Raincatcher Records

Discover a new song, old or new (but probably old)

Album: Hackney Diamonds - The Rolling Stones (2023 Polydor)

Cover Image for Album: Hackney Diamonds - The Rolling Stones (2023 Polydor)

I finally got around to the Rolling Stones' new, and presumably last, album, Hackney Diamonds, and if they really never do make another track it's not a bad way to go out. The third single, "Mess It Up", is especially strong, but let's go through the whole thing...

I'll bold the names of the tracks I think are highlights. I'll also say right off that the two disc version with a live recording of the New York album reveal show has got much better versions of a couple of the new songs, but more on that in a minute.

Disc 1

1. Angry

Kind of a "Start Me Up" for a new decade. I'm not crazy about either song, but the live version of "Angry" is a keeper for sure. Still, I feel like "Mess It Up" below would have been a stronger opener and lead single...

2. Get Close

Pretty catchy, with good saxophone like in the band's early 70s heyday. Sir Elton John is also credited as playing piano on this track, but it's pretty subtle. The guitar during the refrain is distinctly un-Stoney, but again, quite catchy.

3. Depending On You

This one is kind of vaguely Country Rock but it's not super remarkable if you ask me. "Dreamy Skies" a few spots down is more memorable.

4. Bite My Head Off

This sounds like something Mick and Keith might've written 60 or whatever years ago, but I can't help picturing an elderly married man fighting with his beleaguered wife of 60 or whatever years. He's probably Jewish or Italian. Sir Paul McCartney plays bass on this one and the part does stand out, though it does on the live version with regular bassist Darryl Jones too...

5. Whole Wide World

So a lot of this album sounds less like the Rolling Stones than Mick Jagger and a backing band...which it kind of is, but this track in particular sounds like the All-American Rejects or the Pop-ier side of My Chemical Romance...it's catchy though / as a result. I do give an edge to the live version from Disc 2.

6. Dreamy Skies

A solid Country Rock album track. Reminds me of "Dear Doctor". It gets kind of Bluesy in the back quarter with a nice little instrumental segue.

7. Mess It Up

This is the culmination of the Stones' six decade career. It starts out in 1978 and ends up in the modern day, incorporating the new sounds of contemporary Rock and Pop much more gracefully than any other song on Hackney Diamonds. More than any other track on the album, this sounds like the Rolling Stones in 2023 - probably in no small part because this is one of two tracks the late original drummer Charlie Watts made contributions to (back in 2019). Drums on most of the album sound overdone by comparison....

I heard this one months before the rest of the album and it really made me think, "they've still got it". Probably should've been the opener, but it makes for an excellent final single.

8. Live By the Sword

This sounds like the Rolling Stones, with Charlie Watts playing drums and even original bassist Bill Wyman returning. Also Elton John on piano again, more rollicking this time. I like "Mess It Up" better as a song but this is great too.

9. Driving Me Too Hard

Another vaguely Country track. It's alright.

10. Tell Me Straight

A young lover's plaintive request, sung by an old, old, man. It's pretty remarkable that this comes some three decades after Keith sang "The Worst" for 1994's Voodoo Lounge...

11. Sweet Sounds of Heaven

Lady Gaga features but is regrettably underutilized. I feel like her voice should have been higher in the mix / closer to the microphone (Mick's too), and the song built around that, maybe in a somewhat lower register to start. Frankly either one of them could have sung the whole song quite well without having to share, but they could have done more of a back and forth tradeoff of verses thing too. The part after the false ending where Mick and Lady do a call and response thing is pretty funny in any case though.

Moreover on the plus side, this is one of the few tracks on the album where Mick's voice isn't at least subtly distorted. I couldn't help eventually suspecting all the processing was to compensate for degrading vocal cords, but as you can hear here and on the live tracks he in fact still sounds as good as he did fifty years ago.

Stevie Wonder also plays piano among other things on this one. It's a nice vibe, though I think this song ultimately stands out more from the rest of the album than in the grand scheme of things.

12. Rolling Stone Blues

A Muddy Waters Blues cover closes out the album proper. This is kind of their thing, so no surprise it's a solid cut. Nice way to finish things out, getting back to their roots, coming full circle and whatnot...

Disc 2

1. Shattered - Live at Racket, NYC

A warm-up, presumably. I'm not really into this song, so it's just alright.

2. Angry - Live at Racket, NYC

As I said earlier, great live cut. Has more of a Rolling Stones sound/feel than the studio version. I think the mix is better here, more sounds blending than in their own corners.

3. Whole Wide World - Live at Racket, NYC

Better I think than the studio cut. Like "Angry" above, this sounds more like the Rolling Stones+ than just Mick Jagger & Friends. And the song sticks in your mind...

4. Tumbling Dice - Live at Racket, NYC

Fine version of a classic, with standout backup vocals (no, that's not Lady Gaga).

5. Bite My Head Off - Live at Racket, NYC

About the same as the studio version, but as I said before Darryl Jones is on bass instead of Macca. I hope they'll finally make him a proper, publicity-photo Rolling Stone before the rest of them all die off...he's been with them as long as my parents have been married...

This version has also got a really good guitar solo by Ronnie Wood.

6. Jumpin' Jack Flash - Live at Racket, NYC

When this started out slower and more laid back than the original I thought the band must be sick unto death of this song, but it turns out it's the best showcase of the classic Rolling Stones guitar interplay on either disc. There's an interlude where not just the guitars, but the bass as well all play off each other and it's pretty fantastic. As a fun bonus, it sounds like some people boo when the band pretends the show is over after at the end of this song...

7. Sweet Sounds of Heaven - Live at Racket, NYC

The real closer. Lady Gaga sounds a little better/louder/closer here, but overall I can't say this or the studio version is strictly better than the other (no Stevie Wonder live). Of course here there's the benefit of video to go along with the music...although the effect it creates is less Lady Gaga singing with her grandparents than that she cast some black magical spell to reanimate their corpses...

So that's it. Kind of a backloaded collection, but between the last ~60% and the live disc there's a pretty solid album here, especially for a band that's been around this long. And of course "Mess It Up", as I've continued to harp on, is a fantasmic swan song for the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World (I joke in the post lead-in but I really don't think we can expect another album in 2033...). Hopefully the Stones have got a few good years of touring left to go...

More Posts