The Rolling Stones - Hackney Diamonds

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Hackney is a part of London that has in the past been crime-riddled and "Hackney diamonds" is a slang term for the pieces of broken glass left behind when a thief gains entry to a car by smashing the window. So a bit of a cheeky album title here; nothing new for the Rolling Stones. The album begins with "Angry," a radio-ready rocker with all the hallmarks of a Stones hit: Mick Jagger belting out relatable lyrics, a memorable chorus that calls for a sing-along and guitar riffing from Keith Richards and Ron Wood that's instantly recognizable as the Stones. The cut is bound to be featured on the band's next "best of" or hits collection. "Get Close" finds Jagger expressing a desire to tighten up a love relationship and it's punctuated with a sexy mid-song sax solo and yes, that's Elton John playing piano. Hackney Diamonds is the first studio album from the Stones in 18 years and because some of the tracks have been worked on over that span the effort is able to spotlight late drummer Charlie Watts, who died in 2021, on two tracks: The pop gem "Mess It Up" where he keep a steady beat on the devotional to a love interest, and the R&B-flavored rocker "Live By the Sword" where he anchors a funky groove. Former Stones bass man Bill Wyman guests on the cut too and Elton John makes another appearance; the piano pounder is not the only big name guest on the album. "Bite My Head Off," which is kind of in the same vein as "Angry" except with a Chuck Berry-ish riff from Richards and Woody, features a bass line from Paul McCartney, a pal now but a rival many years ago. Rounding out the roster of special guests are Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga who appear on "Sweet Sounds of Heaven," a cut that would not have been out of place on Exile on Main Street or Sticky Fingers. The slow, gospel-tinged and lengthy tune definitely benefits from Gaga's part where she replicates multiple background singers all by herself. "Whole Wide World" rocks to a "Start Me Up" groove and, with Jagger singing about streets covered in broken glass, the song about overcoming adversity is the closest thing to a title track to be found here. "Dreamy Skies" is a quiet acoustic number, again recalling the vibe of Exile on Main Street. "Driving Me Too Hard" owes a little something to "Tumbling Dice," at least with its opening riff, "Tell Me Straight" has Richards taking the spotlight on vocals, "Depending on You" is a sublime reading chronicling the consequences of lost love and the brief "Rolling Stone Blues" closes the album in a Muddy Waters mood. A new Rolling Stones record is always a major event and this one is a biggie; Hackney Diamonds will undoubtedly stand as one of the band's best. World's greatest rock 'n' roll band? Yeah buddy.


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