emotional cover2This was the first Rolling Stones album I bought on vinyl.  Not one that folks hold in high regard, but I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for it. Don’t get me wrong, there are times I just can’t be bothered with it at all.  See, the thing with Emotional Rescue is that it sounds a bit lazy at times. Other times it lacks focus (flirts between R&B Stones and disco Stones) and doesn’t really seem all that fresh given there’s probably not a melody that you haven’t heard on another Stones record.  If, however, they just decided to go make a straight-up rock disco album they would have had another Some Girls on their hands. Anyhoo, I can’t help but reach for this one on a weekday evening when the last thing I want to do is rock the party. Maybe that’s a damning statement, but it’s actually not meant to be.

It’s an odd record.  Sounding much like an odds and ends release (interestingly the follow-up, Tattoo You, features a bunch of songs that they left off this one which really would have lifted this a fair bit).  I guess the lacklustre feel is expected due to relationship shenanigans.  Richards was recovering from addiction and battling with Mick for some sort of control over the Stones.  Meanwhile, Mick was seguing into cosmopolitan Mick and Bill Wyman was on the edge of quitting (he’s notably absent on a couple of tracks here).  However, despite all that, the emotional rescue is more financial than ’emotional’ – mail-order type on Send It To Me, Summer Romance (“I need money so bad”), and the title track (“you can’t get out, you’re just a poor girl in a rich man’s house”).  I’ll be honest, sometimes it plays like a Jagger solo record with the band often sounding like they lacked inspiration (well, aside from the distinctly Rolling Stones sounding shambolic-blues of Down In The Hole and Keith’s All About You).  Which is a tad disappointing.  If they’d dealt with things head on they may just have created a classic.

emotional rescue

Dance gets things off to a promising start.  A nice bit of rhythm happening and a great vocal from Mick and backing from Keith.  Summer Romance and Send It To Me don’t really do too much, though the latter does provide some wry smiles thanks to the splendiferous work of the lyric and pronunciation departments.  Let Me Go is the kind of loose and bluesy hit we’ve come to expect from the Stones and, on any given day, it’s my favourite on side 1.  My favourite lyric here however belongs to the mariachi flavoured ballad, Indian Girl.  Seriously wonderful stuff thrown together in the song and delivered in Mick’s finest country drawl.  Then he hits us with this in a non-descript exotic monologue:

“Mister Gringo, my father he ain’t no Ché Guevara.
He’s fighting the war in the streets of Masaya
Little Indian girl where is your father?
Little Indian girl where is your momma?
They’re fighting for Mr. Castro in the streets of Angola”.

Where The Boys Go is a rotten attempt at punk.  Like they spent an evening listening to the Sex Pistols and thought “oh aye”.  There’s a horrible female backing, too.  Seriously not my cup of coffee.  But while side 2 got off to the worst of starts, along comes Down In The Hole, which is the album’s highlight.  Some nice ramshackle guitar and harmonica sparring on here as Mick asks “will all your money buy you forgiveness? Keep you from sickness or keep you from cold? Will all your money keep you from madness? Keep you from sadness when you’re down in the hole?” before deciding that “none of your money will buy you forgiveness”.  It also signals a significant upturn in the album’s quality, actually.  Like DanceEmotional Rescue is great even if it’s nowhere near the disco awesomeness of Some Girl’s Miss You.  Again, like Dance, the grooves are loose and infectious, and, as well as Mick’s falsetto lead, there’s some of that Bobby Keys sax woven in there, too.  She’s So Cold is a lazy Stones cut, but it’s not dreadful (there’s a familiar Mick vocal and he sounds like he’s having a bit of a good time even if the band are going through the motions), Let Me Go is loose, but driving, and Keith’s loose bittersweet ballad, All About You a very suitable closer – a very public display of where the Stones were at that point.  Or, more specifically where the Jagger and Richards relationship was (“if the show must go on, Let it go on without you”).

But anyway, as I say, aside from the closing number, there’s not much in the way of real emotion and the whole thing.  There’s Jagger often having a ball, but the band sound like they’re less than enthusiastic about things.  It’s strange that only two years earlier they released a similarly disco influenced album, but while Some Girls had a confident strut, Emotional Rescue lacks the wit, stubbornness and swagger.  But I like it.  Or do I?  Listening to it today with the view of putting my thoughts on it down on this internets, I’m enjoying it a bit more than I did last week.  I mean, there are enough good tacks even if there are no timeless Stones numbers here.

Y’know, I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll always have that relationship with this one.  I’m still trying to find excuses for it’s lacklusteredness.  It’s better than Dirty Work and Undercover, but only just.  And I’m okay with that.  I really am.

2016-02-27 19.52.16My copy of this is in pretty good nick. Few surface marks, but certainly nothing sinister.  The sleeve itself has some shelf wear, but overall a fine copy.

I should also add that the album gets bonus points for a front cover that reminds me of Predator.

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42 thoughts on ““I’m the burning bush, I’m the burning fire, I’m the bleeding volcano” – The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue (1980)

    1. Favourite!? That’s very interesting. I couldn’t say that I have a favourite period, but I know what you mean. I think they have some strong releases in each of the decades … and Voodoo Lounge was definitely the last great album. That encapsulated just about everything they explored (other than the disco!)

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      1. I would agree with that. Maybe needs the HMO treatment! 🙂

        I saw them during the Bridges to Babylon tour and they were terrific. Tore it up. Sounded fresh and inspired. The songs from the album definitely sounded better live!

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  1. I was in Paris when this came out and I first heard it when the barman in a bar in the Latin Quarter displayed the sleeve to the punters before putting the disc on the turntable he managed behind the bar. They all went apeshit and the album stayed on all night. For that reason I have a real soft spot for this album. I bought it as soon as I was back home.

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  2. Excellent assessment. I have a soft spot for all (er, most) things Stones, by default, but I have to admit I don’t play this era very much. I’m glad you have a decent copy and that it pleases you on some level!

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  3. Excellent write-up on an unfairly maligned album. I think I like it more than you do, but maybe that’s because it was the first “new” Stones album released as I was diving into their catalog in my early teens, and it brings me back to that time whenever I play it. I wouldn’t consider it one of my favorites but I still love it. That just shows what an impressive discography they’ve got. Not sure why Mike would consider this his favorite Stones album (he might have been dropped on his head at some point) but I’m glad he likes it so much. You might want to revisit Undercover, which may be of-its-time but it’s also filled with some kick-ass performances and surprisingly good songs. Dirty Work, which I recently wrote about in my Thirty Year Thursday series, was their first real misstep for me, and even that has a few good tracks.

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    1. Thanks, Rich. I’ve had a few interesting conversations about this one over the years and, while I don’t think it’s one of their best, I have a real soft spot for it. I think I’m forever destined to feel this was about it.

      I’ve been tempted to revisit Undercover, as a friend suggests I’ve got that one all wrong (that’s now two votes for revisiting) … so that may be on the cards sooner than later!

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  4. I’ve always had a thing for the title track. The disco-ish rhythm to Keef’s laid back vibe to Jagger’s falsetto…it all just worked for me. As a whole the record does feel like a collection of odds and ends; studio experiments and attempts to keep up with the times. But I think it works more than it doesn’t. I mean, at least there’s no “Harlem Shuffle” on here.

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    1. Jings, aye! At least!

      There are definitely enough good songs here (Emotional Rescue among them!), but it does sound a bit lifeless. A bit stifled. Asidefrom Jagger, of course. He sounds like he was having a great time!

      But yeah, no Harlem Shuffle means bonus points.

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    1. That’s a very fitting alternative title, Bruce. Very fitting. It’s a real shame, cause had they included (finished) the cuts that made Tattoo You it would have likely been one of their great albums.

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    1. Thanks, Geoff. He really does get into it, doesn’t he? There are a few other tracks like that, too. I guess it was probably a good job one of the band were enthusiastic about the whole thing!

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    1. Thanks, Ovidiu. I reckon there’s enough here to warrant investigation. It’s not great, but it’s good enough … and it has Down In The Hole and All About You on there, so it’s worth at least a listen or two for the goods on side 2.

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  5. I have to admit, I heard the title track to this and thought the Stones went disco, again! It put me off. A couple of years later, I did hear “She’s So Cold” quite a bit because a dancer at The Driftwood used to dance to it a lot. You could say her movements made the song come alive.

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    1. The problem is they don’t quite commit to a specific vibe, but Emotional Rescue and Dance are as close to disco as they get!

      I imagine She’s So Cold takes you back to The Driftwood? A nice memory to attach to a song!

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  6. I think I like this album better than you. Not my fave, not my least fave. Probably middle or a bit higher in their discography.
    I am sure I like She’s So Cold more than you do though.
    What seems like sedate playing seems purposeful to me to emphasize Keith’s lyrics.
    I wonder if they sing Indian Girl when they visit Cuba. Probably not.

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    1. Unfortunately, they will not play Indian Girl in Cuba or anywhere else. They stick to the warhorses and that’s that! (Occasional exceptions in club shows. Remember “Jump On Top of Me” played in Amsterdam?)

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    2. It’s one of my middle favourites – not middle best, but certainly one I do like to spin. I know. Always had a strange relationship with it.

      I don’t mean that the playing is necessarily lazy, I’m referring more to the fact that the songs and album just seem to exist. There is only one genuinely dreadful song on here as far as I’m concerned (Where The Boys Go), and aside from a couple of stand-outs the rest it’s just very ‘Stones by numbers’. Which is my only real criticism of the album.

      Maybe if there was a bit more to all of the songs we’d be discussing a flat out Stones classic. Perhaps?

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  7. Lazy? I nearly died (when I read this review)! Would you like to sniff the towel used to wipe down Charlie Watts after he pounded holes in his drum kit during Summer Romance? That track also features some of Ronnie’s best blazing guitar overlays he’s E V E R done for the band. Scorching, I’d say. The opposite of lazy.

    In my opinion, this rocking album is the one everybody expected after the down-on-the-low muddy-mix Exile On Main Street. Instead, we were treated by the unexpectedly sonorous sounds of Goats Head Soup which showcased Mick Taylor’s sweeping treatments and subtleties. GHS even offered up a track with multiple change-ups and complicated melodies unusual for them: 100 Years Ago.

    So we had to wait a few albums for this one. We got the funk, wah-wah guitars, and Charlie’s brilliant flourishes on It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, the negrescent diversion of Black And Blue, then the punk return of Some Girls.

    Emotional Rescue album is formulaic, to be sure, following the basic pattern set by Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers: Rockers, Ballads, and either a country or reggae tune. I think that is the issue with the Stones — an unwillingness to deviate from expertly crafted lick-hard rifts and the country/reggae mix-up. These guys come from a rich musical tradition — listen to Charlie Watts’ solo records. But Mick and Keith would figure that that wouldn’t “sound like the Rolling Stones.” Sigh.

    ER is interesting for the deviations. Instead of a country/western one, they give us 3 “fance” numbers — funk and dance numbers with reggae infused bass lines Wyman was working overtime on these: Dance, Send It To Me, and ER. I have the impression that these were heavy Glimmer Twin collaborations, not just Mick. Listen to Big Enough, for example, from Keith’s solo effort Talk is Cheap.

    That’s a lot of stepping out. During the recording sessions, the band churned through an endless session of Abba’s Dancing Queen to derive Emotional Rescue. ER turned into a major top ten hit, so much so that the Bee Gees had to give up disco.

    Indian Girl is somewhat country-influenced if you dig into the underlying beat. But it comes off as their own style. Down in the Hole strikes me as way too heavy handed and mono-dimensional, like Black Limousine or I Go Wild.

    The rest of the tracks are your pure rockers, listen to them till the grooves wear out: Let Me Go, Where the Boys Go, and She’s So Cold. All classics — the only issue are the amateur girl choir for Where The Boys Go. Those girl singers have never been identified to the best of my knowledge.

    Did we listen to the same album? 🙂

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!

      I really hadn’t meant that the playing is necessarily lazy, but more the overall vibe of the album and the fact that it’s all very familiar and, well, Stones sounding. That being said, maybe the production smothers some of the soul and passion from the band’s performances, cause I honestly can’t hear a great deal in them. But then, I guess that’s the beauty of music – that we hear it differently?

      Like I say, I have a real soft spot for it despite never really considering it among their best.

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      1. Circling back to this, I realize that ER is one of the more extended works the band has ever done — meaning, they did deviate from the pattern I outlined above to a much larger extent than normally. I guess it depends if you dig the fance numbers or not. Disco-rooted, yes, but with interesting Stones flourishes. This album paves the way for future tracks like “Sex Drive” and “Look What The Cat Dragged In.”

        There aren’t many folx who wax poetically about the latter — but “Sex Drive” swings!!!

        At the end of the day, I know that most Stones fans like what they call the “early” period, which for some includes Some Girls! I am the strange one here in that I value all releases as the soundtrack of my life.

        On that note, the band has a new album in the can which is scheduled for release this summer (2016). It apparently is comprised of classic blues numbers with no original compositions. I think it’s a shame as I liked One More Shot. See you at Madison Square Garden this fall? 🙂

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  8. A week ago! How did I miss this? Ye g-ds.

    I’m with you on this one. Even their lesser efforts still bring out that love in me that makes me care even when I probably shouldn’t. It’s been a long time since i spun this one, maybe I should!

    Also: bonus points for the Predator comment. Brilliant!

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  9. I really enjoyed reading this. I’m most partial to the title track – possibly out of nostalgia and remembering how unique it seemed as a Stones track at the time – and Indian Girl for the reasons you cite. And consider this a third vote for revisiting Undercover; I find that one to be a lot of fun, plus I think it is more cohesive and has less of a thrown-together vibe than this one.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by. Undercover shall be revisited as a matter of priority.

      It was typical that the copy I’ve seen each time I’ve been in my favourite record store was gone when I was in there just the other week. It’s been there for about 2 years!

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  10. Interesting perspectives. In 1980, I was got a job in Algeria having gotten sick of Ronald Reagan. The previous couple of years, I’d had the good fortune to bask in one of the most interestingly fertile periods of music. Lou Reed, Bowie, Sex Pistols, Clash, Patti Smith, Talking Heads were a reaction to the supergroups and Disco. Then comes the Stones who were obviously trying to find their way to be relevant through all that (and with Jagger hobnobbing with Warhol at Studio 54) and they do this incredible mashup album Some Girls. Most diehard Stones Fans hated it for being too disco, (and sexist), but it showed something we hadn’t seen in them for a long time, maybe ever, i.e., humor. (Listen to 19th Nervous Breakdown). In Algeria, which was starved for pop music and had no record stores or FM channels and had state controlled radio, we could only get, sometimes at night, music from the north coast of the Mediterranean, and once, while driving with my roommate, who had a car, the title track came on. I said, “what is that?” He said, “I don’t know. Sounds kind of like the Stones,” and neither of us knew if we really liked it. That summer, I was in Shakespeare and Company in Paris and saw a review of it in the Village Voice, which said something like, “It nice to see the Stones” (Mick had just turned 40) “aging gracefully.” For a long time after that, it was one of my favorite Stones album, but I probably haven’t listened to it in about 20 years. I will today. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by … and for the comment. I hope you managed to revisit this one – I’m really quite fond of it even if it doesn’t shake me the way some of my favourite Stones stuff does.

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