THE ALBUM -- The Rolling Stones, "Emotional Rescue," Rolling Stones Records (COC 16015).
Still the bad boys of rock music as they approach middle age, The Rolling Stones show no signs of reforming on their new album, "Emotional Rescue." In the face of one song's knowing message -- "life just goes on and on/getting harder and harder" -- the band rocks into its 17th year with undiminished energy.
Call him consistent: Jumping Jack Flash proves again that time is on his side. On this album, Mick Jagger continues the contagious rhythms and macho gibes that he's strutted to stardom. As updated Chuck Berry dance music, "Emotional Rescue" definitely pulls the punches that have made the Stones the world's favorite rock band. But this collection, released two years after their last effort ("Some Girls"), says more about their longevity than about any new direction in rock music.
Whether incorporating reggae, disco or blues, the Stones manage to inject their familiar stinging rock style into each cut. Never lacking their trademark sass, they demonstrate incredible versatility, and at the same time preserve a characteristic sound: beyond Jagger's posings, the beat is what they are about.
Ultimately, the title cut is the standout, with Jagger's put-on Bee-Gee falsetto set to a disco pace, plus an automaton soliloquy: "I will be your knight in shining armor, coming to your emotional rescue. . ." As ususal, there is as much acting as singing involved in his feigning vocals.
Another hot track, "Sent It to Me," features Bill Wyman on bass and Keith Richards on guitar creating tight Amaican rhythms, with drummer Charlie Watt's backbeat giving the reggae an edge. Throuhout the lp, the supporting cast, traditinally in Jagger's shadow, play the highest calibre sax, piano and guitar in a funky mesh. The sole embarrassment is Richard's dreary vocal on an otherwise pretty ballad, "All About You." He's not as lovable as Jagger and next to Richard's scratchy pipes, ven Dylan sounds like a smooth crooner.
Now and then there's a faint familiarity about the new songs. For instance, the slow strum on "Indian Girl" echoes the tame opening of "You Can't Always Get What You Want." And the bluesy "Down in the Hole" seems a lesser version of Jagger's earlier white-soul vocals.
But the rocking-out dance tunes on "Emotional Rescue" are up to fans' expectations. On "Let Me Go," a driving number tinged with country twangs, Jagger brushes off a lover with his old get-off-my-cloud manners. "You're gonna get it straight from the shoulder/Can't you see the party's over?/Let me go." Tough-guy harmonies are backed by pedal steel guitar runs and piston-like drum rolls. Along with "Where the Boys Go," a racing rocker about Saturday night out with the guys, this is the type of Stones funk that offends some feminist sensibilities. But after all, these aren't as brutal as many earlier Stone songs (remember "Stupid Girl"?), and as good-time rockers, they need no apology.
In the end, the loud fast numbers carry the album to another Glimmer Twins success. It's a heady mix, guaranteed to win over anyone with a rock'n'roll pulse.