Ron Wood’s voice is an acquired taste. I guess after 40 years, I acquired it.
Woody hasn’t been putting out solo albums like he used to, either in frequency or quality, but I Feel Like Playing is a big step in the right direction. Like prior efforts, the sessions are teeming with famous guests; besides Woody’s longtime vocalist Bernard Fowler, we have Slash, Flea, Billy Gibbons, Waddy Wachtel, Blondie Chapin, Ian MacLagan, Jim Keltner and others. More importantly, Wood shows he still has deep roots and fire for rock’n'roll, blues, soul and reggae – the man just bleeds through his guitar.
I listened to the album prior to reading the credits and was surprised to find that Wood wrote or co-wrote all of the songs except the blues standard ”Spoonful”. Woody has always tossed in a reggae tune (“Sweetness My Weakness”) but usually unearthed a genre obscurity; likewise I was sure “Fancy Pants” was from an old 45 that Bobby Womack had probably turned him on to. Neither song flexes strong lyrics – most of the album doesn’t - and I came away thinking these songs were just rambling jams that words were appended to as an afterthought. But in fairness, while this album doesn’t have the song strength of Now Look or I’ve Got My Own Album To Do, I can’t argue that the lyrical content of “I Can Feel The Fire” is why that song still jacks me up decades later.
I Feel Like Playing didn’t grab me the first time, but it’s growing on me. I know a big part of that comes from my respect for Woody’s career and my opinion that the Rolling Stones ruined it, basically neutering the great guitarist within the infamous “weaving” arrangements with Keith Richards. And of course, in that band, his songwriting contributions were limited and generally ignored; he’s had limited outlets for his work. And age and health/abuse issues haven’t helped. But although he occasionally succumbs to the influence of his guests (“Thing About You” is ZZ Top incarnate), his imprint is there, especially the strong closing trio of songs. He’s still got it.
And he feels like playing. So I feel like listening.