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Don Was On Working With Keith Richards: “It’s A Transformative Experience”

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Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

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Tuesday (January 22) sees the release of Aaron Neville’s new album, My True Story.  A collection of classic doo-wop numbers, Neville teamed up with a pretty heavy-duty production team for the album: Don Was and Keith Richards.

Was’s resume as a producer includes a number of big names across all genres: Bob Dylan, The B-52’s, Stone Temple Pilots, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Ziggy Marley, Iggy Pop and, since 1994, The Rolling Stones.

So when he and Neville decided that they were going to tackle an album of doo-wop covers, Was decided to call in Richards in, knowing that he’s a huge fan of the genre.  As Was tells it, during the recording of The Rolling Stones’ 1994 album Voodoo Lounge, he stayed in a hotel room just beneath Richards’; for the entire time, Richards played just one record over and over: The Jive Five’s “My True Story.” Was tells Radio.com that it was easy to get Richards to take on the co-producer role on this album: “He was really happy to do this.  I knew he’d want to do it.”

With such long breaks in between Rolling Stones albums, why hasn’t Richards produced other albums in recent years?  “Maybe people just don’t think to call him!”  Watch Radio.com’s interview with Was below.

Was has been behind the boards on every Stones studio session since ‘94’s Voodoo Lounge including 1997’s Bridges To Babylon, four new songs from 2002’s 40 Licks,  2005’s A Bigger Bang and the two new songs from last year’s GRRR!. Was, a bass player, has played on many of those records, and said that jamming with Richards has had a big impact on him.

“He’s a great musician, he’s a really, really soulful, honest cat.  I’ve played bass with him, it’s a transformative experience.   He listens and he’s fast and he responds.  He’s like Miles Davis.  He’s like a jazz musician. “

And while he’s played bass for the Stones in the studio, he has never toured with them (Daryl Jones has handled four-string duties on the road ever since Bill Wyman left the band).  But having produced live albums for the Stones (1995’s Stripped and 2004’s Live Licks), he’s spent a good amount of time listening to the band’s performances.  He says the stage is where Richards truly excels:  “I’ve done live albums with The Stones  and you go through ten, fifteen different nights to get the best take.  He plays it differently every night!  It’s a conversation with the other musicians.  He and Charlie have this hi-hat/guitar relationship, between the two of them, it feeds everybody in the band. All the parts you’d ever want to play are in what those two guys are doing…  That’s not just your ideal as a musician, it’s your ideal as a human being, you should be paying attention.  If we’re having a conversation, I shouldn’t be texting, I should be focused on you.”

Aaron Neville has tour dates booked through April.  Meanwhile, Rolling Stones fans wait with baited breath for news of new Rolling Stones concerts.

– Brian Ives, Radio.com


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