The Rolling Stones, Hackney Diamonds Review
by Rudy Palma
The Rolling Stones, with a musical legacy spanning seven decades, stand tall as legends of the rock era. Legends, by nature, reinforce their iconic status, and The Rolling Stones have masterfully done so with their latest release, Hackney Diamonds. Released by Polydor Records on October 19, 2023, this album emerges as a notable successor to their 2016 Grammy-winning Blue & Lonesome and their 2005 masterpiece, A Bigger Bang.
The core of Hackney Diamonds lies in its vocal powerhouse, primarily delivered by Mick Jagger, whose signature snarl and raw emotion have been the bedrock of The Rolling Stones’ sound for their most iconic hits across the years. One can still hear Jagger’s trademark sound in Hackney Diamonds on tracks like “Angry,” “Get Close,” and “Driving Me Too Hard,” where Jagger’s vocals exhibit a delightful blend of energy, emotion, and that unmistakable timbre that has defined the band. While Jagger has never been the quintessential vocalist in terms of technicality, his unparalleled ability to convey emotion and energy is the essence of The Rolling Stones.
The album showcases Jagger’s extensive vocal range, from the higher tones of “Depending On You” to the deep, resonant notes in “Dreamy Skies.” The latter, enveloped in bottle-neck acoustic blues, exemplifies Jagger’s ability to immerse his vocals in genuine emotion. Meanwhile, “Tell Me Straight” offers a refreshing change of pace with Keith Richards taking the vocal lead. His weathered and occasionally strained vocals add a unique texture, aligning perfectly with the band’s persona.
Hackney Diamonds is also a celebration of collaborations. The synergy between Jagger and Lady Gaga in “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” is palpable, with both vocalists complementing each other flawlessly. Set against a gospel backdrop, Jagger’s glissandos and growls intertwine with Gaga’s powerful, blues-infused vocal fills, making it a standout track. Additionally, with Elton John’s piano contributions and Stevie Wonder’s keyboard magic, the album is an ensemble of musical maestros.
However, what is truly remarkable is the band’s homage to their roots. “Rolling Stones Blues” refers to their blues heritage, with Jagger’s glissandos and inflections shining bright. The track “Bite My Head Off,” infused with elements of rock, early British punk, and blues, showcases Jagger’s comfort and mastery over a varied melody and leaping intervals.
The ensemble of artists contributing to Hackney Diamonds is nothing short of stellar. From Paul McCartney’s sturdy bass lines to Elton John’s piano expertise and Lady Gaga’s vocal brilliance, the album is a confluence of iconic artists converging to enhance The Rolling Stones’ legacy. Not to forget Steve Jordan’s drumming finesse and Andrew Watt’s multi-faceted contributions, from bass to production.
In essence, Hackney Diamonds is a musical journey that revisits The Rolling Stones’ illustrious past while forging a path into the future. Despite the challenges and changes over the years, including the irreplaceable loss of drummer Charlie Watts, the band has stayed true to their essence. Six decades into their journey, The Rolling Stones are a testament to timeless music, and with Hackney Diamonds, they prove that they’re still rolling, stronger than ever.