Monday, April 25, 2011


You'll want to check this album out if you like pre-rock and roll boogie woogie. Or if you are a Rolling Stones fan. Or if you like PJ Harvey.

Rock and roll fans know Ian Stewart: he was the original piano player of The Rollling Stones. Their original manager, Andrew Loog Oldham (who currently is a host on Little Steven's Underground Garage) deemed him surplus to requirements to the Stones. He was demoted to road manager, and also studio and touring piano player. But yet, he stuck with the Stones for the rest of his life until he passed away in 1985.

Ben Waters' parents were friends with Stewart, and when young Ben saw him play piano at their house, he decided he wanted to be a piano player also. These days, he's a pretty popular musician on the roots music scene in the U.K., and he also plays in Charlie Watts' band, The ABCandD of Boogie Woogie.

Watts plays drums on most of the album, most of which was recorded in Jools Holland's studio (appropriately, as Stewart was likely an influence on Holland's style). But the album took on a life of it's own, with Keith Richards, Ron Wood and even ex-Stone Bill Wyman making multiple contributions. On one song - a cover of Bob Dylan's "Watching The River Flow" features Charlie, Keith, Ron, Bill and Mick Jagger. (Apparently, Stewart considered it the only good song Dylan ever wrote!) Although they all recorded their parts separately, and it isn't billed as a Stones tune per se, it's the first new recording by the band in six years, and the first recording with Wyman in 20 years.  There's also a Keith/Ronnie duet on "Worried Life Blues."

The other big guest is Waters' cousin, Polly Jean Harvey.  They recorded "Lonely Avenue" in her parents' living room, on a piano that Stewart once owned. It's an interesting contrast to her very British new album, Let England Shake.

The album is a great reminder of how much fun pre-rock and roll boogie woogie music is, and also has some great blues moments. If you're a Stones fan, you gotta have it, but it's worth checking out for anyone interested in the roots of rock and roll music. By his own admission, Stewart was a limited piano player: to progress with their music, they had to leave him behind (and he hated some of their more "progressive" material like "Sympathy For The Devil"), but this album offers an interesting glimpse of what the Stones would have sounded like if Loog hadn't canned him.

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