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Keef Rolls Alone

*** 1/2KEITH RICHARDS. “Talk Is Cheap.” Virgin Records. After 25 years as co-leader of the Rolling Stones, rock’s greatest rhythm/lead guitarist steps out of the shadows, baby, with his first solo album.

Co-producing and co-writing all 11 tracks with New York session stickman Steve Jordan, Richards has unleashed a rock -solid album that--when compared to Mr. Jagger’s pair of paint-by-number solo efforts--leaves no doubt as to where the true Heart Of Stones really beats.

Yeah, yeah, there’s a lotta whatchamightcall standard Keef riffs, with “Take It So Hard,” the first single, being the most obvious examples. But what elevates these Stones-style thrump-ups is Richards and Jordan’s idiosyncratic, idiot-savantic mastery of rhythmic accents and sub-accents, mon. This is the difference between Style and something purchased on Melrose Avenue.

More interesting, however, are such items as the smokin’ funkasaurus “Big Enough,” featuring James Brown alumni Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker, and the reverential Al Green rip-off “Make No Mistake,” which gets much of its hooded-eye, cobra-like charm from the contrast between Sarah Dash’s dulcet tones and Richards’ own torn ‘n’ frayed vocals.

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Then there’s the delicate, country honk “Locked Away,” the gimlet-eyed, message-to-Michael Phillip Jagger “You Don’t Move Me,” and the lashing, slashing, street-fighting manly guitar work that propels “It Means A Lot” and the album itself to an orgasmic close. This is one of those rare LPs that, like “Exile On Main Street,” sounds better every time it gets played. Talk is cheap, the album is not.


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