I Feel Like Playing
[Rating: 3.5 stars]
One would think that after recording for more than 40 years that Ronnie Wood should know how to make a decent record.
One would be right.
On his new solo record I Feel Like Playing, Woodsy takes a break from the Stones to invite some of his closest friends over for a recording party where it sounds like the only rule is to put aside the party favors and get down to some serious sober music making. Guest backup singers like soul icon Bobby Womack and excellent Stones harmonizer Bernard Fowler, ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, Heartbreakers drummer Steve Ferrone and others help make this a very enjoyable recording if you’re looking for a new CD by a classic rocker that sounds like, well, a new CD by a classic rocker.
Wood brings in old Faces bandmate Ian McLagan and Ivan Neville to play keyboards, providing the organ sound that was so much a part of what Wood did with Rod Stewart. “Sweetness My Weakness” shows Wood’s affinity for reggae, with Wood handling the keyboard part himself. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons sits in on a couple tunes, including the rocking “Thing About You,” where Gibbons’ trademark sound is all over the place. And on what could have been a relatively pointless version of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful,” Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers kills it with a bass line that makes the song a totally different animal from the Cream version, or anyone else’s for that matter.
The songs are nothing amazing, but are suitable for this project and arranged and sequenced well; half were written by Wood alone, and others were written with his guests and friends like Kris Kristofferson and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. The production is tight (thanks to Fowler and Bob Rock), the playing is good, and Wood sings like he’s healthy and energized again after some personal problems, even if he’s not much of a singer compared to his guests. If there’s a real clinker on the record it’s “Fancy Pants,” where Wood and Slash trade some licks that positively went out around Woodstock days. But again, this is a record by a classic rocker and his classic rocker friends. So on those terms I Feel Like Playing is a good recording that definitely succeeds, and one that fans of Woodsy and other AOR hitmakers of his era should enjoy.