Keith rips it up on superb live LP
Let’s face it, Keith Richards is virtually indestructible. If the old adage ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is actually true, then clearly a life spent imbibing alcohol and hard drugs has obviously paid off. And let’s not forget the man’s penchant for bangers and mash, including healthy doses of bacon. Yep, Keith remains a scientific, biological anomaly no scientist has yet been able to explain, someone whose idea of detox is to get his nicotine intake down to just a pack a day, and a dozen bottles of Wild Turkey.
In the late ‘80s, with The Rolling Stones on hiatus, Richards embarked on a long overdue solo career, releasing Talk Is Cheap in 1988, an album brimming with classic primeval grooves and lyrics that could only have come from someone who had walked the walk and talked the talk. Most critics saw the LP as a return to form. David Fricke, writing for Rolling Stone, regarded it as “a masterpiece of underachievement.” So it should have come as no surprise that Richards’ next release would be a live one.
Live at the Hollywood Palladium, December 15, 1988 documents one hell of a show. Backed by the ever dependable X-Pensive Winos, Keith and Co. really do manage to pack a considerable punch in nearly every performance presented here.
“Take It So Hard,” off Talk Is Cheap, makes for a fine opener, with Keith’s Iron Age riffs and Steve Jordon’s precise Cro-Magnon drumming. Richards has always been a rhythm king, hence his strong affection for Charlie Watts’ time keeping. Just listen to the electric version of “Honky Tonk Women” where Watts starts off first, holding down the beat, before Richards comes in, where they interlock together. That drum-guitar combination is absolutely key to understanding The Stones’ dynamic. And so it is with The X-Pensive Winos, who have a dynamic of their own.
But this isn’t just about ol’ Keef; every member of the band has something to offer, adding a little spice to the mix. Singer Sarah Dash is excellent, particularly on “Make No Mistake” and “Time Is On My Side.” As for Keith, well his own vocals are pretty shit overall, but what he lacks in vocal strength Richards more than makes up for in sheer personality.
“How I Wish,” “I Could Have Stood You Up” and “Whip It Up” are all good time riff-rockers reminiscent of Exile, which possibly means that Richards had been holding back, and allowing Jagger to dominate the direction The Stones took following 1978’s Some Girls. On “Too Rude” Richards reveals his love of reggae, offers personal insights via the (one assumes) autobiographical “Locked Away,” before resurrecting the classic “Happy,” a song that represents Keef at his purist best. It must be said that Waddy Wachtel does a wonderful job on lead guitar, sounding earthy and vibrant all at the same time.
Live at the Hollywood Palladium is thoroughly commendable, and far better than 1991’s Flashpoint by The Stones, whose rock-by-numbers approach came across as sterile compared to this release. This album is proof of Keith’s importance to rock and roll, and a superb document in its own right. Any Stones fan should be proud to have it in their collection.