The Rolling Stones, a concert critic dismissively observed in the London Times, are "old men . . . over the hill."
And that, folks, was in 1975. You can imagine what some of the less than kind are saying in 1994. For 20 years later, the grizzled Stones (heck, they seemed grizzled in the '60s) are still haunting the studios and packing clubs and stadiums. Geezers they may be, but they remain sassy, defiant, fiftysomething codgers, if the new album "Voodoo Lounge" can be considered evidence.The once-heralded "greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world" does occasionally sound bone-weary on this, Jagger, Richards & Co.'s first studio album since 1989's "Steel Wheels." Nor do they break any new ground. Yet, while "Voodoo Lounge" offers little that's grade A fresh, the 62-minute reprise of various Stones styles and sounds can't be labeled "stale," either.
The unshakeable feeling after hearing the 15 tracks is one of deja vu all over again. Surprises are few and far between. But sometimes a good recipe is a good recipe.
The boys launch a couple of rousers for the new tour - the loose and honky-tonky "Love Is Strong," the headwagging roar of "You Got Me Rocking" (but we like it), and the raunch and swagger of "I Go Wild." All fit the imitative bill, without in the least threatening the rock thrones of progenitor tunes like "Brown Sugar," "Start Me Up" or even '89's "Rock and a Hard Place."
After the energetic opening, most of the album's midsection is pretty subdued for the Rolling Stones - as the tracks roll by you keep wondering when they're going to turn it up again. Keith Richards self-deprecatingly, perhaps accurately, croaks about how he's "The Worst" kind of guy for a gal to be around, Mick taps into the new kid in town theme of "New Faces" (with a '60s-ish harpsichord, no less) and laments with "Angie"-like angst about being "Out of Tears."
The band eventually revs up with the lascivious "Brand New Car," borders on country on "Sweethearts Together" and mixes its own R&B explorations with those of coproducuer Don Was' old group, Was (Not Was), on "Suck on the Jugular."
Throughout, the principle attribute of "Voodoo Lounge" is the old-clothes familiarity of a band whose members have been bouncing off one another for most of three decades. Jagger's vocals, remarkably, still convey a certain rooster cockiness and, well, dissatisfaction; the guitars of Richards and Ron Wood effortlessly toss off riff after jangling riff; Charlie Watts' drums color, punctuate and steady all the performances. Bill Wyman, of course, has bowed out of the Stones lineup, and was replaced on most of the "Voodoo" tracks by session bassist Darryl Jones.
Despite its dependence upon the same old same old, "Voodoo Lounge" delivers the Rolling Stones. And after all these years and legions of pretenders, it's still true that no one does quite what they do better than they do it.
Here are the remaining Rolling Stones tour dates, as currently scheduled:
Aug. 12, 14-15, 17 East Rutherford, N.J.; Aug. 19-20 Toronto; Aug. 23, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Aug. 26, Madison, Wis.; Aug. 28, Cleveland; Aug. 30, Cincinnati.
Sept. 4-5, Boston; Sept. 7, Raleigh, N.C.; Sept. 9, East Lansing, Mich., Sept. 11-12 Chicago; Sept. 15-16, Denver; Sept. 18, Columbia, Mo.; Sept. 22-23, Philadelphia; Sept. 25, Columbia, S.C.; Sept. 27, Memphis, Tenn.; Sept. 29, Pittsburgh.
Oct. 1, Ames, Iowa; Oct. 7-8, New York; Oct. 11, New Orleans; Oct. 13, St. Louis; Oct. 16, San Antonio; Oct. 19, 22, Los Angeles; Oct. 26, Anaheim, Calif.; Oct. 28-29, Las Vegas; Oct. 31, Nov. 1, Oakland, Calif.;
Nov. 3, San Diego; Nov. 5, El Paso, Texas; Nov. 11, Little Rock, Ark.; Nov. 13, Houston; Nov. 16, Atlanta; Nov. 18-19 Dallas; Nov. 22, Tampa, Fla.; Nov. 25, Miami; Nov. 27, Gainesville, Fla.
Dec. 1, Detroit; Dec. 3, Toronto; Dec. 5, Montreal; Dec. 8, Syracuse, N.Y., Dec. 11, Minneapolis; Dec. 15, Seattle; Dec. 17, Vancouver, B.C.