Although it is great to have another track - a cover of Bob Dylan's Watchin' the River Flow - from the 1975-1992 Rolling Stones (i.e. the present line-up, but with Bill Wyman on bass), that is not what this record is primarily about. Until 1985 and his untimely death from a heart attack, Ian Stewart was Road Manager and keyboard player for the Rolling Stones, but he found time when not touring with the Stones to play Boogie-Woogie piano, appearing in clubs with long-standing friends such as Alexis Corner and Charlie Watts. In the late seventies, Stu founded the Boogie Woogie band Rocket 88, with Charlie, Alexis and himself as core members and numerous other musicians joining-in when and as they could, and it is in Rocket 88 that this tribute album has its roots. Ben Waters, the power behind this album, played with Rocket 88, and credits Stu with having willingly and generously taught him much of his own piano style.
The mainstays of this album are Ben Waters (ten tracks), sax player Willy Garnet (six tracks) and, once again, Charlie Watts (also on six tracks). In the Rocket 88 tradition, many others contribute on at least one track, several of those others being names as well known as Jools Holland, P J Harvey and the individual Rolling Stones. Jools Holland plays piano on four tracks, Hammond organ on two more, and on Make me a Pallet on your Floor puts in a great blues vocal after the style of the Georgia bluesman Blind Willie McTell. P J Harvey, a cousin of Waters, has Lonely Avenue almost to herself, multi-tracking her voice and playing sax, which she says she learnt from Willy Garnet and others in the days when Rocket 88, including Stu, would sometimes stay in her family home. Other slightly less obvious contributions of real value are Keith Richards' guitar on Rooming House Boogie, Ron Wood's on Worried Life Blues, Mick Jagger's harmonica on the long play-out of Watchin' the River Flow, and Jools Holland's Hammond organ on both of those last two tracks. Perhaps Jools always wanted to play with the Rolling Stones. Then of course there are the sax and other horn players - ranking equally with the piano in Boogie-Woogie - and the incomparable Charlie Watts. The sleeve notes tell us that Keith Richards said he knows only two people of whom he never heard a bad word - Stu and Charlie.
Finally, on the last track, Bring it on Home to Me, Stu himself, playing with Rocket 88 at the 1984 Montreux Jazz Festival. It's a brave thing to tackle a tune closely associated with the Animals in their prime (that must also be said of track 3, Worried Life Blues), but Stu and fellow musicians pulled it off, and triumphantly round-off this very worthwhile album, on which there isn't one bad or uninteresting track.
It's nice too that the artists, engineer Glyn Johns, and cover artist Sir Peter Blake (who included a doll wearing a sweater bearing the words "The WMCA Good Guys Welcome The Rolling Stones" on his Beatles Sergeant Pepper cover) all donated their services, and that Ben Waters will be giving his profit from the album to the British Heart Foundation.
Playing time of the CD is 42:10