Ronnie Wood with His Wild Five
Mad Lad: A Live Tribute to Chuck Berry
BMG Right Management (UK) Ltd
Well-meaning they’ll say. “Live” the album title tells us – but is it less about the celebration and more about pinpointing an excuse for the sloppiness? Ronnie Wood can play, and I’ll defend that every time – great fucking slide guitarist particularly (and you’ll hear that here when things really do try to get going, three songs in on the title track) but my god he is the worst singer ever. Picture a drunk Keith Richards slurring words into the ear of Bob Dylan at his worst for him to sing as new to him on the spot and then multiply that atrocity a thousand times and you’d be getting close. You could only have been in The Faces, The Jeff Beck Group and The Stones to be allowed – legally – to still get on a stage and sing like THAT. Horrific.
A better choice however is Imelda May, something of a safe pair of hands really; expert at these sorts of collabs – she gets up, nails the song but never tries to take over or dominate. And so her rendition of Wee Wee Hours is easily a highlight here.
It’s a strange set though. Messy-as and sorta brutally unnecessarily.
So, sure, Ben Waters channels Johnnie Johnson via Ian Stewart, making for a double-nice touch – and he’s killing it on the keys on Wee Hours and especially on an extended break during Blue Feeling. But so what? We can hear this sort of playing anywhere.
Far more dubious is the 9-song, 40-minute run-time for a live-tribute; hints at “this is what we could salvage”. And that’s judicious with Ronnie’s opening original (Tribute To Chuck Berry) which barely scrapes the 2-minute mark being one of the worst things you’ll ever hear a multi-millionaire do. (And that includes climate-change denial speeches).
The “hits” are here eventually – Little Queenie, which has followed Wood his professional life, but doesn’t mean he can sing it, Back In The USA, which only ever sounds like your uncle’s cover band and eventually Rock’n’Roll Music and Johnny B Goode. The former saved slightly by May returning to the mic. The latter a fucking embarrassment because she was back in the backseat again.
Given there are better Chuck Berry tribute albums on the market at this very moment – and that we don’t need anything at all but the Great Twenty-Eight that America’s best rock’n’roll poet left us, this is a waste of your time and mine.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron