Black and Blue (1976)


 
1.Hot Stuff 2.Hand of Fate 3.Cherry Oh Baby 4.Memory Motel 5.Hey Negrita 6.Melody 7.Fool to Cry 8.Crazy Mama

 

This album gets lumped by most people into the "mediocre" group of records that the band released in the early to mid 1970's. Personally, it's one of my favorite and therefore I believe it's one of the most underrated releases in the band's history. When they toured the prior year (1975) they were still without a guitarist to fill in for the departed Mick Taylor, so they recruited The Faces' Ron Wood as a "temporary" fill in. Wood blended so much into the band's style, that it seemed obvious that he would be the permanent replacement. The band, however, used the recording of this record to "audition" for their next guitarist.

In many ways this album sounds like an audition. It's very heavy on instrumental riffs and jams, and this is why so many panned the record. Of course nobody jams nor comes up with riffs as good as the Stones do, which is one of the reasons I love the record so much. The guitar work, overall is impeccable from the opening riffs of the highly under appreciated Hand of Fate to the closing track Crazy Mama. A guitar lover's dream. Even a song that is a tad monotonous like Melody has so many smooth grooves and light touches that it's a welcome addition. The only time where they sort of blow it is on the disco opener Hot Stuff. Yes, the Stones can do disco well, but this track is a little to reliant on the same (albeit, good) riff over and over and over again.

For an album that relies so much on jams, it's surprising that the two most well crafted songs on here succeed as well. Memory Motel and Fool to Cry are the songs that everybody knows, and in a weird way, sound very similar to each other. Each have a calculated melancholy electric piano opening, beautiful melodies and somber lyrics that show us that being a superstar can be a lonely thing. As well crafted as these songs are, they're a welcome addition to the overall structure of the record. Not since Exile on Main Street have they made a record so easily accessible.


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