Black and Blue was released in 1976 and was a departure for the Rolling Stones. Teaming up with keyboardist extrodinaire, Billy Preston the Stones produced an album that was gobbled up by fans and went to number 1 in the United States.
The album opens with “Hot Stuff” which is the band’s first foray into a disco, hard funk sound. Percussion added to Charlie Watts drumming gives the song a fullness. Bill Wyman funks it up on bass and Mick Jagger sounds great. The song is a precursor to music the band more fully explored on Some Girls with Miss You. The song was released as a single but didn’t make the top 10 on Billboard’s charts.
“Hand Of Fate” is a nice bluesy rocker that has an Exile On Main Street feel to it. The song is one of those Stone’s filler songs that still clicks and is still worth a listen thirty five years later.
“Cherry Oh Baby” is a reggae song written by Eric Donaldson. The Stone’s stay true to the original and actually make a more than passable reggae band. The band enjoyed reggae music and wanted to do a cover.
“Memory Motel” is one of the great ballads in Rock and Roll history. Both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards take a turn at lead vocals and even with a length of seven minutes the song never feels like it goes on to long. With Richards focusing on his singing guitar duties fell to Harvey Mandel, of Canned Heat and Wayne Perkins both of whom were auditioning to take Mick Taylor’s place.
“Hey Negrita” is Ron Wood’s first contribution to the band. Taking from a guitar riff he had developed the song has a scratchy jam feel to it. The band has a funky Latin feel to it and is quite danceable.
“Melody” has a mention in the liner notes as inspired by Billy Preston. The song feels like it could fit in anywhere in Preston’s solo work. The song has a nice soulful bluesy feel although it never really goes anywhere.
“Fool To Cry” was the album’s big single. It never made number one but was popular and was all over the radio. Along with Memory Motel, the album’s other big ballad, it showed a certain amount of maturity for the band. The lead guitar work is Wayne Perkins who was strongly being considered as Mick Taylor’s replacement.
The album closes with “Crazy Mama” which comes across as derivative of so much else of the Stone’s work. It meanders along never really coming to a satisfying conclusion.
Black and Blue though not a classic must have Stone’s album is still pretty good. If you didn’t want to purchase the album you’re pretty well covered if you just get your hands on Memory Motel, Hot Stuff and Fool To Cry.
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