My Latest Favorite Song #32: Rolling Stones, Hackney Diamonds

So, there’s a new Rolling Stones album out. And it’s good! I honestly didn’t expect that. I saw them in 2021, and Keith was terrible. I couldn’t even finish listening to the last album by The Who. 80-year old classic rock masters of the past do not have a great record. But dang, this is a good album. One nice thing about Mick’s voice — since he’s never been a Freddie Mercury type, the old Mick doesn’t sound all the different than the younger Mick. Smaller distance to fall.

I’ll call out two tracks, and they happen to be the last two tracks of the album. Maybe because they aren’t trying to be hits, they actually have more of the magic.

Sweet Sounds of Heaven:

Nothing like simple chords done well. Musically, this is a simple song, your basic V IV I structure. That just shows you how real musical talent works. Stevie Wonder plays great piano, and Lady Gaga is just incredible on vocals.

The best section is at 5:15 when everything goes minimalist. It sounds as if the song was over but they just kept going. That may be true, Stevie Wonder has done it before… but either way, it sounds beautiful stripped down (similar to another great minimalist classic of theirs, I Got the Blues), and then when the full arrangement comes back in, it’s that much stronger. Great tune! (Here’s a live version.)

Rolling Stones Blues:

This here is what we call closure. Way back when, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger got to be best buddies when Keith saw Mick on the subway with this record. They bonded over their love for the blues. This song is where the name “Rolling Stones” comes from, it’s the genesis of the band and their career.

And here we are many years later, and finally they record it themselves. Appropriately, it is just Mick on vocals and harmonica, and Keith on guitar. (I believe that’s an amplified acoustic guitar, similar to Gimme Shelter.) No one else, just two fans of the blues playing the pure blues.

If this proves out to be to be the last track of their last album, it will be a fitting one, coming full circle.

My Latest Favorite Song #31: Ben Folds – Cologne

I’ve seen Ben Folds around six times in all kinds of different formats. It’s discouraging how he faded from the national view after Brick, because that’s not even one of the top 20 songs in his career.

I didn’t much care for this album (Way To Normal) despite it’s decent performance, but Cologne is a wonderful song (and the prelude, Before Cologne) to melt into.

Although verse two is lyrically awkward. The conceit of two people reading the same article continents apart is wonderful. But the particular story simply doesn’t fit the song at all, and the syllables have to jammed in, breaking the phrasing. It’s one part of the song that breaks you out.

If you want to see talent at work, watch one of the many videos of Ben Folds improvising/writing a new song live, usually with a symphony orchestra.