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The Rolling Stones – Sweet Sounds of Heaven Review

Though their first new works since the death of Charlie Watts captured the stagnant flavours of purgatory and mediocrity, The Rolling Stones can push for more. Sweet Sounds of Heaven is just that. Pushing for more in an era where, as legendary rock groups go, there is no need to. Creation for the sake of it is a beautiful gift given only to those who cemented themselves decades before. It is why an avalanche of Bob Dylan packages and Paul McCartney presents is a treat. The Rolling Stones of course fall into this category, a fun little creation at the heart of all they do now, though whether Hackney Diamonds can limp on and fulfil its potential is yet to be heard. Sweet Sounds of Heaven does.  

Calling in the big guns when they do not need to, Mick Jagger and company prove they are all about the fun freedom of collaboration. Pairing Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder with this blues rock piece provides a delicate touch, a flair and a slower ballad style which suits this Rolling Stones era perfectly. It does feel a bit reflective of the early days. Repetition is not on the side of the Stones, but here it is nonetheless, a decent marrying of blessing the father, the son and the holy drums. Jagger skirts the edges of grieving through his lyrics here, pairing religious connotations with the hole Watts left behind in the band. Sweet Sounds of Heaven is a marginal improvement over the jagged rock standard Angry.  

Here comes a powerful trio waxing lyrical on the sweet sounds of a genre each singer has been touched by. Lady Gaga, particularly, holding her own with some singing in unison with Jagger on the bridge, crying out against dusty motels. Sweet Sounds of Heaven is as close to Aftermath The Stones have sounded in some time. It is not a positive experience through the proximity to past works, but the sentimentality and growth since then which is reflected so clearly. Sweet Sounds of Heaven has the heyday at the core of it, a boisterous and powerful work which has an all-encompassing mix. Parts of this are nothing shy of gorgeous, from the incredible Lady Gaga presence to the experienced hand of Keith Richards. He sounds alive and awake for this one, a tall order after Angry left listeners wanting more.  

There is little more you could ask for from Sweet Sounds of Heaven, a clear crowd-pleaser if and when it makes its way to the stage. It has the rising, uproarious close which beckons applause and it is the intention there, the clarity of wanting this, which drops it somewhat. Even then, this is as classic as The Rolling Stones has been in some time. Sweet Sounds of Heaven is not a return to form, to label it as such implies there is a form set by The Stones which they expect of themselves. But it is fair to say this new release, heading up Hackney Diamonds next month, is a breath of fresh air while also linking itself well to the highlights of their past efforts.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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