Released: August 29, 1989
Peak: 3 US, 2 UK, 14 CN, 7 AU
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.1 UK, 6.0 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: classic rock
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Songs written by Jagger/ Richards unless indicated otherwise.
Total Running Time: 53:35
3.416 out of 5.00 (average of 23 ratings)
Quotable: A “vital album of, for and about their time.” – Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone
About the Album:
1986’s Dirty Work is generally considered the Rolling Stones’ low point. It also marked the implosion of the relationship between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who each went off and made solo records. Such friction set the stage for the Stones to be “right in the element that has historically spawned their best music – a murky, dangerously charged environment.” RS However, the resulting Steel Wheels is “a self-styled reunion album” AMG which “often feels as if they sat down and decided exactly what their audience wanted from a Stones album.” AMG
The “lack of surprises and unabashed calculation” AMG means “this lacks the vigor and menace that fuels the best singles.” AMG “It doesn’t make for a great Stones album, but it’s not bad, and it feels like a comeback – which it was supposed to, after all.” AMG
“Jagger miraculously avoids camp posturing in his singing, and the rest of the band – Richards, Ron Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, augmented by keyboardists Chuck Leavell and Matt Clifford, a horn section and backup singers – plays with an ensemble flair more redolent of the stage than the studio. Jagger, Richards and their coproducer, Chris Kimsey, strike an appropriate balance between upto-date recording sheen and the Stones’ inspired sloppiness.” RS
The lead single, Mixed Emotions, is “the most assured Stones single since ‘Start Me Up.’” RS It “is buoyed by one of the stronger choruses of late-era Stones.” CD Jagger offers a “measured, characteristically pragmatic – and guardedly conciliatory – reply to the verbal pounding he took in the round of interviews Richards gave after…his solo album, Talk Is Cheap…‘Button your lip baby,’ counsels Jagger over a swinging guitar groove in the song’s opening line, before offering to ‘bury the hatchet/ Wipe out the past.’ In a bid for some understanding from his band mate, Jagger sings, ‘You’re not the only one/ With mixed emotions/ You’re not the only one/ That’s feeling lonesome.” RS
The Stones also offer up “full-tilt rock & roll on Sad Sad Sad” RS and “the nasty rocker Rock and a Hard Place.” CD Like “Mixed Emotions,” these are There are “Tattoo You-styled rockers.” CD
“The feral rocker Hold on to Your Hat seems to sketch some of the problems of excess that threatened to drive Jagger out of the Stones. ‘We’ll never make it,’ Jagger sings angrily, as Richards unleashes a flamethrower riff. ‘Don’t you fake it/ You’re getting loaded/ I’m getting goaded.’” RS
There are also “ballads in the vein of ‘Fool to Cry.’” AMG “Mick and Keith both get off a killer ballad apiece with Almost Hear You Sigh and Slipping Away, respectively.” AMG The latter is about Richards’ own “brand of mixed emotions. ‘All I want is ecstasy/ But I ain’t getting much/ Just getting off on misery,’ the Glimmer Twins harmonize on the song’s chorus, and then Richards returns to sing the concluding verse. ‘Well it’s just another song,’ he sings. ‘But it’s slipping away.’” RS
“Continental Drift, with its north-African feel, and the elegant Blinded by Love extend the Stones’ musical reach further than it has gone in some time.” RS The former, “the album’s most unusual track,” CD boasts “a touch of old-fashioned experimentalism.” AMG It is “a powerful, Middle-Eastern-tinged number with ‘African instruments’ played by the legendary Master Musicians of Jajouka.” CD The latter is a “country-flavored” CD song in which “the Stones’ show their long-standing appreciation for rootsy American music.” CD
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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 10/24/2021.