Mike and I have done yet another simultaneous review. You lucky kids can go read his take on this CD on his excellent site right here.
Like the title of one of my least favourite versions on this CD (more on that later), I had No Expectations going into listening to this CD. As you’ll likely know, if you follow along in these pages at all, I’m a pretty big Stones fan. Have been for years, just like tens of millions of other people. I’m no expert, by any means, but I sometimes delude myself into thinking I know their songs pretty well. I own all their albums, lots of live stuff, compilations… Did I need to hear country artists doing their own versions of those tunes? Well, not really, but I was curious enough to give it a go because, well, why the fuck not?
I should also make you aware of my opinion of the “new” country. I generally dislike it very strongly. Give me the oldies any day over the new young turks who think they know country. Why? Because whenever I hear something that came off CMT or the like, I come away thinking that the feeling has all been sucked out of it. When the new kids sing about heartbreak, I don’t believe them. It’s all slick and shiny (and slightly unreal) now, packaged and sold to an nth degree. Worse, it’s as though (at some point in the late 80s-early 90s), young country artists discovered a way to marry their love of country and their (likely verbotten, in country circles) desire to rock out like Van Halen and still sell it to the masses. They saw the rockers raking in the dough and wanted a piece of that pie for themselves. Soon enough, it became the norm to have videos like Aerosmith and many of them have big stage shows and lights and they’re jumping off drum risers across America. Um, yee-haw?
So I’m a country purist snob. I can live with that. Most of the “new” country leaves a bad, wanna-be taste in my mouth. Either shit or get off the pot, I say. There are lots of rock bands from the south, you don’t need to try to marry it with country. Just go rock out, if you wanna, and leave the rest of us alone. Anyway. I’m sure no one cares, especially not the ones selling millions of records of that crap. The paradigm has shifted. Um, yee-haw again?
So, back to my point: here comes a bunch of country artists doing versions of Stones songs. What did we get?
Travis Tritt turns in an alright version of Honky Tonk Women (though he constantly says ‘woman’ not ‘women’ but whatever). At least there’d have been no shortage of cowbells lying around, right? Haha. It didn’t matter, all I could hear in my head was the original anyway. Tracy Lawrence doesn’t do much to change Paint It Black, except sing with more of a twang than Mick (and that’s saying something, because Mick really wishes he was from American south anyway). Same for Deanna Carter’s Ruby Tuesday. All I could think was ‘why did they bother?’ Ah well.
I actually liked the Tractors’ run through of The Last Time, though. I hadn’t imagined that song working well as a country tune but, as found here, these guys really made it work. Rodney Crowell thought adding a fiddle to a fairly basic rendition of Jumping Jack Flash made it country but nope nope nope. It’s missing the energy of the original, and sounds instead like Jack doesn’t really think it’s a gas gas gas at all. Up next is Sammy Kershaw’s Angie, which isn’t all that different from the original either, except the lap steel and fiddle lines which make it interesting, at least. I didn’t dislike this as strongly.
Blackhawk takes on Wild Horses and it’s a swing and a humungous miss. Who in hell thought this song needed to be turned into a country dance stomper? Apparently, these guys did. It’s ably-played but it’s not at all what I need to hear ever again. It’s not supposed to be a fast song. Collin Raye country-rocks (read: adds a twang to a basic re-make of the original) Brown Sugar which, given the content of that song, make it a little, um, interesting for a guy from Arkansas via Tennessee, who has also been known as Bubba Wray, to sing. I know he’s just singing the words, and is probably a nice guy and all, but it’s where my mind went as I sat through all 3:10 of this thing, and there you go.
Little Texas sucks all the sex and disco out of Beast Of Burden, leaving only the rock element and then gluing on the country plastic. It’s waaay too long at 4:50, I’ll tell you that for free. And then we get Nanci Griffith’s No Expectations, which I mentioned at the top of this ramble. Sorry Nanci, but I love the original of this song and this version was brutal. By turning it into an up-tempo bluegrass thing, you sucked all the blues right out of a great blues tune. I skipped to the next track before this could even finish, in an effort to retain as little of this in my head as I could. That may seem unfair, but I’ll just stay here in my little world with my copy of Beggars Banquet and y’all can feel you had fun on your own time. And when I skipped ahead, I got (of all people) George Jones doing Time is On My Side. He gets a pass, here, because he totally camped it up as only ol’ George can do it (especially the spoken bit in the middle). The song’s lyrics really do sound like they were written for him to sing, a real smart choice for him. Nice to hear his voice again.
I must be a Stones snob, or a giant wet blanket, or something. Maybe I need to come back and re-listen to this when I’m in a more forgiving mood. But today, I honestly didn’t like or was ambivalent towards the majority of this disc. Good on them for trying, I guess, and I’m sure Mick and Keith enjoyed the royalty money from the sales of this CD, but I don’t believe I’ll need to play this again anytime soon.