Album reviews: The Rolling Stones | Cara J Easton | Incognito

Rock’n’roll has become an all-ages game, and the octegenarian Rolling Stones still excel in their field, writes Fiona Shepherd

The Rolling Stones: Hackney Diamonds (Polydor) ****

Carla J Easton: Sugar Honey (Olive Grove Records) ***

Incognito: Into You (Splash Blue) ***

The Rolling Stones PIC: Mark SeligerThe Rolling Stones PIC: Mark Seliger
The Rolling Stones PIC: Mark Seliger

Back in the Eighties, The Rolling Stones were regularly pilloried as rock dinosaurs – middle-aged bed blockers in a young person’s game, move over granddad and dig the new breed, etc, etc. Some 40 years later, it’s hard to find any musicians who hope they die before they get old – rock’n’roll has become an all-ages game and the octegenarian Stones still excel in their field.

Hackney Diamonds, their first album of new material since A Bigger Bang in 2005, was recorded fresh off their latest world tour, with sterling production from Andrew Watt and a guest list which reflects their status as rock royalty – Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney and Elton John all on speed dial. Best of all, Hackney Diamonds features the last recordings by their late gentleman drummer Charlie Watts. Meanwhile, the core surviving Stones – Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and especially Mick Jagger – sound like they are raging against the dying of the light, or at least about girl trouble.

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First single Angry does not sound like the work of senior citizens, with Jagger drawling an irascible appeal to cool the beans as the track develops into a right rootsy racket. The simple, direct strut, attitude and tunefulness are unmistakeable. They continue to let it hang out on snotty overture Get Close, Bite My Head Off – a companion piece to Angry – which fizzes with punk energy and Macca bass, and Jagger remembers he’s a London lad on the post-punk snarl of Whole Wide World, while Richards and Wood engage in an invigorating guitar duel.

In tasty contrast, gnarly country rocker Depending On You displays a degree of vulnerability, even if Jagger reckons he’s “too young for dying”, while the brooding country blues of Dreamy Skies captures a rough and ready vibe.

Carla J EastonCarla J Easton
Carla J Easton

Watts appears on two tracks. Mess It Up whoops it up in early Eighties Stones style, alternating a Start Me Up choppiness with the pop catchiness of the chorus, while Live By the Sword – also featuring former bassist Bill Wyman – is a caveman roadhouse stomp with handclaps and hollering.

Richards sounds great fronting Tell Me Straight, as querulous in his own way as Jagger, but allowing space for soulfulness before they unleash the seven-minute southern soul epic Sweet Sounds of Heaven, with Stevie Wonder on piano and Lady Gaga on stratospheric vocals, relishing her Merry Clayton moment.

How to follow this tour de force? By stripping it all back to basics with Jagger and Richards, the two original Stones, covering the song which inspired their name, Muddy Waters’ Rolling Stone Blues.

Carla J Easton keeps the pure pop flag flying on her latest album, the self-produced synthfest Sugar Honey, replete with vibrant candy coloured visuals. The title track is a look-but-don’t-touch catalogue of edible imagery inspired by fears for her safety on a walk home, You Made Us is a bittersweet tribute to her home city of Glasgow, and the finger-popping bubblegum Blooming 4U is enhanced by the Glad Foundation Kids’ Choir. In the spirit of bold stylistic decisions, One Week doubles down on its plasticky Eighties influences with a squawking sax solo, while lush pop torch song Weekend Lover could be mistaken for one of Madonna’s early ballads.


As the nights draw in, snuggle up with the nostalgic Nineties funk soul sound of Incognito, the veteran London-based acid jazz collective helmed by Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick. Their latest album Into You emanates easy listening vibes, with a mix of vocal tracks and instrumental jams, from the sleek Seventies soul of Reconcile the Pieces to the spiritual jazz of Come To Me, which favour the middle of the road rather than the cutting edge.


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Mozart: Mass in C Minor | CPE Bach: Heilig ist Gott (Linn) *****

The Dunedin Consort is nothing if not predictable, in that just about every disc it releases is a guaranteed revelation. This time, John Butt and his period musicians focus on Mozart’s Mass in C minor, a frustrating curiosity in the sense that Mozart, as with his later Requiem, failed to complete it. Nonetheless it harbours some of the composer’s grandest, most exhilarating music. What Mozart did complete was opulent, affirmative, a virtuosic display for soloists and chorus alike, with stylistic reference to his newfound discovery of late Baroque music. This recording uses Clemens Kemme’s forensic performance edition, viewed through the compact lens of Dunedin’s signature small forces, which intensifies the whole experience. Recorded in Perth Concert Hall, the ambience is warm and fulfilling, with a terrific team of soloists, including first-rate sopranos Lucy Crowe and Anna Dennis. CPE Bach’s idiosyncratic Heilig ist Gott is a well-considered coupling. Ken Walton


Paul Mottram: Seven Ages of Man (Ubuntu Music) ****

This richly toned suite for jazz sextet and string orchestra by TV and film composer Paul Mottram features the soprano sax of Tim Garland alongside pianist Jason Rebello and Jonny Mansfield on vibes, bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado, drummer Ralph Salmins and percussionist Paul Clarvis. Shakespeare’s infant-to-old-age chronology expands to nine movements, and from its haunting solo opening strains in Origins to the stately resolution of Old Age, Garland’s soprano sax twines beguilingly through the shimmer of strings, escorted empathetically by Rebello and Mansfield, as in the dreamlike Gestation movement. Piano and vibes add brio to the jaunty progress of Schoolboy, Rebello sets the scene elegantly for Lover, which becomes increasingly vivacious with sax and vibes, while Garland’s bass clarinet pooters about the fitfully stalking Pantaloon, with sumptuous string echoes of Autumn Leaves. Some jazz purists may shake their heads, but this is a thing of beauty nonetheless. Jim Gilchrist

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