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Keith Richards’ First Solo LP in Decades Unveiled on Both Coasts

At the end of the listening session for the new Keith Richards solo album “Crosseyed Heart,” at L.A.’s Conway Recording Studios on Tuesday night, Tom Mackay, exec VP and g.m. of Republic Records, said, “I know everyone’s anxious to get back to their loved ones… meaning their cell phones.”

Enforcement was so strict that if people weren’t advised as they arrived in the parking lot to leave their smartphone devices in the car, then they were instructed to check them at the door.

As things got under way, Mackay cautioned the assembled — including music supervisors, at least one music studio chief (Paul Broucek) and assorted journalists — that there was to be “no full album reviews after tonight,” and requested those gathered to refrain from social networking.

It was a tall order in this day and age of instant sharing, when it seems that nothing feels experienced if it isn’t photo-blasted on Instagram, Facebooked or tweeted. The people in the room were either forced to interact with each other, or listen intently to the album, being released Sept. 18.  Richards was not present, but was instead on the East Coast (New York’s Electric Lady Studios) attending a similar playback, with the Rolling Stones Zip Code Tour having ended July 15 in Quebec.

As things were wrapping up at Conway’s Studio C space, one fellow journalist turned to me and said, “well, that’s the best Rolling Stones album I’ve heard in a while.”

Not being that familiar with past Richards solo projects, the last of which was released more than 20 years ago, I can’t compare “Crosseyed Heart” to “Main Offender” (1992) or “Talk Is Cheap” (1998), neither of which exactly tore up the charts. Like those previous efforts, “Crosseyed Heart” features Richards’ main solo colloborator-drummer Steve Jordan, who co-produced and co-wrote much of the material, and guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who played in Richards’ band the X-pensive Winos, co-founded with Jordan in 1987.

The new album — a mix of blues, country, one reggae number and rough-and-tumble Stones-like rockers — is infused with Richards’ trademark guitar licks, often layered to remarkable effect, as well as his world-weary vocals, which alternate between Dylan’s rasp and Mark Knopler’s gruff monotone.

If anything, the recording is a showcase of Richards’ versatility, with him playing acoustic and electric guitars, bass, electic sitar, piano, Wulitzer and Farfisa Organ on one track, “Suspicious.”

According to Mackay, “Trouble,” with its Stonesy, loping gate, will be the album’s first single.

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