When you are one of the most famous rock vocalists in the world ever, and you’ve been a star since the days when being a star meant more than merely being a celebrity, trying something new is a goldfish bowl experience. Mick Jagger has tried solo albums before and, after the critical mauling and public indifference he has received in the past, it says something for his strength of character that he wants to give the whole idea another go.
This time, Jagger appears to have learned the lessons from his past experience – he would because you don’t get to be as successful, famous, and rich as Mick Jagger without learning from your previous mistakes.
Detractors will say that Goddess In The Doorway doesn’t sound like a Rolling Stones album. A pointless observation really. It’s not supposed to sound like a Stones album because it isn’t. The link of course, is Jagger’s voice, often imitated, never equaled. On "Dancing In The Starlight," Jagger almost seems to be caricaturing his own flattened blues-soaked singing style, daring people to complain because he doesn’t sound enough like himself!
The purpose of famous singers taking time out from famous bands to make solo records is various. In Mick Jagger’s case, he probably felt like writing his own songs with someone apart from Keith. In this case his major writing partner is Matt Clifford who is prominent in most, though not all of the songs. Being as famous as Mick Jagger means you can call the likes of Lenny Kravitz to play on "God Gave Me Everything," and to co-write and produce as well. Smart move. This is a standout track, and an obvious single; Kravitz kicks the song along with his own drumming, and draws the best vocal performance by Jagger on the album. The point is, when you’ve written and produced your own records for as long as Jagger has, the notion of someone coaxing something better out of you is a rare phenomenon, and to his credit, Jagger has risen to the challenge, and the result is impressive.
"Hide Away" allows Jagger to stretch his sinuous / sensitive vocal technique around a funk-backed beat, the sort of thing The Stones used to do years ago, and don’t seem to do any more. It becomes apparent as this album plays that Jagger has had the very best time making it, getting interesting performances out of the musicians, both known and less known, and in turn he has given more effort himself, which results in a more satisfying collection of songs than he has managed previously. Neither his age nor his reputation have prevented Jagger from learning that people will not appreciate lackluster songs with going-through-the-motions recording, and they won’t buy them either!
Interviewers have been keen to establish if "Don’t Call Me Up" is about his estranged wife, but Jagger is far too cunning and experienced a player of the media game to allow his mask to slip for the benefit of the newspapers. He knows, and he’s not saying, that from such vague teasing is a lifelong career built. It has the feel of "Angie" or "Wild Horses," Jagger proving through his vocal performance that he is a far deeper and more rounded human being than his reputation as rock star roue suggests. Keith might have told him not be so maudlin, and kicked this song off the next Stones album, but of course, this isn’t the next Stones album, so it stays, and its wonderful.
As a value for money album, Goddess In The Doorway is a fine investment, as long as you approach it for what it is. It is not a stop-gap while The Stones get themselves together. It is an album made by Mick Jagger who wanted to try some different ideas, with different musicians, and on that basis, it is a better achievement than Jagger’s solo album track record would suggest. A song with the dual vocal approach of "Lucky Day" would have been neither welcome, nor appropriate on a Stones album. The lead vocal suggests a ‘You can trust me’ approach with the harmony sounding pure rock star Jagger, seductive and dangerous. It belongs on this record because it is Jagger demonstrating his versatility as a writer and singer, showing hidden depths that encourage repeated playing.
The final song is Jagger the family man and father, with both his daughters providing backing vocals, sentimental and moving. This is a man supremely content with his life and the joys his fame and fortune have brought him. And who would begrudge him that?.