Rolling Stones, The - Hackney Diamonds (Oakland Athletics Vinyl)

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Sometime after the Rolling Stones wrapped up their 2022 tour -- the second they completed since the 2021 death of their drummer Charlie Watts -- Mick Jagger decided the band had spent enough time working on their first record of original material since 2005's A Bigger Bang. Jagger gave Keith Richards, the only other surviving founding member of the Stones left in the band, a deadline of Valentine's Day 2023 for wrapping up the sessions that had been dragging on for years. The ultimatum worked: by October of that year, the Stones released Hackney Diamonds, their first collection of new songs in 18 years. The album doesn't entirely consist of material the Stones cut early in 2023 -- two tracks feature Charlie Watts, including "Live by the Sword," which has original bassist Bill Wyman guesting on a Stones record for the first time in 30 years -- yet it bears the unmistakable imprint of a record delivered on a deadline. There's little hesitation, no thoughtful pondering here: Hackney Diamonds just barrels ahead with a clean efficiency. Although they're largely working with a new producer -- Andrew Watt, who came recommended by Paul McCartney -- the Rolling Stones don't attempt new tricks anywhere on Hackney Diamonds, save maybe "Whole Wide World," whose bizarre neo-new wave vibe gets odder thanks to Jagger singing in an exaggerated cockney accent. Even that is a slight nod to the band's mall-rat rock of the early '80s, one of many different guises the Rolling Stones adopt over the course of Hackney Diamonds. While a good portion of the record is devoted to straight-ahead rock & roll, they also find space for ragged country ("Dreamy Skies") and acoustic blues ("Rolling Stone Blues"), not to mention "Sweet Sounds of Heaven," a showstopping ballad featuring Lady Gaga. That track is a good indication of how Hackney Diamonds plays. At first, it seems like a solid evocation of "Beast of Burden," but it's a slow burn, a song that sounds stronger with each repeated listen. So is of the rest of Hackney Diamonds. Because it has no grand conceptual hook and because the Stones so thoroughly integrate their superstar guests -- not only are Gaga and Wyman here but so are Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and McCartney -- it doesn't overwhelm upon an initial listen the way the lengthy Voodoo Lounge or A Bigger Bang do; that small scale is its strength. At its heart, it's nothing more than the Rolling Stones knocking out some good Rolling Stones songs, which seems like a minor miracle after such a long wait.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS VINYL

Angry
Get Close
Depending On You
Bite My Head Off
Whole Wide World
Dreamy Skies
Mess It Up
Live By The Sword
Driving Me Too Hard
Tell Me Straight
Sweet Sounds Of Heaven
Rolling Stone Blues