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Main Category: Rhythm & Blues
Also applicable: Roots Rock, Funk/R'n'B
Starting Period: The Interim Years
Also active in: The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

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Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a Ronnie Wood fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Ronnie Wood fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Year Of Release: 1992
Overall rating = 12

This life ain't good, but it IS rock'n'roll! Some of the best Nineties' rock'n'roll, in fact.

Best song: TESTIFY

Track listing: 1) Somebody Else Might; 2) Testify; 3) Ain't Rock'n'Roll; 4) Josephine; 5) Knock Yer Teeth Out; 6) Ragtime Annie (Lillie's Bordello); 7) Must Be Love; 8) Fear For Your Future; 9) Show Me; 10) Always Wanted More; 11) Thinkin'; 12) Like It; 13) Breathe On Me; [BONUS TRACK:] 14) Somebody Else Might (remix).

While Ronnie did have a more or less independent solo career, unlike Keith Richards or Mick Jagger whose solo careers were rather, er, rudimentary and always reeked of the true Stones' spirit, it wasn't until Slide On This that he fully demonstrated all his possibilities: he grew up, oldened and wisened, burned out and came back, and delivered a set of songs which should definitely rank among his best. In fact, while I haven't yet heard any previous albums of his, I'd be amazed if any of them turned out to be better.

On a normal, 'technical' level, there ain't really nothing special about Slide On This. What Ronnie does is basically write up a series of simplistic R'n'B melodies and cover some older standards, and that's about it. There's nothing groundbreaking or particularly interesting about this kind of music in 1992, unless, of course, you want to count such gimmicks as string arrangements sometimes overdubbed over plain rock'n'roll numbers innovative. And thus, when I first listened to the record, I couldn't help but feel bored: after all, why not put on Voodoo Lounge instead?

Nay, friends and countrymen. I was wrong. Remember, always remember that Ronnie Wood is not just a second-rate Rolling Stone; Ronnie is just as well a first-rate Face. And the Faces always had that magical power to charm you with their restless energy, booze and grittiness even when the actual melodies were non-existent. Well, now that Ronnie Lane is gone and Rod Stewart is mutated, Ronnie Wood carries on the legacy. And thus, when I listened to the record for the second time, I couldn't help but feel totally enthralled. To hell with Voodoo Lounge; in places, the ferocious rock'n'roll of Slide On This makes the Nineties' Stones sound like pathetic wimps, much like Rod Stewart himself.

Only in places, though. I do hold a couple of grudges against Ronnie. First of all, he's a nearly worthless balladeer. Okay, I know fans will flame me for this, just like they would flame me for my disliking Keith Richards' ballads. But what's to be done? I simply don't like sloppy, overlong stream-of-conscience ballads with a primitive structure, sung in a shaky, 'passionate' voice. I know they're heartfelt, sincere, from the very soul blah blah blah and so on and so forth, but, after all, we all have hearts and souls and sincerity. Gimme some musical ideas in addition, and then we'll start talking. Until then, I'll openly state that I don't give a damn about the ballads on here. 'Always Wanted More' passes me by like a fly with a muffler, in particular, and "Thinkin'", while a bit more powerful and hard-hittin', is still not among the highlights. And 'Breathe On Me', the track that closes the album just annoys me: the melody is simple as a doornail, and Ronnie's duet with Bernard Fowler is unimpressive. For some reason, I also detest the lyrics in the chorus - 'Open your mouth and breathe on me/I need your Sen Siti Vity'. There's no question, of course, that the song would make a great anthem for DUI-checking cops, but as a passionate ballad, it doesn't exactly fit in. And it gets so repetitive near the end that I can hardly wait for it to end.

Fortunately, Ronnie seemed to realize it himself. Out of the thirteen album tracks, there are but the above-mentioned three that are ballads. A fourth one is a short sympathetic country instrumental ('Ragtime Annie'), and all the rest are rockers. And this is where the fun begins. Ronnie's harsh, hoarse, but finally well-trained voice is put to perfect use, as it's less pretentious and a bit more 'user-friendly' than Jagger's: when you hear it, you know you're in for a good rock'n'roll party time. His guitar plaing is unparalleled: he lets loose with such a tremendous force that it really gives the impression he'd always been muffled by Keith as a Stone. All kinds of guitar sounds are on here, from wah-wah to slide, and they're awesomely produced: virtually no traces of the dratted Nineties' computer-ish sound at all. The instrumentation, in fact, is the major advantage of the album: even if you don't like some of the melodies (which is easy to do, as many of them sound alike), just dig in to that guitar sound! It ain't innovative, right, but it sounds a million times more fresh, clear and crisp than all that electronic crap we're so used to nowadays. Sometimes Ronnie is joined by guests, too, notably The Edge of U2 fame, and together they make hell freeze over with the unbelievable guitar poliphony on 'Like It'. Basically, the fury of that number is due to a very simple trick: overdubbing of four or five lead guitars soloing like mad, but has anybody really thought of it before? Well, I have never heard anything like that. Pity they didn't extend that jam at the end, I thought I was going to rock'n'roll heaven.

Other wonders on here include a flabbergastingly wonderful cover of Parliament's 'Testify' - never has a simple R'n'B number been so magically effective on your brains. Sure it's monotonous as hell, too (everything on here is monotonous, with refrains being repeated over and over a hundred times - it's simply a part of Ronnie's whole schtick), but I could care less, what with that beautiful ringin' guitar sound in my right speaker and the endless squeak-squeak-squeak of more guitars taking turns to come out of both speakers. 'I wanna testify what your love has done to me'. I'd like to testify, too. Then there's 'Ain't Rock And Roll', a surprisingly gloomy rocker where Ronnie complains about how 'this life is good, but it ain't rock'n'roll', with spooky wah-wahs poking out at you from every corner. 'Josephine' is so straightforward and dumb, it can't be anything but genius, and 'Knock Yer Teeth Out' is surprisingly aggressive: I sometimes feel uncomfortable while listening to it, since hearing the refrain 'I'm gonna knock your teeth out I'm gonna knock your teeth out I'm gonna knock your teeth out one by one' gives me a toothache. Needless to say, the song is great, just like every other rocker on this record.

I suppose I also have to mention the rhythm section - Doug Wimbish plays some impressive bass lines, and the drums are for the most part handled by Charlie Watts who also highly contributes to the addictiveness of the sound with his trademark steady, unerring, minimalistic beat. By gum, the old chap is getting better and better with every year, like fine wine.

I also suppose I should stop this review here and now, as there's really little else to say about these songs except they're all oh so exciting bar the ballads. So far, it's my best bet for a 'pure rock'n'roll' record to come out of the Nineties; the Stones' Voodoo Lounge comes close, of course, but Slide On This is tons more sincere and, above all, it ain't product, unlike the kind of stuff the Stones are currently putting out. It's fun to know somebody's actually still doing some good old rock'n'roll on this planet and not giving a damn about anything else.



Year Of Release: 1993
Overall rating = 10

Hope you'll just have a lot of good clean boogie-woogie fun with this duffer...

Best song: SLIDE INST.

Track listing: 1) Testify; 2) Josephine; 3) Pretty Beat Up; 4) Am I Groovin You?; 5) Flying; 6) Breathe On Me; 7) Silicon Grown; 8) Seven Days; 9) Show Me; 10) Show Me (groove); 11) I Can Feel The Fire; 12) Slide inst.; 13) Stay With Me; 14) I Don't Know What You've Got; 15) You Really Got A Hold On Me.

Don't just go around treating Ron Wood as another second-rate guitar player with nothing to show to real music lovers, simply judging by the fact that he joined the Stones fifteen years after the band had begun. More experienced listeners will certainly acknowledge the fact that Ronnie was the main musical soul behind the Faces and the best phase of Rod Stewart's solo career, with his totally unique brand of sloppy, messy, but devastatingly charming slide, acoustic and electric playing. His talents never shone through to their full extent within the Stones, as he was just content with playing the role of Keith Richards' shadow; but when left alone to his solo devices, he was quite good. If you ever cared about the stoned-out, boozy, drunken, and friendly sound of the Faces, you'd be happy to know that Ronnie had always continued this line on his solo albums - most of which were practically impossible to get around here in Russia for a decent price until late 1999. So in desperation, I picked up the only thing I could find - this 1993 live album. And boy, is it good! On to the review now; I'll write a more respectable intro when I get around to making a Ronnie Wood page. He sure deserves one.

This live album sports the ironic subtitle Plugged In And Standing - as opposed to Rod Stewart's Unplugged And Seated, that came out a year before and featured Ronnie backing Rod on guitar. I wonder if it is indeed designed to be a pun on poor Rodney or no; after all, while both dudes were great once, the distance between them has grown to enormous proportions over the year, with Rod steadily going down and Ronnie steadily standing on the same spot he ascended in the early Seventies. Never 'progressing', of course - but who needs 'progressing' when you're so damn good at it already? And good old Woody does everything to prove he is, using the live album as a pretext for creating a touching retrospective of all his career - from the very first album and earlier. On the way, he plays tracks from Slide On This, previous albums, the Faces, Rod Stewart, and even the Stones - there's a flamin' version of 'Pretty Beat Up' here that easily tramples the original. As a matter of fact, 'trampling' is quite a good word to describe the whole album.

Sure, this is no Faces; but it's as close to the atmosphere as can be. Practically none of the songs here have a lot of things to say, melodically or stylistically: it's just your average band plodding its way through some potentially uninspiring R'n'B, soul and boogie-woogie numbers. If melody, hooks and a tight, compact sound you're after, leave now. Me, I just can't distinguish one song from another (quite often), but I don't care in any case. It all sounds so sincere, inviting, pretty and, well, fresh - yes, fresh is perhaps the best word, as opposed to the slick, lifeless overall production tones of the Nineties - that it sometimes causes tears on my eyes. Ronnie sings better than he used to do before, but that ain't saying much: his voice is something of a cross between Keith Richards' and Bob Dylan's, and it's a real hoot. On the Faces tracks, however, he does not attempt to imitate Stewart, and so backing vocalist Bernard Fowler takes the spot (he's the dude that sings backing vocals for the Stones since the Steel Wheels tour). Oh, and did I mention that he's also backed by Ian McLagan on keyboards - no wonder the Faces' associations are so incredibly strong throughout.

The best advice for listening to this throwawayish, but exciting live record is to turn it up loud and just give yourself in to the general groove. Don't be shy! Play some air guitar along with the repetitive, but catchy 'Josephine' and the boogie 'Show Me'! Sing along with Dylan's 'Seven Days' and the introductory 'Testify'! Dance to the unstoppable beat of these old Faces classics - 'Silicone Grown' and 'Stay With Me'! And enjoy Fowler's splendid delivery on the ballad 'Flying', too: the man has a good, if not thoroughly spectacular, voice. For comparison, you'll never find such an inviting atmosphere on any Stones' live record, as the guys have a nasty habit of sucking a large part of the energy and fun out of it by means of post-gig doctorings; not to mention that stadium gigs do not usually tend to have 'inviting' atmospheres. In fact, I say my profound thanks to Ron - he proves that there still exists such a thing as exciting, raw, soulful, tasteful live 'delivery' in the Nineties.

I don't think I really need to go over the tracks one by one, but one thing I'll still point out - the breathtaking jam called 'Slide Inst.', where Ronnie, indeed, straps on a slide and goes through different parts of entirely different songs, including a snippet of Stewart's 'Gasoline Alley', a touch of 'Amazing Grace' and a trifle of 'Prodigal Son'. If there ever was a reason to doubt his efficiency on guitar, this jam proves quite the opposite: this is undoubtedly the playing of a Slide Master: not the fastest player on earth, but a delicate, sensitive artist who manages to make one chord sound more meaningful and sensitive than a hundred others by a different guitarist. So who cares if these songs are clumsy and erratic and lack hooks? And who cares if the band sounds drunk and stoned? In case you're not informed, this was the Faces' old trick - play as loos-ey and as booz-ey as possible and pray that no one collapses onstage. This here album sounds likewise. But it's fun anyway.

Note: I have a special edition of the record - the one that comes with two bonus tracks, apparently recorded in the studio; these, however, don't sound interesting at all to me, as it's just two old Motown classics, one of which ('I Don't Know What You've Got') is sung by Fowler, and the other, the Beatles-made-famous 'You Really Got A Hold On Me', by Ronnie. Since I'm no big Motown fan, they simply don't cut the mustard for me - and the lack of a totally fresh 'live' atmosphere kills both off even further. Ronnie's hilarious whining on the latter, though, is well worth checking out.


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