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Stealers Wheel - Stealers Wheel

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  • Several fine underrated
  • little-known songs
  • Occasionally a little bland
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      24.06.2014 21:54
      Very helpful


      • " little-known songs"
      • "Several fine underrated"
      • "One classic Top 10 hit"


      • "Occasionally a little bland"

      Clowns to the left, jokers to the right, and other songs

      The first of three albums made by Stealers Wheel was the only one they made as a five-piece quintet, before joint leaders and main writers Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan decided to continue as a duo with session musicians. It was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the partnership behind much of the Drifters'' and some of Elvis Presley''s early singles. The result for the most part if a laid-back soft-rock burner, like Lindisfarne meets Crosby, Stills & Nash. Track one, the melancholy, exquisite ''Late Again'', begins with Egan''s vocal accompanied only by harmonium, before Rafferty''s vocal harmony, the rhythm section and later a sax join in. The only hit single from the album, the ironic masterpiece ''Stuck in the Middle'', written after a nightmare of a record company reception where they were surrounded by men in suits and beautiful people, or ''clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right'', is undoubtedly the strongest track. ''Another Meaning'' is a slower number with what sounds like piano and mandolin in the forefront, and the one where the Lindisfarne comparisons are most obvious. The most hard rocking moments on the whole record come in ''I Get By'', led by stabbing guitar chords which, plus Egan''s rasping vocal, make it sound more like Free or Bad Company than anyone else. Then it''s back to the gentle soft-rock of ''Outside Looking In'', where the lead guitar adds bite to an otherwise pretty low-key number. What was side two of the original album starts with ''Johnny''s Song'', mid-paced, almost funky, with more searing lead guitar. The upbeat ''Next To Me'', slightly late Beatles periodish in approach, and the more rocking ''Jose'' follow, with two slower songs to finish. ''Gets So Lonely'' is a mellow ballad, pleasant if a shade dull, completely eclipsed by the enchanting ''You Put Something Better Inside Me''. This, a single at the time which failed to chart, has a gorgeous melody and romantic lyric which would surely qualify it for anybody''s album of favourite love songs. The album may not grab you on first listen, but a few plays allow the charm to shine through until you realise just how good it really is. There''s far more to it than just one much-loved Top 10 hit and a supporting cast of songs you may well have never even heard of before. John Patrick Byrne''s cover painting of the group''s faces as wild animals, which loses some of its impact on a tiny CD cover, is a delight as well.


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