What does it sound like?:
By all accounts, Ronnie Wood has spent his career in the Ringo role, the affable chap all the others like talking to. He’s a great companion on a long tour. In the studio, he makes the clock tick by that bit quicker when the engineers are tinkering with the snare drum. He has a nice little sideline in ‘art’, painting portraits of his band mates and selling them for a pretty penny. Experts rate him as better than Dylan but that’s not saying much. He also plays guitar.
It’s difficult to be anything other than condescending when confronted with this vanity project. Ron has gathered around him a group of musicians including a fine vocalist in Imelda May and a classy pianist in Ben Waters. The album is recorded live at Wimborne’s Tivoli Theatre, eleven tracks of Chuck Berry usual and not-so-usual suspects, bar Wood’s own imaginatively entitled Tribute To Chuck Berry and a Maceo Merriweather song, Worried Life Blues, that Chuck covered for a B side. The sleeve is ‘hand painted’ by Ron himself, a copy of an image most people will instantly recognise. The deluxe box includes LP, CD and a 12×12 card replica of the cover art and a limited edition super deluxe adds a T shirt and a signed set list, both at eye-watering prices. You can but just the CD or LP by itself.
Oh. Almost forgot there is some music involved. The rhythm section is solid. Waters is bright and nimble in the Johnnie Johnson role. May does her best on the three songs she sings but Ron’s interfering backing vocals are largely out of tune and upset her equilibrium. As lead, his tunelessness matters less but he can’t muster any of Chuck’s character or his knowing wink. These covers are perfunctory, at best, but it is almost impossible to completely ruin a Chuck Berry song. The toes tap, the beer gets sunk, the head rocks back and the temptation to singalong cannot be resisted. “Go, go, go Johnny go!”
What does it all *mean*?
Mad Lad will not add to the sum of human happiness for many, if any, of The Afterword, but neither will it detract. The good news for Ronnie Wood fans is that this is the first of a trilogy. There are two other ‘heroes’ he intends to tribute in the near future.
Goes well with…
Beer. Lots of beer. Mad Lad is a four pint album, at least, before it can even begin to be enjoyed.
15th November 2019
Might suit people who like…
Giving more money to a Roling Stone.