I’m surprised Mick Taylor chose to dredge up his past when he named this new CD A Stone's Throw
. Taylor has long downplayed his time with the Rolling Stones, despite contributing to some of the band’s finest albums ( Sticky Fingers
, Exile on Main Street
In truth, A Stone’s Throw
has little in common with the Rolling Stones aside from its blues footing. It’s more like a substandard Nick Lowe album, but with great guitar playing.
Taylor has managed to avoid the limelight for a couple of decades now. As guitarist with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and the Stones, Taylor filled highly visible slots also occupied by the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Ron Wood. Since quitting the Stones in 1975, Taylor has recorded some superb albums with underrated Texas rocker Carla Olson. Still, his most recent solo effort came in 1979. As he sings on one of his better tunes here, "Feeling insignificant ain’t no bad thing" especially when you have some of that beautiful green paper stuffed in your wallet.
Considering Taylor’s had 21 years to plan this album, A Stone’s Throw disappoints. The sound is sleek and pop-oriented, and most of the compositions offer little in the lyrics department. Fortunately, Taylor’s singing has improved and his guitar playing remains first-rate.
Taylor’s best self-penned song on the album isn’t even a blues tune. "Never Fall in Love Again" is a wistful pop melody that features the leader’s weepy slide and a churchy organ. "Losing My Faith" is a gospel-leaning number that offers some neat guitar work and capable backup vocalizing. The slow blues tune "Morning Comes" is enhanced by the jazzy piano stylings of Max Middleton, the same Max Middleton who played on Jeff Beck’s classic album Blow by Blow. Perhaps Middleton inspired the leader’s Beck-like fret work on "Morning Comes." A moving version of Bob Dylan’s "Blind Willie McTell" is the album’s closer, and its high point.
Mick Taylor is yet another blues guitarist who'd be well advised to cut an all-instrumental album. Though his singing has improved, he’s far more talented on guitar.
A Stone’s Throw isn't what I'd hoped for. Still, the instrumentation is cool enough to recommend it to blues-rock lovers.