Sixty odd years after their inception, there isn’t much that The Rolling Stones haven’t managed to achieve. Multitudes of hit records, an almost constant touring cycle, and a general youthfulness in the core band members has led the Stones to become one, if not the, biggest rock band of all time. Despite this, however, it has been almost twenty years since they last released an album of original material. With founding member Charlie Watts sadly passing away in 2021, the group has finally seen it fit to break this album silence with Hackney Diamonds.
The album comes out of the gate begins with a burst of youthful energy with Angry, the initial single serving as a perfect introduction. It’s a by-the-numbers rock tune, but the combo of Mick Jagger’s iconic voice, and the mix of Ronnie Wood and Keith Richard’s guitar playing make it a memorable and catchy tune. Follow up Get Close takes the tempo down a notch, but keeps the feeling high. It has a hint of classic Stones ballads, but with a modern aesthetic and grittier guitars. The grittiness carries over to the track Bite My Head Off, a song that not only continues the aggressive lyrics, but also has the first big feature on the album in the form of Paul McCartney. Although he’s not on here vocally, his guitar solo at the midway point is a fantastic addition, and his bass playing is ever present. Dreamy Skies is the first song on the record to introduce bluesy slide and loose acoustic rhythm guitars. Lyrically, it’s about taking a break, and the mix along with the additional instrumentation really embrace this feeling.
Mess It Up picks things back up, the infectious melody and danceable grooves making the tune one of the album highlights. Elton John provides another silent feature on Live By The Sword, the fellow legend sticking to the piano but providing a driving backbone to the song. Both the former also feature Charlie Watt’s final contributions on drums, suitably cementing his legacy as one of the greatest of all time. Keith Richard’s takes the lead on Tell Me Straight, while Lady Gaga steals the show on Sweet Sounds of Heaven. The latter harkens back to the likes of Wild Horses and Gimme Shelter, and if that wasn’t good enough, it also features additional instrumentation from Stevie Wonder. The album closes on another lo-fi acoustic blues ballad originally by Muddy Waters, aptly titled Rolling Stone Blues, which looks back on their roots as a bad, whilst providing a satisfying, if partially surprising, end to the record.
Hackney Diamonds is a release that many fans may have come to never expect. Despite the gap between records, and the age of the musicians behind the music, it is an exceptional rock album, that not only sounds fresh in its production, but maintains a link to the band’s roots that makes the songs feel timeless.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.