The band’s first album since 2016’s album of blues covers “Blue and Lonesome”, the much heralded “Hackney Diamonds” is well played and well produced, and has a track that stands head and shoulders above all the rest: that is the honky-tonk soul gospel of ‘Sweet Sounds of Heaven’ with STEVIE WONDER and LADY GAGA – sheer brilliance. On Spotify, ‘Angry’ gets the second highest number of hits, but it didn’t do much for me, a bit shouty and repetitive for my ears.
Other lesser stand-outs are the strident ‘Live by the Sword’ with ELTON JOHN tinkling the ivories and the late great CHARLIE WATTS on drums. The guitar work is exemplary throughout if sometimes on the safe sound: the grungy ‘Bite My Head Off’ is an exception, but when Mick gives PAUL McCARTNEY a name check a splendid guitar break follows- not by Paul surely - whose fuzz bass is an aural treat. Another song I really enjoyed is the anthemic ‘Whole Wide World’.
If ever there was a time for protest songs it is now and, social media barbs aside, Mick’s famous political ambivalence is a tad disappointing – whatever happened to the street fighting men? (You’re never too old!) The slide guitar on ‘Dreamy Skies’ brings back happy memories of “Beggars’ Banquet” and lyrics about “dancing on diamonds and skating on glass” with an old AM radio playing Hank Williams brought a smile to my face, as Mick is desperate to “get away from it all”; the Richards and Jagger solo rendition of ‘Rolling Stones Blues’ is no more than a shadow- like reminiscence of MUDDY WATER’S’ timeless original.
“Hackney Diamonds” was bound to be difficult to review given to the all the hype surrounding it, and it is a mixed bag, but when it’s good it’s very good indeed – who would have believed that The Rolling Stones would still be producing records like this so many years on?