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The Rolling Stones album Keith Richards didn’t enjoy making: “None of it worked”

The Rolling Stones probably didn’t need to worry about expanding their sonic palette since the mid-1980s. That may have been when their mainline hits started drying up, but so what when you have some of the most celebrated rock songs of all time and can still deliver quality music on a pretty consistent basis? It didn’t mean much if it meant still making great rock and roll, but Keith Richards admitted being incredibly frustrated when working on the album Bridges to Babylon.

Because if you’re talking about working with the Stones, it all comes back to getting Mick Jagger and Richards on the same page. No matter what style they tried out, ‘The Glimmer Twins’ were always the essence of the group, and anything that they touched was going to sound like the Stones, even if they weren’t trying that hard.

The only problem was that Jagger was never satisfied with being in just one genre. He wanted to be the one star who could adapt to the times every time he sat down to write a song, and that often meant a few more embarrassing moments across their catalogue than many probably anticipated.

Sure, their attempts at disco might have worked back in the day on tracks like ‘Miss You’, but one’s going to be able to excuse what they did on Dirty Work, featuring some of the most toothless Stones songs that they had ever made. As it turns out, that was just the beginning of their strange forays into the pop world.

While Richards saw Voodoo Lounge as an overlooked piece of the group’s catalogue, Bridges to Babylon is where some of those outside influences started to creep in a little bit too much. Although he had the ability to lay down a signature Stones groove with Don Was behind the mixing board, half of the album suffered from having songs where Jagger tried to shoehorn in modern sounds.

When re-evaluating the album in his book Life, Richards remembered that there was no sense of direction during those sessions, recalling, “When I got to LA to work, I found that [Mick] had just hired who he wanted without asking. The only problem was none of it worked. They didn’t know what they wanted. There was no consistency in what he wanted to do. So with all these producers and musicians, including a total of eight bass players, it got out of hand.”

Despite Richards defending the final product, you can hear that kind of patchwork job all over the rest of the album. A song like ‘Thief in the Night’ feels a little bit reminiscent of those days when the band were slaving away making Exile on Main St, but tracks like ‘Might As Well Get Juiced’ feel like Jagger listening to The Chemical Brothers once and decided that he was going to base his entire career off what they did.

Still, it’s nice to see that the band at least wanted to take some chances in their later years. Other artists tend to stagnate after being in the game for that long, so even if it didn’t work out, it was a better alternative than just pumping out the same schlock over and over again.

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