is bound to switch from chocolate to vanilla at some point.

And yet, the Stones never completely abandoned blues and rock 'n' roll. Now they're back with songs by old blues superstars like Howling Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Willie Dixon along with Eric Clapton.

Producer Don Was, who has accompanied the Stones for more than 20 years, is responsible for the rudimentary sound of the album. It took no more than three days to produce the recordings for "Blue & Lonesome." All the tracks were recorded live and weren't remastered after the fact, Was told the French daily "Figaro": "You can hear Charlie Watt's drums through Mick Jagger's microphone. The recording sounds quite dry and authentic; it has captured the essence of what the Stones stand for."

More precisely, a blues band. Eric Clapton joined them rather coincidentally. He was producing in a studio close by, so he came by spontaneously, joining the Stones on two of the tracks.

"Blue & Lonesome" consists of 12 song pieces chosen spontaneously and arbitrarily. In an interview, Mick Jagger said that the band had already produced enough new songs, which was why he opted for blues. And that's what they did. They loved it so much that they could hardly stop playing.

The Rolling Stones in the film Shine a Light (2008 Twentieth Century Fox

Encore for the Stones

Jagger suggested one song after the other - and that's how the new amazing collection came together.

Old age can't stop a true rock 'n' roller

Quite a few older rock musicians attempt a fresh start, perhaps simply because they don't want to do anything else. They get to tour around the world and perform at the biggest festivals. A famous band draws large crowds, even if the musicians have deep wrinkles, dark circles around their eyes and gray hair - or almost no hair at all.

While some music cult figures like Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen have left the stage, other seniors go for a comeback, as though they were trying to defy old age, disease and death. AC/DC, the Scorpions, Udo Lindenberg, it seems, are permanently on a tour. Metallica, Sting and the Stones have released fresh albums. Even the old electro musician Jean-Michel Jarre has made a comeback. And Aerosmith, which many had written off, have revitalized themselves for their "Aero-Vederci Baby!" tour in 2017.

The Stones are free to do whatever they want

According to Stones' history, the blues were the reason Mick Jagger and Keith Richards decided to found a band in the first place. Blues and rock 'n' roll formed the backbone of the upcoming career of the young band from the London district of Richmond.

The Rolling Stones (Picture-Alliance/C. Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The blues were Mick Jagger's muse

The Stones managed to convey what was the music of the black community to a white audience in a wild, defiant and authentic way. Keith Richards and Brian Jones further developed Blues with their uncompromising guitar performances, while Charlie Watts tick-tocked away on the drums.

Right from the start, Mick Jagger posed as a nonchalant macho. He became the epitome of the rock star - which may not even exist today without Jagger's contribution to coolness.

More than half a century later, the Stones have built a musical monument devoted to the heroes of their youth by covering their songs - even though it may not be a pillar of virtuosity. On the other hand, what they came up with doesn't hurt either. After more than 50 years, 24 studio albums, 23 live records, a total of 93 singles and countless best-ofs, you can truly say that the Stones have produced so much that by now, they're free to do whatever they want.


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