Keith Richards, “Take It So Hard” from Talk Is Cheap (1988): One Track Mind

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Did you care much for the 1980-version Rolling Stones? Neither did I. After Tattoo You, the World’s Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Band was inconsistent, overly glossy and losing their world-renowned edge.

By 1987, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were even getting on each others nerves, and couple that with two Jagger solo albums by that time (and touring behind the second one), the Rolling Stones seemed headed for breakup. Richards’ response to this predicament was the most logical one: assemble his own band, one he dubbed the X-pensive Winos, and record a solo album with it.

The resulting Talk Is Cheap, released on October 3, 1988, returned Keith Richards’ focus and found him for the first time in a long while playing what he wanted to play and not what the crowd expected to hear. Which means it isn’t a period Rolling Stones album, and in a lot of spots, isn’t the Stones at all, but is an expression of Keef’s fondness for rockabilly, soul and even funk. Curiously, there’s not a whole lot of blues in it explicitly, but it lurks in the background. After all, blues is half of Keith Richards’ makeup (the other half being booze).

He and co-songwriter/producer Steve Jordan put together a collection of songs that display all these passions in an honest, straightforward way. Talk Is Cheap is an island of rock and roll grit in a sea of shallow glitter of the time; the album sounds even better today than it did back then.

That may be best heard on “Take It So Hard.” It starts with a hallmark, rough-n-ready riff that signals Keith Richards was reclaiming his mojo. The loose but very attuned Winos jump in with a hard-driving groove and Richards sings the tune with all of Mick Jagger’s swagger sneering attitude, if not quite his flair.

Moreover, there’s enough ad-libs in it to tell you he’s having fun. Waddy Watchel’s guitar solo in the break is one invented a couple of decades earlier by the leader. Naturally, it fits a Keith Richards song perfectly.

So, yeah, we all might poke a little fun at Richards’ expense, but none of his excesses diminish his place in rock and roll history. Because Keith Richards IS rock and roll. He may have done all his best work with the Rolling Stones, but when he steps out of Jagger’s shadow with a good song like “Take It So Hard,” that statement becomes all the more obvious.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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