Rolling Stones’ New Blues Album: Hear Original Versions of Every Song
Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images / Chess Records / Jemal Countess, Getty Images / Chess Records
The Rolling Stones didn't just return to their blues roots with Blue & Lonesome; they went back to the source material. Check out the original versions of every song featured on their upcoming album below.
Set for release on Dec. 2, Blue & Lonesome grew out of loose jam sessions in London with longtime producer Don Was. Gathered to record something new, the Stones instead began tearing through music from some of their biggest idols, including Little Walter, who provided the title track.
A connection back to the Stones' early blues-rocking days at Giorgio Gomelsky's Crawdaddy Club in West London with the Yardbirds was made complete when Eric Clapton stopped by, Keith Richards told the BBC's Matt Everitt.
Richards earlier confirmed that songs by Little Walter and fellow Chess Records legend Howlin' Wolf would be featured. Blue & Lonesome's track listing reveals the rest of the featured blues gems. “It’s gonna be great,” Ron Wood told Lindsay Dunn. “You’re gonna love it. That’s what the Stones are: a blues band."
Now it's your turn to check out the original sounds that inspired the Rolling Stones. First, give a listen to the original versions below. And then on Dec. 2, you can hear the Stones' tribute on a work that Was promises will be "crude [and] authentic."
Originally recorded in 1953 by the jump-blues band leader Buddy Johnson, "Just Your Fool" was later adapted by Little Walter into a far more well-known conventional blues. This is the first of four songs on Blue & Lonesome credited to Walter, a huge influence on Mick Jagger's harmonica-playing style.
A driving number featuring Hubert Sumlin on guitar and Eddie Shaw on sax, "Commit a Crime" later showed up on 1971's London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, which found the Chess legend working alongside Stones acolytes Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. By then, it had been retitled "What a Woman!"
A desperately sad song that plays directly into the doomed Little Walter's quickly aging voice, "Blue and Lonesome" features one of his more compact and sharply constructed solos. How does Mick Jagger's take compare? "I think Mick Jagger is probably the best blues-harp player that I've ever heard," Richards once told Rolling Stone. "He's up there with Little Walter – he amazes me."
Originally titled "All Your Love," this pleading song served as Magic Sam's debut single in 1957 – and he made a very famous fan, right away: Blues icon Willie Dixon noted how this track showcased "such an inspirational feeling with his high voice." Magic Sam updated and retitled the song "All of Your Love" a decade later, just before his death from a heart attack at age 32 – and it only got better.
The Rolling Stones aren't the first band to cover this Little Walter track, originally recorded with his Jukes. Two members of the J. Geils Band, Magic Dick and Geils himself, made a 1994 version. Blues guys like Charles Musselwhite and Carey Bell have also made a pass at the song, which remains a prime example of the way Little Walter purposely used distortion to add drama to his music.
The most contemporary offering on Blue & Lonesome, Little Johnny Taylor's slow blues "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" was a Top 10 R&B hit for Louisiana's Ronn Records – and represented the former Mighty Clouds of Joy member's best solo showing since topping the same chart in 1963 with "Part Time Love." Z.Z. Hill and the similarly named, though not related, Johnnie Taylor have also covered his songs.
Taylor released this as "Ride 'Em On Down" on Vee-Jay, but the song is actually a '30s-era original by Delta blues legend Bukka White, then titled "Shake 'Em On Down." Risque for the times, White recorded the song just before beginning a two-year sentence for a shooting incident, and saw it become a hit while still inside Mississippi's Parchman Prison Farm. Bluesman Son House and Elvis Presley's father also spent some time there.
An apt song from Walter Jacobs, whose career was as influential as it was brief. Often described as the best post-war blues harpist, he got his start in Muddy Waters' band before going solo in 1952. Little Walter was said to have appeared with the Rolling Stones during a 1964 tour, but Richards has since debunked that. By 1967, he had died, following another in a series of violent, often alcohol-related, altercations.
A series of '70s revival tours finally brought Lightnin' Slim's classic lazy-rolling Louisiana blues to a wider audience, and he memorably made a fan of Captain Beefheart. "Hoo Doo Blues" is a terrific example of his stripped-down, swampy style, which typically found Slim recording with nothing more than a harp player and drummer. The Stones have already covered "I'm a King Bee" by his brother-in-law and regular touring companion Slim Harpo.
The Rolling Stones have made no secret of their admiration for Reed, as "Little Rain" joins a lengthy list of earlier covers. (Their very first album featured Reed's "Honest I Do.") All of them are driven by droning chords that Keith Richards celebrated in his memoir as "(a) the laziest, sloppiest single thing you can do in that situation, and (b) one of the most brilliant musician inventions of all time."
The B-side to Howlin' Wolf's 1961 single "I Ain't Superstitious," this song was part of a particularly successful Chess Records session featuring Hubert Sumlin on guitar and Willie Dixon on bass that also yielded the song "You'll Be Mine." Single-string lines straight out of the Sumlin songbook would later be found all over the Rolling Stones' discography. By then, Howlin' Wolf had already appeared in a 1965 edition of TV's Shindig! at the Stones' insistence.
Willie Dixon wrote this 12-bar original for Otis Rush and recorded it with him during Rush's first-ever sessions. Rock 'n' roll fans, however, will more likely recognize it as a heavy-blues cover from Led Zeppelin's multi-platinum debut album. They built off of a version Rush recorded in 1966 for Vanguard. The original, which reached No. 6 on the R&B chart, lopes along at a slightly faster pace than Zeppelin's, but retains the same looming sense of despair.