Time Changes Everything

I wrote a blog a while ago about the pleasure of music in the most general sense when I actually sat down and did nothing else except listen to an entire album – The Rolling Stones Let it Bleed (1969) in a deserted tropical beach-front bar rather than just listening to a random selection from Music – Songs – Shuffle in the library on my phone or desktop which is what I usually do. I don’t know when I last listened to the full album but the same eerie memory of dread from that time remained. I’ve always enjoyed the Rolling Stones but gradually became more attuned, I think, to Keith Richards, lead guitarist, some writer and half of the writing duo the Glimmer Twins with his lifelong friend and musician Mick Jagger. So when Richards produced his first solo album Talk is Cheap back in 1988 or thereabouts, I bought it as a cassette, long since lost of course. Main Offender (1992) was next and I bought that on CD – and still have it! Vintage Vinos (2010) was next and somebody gave me a copy and I have just come across Richards’ latest and third solo studio album, Crosseyed Heart (2015).

So it was with some expectation when I recently bought – actually bought – among other things*, – both his Talk is Cheap and Crosseyed Heart albums which I listened to on an actual physical CD player.  Of course I have already transferred them into iTunes on my phone and desktop but I enjoy looking at the cd insert and, the first few times anyway, reading the lyrics and details of backup vocalists and session musicians while listening to the words. I don’t know, is it weird to actually sit down and listen to an entire and specific music CD? I mean, you sit down, usually, to read a book or newspaper or to watch a movie, for example. You do these things attentively in that you don’t read a book while exercising or watch a movie while driving a car! 

So, why does listening to music feel different?  Or does it? Is it me? Whether it is or not doesn’t matter because that is what I have started doing recently! {Is it an old man thing, like The Father?}

A big contrast to the way I usually consume music – on my headphones, any time of the day or night and usually while I am doing something else, like walking or cooking or listening to the radio while driving. 

I don’t have Spotify nor do I buy music on the App Store so, rather than some abstract stream, download or view of music, the physical items are anticipated and their arrival is always welcomed with surprise or excitement. I must be reverting to the teenage years when hip kids would walk around with collections of artistically covered LPs under their arms. 

Similar to the two other CD’s I bought recently (more about them later, maybe**), the two most recent acquisitions are the first and the most recent (or last?) album of a singer, in the twilight, as it were, of his 78 years or so.

Anyway, I thought I’d look for a common theme – love, lost, or just get on with it? – in Talk is Cheap (1988) conveys the Richards philosophy of sure, life is hard so toughen up!

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Not a great man for a soft heart, his take no prisoners approach to his world fending off unwanted advances but in Make no Mistake along with the featured vocalist, Sarah Dash, my heart was swept away be by lyrics like ‘No words can convey your lips melting into mine /… I’ve made up my mind about you’/. I sensed, nevertheless, an implied threat lurked there for whoever not to screw up this time in ‘I’m talking to ya baby / Make no mistake.’

The cynical anger in You Don’t Move Me ‘It’s better that you kill the light / You’re giving us all a fright’ is picked up later in Crosseyed Heart’s Blues in the Morning ‘Got a picture of your face and I hold it up to the light / But on a good day, baby, it sure gives me a fright.’

How I wish is the only love song on the entire cd with lyrics like ‘If I could see you, Oh just now and then / If I could feel you, I’d do my time again / Oh Honey, honey, honey, Yeah’.

In my stiffened and arthritic form, the slow, hypnotism of songs like Rockawile with Sarah Dash again and Locked Away with Waddy Wachtel on guitars welcomes me into an entranced gentle swaying exercise!

A justification of his hard-nosed attitude to society in general is Richards’ determination to live and enjoy the little things in life and if that is not good enough, too bad!

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Mocking society nearly three decades later with Crosseyed Heart, the third studio album in 2015 with the X-Pensive Winos, ambiguously named, I feel, Richards’ devil-may-care attitude soars for a while with short bursts like the title track Crosseyed Heart ‘Oh, she’s a sweetheart but she drives me round the bend / I go round the corner and find another friend’ and Nothing on Me  I’m walking out the door / Cause you got nothing on me, nothing on me.but begins to waver between not caring at unsatisfactory love to a sneering disdain in Trouble ‘Even though you are still inside I can get you off the hook / But I know when I get you out I won’t get a second look … Too much trouble’.

Old Age has brought doubts and fears too and wild swings between desperation in Love Overdue ‘And now I am a prisoner of loneliness … I don’t know just what to do, honey, yeah’ to an accusatory tone in SuspiciousNo matter what you do I’m still a part of you / You will never be free of me / … I told you from the start you better barricade that heart’.

As Sarah Dash took featured vocals in  Make No Mistake so too does Norah Jones takes lead vocals in a sublime duet with Richards in Illusions on this latest album.

Resignation in later years sinks in too  as in ‘I’m here if you want me’ sort of thing in Just a Gift. One of the most extraordinary things though about both the first and most recent albums is Richards’ ability to code switch, not just with his guitar skill but with his vocal range so much so that in Goodnight Irene, the old Ledbelly song from 1936, he transforms himself  into a southern Blues singer rather than the Londoner he was born.

The last two tracks, Substantial Damage and Lover’s Plea seemed amazed at the inappropriateness of the relationship along with a puzzled annoyance as to why his love is not trusted.

Superb guitar, vocals and backing from a host of wonders among the X-Pensive Winos, together on all three studio albums, with contrasting views expressed on the same topic  in his youth through the eyes of a contemporary songwriter, poet, guitar riff player and connsumate survivor. Well done Keef!

* IMG_4032

** You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen 2016

** Rough and Rowdy Ways & Murder Most Foul – Bob Dylan 2020

Author: serkeen

I am Irish, currently living in West Australia. I have a degree in Old & Middle English, Lang & Lit and, despite having worked in Kuwait, Italy, Malaysia, USA, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong over the last 40 years, I have a strong interest in Ireland’s ancient pre-history and the heroes of its Celtic past as recorded in the 12th and late 14th century collection of manuscripts, collectively known as The Ulster Cycle. I enjoy writing historical novels, firmly grounded in a well-researched background, providing a fresh and exciting look into times long gone. I have an empathy with the historical period and I draw upon my experiences of that area and the original documents. I hope, by providing enough historical “realia” to hook you into a hitherto unknown – or barely glimpsed - historical period.

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