Crosseyed Heart – by Keith Richards
Keith Richards’ new solo album dropped on September 18. Called Crosseyed Heart, I must say the cover art, the name and the concept reminded me a little bit of the film Crazy Heart starting Jeff Bridges as an aging country music star. I was excited to listen to it all last week, hoping to get a write-up out to you as soon as possible. Of course like everyone else in the world I like the Rolling Stones, so of course I think Keith Richards is an amazing guitarist (although I have never paid much attention to his solo work).
I also didn’t read his recently popular book Life, although maybe I should have. It came out about six months after Patti Smith’s Just Kids which took me awhile to read, but was good enough to be fully distracting. So what I’m saying here is – I know enough about Keith to be intrigued and curious about his new album; but not enough to be a loyal, crazy, all-knowing fan that is going to write you an extremely detailed or insanely insightful review. At this point, I’m just writing it like I hear it! So let’s proceed.
A not-very-popular Rolling Stones album from 1994 included a surprisingly tender and un-offensive tune called “Sweethearts Together”. I was reminded of this song multiple times during my reviews of Keith’s new album, because his songs aren’t about booty and hookups – they’re about real relationships. Certain artists can write about love in a way that is actually rock n’ roll, and of course anyone affiliated with the Rolling Stones can pull this off. Sweethearts together forever!
With that said, some of the songs (lyrically speaking) had a “mature” feeling or sentiment that evoked memories of the Eagles’ post mid-life crisis relationship song, “Too Busy Being Fabulous”. Maybe we can’t all relate to the lyrics, but we can certainly all appreciate good driving guitars on memorable rock songs. Here are my initial thoughts on each track:
- “Crosseyed Heart” opens the album with your standard blues guitar fare. It is a slow head-shaking, toe-tapping, sitting on the corner type of song you would play on your guitar among friends.
- “When She Holds Me” breaks into the ROCK feeling a little bit – the guitar is rollicking and fun on this one, but there is a cell phone reference or two that gives an old fogey feel.
- “HeartStopper” is good – Keith evokes Mark Knopfler’s vocal stylings here, but this song includes the worst line of the album – “I didn’t even know the Titanic Sank”. An unfortunate example of very routine lyrics placed methodically along with the otherwise fine music.
- I just loved “Robbed Blind”! This particular song – theme, lyrics, and all – is so ludicrous it is hilarious and very funny in a dry way. I love lyrics like “they planned to screw me” delivered with such rich yet deadpan vocal intention.
- I noticed on the album cover that “Trouble” was the hit single. When I popped the album into the CD player I didn’t realize how easy it would be to identify the logical choice for a single – this song is catchy, fun, and has a great chorus (that almost seems a bit difficult for Keith to sing – this is way more melodic from a vocal perspective than most of the other lower and more growly tracks). The song itself is rocking and sassy, like a Chrissy Hinde delivery on a Pretenders hit.
- “Love Overdue” is all reggae beats and backing vocals, with a snazzy horn solo and Tommy James style throughout on the echoey vocals. I have no idea why this song isn’t actually called “Prisoner of Loneliness” but that’s just fine anyhow as-is.
- “Nothing on Me” is probably my 2nd favorite after “Trouble”. It is slower and more chill, like a song by the Wallflowers. But knowing Keith Richards’ long partying past, a song about how “they’ve got nothing on me” is tongue-in-cheek and kinda cute.
- “Suspicious” – is at once both dark and slow. Could be the token slow dance love song of the album? Grab a dance partner and/or get your lighters ready.
- “Blues in the Morning” – is about what you would expect. Just good guitars on a fun blues song. I don’t happen to enjoy blues as a genre very much (I know, heresy) but out of respect I will let it be known that there is nothing wrong with this track.
- “Something for Nothing” – Very much like a standard Rolling Stones track; a typical rock n’ roll song that is fairly catchy with rockin’ guitars, solos, and the ability to make you imagine those guys up on stage prancing around (and getting the whole sold-out arena to dance and clap along).
- “Illusion” is another Mark K. type of song, but this one is a duet with Norah Jones. She sounds really whisky-and-cigarette on this track, which is just perfect for the song.
- “Just a Gift” was puzzling to me. How is this really different from the earlier track “Suspicious”? I will have to double-check and listen to them both a few times more. Honestly I didn’t really want to listen to this very many times, it just wasn’t my favorite.
- “Goodnight Irene” is the old classic waltzing old-timey Leadbelly tune recorded yet again as a cover. Pleasant and depressing like it usually is, I wasn’t surprised at all when my Prius passengers fell asleep in the backseat during this song.
- “Substantial Damage” is awesome, because this is the perfect song name for a track on a Keith Richards album. I don’t even have to listen to the tune to like it – but I did, and I actually do. It is the funkiest on the album, with lot of spoken/shouted-word lyrics of actually fairly routine relationship concerns – like “I’m paying for dinner – and I might as well not be here” and “what ARE we doing together?”
- “Lover’s Plea” on an ending note was too slow for my taste; turning even to horns and corny backing lyrics at times did not help this case. The chorus theme of “this is my lover’s plea to you” sounded like someone with an enthusiastic David Bowie presence was dramatically crooning along to this cheesy sentiment.
I hate to be too rigid or prescriptive, but in my mind, 15 songs is way to long for almost any album – 12 is about perfect. I would get rid of #8 and #12 because they are so similar. Next I would axe either #15 “Lover’s Plea” for being uninteresting (if I heard it on the radio I would just skip – it sounds old-fashioned and not fresh) or #13 for being too familiar. Then you would have a leaner, tighter, more rocking album for this much-loved musician.
All in all, this is not a bad buy or a regretted purchase – I got a few good chuckles and really enjoyed the guitars especially on “Trouble” and “Something for Nothing”. Thanks Keith! Always awesome to hear from you.
Link to Preview Tracks on Google Play:
Link to Purchase Album on Amazon: