Picks and Pans Review: Talk Is Cheap

updated 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Keith Richards

After more than 25 years as the world's most famous rhythm guitarist, Rolling Stone Keith Richards steps out with a first solo album that is often impressive and always atmospheric. The sharpest songs, like Big Enough, Whip it Up and It Means A Lot, have remarkably simple melodic structures, but through repetition Richards creates an intoxicating effect. The single Take It So Hard has all the torqued-up, stripped-down momentum of the Stones' masterpiece, Exile on Main Street. Richards, who wrote each of the 11 songs with drummer Steve Jordan, even carries off your basic Al Green-soul groove on Make No Mistake and tries his gnarled hand at a demiballad on the dreamy Locked Away. Never mind the music, you say; you just want the dirt? Well, just as John Lennon slammed Paul McCartney on How Do You Sleep?, Richards uses You Don't Move Me to slap fellow Stone Mick Jagger and his two solo records ("Now you want to throw the dice/You already crapped out twice...What makes you so greedy?/Makes you so seedy?") Okay, so Richards' voice wouldn't get him onto Star Search—even as an usher—and his guitar solos are the same stunted Chuck Berry riffs that he has been tearing off for a quarter of a century. But Richards can lay down a chord foundation with the precision and assurance of a musical stonemason. He only falters when he tries to get too fancy, as on tracks like I Could Have Stood You Up. On the whole, however, Richards is in his element on this album, stroking away vigorously on his trusty guitar. He's one rock musician whose bite is a lot worse than his bark. (Virgin)

From Our Partners