I think it may just be fair to say the Rolling Stones were in the middle of a bit of a hot streak in 1969, having just cut the incredible Let It Bleed, to follow-up the incomparable Beggar’s Banquet, with the incandescent Sticky Fingers and the in-umm-awesomey Exile On Main Street up next*. Basically by this point I get the impression that such was the intergalactic levels of cool which was being channelled by these five living** gods that their every bodily noise was probably worth recording and preserving on wax for all future generations to marvel at until the very end of time itself …
… which is pretty much the logic when Rolling Stones Records released Jamming With Edward in 1972. Basically the album recorded what happened between Nicky Hopkins, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Ry Cooder when they were waiting for Keith Richards to show up to the studio in 1969, during the Let It Bleed sessions. Keith was withholding his labour to a point to assert his power in the Stones and also because in the effective absence of Brian Jones he was in the throes of trying to work out how everything would work itself out musically. It was surely no coincidence that Jamming With Edward was released in ’72, a dreadful year for Richards (in particular) and the Stones (in general) with various arrests, addictions and break-ups.
I’ve never really understood why Jamming With Edward always seems to get such fuck-awful reviews, I like it a lot. Well, with a caveat, I like it a lot but I always take the needle out of the groove as soon as ‘Blow With Ry’ finishes because the last two ‘humorous’ tracks ARE truly fuck-awful; ‘Live With Me’ aside, I always felt the Stones did humour badly. But enough negatives, on with the positives!
A great positive for me is that, as you might expect for an LP named after his (Quicksilver Messenger gained) nickname, Nicky Hopkins is absolutely all over this record and that is a very good thing indeed. Heard to best effect on ‘Edward’s Thrump Up’, my favourite and most energetic track here, where piano is the lead instrument for all 8 minutes of this groove-heavy blues jam. It is instructive to hear the Watts and Waits rhythm section immediately lock into a groove behind Hopkins, with Ry Cooder simply adding little six string sparkles fore and aft. Let’s face it Wyman would never win any prizes apart from the, entirely uncoveted, ‘Stone everyone would least like to hang with’ cup, but by this point he was one hell of a bassist, unshowy and supple, not that he ever seems to get any credit for it.
You have to love opener ‘The Boudoir Stomp’. No, I’m being serious, you have to. Otherwise me and the boys may well have to pay you a little visit and you won’t like that; you won’t like that at all^. The reason you have to is basically because large chunks of ‘Midnight Rambler’ seem to have been created from it’s jammed out bluesy sections, that and Jagger mutters about ‘bedroom door’s at some point early on. In fact Hopkins’ piano stylings touch close to those on Isaac Hayes’ ‘”Hyperbolicsyllabicsequedalymistic”^^ and that is praise indeed. So, you see, liking = compulsory.
Next up on Jamming With Edward we have one of them ‘proper’ tunes, this one being a cover of Elmore James’ cover of Tampa Red’s ‘It Hurts Me Too’, with a lyrical steal of Dylan’s ‘Pledging My Time’ in there too, as a dig at the likely inspiration of parts of that tune? who knows? this is complicated, I’m not some high fallutin’ musicologist with a Master’s degree in Difficult Songs and Shit 1940-1972, I’m just a sad obsessive who likes vinyl and boob jokes. It’s great and a good opportunity to hear Jagger sing a decent blues without doing any showboating or exaggerating.
The sole acceptable piece of music on Side 2 of Jamming With Edward is the 11-minute ‘Blow With Ry’, where the aforementioned Mr Cooder peels off some great licks and curls whilst the rhythm section slithers around down in the mix and Jagger mumbles a fair amount of Jaggerisms about graveyards, midnight, whoomons^* and the like. It’s a great way to spend 11 minutes of your life lost in this jam, as you’d expect from five such skilled gentlemen it is a delight – it’s no finished song and would never oust a track from Let It Bleed, or for that matter Ry Cooder from the mix, but you have to take it on its merits.
The same could be said for Jamming With Edward as a whole, hole. Ignore the execrable duo on Side 2 and just concentrate on the positives, this LP is a true document of a little work in progress and some obviously fine times/fine wines flowing in the studio. Good times roll.
*A hot streak comparable, almost, to my own when I followed-up that great post I did about Ratt with, what many experts consider to be the endpoint of all human culture thus far, my review of that one album whose title I forget by that bloke who plays guitar a bit and sings.
**although I fully accept that ‘living’ may not be a technically accurate term when applied to Keith Richards, then or now.
^and not just because we have atrocious table manners and very smelly feet.
^^the sleeve credits on Hot Buttered Soul, are a bit reticent about who played my favourite piano bits, which were later sampled by Public Enemy to such stonking effect on ‘Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos’.
^*not quite sure what these might be but they seem to be either a source of ecstatic delight, or a right royal pain in the arse.