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Classic of the Week

The Rolling Stones "Black and Blue" (1976) / Virgin

August 11, 1994|JON MATSUMOTO

When "Black and Blue" first hit the streets, even some die-hard Stones fans had a hard time warming up to it. Reflecting Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' growing fascination with reggae and urban street funk, it remains one of the band's most significant departures from its signature blues-rock sound, and it still requires a certain amount of patience and perseverance. But for those willing to put forth the effort, this is an underrated gem.

The opening track, "Hot Stuff," initially might sound mired in its own rhythm. Yet after repeated listenings, the insistent groove and Jagger's nasty vocalizing grow in strength and allure. A first reaction to "Melody" may be cautious: Who wants to hear the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band tackling an uptown jazz number? But the Stones infuse this finger-popping track with just the right doses of sass and sensuality. "Hey Negrita," with its Caribbean accents, is the blackest and bluest cut; Richards' chugging guitar riffs ignite its salacious mood.

"Black and Blue" served as a vehicle for the Stones to audition guitarists for the spot that recently had been vacated by Mick Taylor. Three of the candidates made it onto the album. Wayne Perkins, an American, was the most technically proficient; indeed, his nifty solo on the straight-ahead rocker "Hand of Fate" is one of the most memorable in the band's long and glorious history. The job, of course, wound up going to Ron Wood, whose first two recordings as a Stone also are included here.

Four or five songs from "Black and Blue" helped anchor the Stones' European tour in '76. They all but vanished on subsequent U.S. excursions, but the band has been playing two numbers from the album--"Hot Stuff" and "Memory Motel," a lovely road ballad on which Jagger and Richards trade vocals--on the early stages of its current "Voodoo Lounge" tour.

Like all the Rolling Stones' post-'60s studio albums, "Black and Blue" is available now in a remastered version from Virgin Records, the group's current label. A limited collector's edition offers a slightly larger jewel case and the original album packaging.

* Times Link: 808-8463

To hear an excerpt from "Black and Blue," call TimesLink and press *5521

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