Emotional Rescue

The Rolling Stones

Virgin, 1980


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Back in the early ‘80s I remember being really freaked out by the Rolling Stones. I was mortified by their music videos, as the 11-year-old me found Mick Jagger completely disgusting. His bulging eyes and protruding lips, his sweaty form-fitting attire and his ridiculous posturing repelled me. And the drummer, Charlie Watts, looked as though he was falling asleep! To say I was instantly turned off by this band would have been an understatement.

Fast forward 25 years and you will find that things really haven’t changed much. But now at least I do know that they were on drugs when they made many of those early videos. It certainly explains the catatonic, slow-motion movements of the band members, making it seem as though they haven’t slept in weeks. I can’t help but wonder if rock musicians would even be able to function otherwise, let alone play effectively. Ah well, that’s the stuff legends are made of, I guess. As if anyone who subscribes to the adage “sex, drugs and rock & roll” and lives to tell about it deserves special recognition. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Out of the countless albums the Rolling Stones have released over their seemingly never-ending career, I only own three, and this is one. For a new wave aficionado, the title track is a definite must-have and includes the immortal line “I will be your knight in shining armor.”  It is one of the only Rolling Stones songs to feature, albeit sparingly, a synthesizer. That is always a plus in my book. I also happen to like when Mick sings in an upper register. Not a lot of male singers can pull it off, but it suits his campy style.

Other highlights include a surprising Chuck Berry cover, “She’s So Cold,” and “Dance, Pt. 1,” both of which joined “Emotional Rescue” on the Billboard club play chart. There are also a pair of tracks that employ decidedly gay lyrics: the jangling rocker “Let Me Go” and “Where The Boys Go.” At one point, Mick even makes a sly reference to hanging out in gay bars and moving to the west side of town.  If that doesn’t make one question Mick Jagger’s sexuality, nothing will…okay, maybe that “Dancing In The Street” duet with David Bowie from Live Aid was another not-so-subtle hint.

Never one to tip the scales too much in either direction, Mick balances things out with the understated ballad “Indian Girl,” and fellow Glimmer Twin Keith Richards counters with a slow tune of his own, “All About You.” Elsewhere you’ll find touches of reggae (“Send It To Me”), dark and grungy blues (“Down In The Hole”) and even a hippie anthem of sorts (“Summer Romance”).

There’s quite a lot to be found on Emotional Rescue, from its wide palette of musical styles to its creepy thermo-imaging artwork. Frankly, there hasn’t been another Rolling Stones album out there that I have even considered buying. For whatever reason, Emotional Rescue was the only one that ever piqued my interest. For the passing fan, Forty Licks should suffice, though I do recommend this one as well.

Of course, say what you will about their longevity and their ability to perform live, but the Rolling Stones are one band that I still would rather hear than see.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B-


I like "Emotional Rescue" pretty well, and I agree with the B- rating. But I've got to question the judgment/credibility of anyone who numbers it among their top three Rolling Stones albums. Its immediate predecessor, the stylistically similar Some Girls, is far superior, for instance—and even that isn't a lock for top-3 ranking, at least among people who actually like Rolling Stones records. (I daresay that group doesn't include many folks whose main attraction is the synthesizers.)

Other reasons for questioning this review's credibility: Only someone utterly unfamiliar with the Stones catalog would find it "surprising" that they'd cover Chuck Berry. The band recorded at least a half-dozen Berry numbers before Emotional Rescue; Keith Richards' worship of Berry is well documented, etc.). More to the point, "She's So Cold," the "Chuck Berry cover" noted in the review, isn't a Chuck Berry cover. It's a Jagger/Richards original.
I too, like this record quite a lot. I also agree with JimAkin and would myself struggle to place it in their top 5 albums. I find it difficult to rate certain bands, particually the ones that have been at it for over four decades. So with the Stones I've always had two lists, my personal favourites and what I think is their best. I could certainly put it in my top 5 favs, simply because it's one of the ones I most listen to.

I think it's one of their most even and consistant records, much of it due to Jagger's vocals and the band's slightly funk influenced direction. "She's So Cold", "Dance Pt.1", "Let Me Go" and the title track are the best here and the others fill the gaps nicely. Bill and Charlie sound great keeping the tight slow funk of the title track behind Jagger's awesome falsetto vocals, one of their finest moments ever. Emotional Rescue is easily one of the best since their purple patch.

© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin, and is used for informational purposes only.