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Topic: "Times" (London) review of Mick & Ronnie albums Return to archive
11-16-01 03:38 PM


New albums

Slick Mick and an old mucker


Mick Jagger can't help slipping into dull professionalism on his solo release; no danger of that amid the shambles of Ronnie Wood's effort

There’s a story which Lenny Kravitz tells about the day Mick Jagger showed up at Kravitz’s house in Miami to write a song for his new solo album, Goddess in the Doorway (Virgin). Kravitz had started the track, and after working on it with him for a while, Jagger sat down in a corner to write the lyric. When it was time to record the vocal, Jagger, according to Kravitz, became a completely different person.
“All day he was this quiet little man — a sweet, nice, proper English gentleman wearing these little red socks. Then he went through the door, got behind the microphone, and turned into Mick Jagger. He just tore it to shreds. It was such an incredible transformation. Everyone was speechless.”

It’s worth bearing in mind the peculiar genius that enables Jagger still to be a performer who can hold an 80,000-strong audience in the palm of his hand. As a young man he invented the role of the rock singer and as a middle-aged roué he continues to define most aspects of the job.

His voice is as powerful an instrument as the pop world has ever produced; a raw, louche, ruthlessly self-interested expression of the masculine ego, yet endowed with a strangely pliant quality which allows him to slip into a coquettish falsetto that sounds like the pleading of a little girl.

What Jagger doesn’t do so well is sincerity. His talent as a showman and his appetite for playing to the gallery while keeping his cards clutched tightly to his chest have sustained him in improbably good shape throughout an outlandishly successful career. But invulnerability has become the habit of a lifetime, and however much effort and emotion he invests in his work now, the man in the little red socks will always be left behind on the other side of the glass.

Although Jagger has protested otherwise, Goddess in the Doorway is an attempt on one level to challenge that situation. It is more personal than a Rolling Stones record and more direct in its approach. Along with the usual tales of love enjoyed and destroyed at the hands of various femmes fatales, the theme of taking refuge is explored several times, whether it be hiding from the pressured world of the big city (Hide Away) or rejecting the attentions of celebrity leeches (Everybody Getting High).

The most moving track on the album, Too Far Gone, finds him reflecting rather ruefully on the rapid passage of time. “The world outside is ugly/It’s bitter and it’s harsh/We each of us protect ourselves/We’re hostage to the past.”

The album has a certain bustle about it with lively cameos from Bono (a pseudo-gospel number called Joy), Wyclef Jean (guitar and Wyclef-type groove on Hide Away) and, of course, Kravitz, who comes closer than anyone to triggering a great Jagger performance on a rocker called God Gave Me Everything.

But without the songwriting foil of Keith Richards and the rhythmic ingenuity of the Stones to play off, Jagger’s instinct is to wrap the packaging tight and head upmarket, and this is a mistake. His principal collaborators, journeymen keyboard players Matt Clifford and Marti Frederikson, bring a worthy but dull approach to bear on Jagger’s compositions. Visions of Paradise is one of several numbers that get draped in a cloying layer of strings, and instead of the loosely interlocking guitar dynamics of the Stones, there is a smooth homogeneity to the arrangements which leaves little scope for Jagger to punch his weight.

No danger of too much polish being applied to Ronnie Wood’s latest offering. The crow-haired guitarist who, for so long, has played the amiable footsoldier to Jagger’s preening general, has his seventh solo album, Not For Beginners (SPV), released — apparently coincidentally — at the same time as Jagger’s. None of Wood’s previous albums has come close to reaching the charts, and the man is clearly as immune to commercial imperatives as he is to the notion of quality control.

For Wood, the idea is to assemble a few of his buddies, hand the drinks round along with the acoustic guitars and set the tape rolling. Two numbers featuring Bob Dylan — Interfere and King of Kings — are little more than instrumental doodles.

A duet with Kelly Jones (of Stereophonics) on What Do You Think produces an endearing folksy singalong, rather in the spirit of Wood’s work with Rod Stewart in the Faces. An attempt at the Byrds classic, So You Want to be a Rock’n’Roll Star, sung by Wood in that boozy croak which he passes off as a voice, is a complete shambles.

But for all its technical failings, there is a nagging charm to this album that Jagger’s lacks. It’s like taking a peek into Wood’s musical journal and glimpsing the genial spirit of the writer amid all the odd jottings and memos.

Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.
11-16-01 09:54 PM
yellow1 Kinda funny to read a music critique talk about sincerity...
It's always been considered "artsy" to criticize Mick for his well crafted solo work compared to Keith's happy go luck style, but now they push that even further with Ronnie...It's like comparing a Concorde to a hot-air Balloon, i.e. pointless !
11-17-01 01:09 PM
Ned Kelly I agree, it's rubbish.

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