mon 18/11/2019

CD: Ronnie Wood - Mad Lad | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Ronnie Wood - Mad Lad

CD: Ronnie Wood - Mad Lad

Chuck Berry classics get the Ronnie Wood touch

'Recorded live, it’s lean and bright and clean and bags and bags of fun'

There’s plenty going on in Ronnie Wood’s world, with Mike Figgis’ feature documentary, Somebody Up There Likes Me, a mini tour with his band The Wild Five – London, Manchester and Birmingham – and this platter, subtiled "A Live Tribute to Chuck Berry", that was recorded live last year at The Tivoli in Wimborne, Dorset. I know the venue well, dear readers, as the local flea pit of the 1960s and 1970s. Its last screening as a cinema was Led Zep’s The Song Remains the Same in 1977 (there were plenty of grebos in the Wimborne area), before its divine resurrection as a music venue, thanks to the work of volunteers, in 1993.

Augmenting Ronnie’s band is pianist Ben Walters, who put out the marvellous Boogie With Stu back in 2011 (with the then-estranged, inactive Stones coming together to cover Dylan’s "Watching the River Flow"), and singer Imelda May across a brace of tracks. The resulting tribute to the kingpin, if not the King of rock'n'roll, is ebullient, nuanced, deft and good-humoured, with the guitarist stretching himself through the foundation garments of rock'n'roll as it began and as it became, Chuck’s DNA of licks and riffs grazing its herd through Wood’s generation of rockers, and several subsequent ones, too. As such, Mad Lad is a fitting tribute to a master from a disciple, and an adept.

It’s good to hear Ronnie handle lead vocals, too, that nasal rough diamond of a voice, West London-Dylanesque, pitted like an old road, and the quintessential English rocker’s drawl. Imelda May’s on full-throated form, giving Chuck’s brilliant stories in song a blast of show-tune power. As for the song selection, the big-hitters include an old Stones number, "Little Queenie" (just about surviving the implications of a 70-something bloke serenading a 17-year-old girl but, hell, this is rock'n'roll where the sentiments, if not the players, are immortal) as well as "Rock'n'Roll Music" and "Johnny B Goode", set beside lesser known fare – the instrumental "Blue Feeling", for example, the fine playing on Big Maceo Merriweather’s "Worried Life Blues", and May seizing hold of one of Chuck’s greatest, "Wee Wee Hours".

Recorded live, it’s lean and bright and clean and bags and bags of fun, and you can see them do it all again for Chuck at either of the three gigs later this month. With Mad Lad, Ronnie Wood has served the master well.

@CummingTim

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