Human Wheels (1993)


 
1. When Jesus Left Birmingham 2. Junior 3. Human Wheels 4. Beige to Beige 5. Case 795 (The Family) 6. Suzanne and the Jewels 7. Sweet Evening Breeze 8. What if I Came Knocking 9. French Shoes 10.To the River

 

The return to his rock and roll roots on his last album Whenever We Wanted never really took hold. It was nice to see that he abandoned that direction and went back to more familiar waters on this release. This is a much more simpler, direct record that allows the emotion and feelings to perpetrate on a much stronger level. It never quite sounds as folksy, or even country as his releases in the mid to late 1980's, even though he incorporates accordions, mandolins, etc., he simply uses those elements buried a bit in the mix to enhance rather than overpower.

He never sounds as mature as he does on this record - musically and lyrically. Lyrics have always been a weak point for Mellencamp, yet here he manages to sound weary and disillusioned without being pouty. The themes range from introspective - as in the title cut and Sweet Evening Breeze to funny on French Shoes to tragedy on Case 795 (The Family). There's also a little bit of everything else in between.

None of this would be as important had he dropped the ball musically. Fortunately, he does not. This is strongest set of tunes in some time. Always a bit on the "miserable" side, Mellencamp has always been the artist that never seems to be happy with much of his music that he has released - regardless of how well the album may have sold. Being that this record does sound so well crafted, it's easy to see how he could discount his earlier work, since he probably thought he had "arrived" to some extent on this record. That would be, however, a gross misstatement since he had already had an incredible catalog of great music at this point in time. It was nice to see him evolve so much and still have gratifying music.

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