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Dirty Work is The Rolling Stones' 18th British and 20th American studio album. It was released on 24 March 1986 on the Rolling Stones label by CBS Records. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album was recorded during a period when relations between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards soured considerably, according to Richards' autobiography.
The sessions for Dirty Work, the first album under the Rolling Stones' recording contract with CBS Records, began in April 1985 in Paris, running for two months before breaking for a short spell. Mick Jagger had just released his first solo album, She's the Boss, much to Richards' annoyance, since the latter's first priority was the Rolling Stones and he was stung that Jagger was pursuing a career as a pop star. Jagger was often absent from the Dirty Work sessions while Richards recorded with Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts; Jagger's vocal parts were added later on. The divide between Jagger and Richards was on public view on 13 July 1985, when Jagger performed a solo set at Live Aid while Richards and Wood supported Bob Dylan's set on acoustic guitars. Dirty Work was the first Rolling Stones studio album since 1971's Sticky Fingers on which Jagger was not credited with any guitar-playing.
Charlie Watts' involvement in the recording sessions was also limited; in 1994 Watts told Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes that during the 1980s he had been addicted to heroin and alcohol, and that this is why replacement drummers are credited on both Undercover and Dirty Work. Steve Jordan and Anton Fig play drums on some tracks; Ronnie Wood plays drums on "Sleep Tonight." Jagger would later cite Watts' personal state as one of the reasons he vetoed a tour in support of Dirty Work in 1986, preferring to start work on his second album, Primitive Cool.
Four of the album's eight original compositions are credited to Jagger/Richards/Wood and one to Jagger/Richards/Chuck Leavell. Only three are credited to Jagger/Richards, the lowest number on any Rolling Stones album since Out of Our Heads (1965). Dirty Work is the first Rolling Stones record to feature two tracks with Richards on lead vocals ("Too Rude" and "Sleep Tonight").
Following a further month of final recording in July and August 1985 (which saw guest appearances by Jimmy Page, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits), co-producer Steve Lillywhite supervised several weeks of mixing and the creation of 12-inch remixes. On 12 December, Ian Stewart, one of the Stones' founder members and their longtime pianist and road manager, died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 47. As a tribute, a hidden track of Stewart playing Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway" was added to close the album.
The original vinyl release of Dirty Work came shrinkwrapped in dark red cellophane. Breaking with Rolling Stones tradition, Dirty Work was the first of their studio albums to contain a lyric sheet in the US, apparently at the insistence of then-distributor CBS Records. Also included was a comic strip, drawn by Mark Marek, called "Dirty Workout."
In March 1986, The Rolling Stones' cover of "Harlem Shuffle" (their first lead single from a studio album not to be a Jagger/Richards original since the earliest days) was released to a receptive audience, reaching #13 in the UK and #5 in the US, though it did not receive the same amount of exposure as previous hits. The follow-up single "One Hit (To the Body)" was a top 30 hit and featured a revealing video of Jagger and Richards seeming to trade blows.
Dirty Work was released a week after "Harlem Shuffle," reaching #4 in the UK and US (going platinum there), but the critical reaction was less than enthusiastic. Some reviewers felt the album was slight in places, with weak, generic songwriting from Richards and Wood and puzzlingly abrasive vocals from Jagger. Some felt Jagger was saving his best material for his solo records, though the critical reaction to those releases was muted as well. Dirty Work's critical standing has only marginally improved over the years, perhaps because it lacks any favourable hits.
However, in 1986, Robert Christgau called Dirty Work "a bracing and even challenging record [which] innovates without kowtowing to multi-platinum fashion or half-assed pretension. It's honest and makes you like it." In 2004, Stylus Magazine's "On Second Thoughts" feature assessed the album as "a tattered, embarrassed triumph, by far the most interesting Stones album since Some Girls at every level: lyrical, conceptual, instrumental." The re-evaluation of the album finds that despite its change of style to a then current 80s-style production and experimentation, the album features "the most venomous guitar sound of the Stones' career, and Jagger's most committed vocals."
Keith said every song on this album was structured so it could be played live with a view to touring to support the album, before Mick decided he wasn't going to tour after all. (As mentioned, Mick later cited his concerns about Charlie's health for not doing so.)
The album produced a hit for the Rolling Stones, their cover of "Harlem Shuffle", and featured a number of guest appearances, including contributions by Tom Waits, Patti Scialfa, Bobby Womack, and Jimmy Page on "One Hit (To the Body)".
○ Mick Jagger – lead and backing vocals, harmonica
○ Keith Richards – electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Too Rude" and "Sleep Tonight", piano
○ Ronnie Wood – electric, acoustic and pedal steel guitar, backing vocals, drums on "Sleep Tonight", tenor saxophone
○ Charlie Watts – drums
○ Bill Wyman – bass guitar, synthesizer
○ Chuck Leavell – keyboards
○ Ivan Neville – backing vocals, bass guitar, organ, synthesizer
○ Jimmy Page – electric guitar on "One Hit (To the Body)"
○ Bobby Womack – backing vocals, electric guitar on "Back to Zero"
○ Philippe Saisse – keyboards
○ Anton Fig – shakers
○ John Regan- bass guitar on "Winning Ugly"
○ Dan Collette – trumpet
○ Ian Stewart – piano
○ Marku Ribas – percussion
○ Jimmy Cliff, Don Covay, Beverly D'Angelo, Kirsty MacColl, Dollette McDonald, Janice Pendarvis, Patti Scialfa and Tom Waits – backing vocals
♣ This album is dedicated to Ian Stewart. "Thanks, Stu, for 25 years of boogie-woogie".
♣ An unlisted and uncredited excerpt from "Key to the Highway" (Big Bill Broonzy/Charles Segar - 0:33) closes the album. It was played by Stewart, who died shortly after the recording sessions for the album had ended.
01. "One Hit (To the Body)" Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood 4:44
02. "Fight" Jagger, Richards, Wood 3:09
03. "Harlem Shuffle" Bob Relf, Ernest Nelson 3:23
04. "Hold Back" Jagger, Richards 3:53
05. "Too Rude" Lindon Roberts 3:11
06. "Winning Ugly" Jagger, Richards 4:32
07. "Back to Zero" Jagger, Richards, Chuck Leavell 4:00
08. "Dirty Work" Jagger, Richards, Wood 3:53
09. "Had It with You" Jagger, Richards, Wood 3:19
10. "Sleep Tonight" Jagger, Richards 5:10
11. "Untitled hidden track" (uncredited excerpt from "Key to the Highway") 0:33