Photo of Keith Richards

You get three things in spades with new Keith Richards album: feel, feel and more feel. You don't automatically think it--that comes second. You...feel it. But of course. Then you think, ah, the old bastard's back, nice, so let's cop a feel--or 15. With a dozen-plus-three tracks on Crosseyed Heart, the ageless aging dude's third solo album released last week, it's a quiver-full of Keith's many trademarks. Dirty guitar chords, night-cat rockers with leather-jacket desperado charisma, surprisingly tender ballads, reggae grooves better than what you hear on the radio, and oh my, oh, there's more.
  Verdict: it don't quit/it won't quit. It just rolls a bit more subliminally than it appears. That's Keith's magic and that's why we love him, right? Goddam right.
  After the self-titled abbreviated solo country blues, it's straight into Keith rock'n'roll-land, drummer/producer Steve Jordan's just-right-behind-the-beat drumming laying itself down for the greatest white rhythm guitarist's continuing five- and six-string adventures. The two-chord Heartstopper, macho rocker that it even has its moment of tenderness ("she forgives me/and I forgive her too"), a song a pop star one-third his age would sound natural singing.
  Amnesia, which is or isn't about him crackin' his head open falling out of a tree some years ago (requiring a brain operation), has some amazing lyrics. Like "knocked on my head, everything blank/I didn't even know the Titanic sank"..."You know everything I do, I know nothing about you." Keith, Jordan and the late Bobby Keys bob up and down rhythmically like a man trying to keep his head above some choppy water. Interesting song.
  Gently swaying into a ballad, "Robbed Blind" really sounds like some real life when someone ripped off Richards for some dope. But then he changes it into something more romantic. However, he repeatedly intones the police. "the cops I can't involve them, god knows what they might find" after "cause it ain't the money, honey, but the heart you stole was mine." A duality? Sure, why not? A Keith Richards ballad is musically one of the most honest things you'll ever hear. So why not some lyrics from a life of lives lived by a real pirate of pop?
  Only Tom Waits is more human in his ballads--or is he? Who's more human--Keith or Tom? Silly question. The British are supposed to be restrained, I've read. We're the slobbering dogs of the planet. Nevertheless, America's favorite cult grotesque and Keith's genuine balladic presence have more in common than one might think.
  By the way, not many celeb appearances to speak of, a Nora Jones here, an Aaron Neville there. Definitely no Sevendust.
  When does the album start to get, you know, transcendent, m-a-a-a-n? That's a dumb question--the whole album.
  Nothing On Me is one helluva hook on a groove, or is it a really good groove with a hook, or the equivalent of Capt. Hook walking the plank and showing Moby Dick who's the boss. And the style is impossible to nail: reggae? rock? r'n'b with a tooth missing? It's a Keith Richards concoction, good luck when it pops back into your head. There's a reason God made this man with a touch of the devil. He adopts black roots music, assimilates his soul to it and little bit vice versa and slo-mo presto!
  Except for one track. One I could've done without. The one that sounds like a Puerto Rican rooster crowing the day--and you don't want hear that, believe me.
  Thus it is I've always hated Goodnight, Irene. Even if it is the magnifico Keith singing it. I don't give a good goddam about Irene, who she was, what she did before she turned in for the evening, who she did it to, how much she did it for or even if Irene was a farm animal with an outstanding personality. Keith actually sounds half his age, strangely enough. As he sings a dumb hick ode to a dumb hick.
  A great bit of filler does follow, though, Substantial Damage, where (over a ferocious guitar riff) Keith shouts out heavily echo-laden lines not unlike the Clash's Paul Simonon did on Combat Rock's Red Angel Dragnet.
  Well, who knows. Great third solo album. No Ronnie Wood or Mick or Charley. Just Keith and friends. The purity of it says one thing and one thing mightily, obviously, subtly and deeply: love.

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