The Rolling Stones recorded Black and Blue while auditioning Mick Taylor's replacement, so it's unfair to criticize it, really, for being longer on grooves and jams than songs, especially since that's what's good about it…
On November 22, 1981, just prior to a three-night stand at the Rosemont Horizon arena in Rosemont, Illinois, The Rolling Stones dropped in on a Muddy Waters gig at Chicago’s Checkerboard Lounge. Waters, who would pass away less than two years later, already had the audience’s rapt audience before the Stones even entered the club. With supreme authority, the Chicago blues legend led his band through several numbers before inviting Mick Jagger up to the stage to join him on “Baby Please Don’t Go.”
The Rolling Stones recorded Black and Blue while auditioning Mick Taylor's replacement, so it's unfair to criticize it, really, for being longer on grooves and jams than songs, especially since that's what's good about it. Yes, the two songs that are undeniable highlights are "Memory Motel" and "Fool to Cry," the album's two ballads and, therefore, the two that had to be written and arranged, not knocked out in the studio; they're also the ones that don't quite make as much sense, though they still work in the context of the record. No, this is all about groove and sound, as the Stones work Ron Wood into their fabric. And the remarkable thing is, apart from "Hand of Fate" and "Crazy Mama," there's little straight-ahead rock & roll here. They play with reggae extensively, funk and disco less so, making both sound like integral parts of the Stones' lifeblood. Apart from the ballads, there might not be many memorable tunes, but there are times that you listen to the Stones just to hear them play, and this is one of them.
A great lost chapter in the career of organist Lonnie Smith — a session recorded in the 80s, but done with the simple straightforward soul jazz groove of earlier sides on Muse and Prestige ! Lonnie's working here in a loose and free trio format — with Melvin Sparks on guitar and the great Alvin Queen on drums — rolling out over longish tracks in an open-ended style that almost recalls more of the feel of Don Patterson's great organ trio sides than it does the heavier funk of Smith's early years. The recording quality is great — very faithful to the best tones of the Hammond.