Steel Wheels (1989)


 
1.Sad Sad Sad 2.Mixed Emotions 3.Terrifying 4.Hold on to Your Hat 5.Hearts for Sale 6.Blinded by Love 7.Rock and a Hard Place 8.Can't Be Seen 9.Almost Hear You Sigh 10.Continental Drift 11.Break the Spell 12.Slipping Away

 

As the 1980s came to a close, a lot of people figured this band was once and for all done. Their last couple of albums had been sub-par, Jagger and Richards had been at each other's throats, and Mick seemed to be enjoying his solo career. When the five guys called a press conference in 1989 along with a ghetto blaster to preview the new tracks they were working on, the world breathed a sigh of relief. The press conference showed the boys in a playful, joyous mood that led everyone to believe that they might be starting their second life.

Then there was the hoopla. They went on another massive tour to support the album (bigger and more ambitious than the last time they toured, 1981), and MTV was saturated with everything Stones related for months. This was definitely the biggest "comeback" in the history of rock n roll. To be honest, the disc wasn't that great. Had it been released in the early 1970s, it would have been looked at as a disappointment. Fortunately, it's worlds above their last two albums Dirty Work and Undercover.

The disc starts out with the two strongest, Stones-like songs on the album, the underrated Sad Sad Sad and the first single Mixed Emotions. They get a little bit experimental with songs like Terrifying and Break the Spell that come out well. They then get very experimental with Mid Eastern influenced Continental Drift that resonates just as well as most anything the band had ever recorded at this point. We have two Keith tracks (instead of the usual obligatory one track), Can't Be Seen, which they still perform at a lot at their shows and the somewhat melodious Slipping Away.

There are a few times, though, when they seem to be on auto-pilot. Blinded by Love is probably their worst "country" song they've done and even the single Almost Hear You Sigh is a bit overrated. Maybe, though, since this was the third single from this hyped album, that I was ready for a Stones break at that point.

Still, it was nice to see the boys back, and although no one knew it at the time, this would be Bill Wyman's last studio album.


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