Nothing reinvigorates Sixties icons like having something to prove. In the past few years the reverence typically shown both the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan has worn perilously thin. The Stones' last two albums, Undercover and Dirty Work not to mention Mick Jagger's solo recordings ranged from bad to ordinary, and Keith Richards's bitter public baiting of Jagger suggested that this particular twain might never again productively meet. In Dylan's case, the most obvious message conveyed by the shoddy, almost willfully... Read More
unfocused nature of his recent work specifically Knocked Out Loaded
and Down in the Groove
was that he had simply stopped caring about making records.
Now, in the summit of love of the past, the Stones and Dylan have weighed in with albums that signal renewed conviction and reactivated sense of purpose. Steel Wheels rocks with a fervor that renders the Stones' North American tour an enticing prospect indeed, while Oh Mercy explores moral concerns and matters of the heart with a depth and seriousness Dylan has not demonstrated since Desire. Deep-sixing nostalgia, the Stones and Dylan have made vital albums of, for and about their time.
It's not hard to read "Mixed Emotions," the most assured Stones single since "Start Me Up," as Jagger's measured, characteristically pragmatic and guardedly conciliatory reply to the verbal pounding he took in the round of interviews Richards gave after the guitarist released his solo album, Talk Is Cheap, last year. "Button your lip baby," counsels Jagger over a swinging guitar groove in the song's opening line, before offering to "bury the hatchet/Wipe out the past." In a bid for some understanding from his band mate, Jagger sings, "You're not the only one/With mixed emotions/You're not the only one/That's feeling lonesome."
The feral rocker "Hold On to Your Hat" seems to sketch some of the problems of excess that threatened to drive Jagger out of the Stones. "We'll never make it," Jagger sings angrily, as Richards unleashes a flamethrower riff. "Don't you fake it/You're getting loaded/I'm getting goaded." Never to be outdone, Richards ends the album on a lovely, elegiac note with his ballad "Slipping Away," about his own brand of mixed emotions. "All I want is ecstasy/But I ain't getting much/Just getting off on misery," the Glimmer Twins harmonize on the song's chorus, and then Richards returns to sing the concluding verse. "Well it's just another song," he sings. "But it's slipping away."
Jagger's and Richards's conflicting emotions fuel full-tilt rock & roll on "Sad Sad Sad" and "Rock and a Hard Place," while "Continental Drift," with its north-African feel, and the elegant "Blinded by Love" extend the Stones' musical reach further than it has gone in some time. Jagger miraculously avoids camp posturing in his singing, and the rest of the band Richards, Ron Wood,