Review Summary: At times, your attention may slip like a continental drift. But overall, it's some good, simple, barebones rock n’ roll. Sad Sad Sad? Not quite.
The Rolling Stone’s ‘Steel Wheels’ could be described as a continental drift towards the bands more popular and well received work. When you think of the best Rolling Stones albums, this particular record would not be in mind most of the time. When Alfred Wegener explained the Continental Drift theory for the first time, lots of scientists did not buy in to his thinking, calling him crazy, dumb, and other shenanigans. But as time went on, his theories started to make sense. ‘Steel Wheels’ could easily be labeled as a bad, watered down collection of songs that do not represent the bands best. But at least consider the fact that even though this could be partially true, there are still some great discoveries to be found in the jungles of this album.
You may find yourself asking how Alfred Wegener’s theories and the Rolling Stone’s ‘Steel Wheels’ relate to each other. At face value, they are completely irrelevant, but if you think deeper, you can say they were both misunderstood, and scoffed off as a bad idea, but as the years passed, they have become accepted for their true genius. Like theories, music is subjective. Its possible to make points scientifically and factually, but most conclusions are a result of opinion.
And here is my opinion: this is more than good. The songs here differentiate vastly, from the first, to the last. You can find anything from upbeat rockers, to mid-tempo ballads, and everything in between. I personally found myself listening to the slower songs less than the others. The production is nice as well. Every sound assembled onto this record is heard, creating a fair playing field for all of the contributing band members to have their shining moments. One con about this release is that there is some filler here and there. Besides that, the good parts of the album justify the positive rating of The Rolling Stone’s 1989 recording.
Some stand-out tracks include ‘Sad Sad Sad’, and ‘Continental Drift’. The former is an up-tempo, danceable rock piece, and the latter is a love song that displays some experimentation turned into their favor of trial and error, with elements such as African instruments that drive the rhythm of the song, reminiscent of the Amazon itself. It's small ingredients like this that create an unpredictable listening involvement. It sparks interest in what could possibly come next. You just never know!
Like we said earlier, there is some filler on the record. After track five ends, I caught myself losing interest in hearing the majority of the other tracks. From here, I tend to press the skip button a couple of times. This is definitely a front-loaded album. The basis of the good songs lie at the forefront. Once you pass that, the momentum seems to slowly disappear, making a musical imprint short lived. But in the long term, this is an album that shines in its diversity. Although this is a good thing, the fact that this would end up being their 22nd album release is a factor that may prevent this album from truly being the brightest star in their gigantic number of albums. But hey, if you keep an open mind, small thoughts like their discography length should not matter.
As a result, you should never judge a book by it’s cover. For a while, I assumed I would not like ‘Steel Wheels’ based on my disbelief of them topping past hits like ‘Paint it Black’ or ‘Gimme Shelter’, but an open mind can exploit you to previously unknown heights. Now I find myself playing this album more than usual. The star points of these collection of songs scope from production, to small doses of trying new things; without going over the top and forgetting their signature sound. However, all of this is brought back down to earth due to some less than stellar throwaways. Even though this was a band nearing the end of its prime, they still manage to manufactur a couple of solid tunes. Give The Rolling Stone's ‘Steel Wheels’ a chance; it might get you rolling.