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on 24 May 2013
Though I score this album high, in fact there are only 3 songs I love on it, with a couple more I would listen to from time to time. Two tracks are amongst my favourite Mellencamp’s songs, therefore I could not part with this album. I found the album Human Wheels to be the beginning of an unwinding period in Mellencamp’s career, until his heart attack in 1994; personally there were too many songs that didn’t touch me on the 1993 and 1994 albums: I got a bit bored.
One of my very favourite Mellencamp’s song is here, I can listen to that one several times in a row: ‘Sweet Evening Breeze’ **** the vocals are beautifully soft and so is the acoustic guitar; it’s a song about “thoughts and memories” and the story of two kids’ summer romance and it’s perfectly balanced with some cutting drums and a roaring guitar solo, when we realized that it’s charged with regret, the loss of one’s youth, innocence, dream or optimism, so many questions that cannot be answered nor asked. The single ‘What If I Came Knocking’ *** is quite the opposite: it’s daring and loud, a bit crass even and the perfect transition from the previous rock album Whenever We Wanted: the drums are brilliant to dance to, the vocals are cheeky, the guitars rock. I always want to listen to it again straight after it ends! That was a single and so was ‘Junior’ **(*), that one has a warm swing to it, there’s something light-hearted about the tune and frankly I’m not quite sure what the lyrics are about, it’s a bit of a mystery and I can’t explain why I like it (the production makes me think of his 1996 album too).
‘To The River’ ** is enjoyable too, it’s different for Mellencamp, country-rock I guess it’s called, he co-wrote it with Janis Ian and John Vezner. His voice is natural and not forced, it’s a nice number.
Now I must confess that though I like the single ‘Human Wheels’ ** I don’t find the production very attractive to the ears: voice effect, repetitive drumming and string picking. I prefer the version that John Mellencamp re-recorded in 1999 for his album Rough Harvest (warm ballad on the guitar). His then friend George Green wrote the lyrics and the story goes that it was originally a eulogy for George’s grandfather and JM turned it into a song. That would explain why I find the words so cryptic: it was meant to be a poem. The first single released in 1993 was the slow ‘When Jesus Left Birmingham’ * I feel it drags on (it’s over 5 minutes long) and voices are competing, preventing any mood to set. There’s also a newer version of this song on Rough Harvest that I would recommend: faster, shorter with lots of violin.
The remaining songs on the Human Wheels album vary from the warm and a little catchy ‘Suzanne and the Jewels’ *(*); the great Rolling Stone start of ‘Case 795 (The Family)’ * which changes too quickly into a story told far too low to have any impact; a little violin number to launch ‘Beige to Beige’ * a song about conformity so it might make sense to keep it low key and bland and ‘French Shoes’ with its mix of percussions, distracting backing vocals, laughter and tedious chorus. That’s just personal preferences, I’m not suggesting everyone would agree.
But overall, this album is definitely a pick’n’mix: it does not go into one particular direction and maybe Mellencamp wanted to try all sorts of things after making some very uniform and perfectly rounded albums, in 1985 (classic rock), 1987 (folk-rock), 1989 (reflective) and 1991 (loud rock). In fact, variety would be the strength of his 1998 album. In the end, if we assess his career so far, we can only conclude that John Mellencamp is a very gifted singer-songwriter and that he has managed to evolve and create some very inspiring music, always changing style and production method. So, if you’ve ever liked something by Mellencamp, you will probably find something to your taste on this CD.

For the record, I own all JM’s albums. I have uploaded more reviews. I give **** max. to tracks I love, * to songs I feel are still worth listening to.
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on 2 November 2003
One of the most under-rated JM albums. This one tackles everything from racism(when jesus left birmingham)too pure vanity(french shoes).It has all the elements of classic mellencamp, where the most important things, ie vocals,guitar and drums are high up in the mix.It also touches on lost love,desire, spousal abuse and death{the great johnny cascella died when this cd was being recorded). Anyone who is a jm fan will know how much human wheels means to them considering the yahoo group is called human wheels.If you like hard rock mellencamp or the rootsy mellencamp, this the cd for you.Oh and "Sweet evening breeze" is sheer genius.
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on 7 December 2015
Just what I wanted.
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on 22 January 2016
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on 14 December 2014
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