Steel Wheels

The Rolling Stones

Virgin, 1989

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Comeback albums have a way of introducing an artist to a new generation, even if they don't replace the older generation's memories of great material.

For example, Aerosmith, America's answer to the Rolling Stones, came back in 1987 with Permanent Vacation and began Phase II of their career, although many old fans still pine for Toys In The Atticmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 .

The Stones, however, have the sort of illustrious history that could lend itself to any number of comebacks, since each album had its own personality and the band never really entered a slump.Ttherefore, Steel Wheels is not the Stones comeback album some hail it as, but rather a return to the elements that made the band so popular in the first place.

Coming as a reunion of sorts between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who had been feuding for part of the '80s, the 11 songs here show the two working together again to re-create their early '70s glory days of Sticky Fingers. Like any good Stones album, this has balls-out rockers, meaningful ballads and a touch of experimentalism - meaning nothing here is new but most of it is great.

"Sad Sad Sad" and "Rock And A Hard Place" are the hardest rockers here, on par with anything on Exile On Main Street, while the ballads have less sugar and more urgency than in the past, as evidenced on "Almost Hear You Sigh" and "Slipping Away." Mick even lets Keith sing on a few tunes here, making this feel like a true group effort - this is particularly for the album tracks "Hold On To Your Hat" and "Can't Be Seen."

"Continental Drift" is the oddest song the Stones have tried in some time, with a weird Middle Eastern hybrid that recalls 1967's Satanic Majesties album. "Mixed Emotions" is a good mid-tempo tune that wears out its welcome eventually, but "Break The Spell," the funkiest tune the band has recorded since "Hot Stuff", redeems it.

As stated above, this is an affirmation of everything the Stones do right, even if some of it is boring ("Hearts For Sale," "Terrifying"). But then again, for the band that co-wrote the book on rock, a few missteps are allowed once in a while. There is enough here to qualify this as the best Stones record of the '80s, and while it may not win over any new fans, it will be a pleasure for the old ones.

Rating: B

User Rating: B



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