It’s been 23 years since Keith Richards has graced us with a solo release, but album number three, on which he is backed, as usual, by the X-Pensive Winos, has finally arrived — and what a breath of fresh air Crosseyed Heart is. The titular track opens the album with Richards doing his best Robert Johnson impression and then kicks into high gear with the slightly wonky “Heartstopper,” which is riff-rich but lyric-poor. Thankfully, “Amnesia” — which brings to mind “Undercover of the Night” — ups the ante. Next up, “Robbed Blind” is a countrified, pedal-steel ballad and possible cousin to “Coming Down Again.” With its lyrics about a friend and a girlfriend conspiring against the narrator, one can’t help but think of the stolen glory of the original Stone and premier ’60s rock casualty, Brian Jones, after Anita Pallenberg left him for Richards. Could Richards be exorcising old demons?
“Trouble” is the rocking single that smacks of Some Girls‒era Stones. “Love Overdue” is Richards’s irie cover of the late, great Gregory Isaacs’s 1974 Jamaican chart-topping reggae gem, which Bernard Fowler and Sarah Dash embellish beautifully. “Blues in the Morning” has a Jerry Lee Lewis vibe and is definitely killer. Elsewhere, a heartfelt cover of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene” is an unexpected but welcome addition, while “Illusion” finds a sultry Norah Jones feeling frisson with the riff-master.
Final cut “Lover’s Plea,” featuring Muscle Shoals legend Spooner Oldham and structured like a soulful Al Green number, hits the sweet spot and also taps back into “You Got the Silver” lyrically. What becomes evident from listening to Crosseyed Heart is that Richards needs to release solo albums with more frequency, Mick needs to let “Keef” be front and center on vocals on more Stones songs, and Steve Jordan really should produce the next Stones album — as he brings the mojo to the mix here, much like Jimmy Miller did on the seminal Stones releases.