Could they still impress?
There’s a moment that occurs somewhere between anticipation and attainment. It can be brief & fleeting. Or it can feel like an age.
It’s when you’re 2 scores up, with 2 minutes on the clock. Safe & relieved. The game’s in the bag.
We’ve all dithered over menu choices, terrified our mates will make a better choice than us. This moment comes when your bubbling, oozy mac & cheese with pulled pork, with extra cheese is presented at your place opposite your friend’s over cooked beef with watery gravy and a limp leaf of kale. Result.
More than that. You’ve been on a handful of dates with someone who is clearly way out of your league. You’ve made an effort on each occasion with your dress; the choice of venue; your sharpest wit. You’ve thought before, ‘tonight’s the night’, but each time been rejected.
The moment between anticipation and attainment is when you risk your embarrassment again, utter those 8 small words – ‘do you want to come back to mine?’ and the response is unequivocal. The mouth says ‘OK’. The smile says ‘I’d love to’. The eyes say, ‘hell yes’.
It’s sad I know, but that’s pretty much the feeling I got when I heard the Rolling Stones were releasing a new blues album. The nervous confidence. The buzzing excitement. The near-certainty that you know you’re going to experience something fantastic.
I grew up listening to Little Walter and Lightnin’ Slim, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. My love for the blues is perhaps for a whole other blog. But it’s ingrained. Unrivalled by any other genre. It’s what I go back to time and time again if ever I veer slightly into uncomfortable musical territory and need to find my bearings.
And yet when I held Blue & Lonesome before listening to it for the first time, there was a niggle. Like the wait on the pitch ’til the final whistle goes. When they’re camped on your line for the last 90 seconds. A nagging, irrational, suggestion that you still might lose.
Until you actually taste that macaroni, there’s still a fear that the cheese won’t be strong enough, or the breaded crust won’t crunch. That the pork hasn’t been sufficiently pulled.
Even when you’re in the taxi back together after your date, nervously restraining yourselves while the tension builds to almost unbearable levels. You know there’s still a chance you’ll blow it.
There was always a slight possibility The Stones did this just for the money. That they’d become lazy and thrown together a dozen clichés so they could still claim to be ‘around’. Thankfully, the track list suggested otherwise. But could they still impress? Could they still make you smile, make you swagger? Could they really be bothered with it all any more? After listening to the album this week for the 5th time, the answer is clear – hell yes.
Ok, it’s not the perfect album. It takes a bit to get going and isn’t an instant crowd-pleaser. Its appeal grows massively by, say, the 3rd listen. The guitars roll and riff, brilliantly, in an understated way all the way through. The soloing comes a little late for me, but then I’m someone who secretly looks forward to the return of the 8-minute solo drowning out the rest of the band…but who would ever want to drown out this exceptional blues band.
Most strikingly I’d say, hats off to Jagger – in addition to a reminder that he really is a great blues singer at heart, his harp playing here is extraordinary, the stand out star of the show.
Mick, Keef, Ronnie & Charlie don’t need me or anyone else for that matter to say how good or bad their new album is. They’ve done it for themselves. And this blog isn’t a review or a critical appraisal, it’s an expression of how great accomplishments of music or writing make me feel. And Blue & Lonesome is a great accomplishment.
When you look back on those moments between anticipation and attainment, you laugh, and mock yourself. Tell yourself, ‘it was never in doubt!’ You inhale slightly more sharply and deeply than usual, filling yourself with something like pride. Your cheeks tingle slightly. Your shoulders lift. And finally, you relax. Rest easy.
How did this album make me feel? Seriously?! The Stones, doing a straight-up, old-school blues album? I felt like I’d been in the dressing room after winning the cup, drinking out of the trophy. I’d eaten a double helping of 4-cheese macaroni pimped with the sweetest pork that had been slow-cooked for 18-hours. Like I was sat up naked, in an unfamiliar bed with one arm behind my head slowly sucking on my second cigarette of the morning.
If you like The Rolling Stones, or you like the blues, or you just want to get up and dance around your living room flinging your arms around like you’re Mick Jagger, go and buy Blue & Lonesome.
Anticipate pleasure. Attain pure joy. And everything in between.