Album Review: Keith Richards – Crosseyed Heart

Rock legend produces a passingly entertaining collection of harmless ditties

album cover 598×600 ★★★☆☆

Crosseyed Heart is distinctly unremarkable, except for the fact that it continues to prove the improbable: Keith Richards is still alive, and can still perform music. Making jokes about the Rolling Stones’ age and their relentless “farewell” touring schedule is a popular rigmarole, but Keith has always proved himself to be the most articulate and accessible of all the Stones, despite his extensive history of being totally and completely strung out. Here are fifteen tracks of conservative length, showing that Keith can still write and record some pleasing melodies away from the entirely corporate exercise that the Stones have become.

A few of these tracks, most notably the opener, take on a sparse and gritty character that is clearly a direct homage to the Delta blues legends who formed such an important textbook for Richards, Page, Beck, Hendrix and so on, but these are the least interesting tracks. While the performances are competent, these renditions remind me of Hugh Laurie’s musical (mis)adventures: made with genuine admiration of the musical DNA, but without any emotional or contextual authority over the material. The most memorable moments on Crosseyed Heart are when the rich arrangements and instrumental interplay of Richards’ best Rolling Stones material come to the fore, on tracks like “Trouble” and “Love Overdue”. Keith has ever been the master of weaving guitar lines together and playing them off against one another as well as against auxiliary instrumentation like horns and strings. It is when you notice this quiet, understated artistry that sits behind all of his better compositions that you realise that you are still, after all this time, listening to a master at work.

Unfortunately that masterful arrangement has never operated on all of Richards’ compositions, and that rule applies here. With Crosseyed Heart, Keith has only narrowly beaten the Rolling Stones’ average of having roughly 75% of every album consist of totally unmemorable filler. Songs like “Goodnight Irene” and “Suspicious” really just kill time, which is unnecessary for an album that already contains too many songs. It’s fair to say that nobody expects a retirement album like this to be show-stopping or “important”, but Crosseyed Heart plays out like an ensemble cast romantic comedy: everyone obviously had great fun making it, but as a result the product itself isn’t worth much more than a passing chuckle to the audience. It’s pleasant for a Stones fan to continue a dialogue with Keith through this album, and good to see that he still has musical legs, but I’m not holding my breath for another one: I’d rather watch his next inevitable appearance on a rockumentary.

14 comments

  1. Your review of Crosseyed Heart is fair and seemingly well thought out, but you should have concentrated on that. Your ” 75% of every Rolling Stones album consists of unmemorable filler” turns the whole review into a joke. I suggest you clean the dirt out of your ears and listen to all stones albums that came out up until “Some Girls”, excluding “their satanic majesties request” and “black and blue” which even the most die-hard stones fans will tell you were not very good.

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  2. 12 Oct ’15 at 5:28 pm

    Brian Wakefield

    While your review is reasonable, it should be pointed out The Rolling Stones have never, not once ever, gone on a farewell tour. They have never broken up, or reunited to go on a reunion tour. (You must be thinking of the Who.)They have just kept going.
    You have obviously never listened too a full Stones album. (See mike gilroy post).
    They also had some damn fine albums post some girls. Tatoo You, Voodoo Lounge, A Bigger Bang.
    Do a little research.

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  3. I find this review betraying certaining generalised statements about Stones albums, which are subjective, so lacking gravitas.

    As for as Goodnight Irene – being a ‘filler’, it is a classic Leadbelly song, which is a for-runner of much contemporary music, and a template for Rural Blues. It’s context is that KR pays homage to one of the foundations of contemporary music. The more I think about it, the more this review seems totally misinformed.

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    • Just wanted to get my side in here, in case anyone is still reading this. Of course it’s subjective, it’s a music review, that’s the whole point. I know Goodnight Irene is a cover, but I thought Keith’s rendition was exceedingly dull and was overshadowed by the more interesting stuff elsewhere on the album. And for the others, I obviously have listened to Rolling Stones albums, which is how I know (or THINK, as this is my opinion, as it is an authored review, not a statement of objective fact) that the majority of Stones albums have 3 or 4 barnstorming singles and 6 or 7 songs making up time. They have a strong back catalogue because they wrote so many fantastic singles, but they were certainly never an album-focused band like Zep or Floyd.

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  4. Hey man , it’s like , KEEF , dude ! ‘n’ like , KEEF is KEEF , man ! He’s a ROCK star ! He’s THE rock star ! He ROCKS , dude ! He da MAN ! Rilly ! Fer Sher !

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  5. This album is GREAT! Good Night Irene is SO SWEET!!!

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  6. the reviewer is obviously not very intelligent. he should stick to reviewing top 20 music serious deep music that has actual soul and vibrancy. I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed for the reviewer.

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  7. 13 Oct ’15 at 4:43 am

    Lawrence Mullin

    This new CD from Keith is raw, honest, ripe with wonderful melodies and soul. This review is the passing chuckle.

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  8. 75% filler on most Rolling Stones albums… ? With a handful of the greatest albums ever made (Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Beggars Banquet and Exile on Main Street ….and possibly one or two others), five or six excellent albums, several at least albums and some that were average … As well in probably the most vast catalog of all Rock acts with some quite strong albums even in this, their twilight (Voodoo Lounge… A Bigger Bang… even the more daring Bridges To Babylon is a quality record) .. I am having a hard time swallowing their albums were 75% ‘filler’. Stones albums are ‘works’ … pieces .. that stand the test of time through the decades. They are not single heavy collections (though they always have an adequate amount of singles in every release). 75% filler?…. Mmmmmmm that is almost an unfair statement as much as it is inaccurate.

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  9. Needless to say that some of the above comments that critique the ‘subjective’ nature of the reviewers comment on ‘75% filler’ are in fact based on absolute nonsense… ‘greatest albums ever made’ – not one of the Stones albums beat any records on album or single sales so looking at statistics alone to defend the writer; we should all listen to the artistic Merit of Susan Boyle’s vocal harmonies! … I jest. But I agree it has been the case for many years that well known artists/bands feel the need to churn out albums to attempt to compete with the fastest ever growing period for the music industry. I certainly have noticed some disappointing tracks from artists I would expect better from to fill out albums….are they ‘selling out’? With the accessibility of more variety than ever before the old bands who had their day of ‘ruling the roost’ have to continue to release albums to stay ‘remembered’ with the younger generations…is it unsurprising if they are rushing to get the content out to keep their name floating around peoples short terms memories and still visible deep in audience’s expansive spotify playlists – this year alone The Rolling Stones have released two new albums, one a homage to their ‘golden old days of 1971’ and one new material….I find it unsurprising that the reviewer thinks some tracks are ‘filler’, and actually on this occasion sympathise with this view….its such a shame to see that some bands do it, and feel the need to…..Right time to stick dust off the I Dreamed a Dream….

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