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