In between his gig as second guitarist in the Brian Jones/Mick Taylor slot for the Rolling Stones since 1975, Ronnie Wood occupies his time as an accomplished painter, author, reformed alcoholic, and occasional solo artist.
Accent on the “occasional” there…
Though his solo albums like I’ve Got My Own Album To Do (one of the greatest album titles ever) and Gimmie Some Neck come even more rarely than albums by the Stones themselves, they are nearly always worth at least a listen. Woody’s latest, I Feel Like Playing, which comes out next Tuesday, is no exception.
As with his previous solo efforts, I Feel Like Playing comes with the usual disclaimers. Woody’s voice still sucks for the most part — although I’ll take his booze and cigs rasp over that of his running buddy Keith Richards’ anytime.
Besides, on this album, the production cleans up any vocal inadequacies quite convincingly. Woody’s voice actually sounds pretty good here, and his ever-clean guitar licks serve as a reminder of just why the Stones signed him up in the first place.
The other thing about this album though is, because of who he is, Woody is able to attract the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to getting nothing but the very best to play on his records.
For I Feel Like Playing, Ron Wood has attracted an all-star A-list of players ranging from guys like Slash, Flea and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, to a supporting cast that includes such studio aces as drummer Jim Keltner and veteran Neil Young bassist Rick Rosas.
Hell, he’s even drawn out guys like veteran L.A. session guitarist Waddy Wachtel and former Faces’ bandmate Ian McLagan to play keyboards. Ya’ gotta like that, right?
So the question remains. Is this is an essential album for a Stones-ologist or otherwise? Well, no, It really isn’t. In fact, this sounds a whole lot like Woody’s other solo albums, except that the recording has a slightly cleaner and slicker sound to it.
Not quite pro-tools clean mind you (God, forbid!). Because that would defeat the purpose. Rather, this album maintains the “Mister Clean” sort of sound reminiscent of the highly sanitized recordings of those early seventies records you heard on labels like Asylum Records.
That said, it’s still a very decent listen — especially if you’ve been missing the more laid back, relaxed and bluesy feel of loose, jammy seventies rock records as much as I have. In other words, in this case it’s a good thing. Yes, there’s a a bit more of a studio sheen to this album than I’d like. But you know what? In this case, I’ll take it. Damn straight, I will.
The highlights here include the opening “Why Ya’ Wanna Go And Do A Thing Like That For,” a sweet Stones Sticky Fingers era by way of Gram Parsons sounding song aided by Slash’s second guitar, and the Dylanesque keyboards of Ivan Neville. Woody still can’t sing a lick. But in a smoky, Dylan sort of way, it still sounds really good.
Billy Gibbons also turns in some very funky ZZ Top “La Grange” era sounding guitar on “Thing About You.” “Sweetness Is My Weakness” loses me just a little bit, mainly because of the funk polish provided by studio vets Darryl Jones on bass and Steve Ferrone on drums. But in the end, I have to admit I got sucked in by the inescapable funk. Said, oops upside ya’ head, baby!
Ditto for the slightly more uptempo take on the blues standard “Spoonful.” Yes, it’s been heard a thousand times before. But with Bernard Fowler’s second vocal, I have to admit it sounds pretty damn good here.
The thing is, as slick as some of this album sounds (and with guys like this, it shouldn’t sound anything less), Woody and his all-star band still manage to capture a sound here that hasn’t been heard since…well, you know, way back then.
In other words, it’s only rock and roll, but I like it.
Ronnie Wood’s I Feel Like Playing will be in stores this Tuesday.