BATDORF & STANLEY: Not Your Granddaddy's Rolling Stones

Batdorf & Stanley/All Wood and Stones

When James Lee Stanley approached John Batdorf with the idea of rearranging and recording an entire album of Rolling Stones songs, Batdorf must have thought Stanley was nuts. Acoustic treatments of classic rock? Maybe. But Stones? Credibility suicide. Still, Stanley had a track record--- a long string of albums and a song portfolio as thick as the national register, visited regularly by musicians looking for that certain song. Batdorf sat down and listened. When he'd heard enough, he shook hands and sealed the deal.

They tracked down some of the best and closest friends and musicians--- Paul Barrere (Little Feat), Timothy B. Schmit (Poco, Eagles), Ken Lyon (Lemonheads), Peter Tork, Scott Breadman (The Rippingtons) and Laurence Juber (Wings)--- laid out some smooth as silk arrangements, and came up with an album which, if the songs weren't already classics, would make them so. Like I said earlier. This ain't your granddaddy's Rolling Stones.  

It is the Stones' music, though, and handled so well that it will catch most Stones' fans by surprise. Hardcore fans will more than likely hate it, which will be their loss. Critics are and will be split, some calling it blasphemy, others innovative. The truth is, though, if you love good music and head into this album with an open mind and a love for arrangement, exceptional acoustic musicianship and stacked vocal harmonies, you could very well find All Wood and Stones getting more airplay than you might think.

Some of the arrangements are exceptional, like 19th Nervous Breakdown, which smooths out the Stones' harder edge and takes it into Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young territory. Or Satisfaction, acoustic blues with a choogling beat. Or Let's Spend the Night Together, given a slight Simon & Garfunkel Baby Driver beat and feel.  

 

John Batsdorf
John Batsdorf

The magic here, you see, lies in the treatments.  The guitar interplay, which weaves each song together so beautifully.  The vocal arrangements, which create the highs and lows.  The unlikely yet perfect directions the musicians take each movement.  Close your eyes and you sometimes forget that it is a Rolling Stones song and not an original, that it wasn't written to specifically be performed just that way. 

How's this for an experiment.  Find a bunch of people who have not been saturated for 40 years with the Stones, put them in a room with a set of headphones and play the Stones' and then Batdorf & Stanley's versions of each song.  Then, find a bunch who grew up with the Stones and do the same.  See which versions each group prefers. 

Myself, I prefer them both.  I grew up with the Stones and love their early hits.  Then again, I am a sucker for great arrangements and solid production as well as plain beautiful music.  It's a tossup.  Right now, though, I lean toward Batdorf & Stanley.  Forty years of the Stones has taken a toll.  I need some rest. 

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