The Rolling Stones - Dirty Work
There can be little doubt that, after over twenty years in the business, the Stones had settled on a formula which worked for them, even if it had become a little worn out for everyone else. Most of the time, this album consists of formulaic rock and roll which rarely rises above the mediocre. It is probably my least favourite Stones' album, though as my earlier thoughts on the matter indicate, a poor Stones album is better than the best album by many other artists.
What doesn't help is the awful archetypal eighties cover art on the album. The Stones lying around in bright colours, slumped as if bored over a sofa and a floor, is not up to the innovative standards which adorned some of the earlier album covers. Yet it is said that middle age takes its toll on a man, and there can be no doubt that middle age was exacting its revenge for all the drugs and the excesses of the band's earlier years, collectively and individually.
It could easily be argued that the Stones should have packed it in by now and taken a well deserved retirement. Mick seems to have lost some of the edge to his voice while Keef sometimes comes across as if he can't be bothered. The album is not helped by the production, and I have had cause elsewhere to single out Steve Lillywhite for production techniques which spoil an album. The man should not be let anywhere near a mixing desk in my opinion.
But once you strip away these negative ideas what are you left with? In essence this is a reasonable collection of Stones tracks, though not one you will remember for a long time. "Back to Zero" is perhaps the nadir of the Stones entire output, a weak effort at political comment clearly directed at Messers. Reagan and Gorbachev, neither of whom listened to the Stones and neither of whom would have taken a blind bit of notice of them even if they did. "Harlem Shuffle" is simply filler, while other tracks, such as "Sleep Tonight" is a rather weak Keith Richard ballad. With Mick out trying to make it as a solo artists, Keith was simply unable on his own to pick up the mantle of Stones leader without his other Glimmer Twin, and it shows.
Having said that, there is one outstanding track which shows that, even at this low point in their career, they still had it in them. The album starts off (as is so often the case with the later Stones' albums) with a stormer. Indeed, strange as it may seem, "One Hit to the Body" is one of my favourite Stones tracks - yes it is that good. Some of the rest may be a little weak, but then consistency has not been an accusation you could level at the Stones for some years now.
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