Every aspect of this Rolling Stone's solo album screams of superstar indulgence, from its bizarre cover shot -- look, there's Ron riding a camel under some jets -- to co-producer Andy Johns' fawningly surreal back cover exhortation to "don't let anybody tape it because the label needs the money." There's no chance of such an occurrence: three studios are credited -- and every track boasts a different lineup. Many of the usual suspects appear, including sub-Stones keyboardist Ian McLagan, pianist Nicky Hopkins, and saxophonist Bobby Keys; R&B vocalist Bobby Womack; and pianist Nicky Hopkius. Even Stones drummer Charlie Watts pops up on a couple of tracks. Also, this rarefied company didn't have decent material to stretch out their chops. Most of the songs sound like demos or unfinished sketches with new overdubs -- like the instrumental "Redeyes," which seems little more than an excuse for Wood to trot out his Dobro skills. "Wind Howlin' Through" asks if the listener can hear that happening, but little more, and wastes a drumming cameo from Devo's Alan Myers. Wood's vocals are strained -- and often impossible to decipher. They're little more than huffs and puffs on the otherwise thumping title cut, and they spoil the reggae-ish "She Was Out There," which is one of the better moments here -- but "Fountains of Love" is lackluster blue-eyed soul that doesn't get off the ground. The best moments are the least contrived, notably the country-ish swagger of "Outlaws"; the glistening "Priceless"; and "She Never Told Me," which boasts a lengthy, biting guitar solo. However, it arrives too late to save this album. While hardly a total embarrassment, 1234 is easily Wood's least distinguished solo effort, although his drawings are nice.
by Ralph Heibutzki