“Hackney Diamonds”: The Stones Embrace It All

With Hackney Diamonds, their first album of new music in eighteen years, the Rolling Stones have created a record that holds up against the best albums of the last few years but also with the band’s stellar output from the 1970s.


Listeners, beckoned by the seductive video to the first single (“Angry”), were swept up by the album’s mission statement: survival, and how to make it fun. “Depending On You” hurtles from infectious hook to the next, pinpointing the formula the album happily follows from that point on. By the time the band has landed at “Rolling Stone Blues,” the nostalgia doesn’t just seem satisfactory, but deeply well earned.

Radio anthems like “Driving Me Too Hard” and “Bite My Head Off” sit next to slower, more reflective ballads (“Sweet Sounds of Heaven” makes for a very pleasurable listen, all seven minutes of it), fashioned by Mick Jagger’s stellar vocal dexterity.

Guitarist Ronnie Wood is the album’s unsung hero, littering songs like “Driving Me Too Hard” with staggeringly good fills. Little wonder that the album caused something of a ripple among the trendy presses, many of them proclaiming this work to be the band’s best work in years. A superbly stylized album, it was also notable for featuring the late Charlie Watts’ on “Mess It Up.”  Besides the recently deceased drummer, the record also featured the group’s original bassist Bill Wyman and Paul McCartney on alternating bass duties, while Lady Gaga produces a striking harmony to Jagger. Elton John and Stevie Wonder also make an appearance.


“We had a lot of material recorded, but we weren’t very excited with the results,” Jagger explained. “And that’s when the magic started to happen. We recorded the whole thing in three or four weeks. We wanted to make the record fast and keep ourselves excited the whole time. And I think we achieved our goal.” The presence of uber-hip producer Andrew Watt helped proceedings, but there’s no denying the commitment Jagger, Wood, and Keith Richards – the three Stones left standing – brought to the recording studio. The electric guitar fairly crackles out of the speakers, the falsettos purr and whisper. As the album progresses, it employs a variety of sound effects that would sound at home on a Kanye West album or work by the Arctic Monkeys who have sounded slicker in recent times.

hair of rock merch

Easy and eccentric at the same time, the lyrics hint at a certain melancholia, as if acknowledging their advancing ages (Jagger turned eighty earlier this year.) Of this selection, “Whole Wide World” is the most obviously poignant; the trio aren’t avoiding their status in life, but celebrating it. As long as The Rolling Stones’ creative instincts are servicing them, I can’t begrudge them another ten years or so.

Their chords bounce against riffs, and sugary harmonies latch themselves onto harder-edged, blues-tinted licks. Jagger writes catchy, hardheaded-to-coldhearted songs to jangly hooks, bringing an exhilarating flavor to a genre that was once considered old hat. The playing is tight but loose, and it all sounds wonderful on the first listen. How it will translate to the live stages, I cannot be certain at this time, but The Rolling Stones have been wonderfully served by Steve Jordan, tackling some of the heftier drum patterns, and bassist Darryl Jones, who has been a mainstay of their stage set up since the 1990s. The Rolling Stones know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it right.

-Eoghan Lyng

Fair use image from Hackney Diamonds

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22 comments on ““Hackney Diamonds”: The Stones Embrace It All

  1. Norman Normous

    Why hasn’t Wyman rejoined?

    • Bill got tired of touring & hates flying. He just got burned out of the grind and the silly tiffs between Jaggar/Richards, which were always getting the attention over the music.

  2. Eddie Villanova

    Bill will be 87 tomorrow, born 10/24/2036. He is happily retired since the early ’90s and refuses to fly. It was great having him on this one track. My question is why not bring in Mick Taylor for a track?

  3. Bill Perks

    I agree that it would be great to use Mick Taylor again. I’m not sure why he is not a consideration especially for touring purposes.

    • Maybe you can ask Mick, Bill Perks. You know him. 🙂 Or is that not your real name?

      But serious: When you check the liner notes you can’t find Daryll Johnson. I was surprised to see this. He doesn’t play on the record, apparently because of other commitments. So a lot of Ron, Keith & producer Watts on bas… And Bill Wyman & Paul McCartney.

  4. Patricia R (Patty) McMillen

    So happy to read a good culture sonar/eoghan Lyng review of this new release. I was holding my breath.

  5. Mark Hudson

    Sounding better than they have any right to. They can still rip this joint. Gawd bless ’em!

  6. Thoughtful stuff, my friend.

    Eighteen years since the last new album? Damn.

    The boys still doin’ it 10 years out. Mick’ll be 90. Don’t see it.

    On the other hand, don’t dismiss it either…


    Umm this thread is getting a bit ageist. Please cut it out. Thanks.

  8. Eddie Villanova

    Thank you, Karen. I’m 70 myself.

    • patriciarmcmillen

      You’re welcome Eddie (assuming you were directing the misogynistic “Karen” at me…btw I’m older than you are, therefore presumably wiser, and also btw I was referring to Mark Howard’s patronizing comment about “better than they have any right to.”)

      • Mark Hudson

        Meant as a compliment regarding their longevity and the fact they are still creating rather than just sitting on a beach counting their money. Not patronizing in the slightest.

      • Eoghan Lyng

        To quote David Byrne, “How did I get here?”

  9. patriciarmcmillen

    @ Mark: if you were an older active musician, you might find the idea of complimenting an older active musician for not sitting on a beach counting their money, or talking about how good they have “a right to” sound, just as patronizing as I do. (How good do I have “a right to” sound, in your lexicon?) Jann Wenner learned the hard way that Black and female musicians are rightfully offended by his assumption that rock is a White man’s game. I’m just trying to add, for you and anyone else who assumes that “ripping this joint” is the sole purpose of a Rolling Stone lick (let alone that your “Gawd” is or wants to be in on the deal), that it’s not solely a young(er) musician’s game either–our elders have a ton of experience to add, let’s just be respectful.

  10. Mark Hudson

    OK. One last (I promise) try at clarification. 1. Comment was meant to be a light hearted and supportive one of The Stones, no subtext. 2. “Rip this joint” was meant to be an amusing/”clever” way to say that The Stones still rock by quoting the title of one of their older songs instead of just saying “The Stones still rock.” 3. “Gawd bless ’em” is a common saying of Londoners of a certain age, of which I am proudly one. 4. Ageism sucks. 5.Charlie’s good tonight innee?

  11. Norman Normous

    It’s not as good as Sticky Fingers, is it?

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