Just finished Keith Richards’ biography Life. He’s guitar virtuoso in The Rolling Stones, slave to rhythm, growing up eating early R&B singles for breakfast, and a devoted reggae fan ever since the early 70’s. He has for example recorded with the late Peter Tosh and Max Romeo, but has also lived in Jamaica and bought his first house there in the 70’s.
Together with The Rolling Stones he and his partner in crime Mick Jagger – known together as the Glimmer Twins – have tried their is hands on several different music genres, including reggae.
When I read Life I learned that Keith Richards love for reggae was deep, almost profound. I found out that he had recorded a bunch of spiritual nyabinghi musicians in his home in Ocho Rios in the mid 90’s. He christened the outfit – led by the late Justin Hinds – Wingless Angels and their self-titled debut album dropped in 1997 and its follow-up just two years ago. The latest release is actually the last known recording of Justin Hinds, who died of cancer in 2005.
When listening to the albums I’ve to say I’m impressed. Keith Richards has kept the music to its bare essentials – powerful and unison chants to the sound of African-styled drums. There are however some minor, but not disturbing, overdubs by guitar, bass, flute, vocals and violin.
Wingless Angels are far away from the gritty, floor shaking rock The Rolling Stones are known for, and it’s noble of Keith Richards to not impose much electricity to these mostly Christian traditional hymns. Because it’s their raw, authentic and genuine atmosphere that makes each track unique, and only someone who has a passionate love of music can refrain from tainting it with their own flair, and instead keep it pure.
Keith Richards just stepped through the ranks in my book.