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Ninteen Reviews - Overall Average Rating -   6.8 Tongues

(We are accepting fan reviews for this album once again, for a limited time)


by devilsadvocate
May 23, 2014
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As a follow-up to the mega failure that was Dirty Work, Steel Wheels was eagerly awaited by the fans, who wanted and expected the band to redeem themselves. Unfortunately, this indifferent album fell short. Here is my song by song review. "Sad Sad Sad": A decent opening to the album. This song is pleasant without being great. Nice guitar solo in the middle. "Mixed Emotions": An OK song, but after the Dirty Work fiasco, I expected so much more! "Terrifying": An inferior song which represents pretty much what is wrong with this album. About two minutes too long. "Hold On To Your Hat": Mick Jagger is back in barking mode for this indifferent song. The lead guitar tries hard to redeem this one and almost succeeds, but ends up falling a bit short. "Hearts For Sale": A good song, probably their best since "She Was Hot". The harmonica at the end is a nice touch. "Blinded By Love": This one isn't bad, but it doesn't do much for me. I can't even think of a meaningful comment to make, which is a comment in itself.

"Rock And A Hard Place": Nice one. Bill Wyman's dominant bass is reminiscent of what he did on "Undercover Of The Night". "Can't Be Seen": Keith Richard's first song is a pleasant surprise after his dismal showing on Dirty Work. Not a bad song! "Almost Hear You Sigh": This plodding song just doesn't work for me."Continental Drift": I know many people will disagree, but I really like this song! The Jajouka players certainly give it a completely unique sound. A nice tip of the hat to Brian Jones, the only one ever by the Stones except for "Shine A Light"."Break The Spell": A decent song, thanks in large part to Mick's harp. "Slipping Away": Unfortunately, Keith's second song is not nearly as good as the first. He no longer had the voice to sing this kind of songs.

To listen to some sound clips from STEEL WHEELS or to buy it click here:Steel Wheels [Reissue]

More fan reviews:

By Mike Rivers
June 12, 2013
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This album is EXCELLENT! It is the Stones at the height of Rock n Roll. Forget the comeback reference. This was recorded on Montserrat, Barbados and also in Morocco. How many other bands record in these locales? The result - a Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour.

This album has it all: Mick's singing, Keith's riffs, Ronnie's rhythm, Charlie playing jazz, and Bill on bass. "Terrifying" is great, especially the drumming at the end. "Heart for Sale" is a true blues classic only the Stones can create. "Rock and a Hard Place" is Keith and Ronnie's' finest guitar playing, with Keiths' riffs throughout the song rivaling "Satisfaction".  Overall a 10!

By Kevin S.
May 22, 2007
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For some reason, I liked this album. Perhaps after the disappointment of Dirty Work, Steel Wheels was an improvement. While "Mixed Emotions" is the obvious radio track from the album, I often like the hidden gems on Stones albums. In this case, my favorite song on Steel Wheels was "Almost Hear You Sigh". I also liked the experimental "Continental Drift", as well as Keith's killer riff on "Rock and a Hard Place". It is not one of their best albums for certain, but it is not one to pass on either if you are a Stones fan. Perhaps the best thing about Steel Wheels was that the band was back together, they were focused on getting the Stones edge back musically and there was just enough peace between Mick and Keith for it all to work.

By Tommy MacLuckie
August 9, 2006
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First off, when Virgin Records repackaged and re-released the CBS albums, they really skimped on the artwork for Steel Wheels. Even on the actual record - not even a tongue in color! The individual band member photos are left out but the lyrics are easier to read.

Now for the music - "Sad Sad Sad" is a barn burner; "Mixed Emotions" is a great snappy song with a fantastic melody; "Terrifying" is amazing; "Hearts For Sale" is a grooving smokin' tune; "Blinded By Love" is very nice; "Almost Hear You Sigh" is so much better than "Streets Of Love"; "Break The Spell" is very cool and "Slipping Away" is a nice closer. The rest, especially "Rock And A Hard Place", by far their worst song ever, is not noteworthy. However, "Wish I'd Never Met You" and "Fancy Man Blues" SHOULD have been included on this album and would have made it considerably much better.

Feburary 18, 2006
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Let's not mince words,  Steel Wheels is lazily-executed tripe.

Recorded in about 5 weeks (just like the great albums of the 60's apparently), Steel Wheels was hyped on its release as the "great comeback", a return to "classic" Stones after the feeble Dirty Work and indifferent early 80's output. What you actually get, however, is powder-puff soft rock (Sad, Sad, Sad; Mixed Emotions; Rock and a Hard Place; Can't Be Seen With You); bland balladry (Blinded By Love; Almost Hear You Sigh, Sleep Tonight)and cheesy wine-bar funk (Terrifying). All very similar to most of their 80's output, in fact.

It is not all bad, however. "Break the Spell" is a menacing blues number, featuring Jagger's most savage harmonica-playing since "All Down the Line" and an irresistibly funky bassline from the soon-to-be-departing Bill Wyman. Of equally high quality is the epic "Continental Drift". Recorded in North Africa with the Pipemasters of Jajouka, the track combines psychedelic mysticism with orchestral pomp and swagger to mind-blowing effect. Indeed, I don't think a more triumphant ending to a Stones album exists.

Overall however, Steel Wheels suffers from wimpy production, lack of imagination and a distinct lack of conviction. But what do you expect? It's an 80's Stones album and the only thing binding them together at this point was money and another sell-out comeback tour.

By William Phelps
April 1, 2005
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Steel Wheels, much dismissed, will in the course of history be viewed as the Stones masterpiece of their late period. "Mixed Emotions" has some of Jaggers' most mature lyrics, the Richards singles are brilliant, and then of course, it is the last album with the very great Bill Wyman.  That Wyman is rock's greatest bassist ever is beyond serious dispute, and the Stones have never quite sounded the same since his departure. I have played Steel Wheels several hundred times, and never tire of it.  Wyman's bass playing is at its must subtle and most powerful, and he and Watts had a communication never since matched.  May he come back for one encore performance!

By KeithBabe
October 29, 2004
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I love Steel Wheels and it marks a melding together of the Stones, particularly Mick & Keith. So many people don't like this album because it's different from what they had been playing. But change isn't bad, it can be very good. The songs found here are all great ones. The first few times I listened to Exile I absolutely hated it. But other fans encouraged me to keep listening. It took over 6 months before I did play it again, and I was amazed. It was a different album! I suggest to those of you who don't like Steel Wheels, and certain other albums, that you put it on and listen to it with fresh ears. You might surprise yourself.

Keith says: "The trouble is, you can't please everybody with one album. It's just not possible. Everybody wants to hear their idea of what the Stones are. There's the old-timers who remember from the year dot, then there's the ones who believe we popped out of the ground with 'Satisfaction', then there's the lot who joined us with Beggar's Banquet - the 'Brown Sugar' lot - there's people who didn't get into us until the 70s. Everyone's got their idea of what the Stones are about, which I suppose gets more and more confusing the longer you exist. It gets impossible if you try and live up to it. We just do what we do and hope they like it."

By fred gismondi
August 6, 2003
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I remember how everybody loved this album when it came out. Unfortunately, it has not aged that well. Liked it a lot at the time because it was so much better than the Ron Wood era albums that preceded it,  crap like Emotional Rescue, Dirty Work, and Undercover. But in retrospect there are only a couple of really classic Stones tracks, "Continental Drift" and s"Sipping Away".Like almost all the classic Stones music of the last 30 years,  the best songs are by Mick. As a fan of the Stones I find Wood's contributions to this album, as well as his other Stones work, to be  boring and smug. This is ashamed because he is a fine musician as he showed with Rod Stewart. But with the Stones it is like he is kept down. It is evocative that when people say the Stones haven't been very good,  it corresponds to when Mick Taylor left the band. Steel Wheels, minus a couple of classic moments is proof of it.

By thijs den otter
February 3, 2003
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I have a weak spot for Steel Wheels. The album came out when I was just discovering the Stones. In fact, The Steel Wheels Tour (called the Urban Jungle Tour by the time it hit Europe) was the first Stones-tour I ever attended to. While I agree that this is not exactly a classic, you'll never hear me say that this one sucks either. And according to a whole lot of people, it's a true miracle that it ever came out. The Stones had barely survived the Dirty Work-sessions as a band, so complainers should be happy that this album came about.

As for the tracks: The kickoff song isn't that good. 'Sad, Sad, Sad' is one of those songs that starts to annoy you when you hear it for fourth time. But it's the only song on this album that bothers me. Everything else is okay in my book. The two Keith songs are nice, although they sound better on Flashpoint ('Can't be Seen') and Stripped ('Slipping Away'). 'Rock and Hard Place' kicks ass. The other songs are fillers. 'Terrifying' and 'Hearts for Sale' are a little overproduced, but these are nice songs. 'Continental Drift' always takes me back to the stadium were I saw the greatest rock band of all time for the first time.

So, why do I give it just 6.5 tongues? Well, despite the fact that I like the album, it doesn't contain any classics.

By Peter van Ree
January 29, 2003
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Steel Wheels must be the album with the most reviews written by people who never heard the album. When it came out in 1989 it seemed the critics had a joined orgasm. I must admit, there are some nice songs on there, like 'Hold on to Your Hat' and 'Slipping Away', but to me it just The Stones  trying hard to sound like The Stones. The good thing though is that they launched the SW and UJ tour, with spectacular versions of 'Rambler', and 'Gimme Shelter'. To new Stones fans: The only reason to buy this record is to complete your collection.

By Locked Away
November 30, 2002
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A definite return to form, and the last album to feature Bill Wyman. For me it is up there in the group of second tier albums. After four years apart the Jagger/Richards song writing team is stronger than it had been in over a decade, and the musical standard of this album is also very high. Shame they had to open it with 'Sad Sad Sad', but most of the other cuts are really worthwhile. 'Mixed Emotions' is great as is 'Hearts For Sale', and 'Blinded By Love' is almost a serious take on the excellent 'Far Away Eyes' from Some Girls. But it is the sequence of the three tracks 'Rock and A Hard Place', 'Can’t Be Seen' and 'Almost Hear You Sigh' that really hits me. These are the album’s star tracks- as good hard rock and balladry as they had produced for nearly twenty years. If Keith’s vocals are excellent on 'Can’t Be Seen', he might however have opted to let Jagger handle the reigns on 'Slipping Away', or they might even have left this and the opening track off altogether and put 'Fancyman Blues' on instead (it was the B-Side to 'Mixed Emotions'). All the Stones are on good form here- Keith’s riffing none the weaker for his advancing years, Jagger’s vocals and lyrics his best in years, Wyman- where he plays- lays down some strong bass (especially 'Rock and A Hard Place'). Watts is flawless here, and Ronnie Wood limits himself to guitar and bass but does both well (his bass on 'Break the Spell' is something else). Mick Jagger even shines on rhythm guitar. I would have no hesitation in recommending Steel Wheels to a non Rolling Stones fan, and it is an album that I can see holding up for many years to come.

By the chipper
November 8, 2002
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This one was somewhat derided at the time of release for its slick production values but, hey, you can't expect a band's records to sound the same in 1989 as they did in 1969. The important thing is that most of this is first-rate Stones, starting with rocking opening cut "Sad Sad Sad", which announces to the world that in spite of Mick and Keith's bitter public feud, in spite of Bill Wyman's repeated threats to retire and in spite of the death of roadie and Band Conscience Ian Stewart, the Stones are still a force to be reckoned with. The anthemic "Mixed Emotions" made for a fine lead single, and elsewhere there's Mick's snake charmer harmonica on the bluesy "Break The Spell", the raging Heavy Metal of "Hold On To Your Hat", Keith's patented riff-rock on "Can't Be Seen" and the funky Watts-Wyman showcase "Terrifying". "Continental Drift" is a total surprise, a tribute to Brian Jones' Moroccan fixations of the late '60's. There's also "Almost Hear You Sigh", with some nice classical guitar embellishments from Keith, who gets to close out the album with "Slipping Away", one of his better ballads. On the down side, "Hearts For Sale" is obvious filler, "Blinded By Love" is corny and forced, and "Rock And A Hard Place" is overblown and deserving of the "over-produced" put-down. Not great, but very good...Toss a coin as to whether this or "Tattoo You" is the group's best album of the '80's.

By Honzie
November 6, 2002
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Guess I'll employ the Keno scoring method here...
'Sad Sad Sad' 7.2. Typical Stones song, kicks off the album very nicely however. Always makes me tap my feet or bob my head so can't be all bad even though it is a tad commercial. 'Mixed Emotions' 5.2. Totally overrated. One of those songs that I think they just threw out there knowing it would be a hit despite it's lack of artistic integrity. "Button Your lip baby, button your coat..." give me a break! 'Terrifying' 8.8. Great song. Lyrics are a bit peculiar, but instrumentally superb - very well composed. Much better with quality headphones. 'Hold On to Your Hat' 7.7. I howled the first time I heard the opening chords to this one. This flat out rocks! Use of the word 'shit' is sophomoric and totally unnecessary however. Come on Mick, what's up with that? 'Hearts For Sale' 6.8. Under-appreciated song, beautifully recorded-very clean sound. Guitar work makes this song and Charlie does his usual great job. 'Blinded By Love' 8.1. Kind of a throwback song, reminds me of something they may have done back around BTB. Just a nice storybook ditty but it may not appeal to one right away--does not jump out at you, does not rock, just good to listen to. 'Rock In A Hard Place' 5.1. Boy did I get sick of this one back in it's day! Way too much airplay for this average rocker. It has it's merit for sure but I just knew the Stones were going to milk this one for all they could and unfortunately they did. Mick does a good job with it and the backup vocals are great. 'Can't Be Seen' 8.4. Simply marvelous. I'm glad Keith did the vocals on this, it adds luster and style to the song some how. They should have ran this one for a big hit, it got very little air play in my neck of the woods. Maybe Mick vetoed any such thought, eh? 'Almost Hear You Sigh' 2.0. Scooped this one right off the dung heap. Offers nothing, strictly an invite for the over-the-hill, light-rock listening crowd to give a listen to see what the Stones were up to in '89. Can't imagine Mick and Keith have any respect for this song, but I think they do know how to con millions from the general public = PT Barnum style. Hopefully they will come out some day and disown this song some how. 'Continental Drift' 8.8. I don't care that nobody else noticed, this song is a masterpiece! Just beautiful start to finish. Just what the Stones needed at the time to prove that they were not dead. Love the whole Jajouka sound needless to say. Bicycle spokes at the beginning are a nice touch. But that intense build up toward the end (don't know if it qualifies as a crescendo) is as intense as anything I've ever heard...then it climaxes and lilts away, just beautiful stuff. 'Break The Spell' 5.5. Took me along time to warm up to this but it is okay. Harmonica helps it out a great deal. Has a very unique sound and style to it throughout, just not one of their all-time greats. 'Slipping Away' 8.0. One of the better 'slow' Stones offerings. It is used to wrap up the excellent "25x5" video-- a very nice touch to watch the credits roll.

This album is better than the numerical rating I gave it (I know, I'm nuts). I just highly recommend it to anyone getting into the Stones or perhaps to those who gave up on the Stones in the mid eighties... and who could blame them. Overall recording is very clean and almost sterile in comparison to their previous albums. Mildly disturbed to hear supposed Stones fans dismiss this album as a waste of time. Okay so it's not Let It Bleed but at that point in time the Stones had done it all and took some risks on Steel Wheels. For the most part, they succeeded

By T-roy
July 18, 2002
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The worst Stones album of the 80's. Recorded and mixed digitally- not even the Stones mighty budget could get the bass and drums to sound warm (Stick to 2 inch tape guys). The uptempo numbers cry for an edge- but it never comes. "Mixed Emotions" and "Rock in a Hard Place" are Stones Lite. No one will be confusing these songs with "Midnight Rambler". And for those of you having trouble sleeping, I suggest "Almost Hear You Sigh" or "Hearts For Sale". This record was recorded quickly - in 8 weeks - which almost unheard of for the Stones- and that's because they needed to get this together in time for the tour. If you want stronger recent Stones work, check out Voodoo Lounge.

By Gar
April 2, 2002
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Steel Wheels, or should I say "the much maligned" Steel Wheels. This is one of those albums that galvanizes fan opinions, you either like or loathe it. As for me, I've always thought this was a fine, if not truly great slice of Stones glimmer. After the poor studio output of most of the '80's, Steel Wheels was seen as somewhat of a comeback for the boys.Whereas subsequent albums would better it, there does remain a lot of great stuff here including some really inspired tracks. Side one, except for the lame "Hearts For Sale" is promising. The guitars are loud and swinging again, the bass is booming and the general rhythm just cooks on tracks like "Mixed Emotions" and the raunchy "Terrifying". Obviously these rockers aren't in the same league as classic-era Stones but they do kick up one hell of a storm after the lackluster '80's albums. The closing track on side one is a well-crafted acoustic ballad with some nice vocal interplay's between Jagger and Richards. But it's on side to that the big guns come out. Even reviews at the time praise the likes of "Break the Spell", "     continental Drift" and the quite excellent and mesmerizing closer,"Slipping Away". The ballad "Almost Hear You Sigh" is quite simply one of the absolute best soul-drenched songs you'll ever hear. So, to sum up, Steel Wheels isn't another Exile or Let It Bleed, but it grooves and cooks in places and has at least 3 songs (all from side 2) that could grace any Stones album with their presence. A solid effort, let down by a few weak tracks,but a rollicking ride nonetheless.

By David Gomolinski
November 17, 2001
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For the first time after a decade the Rolling Stones together as a band published a good album with songs realized at the same period followed by a world tour. When I heard Steel Wheels for the first time , I noticed that the songs seem to answer to older songs and that's what I like here, the nostalgia."Sad Sad Sad" reminds me of "Star Star" , "Terrifying" is a kind of "Miss You", "Hold On Your Hat"  like "Rip This Joint", "Blinded By Love" is a new "Indian Girl", "Rock And A Hard Place" continues "It Must Be Hell" and "Sleeping Away" is like "Sleep Tonight" (both sung by Keith Richards)."Break The Spell" bring us back the early years feeling and "Mixed Emotions" (the single was an US #5) can join the glorious Stones typical rhythm n blues hits list. Only two songs sound a bit different , "Almost Hear You Sigh" with a James Bond style intro and "Continental Drift" which is very probably dedicated to Brian Jones exactly twenty years after his tragic death. This oriental song, was played together with Moroccans musicians that worked with Brian in the sixties. Recorded at Montserrat in 1989, Steel Wheels was the last studio album for Bill Wyman who left the band in 1992.

By christophoros
April 9, 2000
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Talk that this is another DIRTY WORK is nonsense, except as far as if they (especially Mick) had put more efforts into some songs on DIRTY WORK, they would be as good as some songs on STEEL WHEELS. The latter is an excellent mixture of rockers and ballads. I wonder, why ROCK AND A HARD PLACE isn' t a major classic, as it would have the riff for it. Kids waiting for the new Guns'n'Roses will even like it now, over ten years after its release. TERRIFYING, HEARTS FOR SALE, BLINDED BY LOVE, BREAK THE SPELL and ALMOST HEAR YOU SIGH, another one of my favorites from the album- all very touching. On SLIPPING AWAY, some kind of a folk song, Keith' s vocals develop their final mystic touch. On the psychedelic CONTINENTAL DRIFT, written only by Mick (?) and performed with some Moroccan musicians, it really seems like Brian, whom this song is dedicated to, is present, or that at least his spirit lives on. And yes, although I seem to be alone with this opinion, I like STEEL WHEELS even more than for example both TATTOO YOU and VOODOO LOUNGE.

By Kevin Poynter
April 6, 2000
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When "Steel Wheels" came out in '89, I was elated, but my excitement died down somewhat after a few listenings. Basically, I had expected the Stones to continue in the fantastic classic-Keith vein that "Talk is Cheap" had begun, and I found Steel Wheels a little stiff, like the Stones weren't quite back yet. They hadn't played live together in so many years, and we'd have to wait 5 more years for "Voodoo Lounge" to hear them really cut loose. "Sad Sad Sad" is under-rated; it's lyrics aren't much, but it's a sleek, vintage rocker that goes well with "Mixed Emotions". This is largely a Jagger album; surprisingly, it is Mick's rhythm guitar riffs that lead off "Sad Sad Sad" and propel "Hold On to Your Hat". Maybe Keith was feeling a little creatively depleted after his great solo LP. The result was a decent but slick Jagger-led record. "Terrifying" gets the LP off track, with it's  monotonous "Hot Stuff" rhythms and absurd "Jagger-of-the-jungle" lyrics. "Hold On To Your Hat" gets things going again with Mick's locomotive rhythm guitar and Keith spraying sparks from his lead, but "Hearts for Sale" sounded like a creaky Jagger solo outtake. And so it goes for the rest of the LP, a very decent album which is undermined by a few weak tracks, and Mick's hesitant vocals. We'd have to wait for his confidence to return on the road (check out "Flashpoint") and his 1993 solo LP "Wandering Spirit". A great-sounding LP, but as Keith admitted later, Steel Wheels was an attempt to "sound like the Stones, instead of just 'be' the Stones". He then called "Voodoo Lounge" a great album because it shows the Stones "being" the Stones. Three years later, the revolution was completed when he described "Bridges to Babylon" as an attempt to do more than just "be" the Stones!! Anyway--think of "Steel Wheels" as the slow reawakening of a giant.

By  D. Bowers
June 1, 1999
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This is actually a pretty decent album. To be honest after Dirty Work I felt the band could never rebound and come back with such fine album. Although this is nothing compared to the awesome intensity of there albums from the sixties and early seventies, it's still a good album. Just imagine if this was the first album they ever made and you had nothing to compare it to, you would have to say that the talent is far better than most anything out today. The other day I threw this disc into the player after it's been sitting in my collection collecting dust for about the last five years. Once the last notes were being played on mixed emotions I instantly thought to myself hey this almost sounds like a classic that you would hear on one of there earlier albums. As I continued to listen to the album I relaxed the songs were actually very good. The group had a newly matured sound and a return to form and decadence all colliding to create a good album. At times the album catches fire and makes you have faith in the new and improved Rolling Stones. This was a new breath of fresh air for the band. Lets face it we will probably never get another mind blowing album from the band again but I feel grateful that they are still making albums that are in the top 1% of music today. Although I must say the "No Security" album compares to there great early albums but thats up for argument. I'm sure I'll get some hate mail for that one. Heck I'll go out on a limb and say that "No Security" is the best album since Tattoo You.

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Keno's mini review, song list, lyrics and more info on STEEL WHEELS

Stones Fans Album Reviews

To listen to some sound clips from STEEL WHEELS or to buy it click here: Steel Wheels [Reissue]