The World’s Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Band is in no danger of losing its title. After six decades of doling out blues-driven hard rock, the Rolling Stones are goosing the genre with Hackney Diamonds, a staggering, swaggering return to form.
The iconic band’s first set of originals since 2005’s A Bigger Bang and best since 1981’s Tattoo You arrives Oct. 20 on Polydor Records. For those who doubted the Stones could match the greatness of past glories, Hackney will come as a gratifying surprise. It crackles with the familiar grit, tattered pomp and dirty riffs that built their brand. In a phrase, Hackney Diamonds is off the hook.
The title is drawn from British slang for the shards of glass left after a scofflaw smashes a windshield or window. Other titles considered were Hit and Run and Smash and Grab. All suit the album’s brash posture and merry turbulence.
The long wait for Hackney owes to the band’s busy touring schedule, the COVID lockdown and, as singer Mick Jagger confessed at last month’s London press event hosted by Jimmy Fallon, “Maybe we were a bit too lazy.”
The group went into the studio last December, and Jagger imposed a Valentine’s Day deadline. It stuck.
“We cut 23 tracks very quickly, finished them off in January and mixed them in February,” Jagger said, noting that the work yielded not only Hackney but 75 percent of a follow-up record.
Core members Jagger, 80, and guitarists Keith Richards, 79, and Ronnie Wood, 76, are joined by Matt Clifford on keyboards, Darryl Jones, 61, on bass and new drummer Steve Jordan, 66, handpicked by the late Charlie Watts as his replacement. Watts, who died in 2021 of cancer, and original bassist Bill Wyman, 86, who left the band in 1993, appear on tracks recorded in 2019.
The album got a critical assist from producer Andrew Watt, a Stones disciple and 2021 Grammy producer of the year, who cracked the whip and pressed for high-voltage synergy. Consequently, the 12-track collection reveals the Stones’ most collaborative effort in decades, performed with the brio and mettle of their earliest hits.
Here’s a track-by-track breakdown of the eagerly awaited album:
“1, 2, 3” and boom! The album starts with a furious kick, pairing Jagger’s taut wail with Richards’ grimy riffs and supple solo. The decades slip away, and the two rock with the fervor of blokes in a pub audition. Against a propulsive beat, Jagger gamely attempts to douse a flame, pleading, “Please just forget about me, cancel out my name/Please never write to me, I love you just the same.”