Hackney Diamonds: Rolling Stones deliver a high-energy blues fest

The Rolling Stones perform at a celebration for the release of their new album “Hackney Diamonds” on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in New York. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP.

After six decades of music, the Rolling Stones’ reputation precedes itself. They’re one of the few icons remaining of a time gone by, still touring regularly and making public appearances, even after the passing of their drummer, Charlie Watts.  

However, even if a band can still play their hits, making new music is a completely different playing field. It’s very common to see musicians start to lose their creative edge in their later years, and while that is certainly evident with “Hackney Diamonds,” the Stones still manage to pack a punch.  

One thing that must be mentioned before getting into the music is the album cover. Album art is something that is rarely ever spoken about as a serious medium, which is quite devastating considering the amount of time and effort that can go into creating it. That being said, the cover for “Hackney Diamonds” is nothing short of gorgeous. The retro art style and symbolism represent the music almost perfectly.  

In recent years, the band has forgone their tried and true formula in favor of a more straightforward blues rock direction. Those looking for music like “Beast of Burden” or “Start Me Up” should start looking somewhere else. While it’s very commendable for the band to switch things up and try something new, it doesn’t always land. While their new record “Hackney Diamonds” is certainly better than their previous album released in 2016, “Blue and Lonesome,” it doesn’t come without faults. 

As this is their first album in seven years and the first since Watts’ passing, the Stones really pull out all the stops. In just under 50 minutes, this album is packed with special features. The songs featuring these guests are unsurprisingly the best on the album. “Bite My Head Off” featuring Paul McCartney is an energetic hard rock track. With this song, the band strives to show their audience that they still have their chops, even if they’re all pushing 80 years old. “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” featuring both Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder on vocals is a soulful blues track. The organ and piano work is reminiscent of B.B. King, featuring a horn section and grandiose production. The song clocks in at over seven minutes and almost seems like the band’s swan song, à la “The Garden” by Rush. 

While this album is certainly fun, especially with all the features from other legendary musicians, it tires out very quickly. One of the biggest criticisms of blues rock is its tendency to all sound the same, and this album certainly exemplifies that sentiment. As someone who plays guitar and has a fond love of blues music, it’s incredibly grating to hear Keith Richards play a minor pentatonic scale for every single solo on this record. In this style of blues rock, creativity is quite often stunted in favor of what “works,” which is very sad to see considering Richards is a talented player. 

It’s quite likely that “Hackney Diamonds” will be the Stones’ last album. When taking that into consideration, this is really as good as they could get for a last hurrah. The band doesn’t have anything to prove anymore as they’ve already supplied the world with numerous timeless songs that are still listened to and beloved by fans decades later. 

Rating: 3/5 

Leave a Reply