Voodoo Lounge is the 20th British and 22nd American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released in July 1994. As their first new release under their new alliance with Virgin Records, it ended a five-year gap since their last studio album, Steel Wheels in 1989. Voodoo Lounge is also the Stones' first album without long-time bassist Bill Wyman, who left the band in early 1991. In 2009, the album was remastered and reissued by Universal Music.
Don Was, noted for his retro rock production sensibilities, was reportedly responsible for pushing the band towards more conventional territory in an attempt to reproduce the archetypal "Rolling Stones" sound. Although this approach pleased critics and the Stones rock-oriented fan base, Jagger in particular expressed some dissatisfaction with Was' aesthetic, commenting in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone:
... there were a lot of things that we wrote for "Voodoo Lounge" that Don steered us away from: groove songs, African influences and things like that. And he steered us very clear of all that. And I think it was a mistake.
Was responded that he was not "anti-groove, just anti-groove without substance, in the context of this album. They had a number of great grooves. But it was like, 'OK, what goes on top of it? Where does it go?' I just felt that it's not what people were looking for from the Stones. I was looking for a sign that they can get real serious about this, still play better than anybody and write better than anybody."
The result was an essentially classicist recording that drew on the blues, R&B, and country that had informed the Stones classic late 1960s/early 1970s recordings. Jagger would insist on a more diverse, contemporary production cast for the subsequent Bridges to Babylon (1997). Nevertheless, Was remains the Stones producer to this day. After a period of recording in Los Angeles in the first few months of 1994, Voodoo Lounge was complete and The Rolling Stones moved onto the rehearsals for the (yet another massive, worldwide) Voodoo Lounge Tour which would begin in August.
During the recording of the album, Richards adopted a stray cat in Barbados which he named Voodoo, because they were in Barbados, and the kitten had survived the odds. He dubbed the terrace of the house, Voodoo's Lounge. "Sparks Will Fly" was written by Richards after a blow up with Jerry Lee Lewis in Ireland. Richards invited Lewis to Wood's home to jam on a few songs. Lewis took it seriously and thought they were making an album, and upon playback of the session, he started to pick apart Richards' band, which outraged Richards.
Released in July 1994, Voodoo Lounge received strong reviews and debuted at #1 in the UK (their first chart-topper there since 1980's Emotional Rescue) and #2 in the US where it went double platinum.
Writing for Vox magazine in August 1994, Steven Dalton thought that the album's strongest tracks were filled with "echoes of the band's halcyon days", most notably 1972's Exile on Main Street and 1978's Some Girls. He went on to surmise that Voodoo Lounge "reminds us why we liked the Stones in the first place", and singled out "New Faces", "Out of Tears" and "Blinded by Rainbows" as the album's highlights, despite also stating that the record contained "too many sketchy, arsing-around-in-the-studio jobs" to be considered one of the group's overall best albums.
In early 1995, while the Voodoo Lounge Tour was still in full force (not finishing until August that year), Voodoo Lounge won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.
"Love Is Strong", which was inspired by Richards' solo "Wicked as It Seems", was released as the first single, reaching #14 in the UK. However, although the track was a hit on US rock radio, it stalled on the overall US singles charts at #91, and (at least in the US) became the Rolling Stones' worst performing lead single from an album to that time. Two follow-up US singles also received strong rock radio airplay, but failed to cross over into top 40 hits: "Out of Tears" peaked at #60, and "You Got Me Rocking" fared even worse, peaking at #113. Consequently, Voodoo Lounge would be the first Rolling Stones album to not produce significant hits in the US, even with two million copies sold. In the UK, "Love Is Strong", "You Got Me Rocking", "Out of Tears", and "I Go Wild" were all top 40 chart hits.