Today marks the release of Ronnie Wood’s latest solo album, I Feel Like Playing, on Eagle Records.
I feel Like Playing, another classic addition to the rock icon’s already hefty music catalogue, features guest appearances from Slash (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Flea (The Red Hot Chili Peppers), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), former Faces bandmate, Ian McLagan, not to mention R&B legend Bobby Womack and Bernard Fowler, who has been the cornerstone of the Rolling Stones’ backing vocals for better than two decades.
I Feel Like Playing, in its entirety, has a rather smoky bar, bluesy, rock and roll feel to it. It is a reminder of who Ronnie Wood is, outside of the Rolling Stones, and also of where he came from and his deep musical roots as a British Invasion ground-breaker, largely influenced by the best of the American blues artists. You can feel the under-current of his history with bands from Faces to The Jeff Beck Group to The Stones on this album. But more than that, you can feel the chemistry between Ronnie Wood and those who joined him in recording I Feel Like Playing.
You’ll never find Ronnie Wood in better form than when he is creating his own music, when he steps out from the shadows and takes stage, front and center. I Feel Like Playing will leave you absolutely drenched in down and dirty, ass-kicking, blues-heavy rock and roll. The majority of the album takes the hard rock, edgy playing of Slash and Flea and pushes it into an altogether other zone, creating an unexpected chemistry; blues with bite. They meet Ronnie Wood head on, blending the raw power and energy of their own expertise with the passion that has fueled Wood’s creative drive during his long career as both a musician and an artist.
I Feel Like Playing opens with “Why You Wanna Go and Do a Thing Like That For,” featuring Slash, Flea, and Ivan Neville on keyboards. It immediately sets the blues/rock tone for the album and brings Wood’s rough, whiskey-drenched vocals into focus. I Feel Like Playing has an over-all sound that would fit comfortably slap-in-the-middle of Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me” and Joe Cocker’s “Unchain My Heart.”
Most of the cuts on the album feature either classic, hard-edged rock and roll or delve deeply into the kind of guitar-heavy, soulful blues sound that is rarely experienced in rock today.
My personal favorites on the album are the gut-wrenching blues numbers that feature Wood’s rough-hewn vocals side-by-side with the incredibly soulful R&B tones of Bernard Fowler. “I Gotta See” has Billy Gibbons, who also plays on and co-wrote “Thing About You,” covering the lead guitar slot in a way that we haven’t seen since Tres Hombres slapped the world of rock in the face with “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers.”
The closing number on I Feel Like Playing, “Forever,” features Slash taking his turn to lay down some thick, mean blues riffs. Wood and Fowler share lead vocal duties on both of these songs – and leave no doubt that they were meant to sing together. These are the songs that capture the very heart and essence of I Feel Like Playing. They come from a place in the past that should be re-visited more often.
Along with Fowler, most of the backing harmonies on I Feel Like Playing are handled by Bobby Womack, whose own long music history includes classics like “Across 110th Street” and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now,” a song that will forever rank as one of the greatest R&B songs for scathing, raw vocal power.
I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the first single released from I Feel Like Playing, “Lucky Man,” which includes writing credits for Ronnie Wood and Eddie Vedder, along with Paul Hyde and, one of my personal music heroes, Bob Rock who, as well, throws down the awesome lead guitar on that song. Paul Hyde and Bob Rock, who also co-wrote “Catch You,” have been in heavy rotation on the soundtrack of my life, starting back in the ’80s when I became undeniably addicted to Payola$’s “You’re the Only Love.” Sadly, they’re not as well-known as I would have expected, though many should recognize Bob Rock’s name and massive credentials as an engineer and record producer.
Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Metallica, The Cult, Skid Row, Joan Jett: just a few in the stable of artists for whom Bob Rock has covered production duties. He has produced some of rock’s most ground-breaking albums, including Metallica’s self-titled album, also known as The Black Album, and The Cult’s Sonic Temple. His awesome engineering/mixing talents can be heard on Loverboy’s self-titled debut album, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and New Jersey, and Aerosmith’s monumental Permanent Vacation.
Reminiscent of Wood’s history with the Rolling Stones and the Faces, songs like “Thing About You,” “I Didn’t Think So,” “100%” and “Tell Me Something” harken back to classic tunes like “Bitch,” “Street Fighting Man,” and “Stay with Me.”
“Sweetness My Weakness,” which incorporates a subtle reggae backbone, “Fancy Pants” and “Catch You,” which features the same hint of funk that amps up Ronnie Wood’s version of the classic Willie Dixon song “Spoonful,” round out the collection and bring a bit of spice to the mix.
I loved I Feel Like Playing right from its opening notes: each track, the entire album, from start to finish. I loved it in the evening with a glass of wine, and I loved it on my drive home from work, even stuck in rush hour traffic. It’s a classic, soon-to-be well-worn addition to my “must play” collection.
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