Keith Richards – Crosseyed Heart
Keith Richards – rock ‘n’ roll guitarist, legend, living heroin syringe – has not released many solo efforts in his career. Part of this is probably due to the fact that the endless tour of his day band keeps him occupied. Part of it is probably how unutterably bad Mick Jagger’s solo albums are, and not wanting to ever release something that might be on that level. There are, in fact, only three: Talk Is Cheap, recorded just before the band got their act back together at the end of the Eighties; Main Offender, recorded just before the Voodoo Lounge sessions and the rebirth of the band’s artistic credibility; and now Crosseyed Heart, released ten years after the Stones’ best album since Tattoo You and with vague rumours of a new Stones album in the works.
Crosseyed Heart has a lot of problems. First of all, it’s too long at nearly an hour and fifteen tracks. Secondly, it relies too heavily on Richards’ voice, an instrument that has it’s own warm, whisky-scratched charm but doesn’t hold a candle to Jagger. Thirdly, while the album is mostly mid-tempo Ageing Boomer Rock, there are some regrettable deviations into styles the Stones already tried and ditched (such as the overlong and lazily presented reggae diversion of “Love Overdue”, or the pseudo-Tom Waits delivery of “Suspicious”). There’s very little guitar flash here, save for the tough acoustic Robert Johnson riffing of the brief title track and a few almost-riffs here and there. Instead, we’re offered the same sort of AOR that every other former star of the Sixties and Seventies seems to think passes for Upstanding Professional Rock Music; that is to say, it’s boring as all hell.
Worst of all is that I can discern a point to the album. Most artists use solo albums as an outlet for music that doesn’t fit with their band or that could be deemed more experimental than their band’s fanbase could handle. Failing that, it’s a good way for an artist to abandon a sinking ship and stake claim on a name of their own. In the former example, none of this is stuff that the Stones’ older fanbase wouldn’t be able to handle; the real deal here is that the material on Crosseyed Heart is by and large too syrupy and flavourless to ever pass muster on a Rolling Stones album (save for “Goodnight Irene”, which could maybe be an outtake from the Beggars Banquet sessions). In the latter example, there’s no furthering Richards’ reputation here. He’s already about as famous as he’s going to get. The Rolling Stones are under no threat of disbanding (according to the rest of them it’s Charlie Watts’ decision anyway) and there’s absolutely no need for him to separate himself from the band, especially on this uninspired group of songs. So what gives? Why do Boomers feel the need to put out albums that don’t say anything or mean anything? Aside from contractual obligation I can’t think of a single reason as to why Crosseyed Heart needs to exist, at all.