It would be wildly inaccurate to say Keith Richards’ solo work (and that with backing band, the X-Pensive Winos) was light years ahead of the Rolling Stones stuff from roughly the same time. In fact, both organizations were found to be hit-or-miss, but at least on his own, Richards’ engagement with the music is much more invested. I got the feeling that, quite often, his involvement on those Stones albums were more representation than anything else. “Without me, it’s not the Stones, so here I am. Now let Ronnie play the guitar.”
The collection Vintage Vinos, trickily rendered in the graphic with the V’s interlocking into a W for “Winos,” presents cuts from Talk Is Cheap, Main Offender and the live Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos. As such, there’s nothing here honestly that the hardcore Stones fan and completist doesn’t already own, but a listen reveals the set to be a lot more enjoyable, at least to me, than Mick Jagger’s solo turns.
Leaning heavily in his collaboration with drummer/bassist/whatever-needed-playing Steve Jordan, and not needing to promote any particular brand, Richards sways from rockers like “Take It So Hard” to broken-heart ballads like “Locked Away”. There is a live run-through of the classic “Time Is On My Side” and an acoustic aside with the Richards/Jagger closer “Hurricane,” and all the while the listener has to be impressed by how focused he is. For all his roughness, and for all of the expectations that his blood toxicity should make him unable to function, much less perform, Richards sounds fantastic. He has something to prove on these recordings and, surprisingly, he does.
Does it make me want to go back and investigate the solo albums from which these tracks come? Not really. But as a Greatest Hits disc of tracks that never were hits, Vintage Vinos pulls its weight and is worth the cost for those whose interest in the Stones, and their solo output, is a fond flirtation at best.
Vintage Vinos is available from Amazon.com