Change was in the air for The Rolling Stones. It had been about five years since the release of the band's last studio album, Steel Wheels. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger had both released solo albums in the interim. The biggest change was that original member and bass player Bill Wyman had retired. Jagger and Richards had tried to convince him otherwise but at age 55 Wyman decided it was time to move on. Darryl Jones would be the new bassist in the studio and on the road. Ronnie Wood was finally elevated to full member status after 18 years and would now receive a percentage rather than a salary.
The Rolling Stones was preparing to launch another massive world tour and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards decided to release a new album to tour behind. The resulting Voodoo Lounge was a back to basics effort for the Stones. Many people have called this sparse album as calculated but it received mostly positive reviews and reached number two on the American charts. While the album would ultimately contain no classic songs it would contain a number of very good ones. The title was taken from an abandoned kitten that Keith Richards adopted and named Voodoo.
A number of the tracks from Voodoo Lounge received radio airplay and charted on the new mainstream rock charts. “You Got Me Rocking” (2), “Sparks Will Fly” (30) and “I Go Wild” (20) were all rocking numbers that featured driving rhythms and consistently excellent guitar work between Wood and Richards. One of the Stones better modern-day ballads, “Out Of Tears,” would also chart (14) and feature an effecting Mick Jagger vocal. These songs would propel Voodoo Lounge to winning the Grammy award as the best rock album of the year.
Keith Richards was in fine form on this album. It contained some of his beat guitar playing in years. “The Worst” with some wonderful steel guitar by Ron Wood and “Thru and Thru” both featured fine Keith Richards vocals and continued to show his maturation as a writer.
There were a number of other above average songs contained on the album. “New Faces” featured the use of a dulcimer and harpsichord that would have made Brian Jones smile. The ballad, “Moon Is Up,” has some creative drumming by Charlie Watts who recorded some of the parts in a stairwell to crate an echo. He is supported by Ronnie Wood on a pedal steel guitar. “Sweethearts Together” presents unusual harmonies by Mick and Keith. “Suck On The Jugular” is a funky tune that takes the Stones back to the late 1970s.
In the final analysis Voodoo Lounge is not a great album but is a consistently good one. It may be a bit contrived in places but it is difficult constantly being The Rolling Stones.
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