A Bigger Bang was released in the United States on September 6, 2005. To date this is the last Rolling Stones studio album. It reached the number three position on the American charts and sold over a million copies in this country alone. This release proved there is still some life left in the old dog.
The Rolling Stones retreated to Mick Jagger’s house in France and set up shop in his personal studio to record this album. Mick, Charlie and Keith form the basic core for A Bigger Bang. Regular bassist Darryl Jones plays on most of the tracks and keyboardist Chuck Leavell also makes several appearances. Ronnie Wood only contributes to about half the songs. There is basically no one else. Mick plays some bass, harmonica and even an effective slide guitar. This back to a basics, stripped down affair works well as it returns the Stones to their rock ‘n’ roll roots.
This was a good effort for the Stones as they proved they can still sound fresh and make energetic rock ‘n’ roll 45 years after their birth. I can’t help but think that what separates this album and a number of other good Rolling Stones albums are just the lack of a classic or signature song to provide a foundation from which to launch the rest of the tracks. When I listen to the album as a whole, it is mostly excellent, yet if I start separating the songs into their individual parts it does not fare as well.
The Stones would leave on another massive world tour in support of this release and it would be anything but a basic stripped down affair. Rather, it would fill stadiums and arenas for over two years and gross close to a half billion dollars. The highlight of the tour would be a free concert in Brazil that would draw close to a million fans.
The song, “Dangerous Beauty,” really defines this album. It is just Mick, Charlie and Keith laying down some basic rock ‘n’ roll. I can’t help but wish that there was more music of this type.
“Rough Justice” is the lead track and informs the listener that all is fine with The Rolling Stones. Keith’s guitar and Mick’s strong vocals combine together to drive the song along. “Let Me Down Slow” contains a line that says; “are you coloring your hair with some new kind of dye?” This short verse just about somes up the members of the Stones as they had entered their sixties.
A Bigger Bang contains a number of other worthwhile songs. “Rain Fall Down” is a power ballad type number with a Mick Jagger falsetto that harps back twenty years or so. “This Place is Empty” finds Keith giving what appears to be a tired lead vocal which is just about perfect for him after all these years. “Oh No, Not You Again,” is a classic Rolling Stones track with Keith and Ronnie meshing their guitar sound into a solid rock ‘n’ roll romp. “Back Of My Mind” may be the best track on the album as it returns the Stones to their blues roots.
The only real miss on the album is the political, anti-Bush, anti-Washington, “Sweet Neo Con.” Political views aside, 2005 was not a year that I wanted to hear non Americans criticizing this country, especially when it was a poorly constructed song.
A Bigger Bang proves that The Rolling Stones can still produce credible and relevant rock ‘n’ roll. Mick Jagger has stated that he likes this album and that’s good enough for me. Hopefully there will be more to come.