What makes you so greedy,
Makes you so seedy? (You Don’t Move Me)
The very best thing about Keith Richards Talk Is Cheap is the back cover. That close-up of Keith’s right hand on the strings, awesomely cool skull ring to the fore. It’s a piece of jewellery that features on the front and inner sleeve pictures too and one I suspect that has to be earned by laughing in the very face of the grim reaper himself, rather than bought. It’s way cool, just like Keith. The ring couldn’t adorn a more worthy right hand but the picture belongs on a better LP than this.
Keith is always the Stone who draws in little worshippers like me who groove off every druggy legend, misdemeanour and bon mot. The cat can play too. Far more human than Jagger, he’d be my original Stone of choice to be Robinson Crusoe’d with. Hell, he sang ‘Happy’ which can sometimes be my favourite ever Stones track; along with ‘Connection’ and ‘You Got The Silver’ which aren’t, but are still great.
By 1988 Keith was 45 and the Stones were on the rocks as Jagger pursued his own muse and Richards found that he needed to make some music. Starting out with drummer Steve Jordan he added a few musicians to his coterie and picked up a few star extras as the tunes developed, channelled his anger at Jagger into the grooves and Talk Is Cheap was born.
I love the way the low-key opener ‘Big Enough’ slinks into view, like the last reveller slinking home after the party in daylight. Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker adding their talents to a confection that’s part reggae, part funk and wholly Richards, via that voice that only a mum could love and some Richards-ian licks. For my money it’s the best and by far the most inventive thing here.
Talk Is Cheap has nothing brilliant on it, but more and better tunes than the Rolling Stones had sculpted in a decade and certainly more than they’ve cut since*, you can hear an urgency percolating through Richards’ best playing here and the meaner the sentiments, the better the track. The best cuts here for my money are the take-that-Mick-tastic ‘You Don’t Move Me’, the tough lovin’ ‘Take It So Hard’ and ‘Make No Mistake’, on which Richards sounds uncannily like a lizard impersonating Tina Turner**.
Elsewhere there are some nice changes of pace like the 50’s strut of ‘I Could Have Stood You Up’, featuring Mick Taylor, which sadly overstays its’ welcome and the lascivious low-key ‘Rockawhile’. But the problem with Talk Is Cheap is that about half the LP sounds a lot like the germs of half decent Stones songs which never quite get airborne; at least two of which seem to be modelled on the track ‘It Must Be Hell’ from the Stones’ Undercover. The players are all great but (I agree with Jagger) that the drums are too high in the mix^ and I feel it could just do with a bit more star dust.
BUT I do dig the way that Keith has used his platform here to address an important issue, the plight of under-endowed chaps, via the sexy sex and/or drugs tune, ‘Take It So Hard’
Take a look around you, tell me, what do you see?
People with little bits try, tryin’ to smile
As my broad smile will attest, I cannot relate to this line at all Keith. Sorry. But it is great to see a rocker finally addressing this issue for the masses. I just think it is a shame and a missed opportunity that it was never followed up by a huge fundraising concert^*.
I like Talk Is Cheap as a bit of a diversion now and then, but it always makes me hanker after some proper Stones, make no mistake.
PS: This is actual footage from the post-apocalyptic future that has found its way to our time continuum via a wormhole in the space/time thingy. Rest assured Once the explosions have all finished, Keith will still be there playing away.
*’Love is Strong’, ‘Doom and Gloom’ and ‘Rough Justice’ being the only original tracks of theirs I’ve liked in about 30 years and counting.
**in a good way.
^LP was co-produced by drummer Steve Jordan