Review: Keith Richards — Crosseyed Heart

3.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

keithrichards-crosseyedheartI’ve been looking forward to this third solo album from Sir Keef ever since his last record dropped 13 long years ago. They are rare events. His first album, 1988’s Talk Is Cheap, was a pretty significant record in Rock history, being one of a handful of albums that helped break the synthesizer’s headlock on Rock music in the 1980s.

Well I have to say Crosseyed Heart doesn’t carry the same heft as that album, and I found myself disappointed a little bit, but maybe my expectations were a little bit too high in the first place. What the album does deliver is a very relaxed run-through of the wrinkled hipster’s favorite styles: solo acoustic blues, electric blues, driving rockers, hurtin’ ballads, rockabilly, and reggae.

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In fact it’s so relaxed it has almost a casual air about it. It’s definitely not overworked, and a couple of tracks frankly sound a little tossed-off. At the end of the lovely acoustic title track, Keef says “that’s all I got”, and I guess everybody agreed that’s good enough, let’s go have a drink.

One of the problems seems to be that he doesn’t have a whole lot to say these days. Between the musings on aging and memory and drinking and love lost, the banalities drill down as far as his woman spending too much time on the phone.

Now, having said all this, remember this is the greatest rhythm guitar player in the history of Rock, and a member of one of the great songwriting teams in the history of Rock. And I think there are enough moments of casual mastery amid the filler to make this an album worth listening to.

The second track “Heartstopper” is a smouldering lo-fi rocker, but listen to those transition sections, there’s only one person on the planet who can drive an electric guitar, and a song, like that. Similarly, the focus track “Trouble”, maybe the Stonesiest track on the album, is a lesson in rhythm guitar goodness, with a sticky vocal hook on the chorus.

“Something for Nothing” has a nice fresh chord progression and song structure, add in the backing singers and it’s a sweet groove reminiscent of something from Talk Is Cheap. “Substantial Damage” is a wild, dirty jam featuring Keef hollering like a carnival barker. It’s a track where his bandmates — the best rhythm section in the business — Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino really shine. Another unsung legend Waddy Wachtel expertly fills out the lead guitar spots here and throughout the album.

Another highlight is the song “Illusion”, a collaboration with Norah Jones. It’s a beautiful ballad with a great hook and nice vocal interplay on the lyrics:

It’s an illusion in my blood
But it’s not the one you’re thinking of
Illusion, in my heart
Doesn’t mean we have to part babe
Just an illusion that’s for sure
Nothing that you’ve seen before
Baby, an illusion
But not the one you’re looking for

Finally, one last word about his voice. It is a really under-rated instrument, so elastic and true. One minute he’s a gruff old grandpa, and the next minute he’s crooning high notes sweetly. As if there weren’t already enough reasons for this guy to leave his body to science.

Released September 18, 2015

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One comment to “Review: Keith Richards — Crosseyed Heart”
  1. Great review, sir. It’s sad to think of him running out of things to sing about, but it’s probably inevitable when you’ve had his life!

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