Keith Richards’s 1988 solo album, Talk Is Cheap, abounded in grooves, but it still sounded like an album of songs. For a musician like Richards, the live performance is the real story, and Live at the Hollywood Palladium, December 15, 1988 chronicles a very hot show – thereby telling the tale of Keith and his X-Pensive Winos very well indeed. Basically, it charts Richard’s effort to fit his elemental riff-craft into a band of handpicked players with a group identity very different from that of the Rolling Stones. Live makes a much more convincing case for the Winos than Talk Is Cheap did.
On these tracks, every player contributes, and the mesh is often magnificent. But the linchpin of the enterprise is Steve Jordan, the Winos’ remarkable coproducer, co-writer and ace drummer. Jordan is one of the few younger drummers whose mastery of accent and groove extends back past Sly Stone and James Brown. With Jordan and Richards pumping in tandem, everything from mid-Fifties vocal-group R&B to rude-boy reggae to Memphis soul to power-chord rock is close at hand.
Singer Sarah Dash, whose work on Talk Is Cheap didn’t always seem to blend in, is superb, inspiring one of Richards’s most nuanced recorded vocals on their duet “Make No Mistake.” When Dash, Richards, Jordan and the rest of the band unleash their combined vocal firepower, as they do on “Time Is on My Side,” the singing wails as mightily as Richards’s and Waddy Wachtel’s screaming guitars. Richards’s solos, always architectonic, riff-based affairs, shine on “Locked Away” and “I Could Have Stood You Up” and in his exchanges with Wachtel on “Happy.” But this is a band thang, a family affair, and these Winos deserve another go-round, X-Pensive or not.