Talk Is Cheap

Keith Richards

Virgin, 1988

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1988, it looked like the Rolling Stones were essentially history. Their previous studio album, Dirty Work, was regarded by many as one of their worst albums. Worse yet, the “Glimmer Twins”—Mick Jagger and Keith Richards—were completely at odds with each other.

So, Talk Is Cheap, Richards’s first solo album of his career, could be seen as the ultimate “fuck you” to Jagger. With thinly veiled potshots toward Jagger, Richards and an all-star backing band created what some reviewers called the best Rolling Stones record they’d heard in a long time.

Make no mistake, Richards is just as much the Stones as Jagger, so anything he does is going to sound a lot like his main band. But Richards did succeed in creating a solid album that, at times, dares to break away from the sound he had been known for—and the results spoke for themselves. (This review is based on the original release, not the reissue containing six bonus tracks.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

At times, Richards does indeed sound like he’s channeling his other band, crafting songs that, had they been on albums like Dirty Work or Undercover, would have made them significantly better. Just listen to “Take It So Hard,” and try to question whether or not Richards is truly the soul of the Stones. It’s not a copy of the Stones, but it is Richards’s style, and the two just cannot be separated—which isn’t a bad thing.

Other tracks like “You Don’t Move Me” (a definite call-out to Jagger), “Whip It Up” and “I Could Have Stood You Up” all provide more than adequate answers to the question, “Can Keith Richards succeed on his own?” In case you need the clue, the answer is: Oh, hell yeah.

Yet Richards isn’t afraid to try out different musical styles on Talk Is Cheap. The opening track “Big Enough,” featuring Bootsy Collins on bass, lays down a solid funk line that might throw the listener off a bit at the start, but Richards proves if you hang with the track, it is well worth the effort. Likewise, “Struggle” goes in a different direction genre-wise, and while it isn’t as successful, is still a good track nonetheless.

If anything, Talk Is Cheap hints at what would happen with the Stones upon their patching up of differences—“reunion” is not the correct word, though one could see how it could apply—on tracks like  “Rockawhile” and “Locked Away.” It definitely adds fuel to the speculation that Richards knew what direction the music he was playing should go, even if it put him at odds with his bandmates. If there is any misstep Richards makes, it would have to be “Make No Mistake,” a track that just doesn’t connect with this listener.

In the end, Talk Is Cheap proves to be a solid effort from a musical legend, and the title is extremely apropos. Richards lets the music do all of the talking… and is speaks volumes.

Rating: B+

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