Where's the Roll ? - "Living in a Ghost Town" review
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Last night there was a clip about "Captain Tom", a 100 yr old ex RAF pilot who not only has raised $50 million pounds (yes that is correct!) through walking a circuit at his home for the NHS during the COVID 19 lockdown, but has also landed a UK No 1 for a duet via a rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone". During this report it was mentioned that the age of Captain Tom in reaching No 1 surpasses efforts by Louis Armstrong and Tom Jones who were in their late 60's or thereabouts therefore is a new record for oldest artist to reach the top of the charts.
In between these ages of 70 - 100 in the entertainment industry is of course The Rolling Stones . First of all , as with Bob Dylan, there is no reason to expect any new material or indeed anything from the Glimmer Twins ( Mick & Keith), Charlie and Ron in 2020. Indeed the last single (Doom and Gloom) coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the band back in 2012 and the last album in 2005. Think about the body of work they did over 15 years between say 1963-1978 to think through how big a gap that is.
On Friday came the release of "Living in a Ghost Town" , reportedly released earlier than intended with lyric altered to fit the times we find ourselves in.
Well is it any good?
On first listen I was hearing latter day Stones singles "Love is Strong" meets "Anybody Seen My Baby". In other words this is firmly Stones Mach IV , the Mick Jagger led show with Darryl Jones in the bass seat and the Keith/Charlie interplay having no place in the proceedings. . On second hearing you realize there are echoes of the more recent "Rain Came Down " via a minor chord funk groove from "A Bigger Bang" , In my opinion the new single is superior to any of those songs listed thus far , has a great bridge section and a seemingly youthful Jagger vocal (compare this voice to the barking rasp from "Dirty Work "in the mid 80's for example). However Keith, Ronnie , and Charlie are little more than bit parts to the Mick show and in reality it has been this way since World War III in the mid 80's (the term applied to the monumental falling out between Mick & Keith coinciding with Jagger's first solo album ) or even further back post "Emotional Rescue" (which was really an extension of the "Some Girls" sessions from the year before). The new single has lead me to think back to both of the last great and most chart topping singles "Miss You" and "Start Me Up" and it is obvious to me what is missing - the traditional Stones groove or "roll" with Bill Wyman in the bass chair .
Really? I hear you say -well take a close listen to both songs and listen to the bass parts, better still listen to the Bill, Charlie interplay and the weaving guitars across the top sans vocals. This is the real Stones and in my mind the new single doesn't come close to hitting these bases. Jagger's default MO is to be modern and give the likes of Captain Tom a run for his money (excuse the bad pun) at the top of the charts and, as is so often the case with Stones Mach IV, in the process it comes across as trying too hard.
Call me old fashioned I guess but there was a single released this century (circa 2010) as part of the reissue of "Exile on Main Street" that is well worth seeking out and ticks all the Stones boxes. The groove was infectious , the guitars , keys and sax section grooving and it seemed effortless - it was a backing track resurrected from the early 70's complete with Bill and Charlie and re-cut with a new vocal as "Plundered My Soul". It is really worth checking out and that's where my ears will be heading before I listen to "Living in a Ghost Town" again.