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After the hard edge of Whenever We Wanted, Human Wheels find John Mellencamp again quieting things down. Though you could draw a comparison to Big Daddy, it would be through the softer nature of the album, not the lyrical content. The theme that runs through Human Wheels is about relationships and their growth. The title track is an instant classic. "What If I Came Knocking", "When Jesus Left Birmingham", "Junior" and "Suzanne & The Jewels" are all first rate John Mellencamp songs. Human Wheels finds John Mellencamp realizing that he is no longer a kid, but an adult and the songs are the most mature of his career.
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on January 10, 2002
For me Human Wheels represents a rediscovery of John Mellencamp. Back in the 1980's, when I was a teenager, John (Cougar) Mellencamp was one of my favorite artists. Two of his albums back then, Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee, were among the most frequent plays in my cassette player. For some reason, since the late 80's I haven't paid much attention to Mellencamp, and I lost track of his music.
I recently bought Human Wheels out of curiosity, remembering how much I liked Mellecamp back in the 80's. This album reminds me why I enjoy John Mellencamp's music so much: the man is unequivocally an excellent songwriter. As demonstrated on this album, Mellencamp writes melodic, infectious hooks with compelling vocal and instrumental arrangements. His songs range from the silly to the serious, from the cynical to the celebratory. I thoroughly enjoy EVERY song on this disc! This album was a great discovery, and now I'm really looking forward to getting updated on all the music Mellencamp made between 1987 and today.
If you've liked Mellencamp's music in the past, or if you like rootsy rock and roll with some groove and pizzazz, then I would recommend this album. It's great!
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on August 12, 2005
12 years on, this album continues to entertain and move me. Most of the Mellencamp songs I like in his catalog are interspersed through the years. However this album is a concentrated dose of songs that grab me through great songwriting, vocal performances, the drums and percussion of Kenny Aronoff, the sound of the band, and the (sometimes implied) revealing of human hopes and failings. The characters and points-of-view throughout the album have vulnerability written all over them, in a most beautiful way. Not leaving off the humor and good times that you hear in "French Shoes" and elsewhere. I liked the video for the title track very much too. I've read interviews where Mellencamp states this is one of his favorite works and I strongly agree with him.
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on December 13, 2000
Personally, I've always found this, The Lonesome Jubilee, and Mr. Happy Go Lucky, to be Mellencamp's finest albums. A small album, without the big commercial impact of some of his others, yet a musical tour de force that I never tire of listening. A wonderful album of straightforward american rock-n-roll.
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on March 3, 2004
After the disappointment of Whenever We Wanted I was concerned Mellencamp was all burned out, but I saw this follow-up album going cheap on cassette in '94 so I bought it. Hooray! The good tunes were back, along with meaningful lyrics. JM had threatened back then that this was to be his last album, but he's threatened that several times since then. And thankfully, he stills puts out albums.
The title track is the standout song for me, a sad but beautifully worded poem on the state of the nation. JM also uses vox effects in the last verse. "Beige to Beige" is also a good song, the melody reminding me of earlier Mellencamp. "Case 795 (The Family)" is another sad song, on family abuse and murder. On side two, "Suzanne and the Jewels" stands out. The closing song, "To the River" has an interesting Eastern sound in its intro and the song is a blend of blues and rock.
Mellencamp has written about serious topics before but this whole album seems darker than his other work. Still, it's a good album. It's unfortunate that Human Wheels was not really appreciated by radio and was quickly forgotten when the next big single ("Wild Night") was released from its follow-up, Dance Naked.
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on March 24, 2004
This album was my first known introduction to John Mellencamp -- bizarrely from Top 40 radio. I admit that it's odd for a twelve-year-old (my age at the album's release) to have John Mellencamp as the angsty-music of choice, but it's still a helluva lot better -- deeper, more emotional, better written and so forth -- than what a lot of kids that age and even *my* age are listening to these day.
The style seems timeless -- it's unlike that of the other popular home-grown-sounding white rock-stars of the day -- which makes it a fine album both then and now. While _American Fool_ can sound dated, _Human Wheels_ still seems classic over ten years later.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon February 7, 2001
After the hard edge of Whenever We Wanted, Human Wheels find John Mellencamp again quieting things down. Though you could draw a comparison to Big Daddy, it would be through the softer nature of the album, not the lyrical content. The theme that runs through Human Wheels is about relationship and their growth. The title track is an instant classic. "what If I Came Knocking", "When Jesus Left Birmingham", "Junior" and "Suzanne & The Jewels" are all first rate John Mellencamp songs. Human Wheels finds John Mellencamp realizing that he is no longer a kid, but an adult and the songs are the most mature of his career.
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on August 14, 2007
Mellencamp had gone through a significant number of ups and downs in his career to this point. He had worked hard to become a big star and arrived as a pop rock star in the early 80's, and progressed to being a working man's hero by the latter part of the decade. But as the 90's began his marriage broke up and his commercial dominance had become inconsistent. He was still a favorite of rock radio, but rock was turning to younger, darker acts. Into this moment came one of Mellencamp's best phases as an artist - when he became pessimistic of society's expectations and on "Human Wheels" he turns to biting, direct and pronounced commentary - picking on Christianity ("When Jesus Left Birmingham"), the isolation of the working man from society ("Junior"), social work ("Case 795"), service and social clubs ("Beige to Beige"), and the pain of aging ("Sweet Evening Breeze"). And through it all, he conducts his attacks with all of the rocking enthusiasm he'd given us for the past 15 years. The former Cougar is a special, enduring artist and "Human Wheels" is the moment that he reaches out, shakes you by the scruff of your neck and tells you that you'd better be listening close. And that's just why any real artist records...to be heard when there's a lot to be said.
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on May 19, 2002
John Mellencamp strikes me as an artist with too many questions and not enough answers. Perhaps he lost his way somewhere in eighties: yet the more lost he becomes, the more he grows as an artist. Like a cactus in the desert - he appears to defy conventional logic.
Human Wheels has a pulse that flows through this album that cannot be repressed, and which ever way the songs flow, you'll be swept along with them. There is a depth of perception and a painful honesty that will strike a chord with many that listen to this album.
The songs that stand out for me are: Beige to Beige, When Jesus Left Birmingham and To the River. All speak of one simple truth: in confusion we find ourselves and its perhaps that same confusion drove John Mellencamp to write one of the finest albums of his career.
Everyone will have an album that stays with them. This has the depth and indeed the insight that will make it stay on your most played selection for some time to come.
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on November 9, 1999
Mellencamp tells the real story of American ruralism in modern times and he tells it from both the white AND the black perspective--which his band and his music have always been about. Whether it's the title track or "When Jesus Left Birmingham," this stuff is up close and personal reporting from an artist who still lives in the neck of the woods he writes about. Go Johnny go!
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