Ronnie Wood was always at his best as a sideman, and not a front man. Someone who’s singing voice possessed all the timbre of a flat fart, along with a countenance that had about as much appeal to it as a face on Mount Rushmore. However Ronnie has personality, and more than enough talent to justify his existence. Whether that was playing alongside Jeff Beck (a major talent), The Faces, or The Rolling Stones, a gig which he still has to this day, and rightly so. In other words, second fiddle was his niche, no matter who he was performing with at the time. But by 1974, Wood obviously decided that he had a few things to say, hence the title of his first solo album, “I’ve Got My Own Album to Do”, a record that literally reeks of booze, cigarette smoke, and no doubt the odd illicit substance thrown in for good measure. Yet he clearly understood that he couldn’t have made it happen without a little help from his friends. And what friends they are. How many records these days can boast a cast such as this: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ian McLagan, Mick Taylor, Rod Stewart, and even George Harrison. Now that’s a pretty impressive roll call in anyone’s estimation.
So sit back, pour yourself a large Bacardi and Rum, Scotch and Coke, beer, cocaine, whatever takes your fancy, and imagine you’re at Ronnie’s house, having a good time, chilling to the music, while enjoying the warm hospitality of your host, the ever congenial and convivial Mr. Ron Wood.
First up is “I Can Feel the Fire”, a track where Jagger and David Bowie lend their vocal talents. The song has a nice groove to it, and a fine introduction to what follows. “Far East Man” has George Harrison written all over it, in fact he wrote it, and later made a version of his own. Imagine “All Things Must Pass” recorded with The Faces as his backing group. On “Mystifies Me” Wood’s voice fails to hit the mark, like when someone lets off in the elevator, which is not to say that the song doesn’t have a certain element of soul and sentiment.
“Take A Look At the Guy” is nothing more than rock and roll by numbers, although some of Wood’s guitar hints at what he would be doing with The Stones, especially on Some Girls. McLagan’s organ is all over “Act Together”, which is in itself a crap song, full of poor vocals by Ronnie. There are moments where it sounds like an outtake from Exile On Main Street, thanks mainly to the gospel backing and sloppy-but-tight rhythm section.
“Am I Grooving You” is another track where the groove seems more important than the song itself. Jagger not only sings but also blows some bluesy harmonica along the way – more of a jam than anything else. We visit the Caribbean via Chicago on “Shirley”, where once again Ronnie impresses us with his vocal qualities. To be fair, the tune has its virtues, at least from a musical perspective, though where’s Eric Clapton? Because this is just the sort of laidback boozed-out tune he would have been perfect on. “Sure the One You Need” has some decent playing, yet little else to retain the listener’s attention.
The Faces inspired “Sure the One You Need” is more entertaining and contains some of those classic riffs Ronnie is famous for. No wonder Keith wanted him in the Stones after the departure of Mick Taylor. Richards’ voice wasn’t all that much superior to Wood’s, but who cares when everyone’s no doubt having a blast. Rod Stewart drops in on the sloppy yet soulful “If You Gotta Make A Fool of Somebody”. My personal opinion is that Ronnie should have allowed Rod to sing lead, and kept his own mouth shut (and maybe Richards’ too).
The instrumental “Crotch Music” keeps the party vibe going, in a rock-fusion kind of way, mind you in what direction I just don’t know. Once again, this is an album which is merely concerned with drinking and jamming (in that order no doubt) and tomorrow be damned. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the intake of drugs and alcohol was so monumental that hardly anyone would’ve given a second thought as to what they were doing.
With such an array of talent, one might have expected more in terms of song writing, but that’s OK, because if nothing else, I’ve Got My Own Album to Do is first and foremost a party album, which means that the listener’s expectations should never be too high nor range too far. That everyone involved must have had an extraordinary time making it comes across in every riff and note played throughout. It’s not a great album by any stretch of the imagination, though an enjoyable one all the same. Ultimately, what the listener makes of it, I guess depends on how many drinks they’ve had.