Late September 1986: Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, Netherlands
Late October-early November 1986: S.I.R. Studios, New York City, USA
November 17-December 18, 1986: Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, Netherlands
January 7-mid-February 1987: Blue Wave Studios, Barbados
Late February-March 27, 1987: Right Track Studios, New York City, USA
Mid-April-late May 1987: Right Track Studios, New York City, USA
Mick Jagger, Keith Diamond and David A. Stewart
Chief engineers: Ed Stasium, Bob Rosa, Manu Guiot & Jon Bavin
Mixer: Ed Stasium
Released: September 1987
Original label: Columbia Records (CBS)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Simon Phillips, Doug Wimbish, G. E. Smith, Phil Ashley, Richard Cottle, Jim Barber, Jimmy Ripp, Dave Stewart, Vernon Reid, Pat Seymour, Denzil Miller, Greg Phillinganes, Keith Diamond, Olle Rommo, David Sanborn, John Faddis, Sean Keane, Paddy Moloney, Omar Hakim, Dean Garcia, Ernst Hanes, Cindy Mizelle, Craig Derry, Jocelyn Brown, Brenda King, Harrison College Choir (Barbados).
Say You Will
Shoot Off Your Mouth
Peace for the Wicked
I believe in just doing it. I write a lot of songs. I wrote a lot more for this record. It's just that you don't want two that are the same. I found that I was writing better melodies in the country, which seems obvious when you think about it. You need to get away from this constant noise so the melodies you have in the back of your mind came come to you easier. And I find that I write better in the mornings than all this late-night business that I was always into before. And after that you can relax a bit. When I worked with Dave (Stewart), we'd start pretty early and by three o'clock we'd be done. It was healthy and fun. And lyrically I got more, though sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, like when I wrote War Baby.
I'll put aside certain periods of the day (for writing). I've started using drum machines when I get an idea, 'cause I'm a bit of a groove singer. I'll start to play on the keyboard, and get the drums going. It really gets me loose; I can just go with the sequence. Sometimes it's easier that way. And if you're a writer, you learn a lot about what you want, not what the drummer wants to impose on you. I wouldn't say I'm a great musician. I'm adequate enough to write songs and play simple parts. And I would like to become better, the same as a lot of musicians. My main thing is to sing, but my most enjoyable thing is writing, the buzz when you first write that tune.
I'd like to explore as many areas as I can, and at the moment I thought I should do more solo work. In a band, everyone is supposed to contribute, which is a wonderful way of making records, but there are other ways of making music. And I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and should sound like. The other musicians are very talented and they had ideas, but most of the things came out as I planned them on demos.
You have to have that first experience. But this time I felt more confident. I wanted to have the same center on this record, for the bass and drums to be the same people. I had different keyboards players, different textures and so on, but I didn't think the core should shift. I shifted that around on the first album and it didn't work as well as it could have.
We did all the basics and a lot of overdub work. He had his voice and a drum machine. Then he'd sing while I played to the click track. Before each song we'd talk it out: He'd describe the setting, paint a picture for me. You work together long enough, you develop key patterns, a chemistry Mick communicates from the heart. He knows what's needed; when he doesn't know, he doesn't mind asking.
I came in a little further down the line, by which time the tracks were more finished. I helped add a more serious live feel. A drum machine or click track can lull you into a false sense of security; a real kit puts things into perspective. One good thing: we didn't spend a long time on each track, but cut them quickly, which I think is very important in all types of recording. It's good to think about it, play it a couple of times and then leave it.
It's pretty grown up? (laughs) I think it is very important to be able to mature. This is what everyone's been going on about: How are you going to live in the rock music world? Rock isn't just for teenagers, you have to cover eerybody without condescending and you can do that in an album. If you're a mature singer/songwriter you can't just leave rock behind and do schlock. You've got to make the music grow with you, as well as sticking with the good, exciting basics, what's good in your work - and still try to push the genre. The subject matter doesn't have to be tedious or boringly complicated, I don't mean that. But I wouldn't done Primitive Cool or War Baby before. The Stones have their own history and there are things perhaps they wouldn't attempt. So I have to attempt it in my own way. I shouldn't be so defensive about it (laughs). But this is new ground; I don't know where it comes from, but there it is!
I'm not into myth-mania. I like to destroy myths... In this album I just tried to work towards something more real than posing as a decadent rocker. That's something one has to be careful of.
It's still rock & roll. What I'm doing is not hugely different to the Stones. I'm not going off and doing opera, I'm not going off and doing Irish folk music, much as those two areas are very interesting. It's not much different to the Stones - but the recording process IS different because it's not a committee of squabbling people. It's much more INSTANT which I think a lot of pop writing SHOULD be. With me and Keith it was NEVER instant. The Rolling Stones recently would go in the studio with very little prepared material and just live in there and camp out there for as long as it took which was sometimes SO frustrating. With the Stones it wasn't just an individual saying, Okay, this is what you do, ding ding ding, which I CAN say to Jeff Beck. I could NEVER say that to Keith because if I did he'd just play something completely different. You can't just throw a song at Keith because he'd probably loathe it on principle. So we'd go in the studio with just a few licks and there was no structure at all and you'd just hang around waiting for a spark. But with my own LPs I had complete songs and complete arrangements and the whole thing of it mentally, and the ability to present my stuff to the players without everybody going, Oh no, that's no good was sort of a new thing for me. Quite refreshing.
People con themselves, they think a solo album has to be personal. The music's personal, it's full of your life's efforts and sweat. I don't think it's more or less personal than a lot of the other work.
It's different from She's The Boss because that album was more city-fied. I'm not saying this is a country album (laughs), it's just a little more considered and a little wider range of music and lyrics.
I don't think anything about them. Personally, I don't think he should think anything about them either. Which is why he's now calling me saying, Let's get the Stones together.
I would never have been the first one to do (solo albums), that's for sure. Then again, quite honestly, the results of what came out of (Mick's) wouldn't have encouraged me to do my own. Because the obvious thing happened. It's not as good as the Rolling Stones. It didn't seem to be a competent alternative. I couldn't get any direction out of why he wanted to do it.
The first Jagger record, She's The Boss, was a moderate hit... The good news is that (Primitive Cool) is indeed an improvement. Primitive Cool has a pleasing swagger; its keynote is set by the choppy panache of the opener Throwaway and taken up to even better effect by the single Let's Work. The band, with Jeff Beck contributing the usual percing interjections, are on top of their work and step around the more obvious clichés. Co-writer and producer Dave Stewart has prodded Jagger into the spotlight and forced him to show what he can do. Even where the standard of the material sags - as it does on Radio Control and Kow Tow - the man never sounds as if he isn't trying. The question is, exactly what CAN he do? He is unquestionably the best lead singer the Rolling Stones could ever have and he can still ring a few changes on the handful of basic strong sturctures that he and Keith knocked up around of the time of Aftermath. But is he trying to express anything in particular? There are glimmerings on the title track and Party Doll of a sensibility capable of something more mature than the usual flap and fury. Elsewhere his deilery is still so inflexible it's as difficult as ever to know whether he's pleading with the love of his life or bawling out the wine waiter. It's this absence of context in the songs and idiosyncracy in their delivery that leaves Primitive Cool in the margins. Respectable but not EARTHED. (3 stars).
He grooves his overpaid pickup band, he tells Jeff Beck what to do, he writes love songs for every occasion, he doesn't even over-sing much - in short, he realizes his solo move, which beats botching it if only because the sound of a plutocrat's desperation is such an awful thing. But when I realized that Let's Work was no metaphor - that it was the plutocrat importuning his lessers to kill poverty from the bootstraps up - somehow I stopped worrying whether his life is trivialized. Your choice, mister--you live with it. B-
With his venturesome second solo LP, Primitive Cool, Mick Jagger has finally reasserted his voice of rage and disdain – or at least he has managed to reinvoke it as much as may be possible for an artist so worldly and unsentimental. For more than a generation, Jagger has peacocked his way across rock & roll bandstands, singing songs of violence, carnality, contempt and hubris with such a convincing leer that for many of us the singer seemed indivisible from the sentiments of his songs. But for roughly fifteen years now, Jagger has seemed increasingly to be trading hard-bitten intelligence and passion for something uncomfortably akin to bluster and bravado, making for a series of hackneyed albums and overly preening stage performances that reeked of self-parody... Primitive Cool marks a rather surprising transfiguration – perhaps the most sweeping work of artistic self-redefinition by a major pop figure since Bob Dylan turned homey on Nashville Skyline or at least since Lou Reed revealed his lovey-dovey side on The Blue Mask. Whether one should view this turn as a sign of genuine personal change is another matter, because, truth be told, there has always been a good deal less of the real Mick Jagger in his music than many of us might care to realize. At the same time, Primitive Cool probably makes more biographical and emotional sense than anything Jagger has worked on since Some Girls – which, in retrospect, was a fairly mean-humored, self-serving effort that aimed to hit hard at all those things (mainly women and punks) that had temporarily made Jagger's world a little less manageable.
...Primitive Cool would appear to be the work of a man who has taken a long, tough look at the life that he has been leading and the world that he is living in and has decided to reexamine some of his values. It is tempting to believe that Jagger intends this as a heartfelt personal statement. Certainly it fits in with what we presume to know about the singer at this point: namely, that he is now something of a family man and that he no longer seems fully enamored of the Rolling Stones' raw-toned approach to life and music. But perhaps it's simply more accurate to say that in contrast to his perfunctory solo debut, She's the Boss, Primitive Cool sounds like a record Jagger had to leave the Stones to make. The melodies that he's produced by himself have more power and emotion than most of what he has fashioned with Richards in over a decade, while his singing exhibits the sort of diversity and commitment that appeared to elude him shortly after Sticky Fingers... Whether this feat is worth the loss of the Rolling Stones – if that's the way things should tumble – is a hard question, and probably nobody will have to examine that possibility more closely than Jagger himself. If Primitive Cool turns out to be what it feels like – Mick Jagger's long-overdue rejuvenation – then whatever this cocky icon makes of his future should concern anybody who ever respected his past.
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