KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – ROLLING STONES “DIRTY WORK”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]

Artist: ROLLING STONES
Album: DIRTY WORK

Rolling Stones - Dirty WorkI can’t imagine there are many fans who rank Dirty Work as one of the Rolling Stones’ best albums, and it’s more likely that the majority consider it a low point in their discography. You can count me among the latter, although thirty years ago I was thrilled to hear new music from the Stones (who were one of my 4 or 5 favorite bands) and several tracks still sound great three decades later. It had been three years since the undervalued Undercover, and during that time relations between the band members (especially Mick Jagger & Keith Richards) were at an all-time low, a situation exacerbated when Jagger released his debut solo album in 1985 and it became a big hit. I’m not sure you can hear any of this tension in the music but the songwriting was inconsistent, possibly due to Jagger saving his strongest material for another solo album (although his underwhelming sophomore effort the following year would dispute this suggestion). It’s more likely due to the fact that the band wrote, rehearsed & recorded much of the music without Jagger, who added his vocals after recording was complete, and the collaborative spark that created so much of their classic material was absent.

Dirty Work is best remembered for the hit single “Harlem Shuffle,” their cover of the 1963 song by R&B duo Bob & Earl. Their version is good but not as strong as the original. My favorite songs here have always been “One Hit (To The Body),” which includes some great lead guitar from Jimmy Page, “Winning Ugly” and “Back To Zero.” I always enjoyed Keith Richards’ lead vocal performances, which had been sporadic throughout their career, and this album is notable for being the first to feature two Richards songs, the reggae cover “Too Rude” and the lovely ballad “Sleep Tonight” (with Richards accompanied by Ron Wood on drums). Both songs point to his excellent solo work a few years later. The remainder of the Steve Lillywhite-produced Dirty Work is Stones-by-the numbers; nothing terrible but nothing terribly memorable either. It hasn’t held up as well as the majority of my favorite albums from 1986 but deserves to be included in this series for the half dozen tracks mentioned above.

 

Advertisements

37 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – ROLLING STONES “DIRTY WORK”

  1. stephen1001
    January 28, 2016

    I hadn’t realized Lillywhite had produced this one – I quite like a lot of his other productions (pogues, ours, peter Gabriel…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Geoff. I had forgotten about Lillywhite producing this album until I revisited it this past week. His work with U2, Marshall Crenshaw, XTC and especially Big Country made him one of my favorite producers of the ’80s (and he’s done excellent work since then), but Dirty Work sounds like it could have been produced by anyone.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. ianbalentine
    January 28, 2016

    I really don’t have much love for this one; truthfully (and perhaps stupidly) I stopped considering The Stones a viable recording act after Tattoo You. I’ve been tempted to give their later stuff a go but other bands have taken that space whenever the mood hits (Steven Wilson, Spock’s Beard, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Tame Impala, the list goes on and on).

    That’s the beauty of reading your posts, though. I am now properly motivated to find the hidden gems on this one! Your comment about Jagger saving his best material for his solo album reminds me of Townshend hoarding the good stuff for his solo effort Empty Glass, making Face Dances a tad uneven. I rate that album quite highly, so maybe I’ll change my mind about Dirty Work.

    Thank you, Rich, for another thoughtful post!

    Like

    • Ian, I understand you jumping ship after Tattoo You but there’s much to be enjoyed from their latter years even though very little of it stacks up against their classics. If you’re going to give any of their later albums a shot, I wouldn’t recommend starting with Dirty Work. Its predecessor, Undercover, is much more vital. Their albums from Steel Wheels on suffer from excessive running times but have many strong songs, and I think A Bigger Bang is my favorite. Hope this is helpful. Thanks for checking in.

      Like

    • Daddydinorawk
      January 29, 2016

      I always thought it was Roger saying he felt uncomfortable singing certain songs (Rough Boys??) so PT saved them for Empty Glass.

      Like

      • That could be the case, but Roger has usually attempted just about anything Pete presented to him. I’m actually a big fan of Face Dances. It’s not quite as powerful as Empty Glass but most of the material is very strong. I just think Pete’s songwriting was changing at that time and I understand why a lot of fans felt let down by that album. It does seem more like a Pete solo album than a proper Who album.

        Like

  3. J.
    January 28, 2016

    A very generic sounding album and one I’ve never warmed to. You’re spot on about the lack of spark. I think Jagger’s focus was definitely elsewhere, though not necessarily on holding back quality for his own solo album!

    Like

    • I completely understand why you never warmed to this one, J. Did you hear it when it was released or was your initial exposure sometime after that? I don’t dislike it but would only include a couple of songs on a career-spanning anthology. Thanks for the feedback.

      Like

      • J.
        January 29, 2016

        I didn’t hear it until around 1996 or so (when I got into the Stones pretty big!), but it always struck me as one of the weakest in their pretty stellar catalogue! Every so often I revist it, but it’s just never clicked.

        Like

      • It makes sense that you wouldn’t find much to like on Dirty Work if you came to it a decade later in the middle of a Stones obsession, since it would really seem weak in comparison to all the greats you were discovering at the same time. I went through my Stones obsession around ’80 or ’81. I remember buying up their back-catalog one album at a time over the course of a few months with whatever newspaper delivery money & allowance I could save. I was fortunate that there wasn’t a weak one among those records, with Their Satanic Majesties Request probably being the weakest link but still having some killer songs.

        Like

      • J.
        January 30, 2016

        I really liked Their Satanic Majesties Request until recently. Something changed. Perhaps the timing of the listen was wrong. Definitely an interesting album, though. A real curio.

        … and you’re very right about my feelings on Dirty Work being the result of discovering everything they had at that time.

        Like

      • Strange that you soured a bit on Their Satanic Majesties Request. I probably like it a little more than I used to but that’s probably because I thought it was really weak when I was younger (in comparison to all their other albums that I was absorbing at the same time). It may just come down to the fact that the Stones weren’t meant to perform psychedelic music.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. mikeladano
    January 28, 2016

    My favourite tune is also One Hit. I have a soft spot for “underdog” albums in a band’s catalogue. Like with Alice Cooper, you can find some real gems on them. Dirty Work is not one I listen to often, but I enjoy hearing it just the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m all for “underdog” albums too, Mike, and there are certainly some gems on this one…just not enough to make it anything more than a decent Stones album.

      Like

  5. Vinyl Connection
    January 28, 2016

    No-one is rushing to champion ‘Dirty work’. Probably says enough, eh?
    The last Stones album I really enjoyed was ‘Black and Blue’ so I think I pretty much missed this one! Quite possibly I was put off by the fashion statements on the cover.

    Where to next, I wonder?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to know you’re a fan of Black And Blue, Bruce. That one divides fans but I’ve always loved it. I’m surprised you didn’t stick with them at least through Some Girls, and the two or three after that are excellent as well.

      I’ve got enough albums I love from ’86 to continue these Thirty Year Thursday posts through the end of the year. I also have three other series in the works. I just need to find enough time to get them organized. I’m glad I started this weekly series to keep me focused.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vinyl Connection
        January 28, 2016

        Your vision is inspiring and you output laudable Rich. Great stuff.
        Also, I should fess up that I like Steel Wheels a bit!

        Like

      • Thanks, Bruce. I’m in awe of your storytelling prowess so we’ve got a mutual admiration society taking place. I’m glad you admitted your appreciation for Steel Wheels. Hope you don’t regret admitting that in public.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Daddydinorawk
        January 29, 2016

        Its always warming to see your posts pop up on the reader, especially since we went without for some time. I’ve never listened to this entire album proper but One Hit was a great slam from them when it seemed like they were all but dead.

        I went to see a WWF event in Oakland around then and one tag team “The Killer B’s” used it as their ring entry tune. No joke.

        Like

      • There was a brief time back in college & immediately afterwards when I really enjoyed pro wrestling so I remember the Killer B’s, although I don’t recall them using “One Hit (To The Body).” Very cool choice. They obviously had good musical tastes. Thanks for the kind words. Hope you enjoy Dirty Work the next time you give it a listen.

        Like

  6. 1537
    January 28, 2016

    Good choice rich. I really like this one – it was my seventh LP and the first record I had bought that wasn’t by Queen. Plus there was swearing!

    One Hit is still an excellent track and the whole second side is great in my opinion, but if I never hear ‘Harlem Shuffle again I shan’t mourn.

    Like

    • It’s amazing that you remember this was your 7th album. At what point did you lose count? As for Queen, they will make an appearance in this series at some point this year, and one member of Queen will be featured in an upcoming series I’m working on. Stay tuned.

      For some reason “Harlem Shuffle” was much more enjoyable when I revisited the album earlier this week than it’s ever been, but I would still prefer to hear the original.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1537
        January 29, 2016

        Hi Rich – the sad truth is that I was/am anal enough to put a little sticker with the date on inside every record I buy … then I entered them all on a data base many years later …

        Normal service was resumed and my next three purchases were all back to Queen!

        Liked by 1 person

      • What’s that…a record collector who’s anal? I wouldn’t know anything about that. Haha. I’m sure the Excel spreadsheet I’ve had for 25 years (originally on Lotus) that catalogs my entire music collection isn’t another example of obsessive behavior. Nor are the ever-expanding lists of music to seek out, which I keep on my computer AND a small piece of paper in my wallet. Yep, you’re not alone.

        Liked by 2 people

      • 1537
        February 1, 2016

        Haha, you’re right. I used to write them all out in exercise books pre-PC days too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We may need to start a support group for fellow obsessives. Of course we would have to admit that it’s a problem, and that’s not likely to happen.

        Liked by 2 people

      • 1537
        February 1, 2016

        I’m not totally sure I’d want to join Anals Anonymous … my wife might misunderstand.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And with that comment, this discussion officially ends. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Bill Van Orden
    January 28, 2016

    Well….about the only thing I can say about this album and The Stones at this point ….DIRTY WORK gave WORK to one of my INFLUENCES in toonage … MR. RALPH BAKSHI… and Ralph had the intestinal fortitude to have a young and anxious to show the world what he could DO..ANIMATOR by the name of JOHN KRICFALUSI do the lion’s share of the animation on HARLEM SHUFFLE. (John’s name may be familiar to fans who have heard of REN AND STIMPY, Beany and Cecil, and Bakshi’s MIGHTY MOUSE THE NEW ADVENTURES.

    Like

    • Nice job tying this album to your passion for animation, Bill. I knew Bakshi was involved with that video but wasn’t aware of Kricfalusi’s involvement. I feel like yelling “You eeeediot” to myself for being unaware. Haha.

      Like

  8. deKE
    January 28, 2016

    I was in Grade 13 when this album came out Rich! (1986)What i recall the most is the video for One Hit and how much Jagger and Richrards were annoyed with each other.
    Love that tune but when I seen the Harlem Shuffle video they lost me….
    Great call with A Bigger Bang! J loves that album and I agree its a great record that J made me dicover about a year ago!

    Like

    • At the time I just figured that Jagger & Richards were acting in that video but in hindsight it’s obvious that they were not happy with each other. I’ve always tried not to let a video affect my opinion of a song or artist, but I can understand why that video turned off a lot of fans.

      Glad you agree about A Bigger Bang. It’s been several years since I played it but I have a feeling it will hold up pretty well. Another favorite Stones album from the last few decades is Stripped, the mostly acoustic live album recorded in small venues & in the studio. It captured them at their most musical.

      Like

  9. Jeff Kempin
    January 28, 2016

    I bought this album last summer at a yard sale for a buck. In mint condition too. It’s sat in the basket of albums that I keep separate for new purchases that I haven’t listened to yet. Tomorrow I’ll pull it out and give it a spin. I only know Harlem Shuffle and One Hit and while I like those songs okay, I’ll see what the rest of the album sounds like. It’s almost universally acknowledged as the bands low point, so we’ll see if it’s really that bad.

    Like

    • Jeff, I look forward to hearing your assessment of Dirty Work, which you clearly got for a very good price. It may be a low point in their discography but it’s not without its charms. Hope you like at least some of it.

      Like

      • Jeff Kempin
        January 29, 2016

        I did like most of it. It wasn’t a bad album by any stretch, but….it’s not really a record I can see myself replaying often. The production is a little dated sounding and Mick’s voice wasn’t at his best. I liked Keith’s two songs pretty well, those were standouts. One Hit is still a punchy track, proving that Mick and the boys can still rock it.
        Just my opinion, but I didn’t find Dirty Work to be as bad as popular opinion on it….just that it was kind of meh in parts. The Stones should never be meh, you know?

        Like

      • I don’t think Mick sounds bad on this record but he does oversing. Perhaps that had something to do with not touring for several years and his voice wasn’t in the same shape it used to be. Excellent point about how the Stones should never be meh. For such a long career they’ve had a really strong hit-to-miss ratio.

        Like

  10. Pingback: Reason #245: Tattoo You | 500 Reasons Why The 80's Didn't Suck

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to KamerTunesBlog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 332 other followers

Archives

%d bloggers like this: