Training Wheels (Social Graces 001/002)
Air Studios, Monserrat, West Indies – March 29th to May 5th, 1989
Disc 1 (43:24): Blinded By Love, Terrifying, Continental Drift (Instrumental), Break The Spell, Can’t Be Seen, For Your Precious Love, Fancyman Blues, Slipping Away (Instrumental)
Disc 2 (39:42): Rock And A Hard Place, Ready Yourself, Sad Sad Sad, Mixed Emotions, Almost Hear You Sigh, Giving It Up, Hearts For Sale, Hold On To Your Hat
When the eighty minute long Steel Wheels sessions were introduced several years ago, it represented only about half of what was available. A well known collector wrote on the Hotwacks website that we need to be patient for even more material.
Two years later it has surfaced on Training Wheels on the new Social Graces label. Eighty more minutes of outtakes are on these discs and are infinitely more interesting than those that came before. Many of the takes on the earlier tape were minor variations in the mix, but these date much earlier in the sessions with well known songs in a much more primitive state of development. The sound quality isn’t as good as on the earlier tape but is still excellent.
The tape begins with Mick saying to Keith “let’s do it” before Keith counts in and they play “Blinded By Love.” At this early stage the song lacks the organ and fiddle in the instrumentation but has acoustic guitar, bass and drums. Mick slurs many of the words and Keith joins in loudly during the chorus and the song ends with some banter.
This is followed by a rehearsal of “Terrifying” with the same basic instruments as the final version but with Jagger slurring through an early draft of the lyrics. “Continental Drift” is the basic rhythm instruments but lacking lyrics and the Moroccan overdubs.
“Break The Spell” begins with a short tune up and count in. It sounds the same as the other versions but the vocals are buried very deep in the mix.
“Can’t Be Seen” follows and is a longer run through than on the earlier tape. “For Your Precious Love” is a second run through of the Jerry Butler cover. It is slightly longer than the more polished version on the other tape. This also includes a count-in and played in a different key.
“Fancyman Blues” differs with a different Chuck Leavell piano melody and the first disc ends with a beautiful instrumental version of “Slipping Away.”
“Rock And A Hard Place” has a count-in and lacks horns and female backing singers. Both the commercial version and the alternate mix on the earlier tape is the most slickly produced track on the entire album, but this outtake is more guitar oriented and is driven by the funk bass line. Jagger gives a basic vocal take including instructions and encouragement throughout.
The outtake “Ready Yourself” on the earlier tape is purely instrumental but at this early stage includes lyrics sung by Richards. “Sad Sad Sad” and “Mixed Emotions” are both at a primitive stage with different vocal tracks and lack the slick production on both Steel Wheels and Monitor Mixes.
An excellent revelation is “Giving It Up,” a song known to have been demoed at the time but never surfaced until now. Like much of the material it is an interesting mid-tempo ballad with Mick on vocals but it never advanced past this stage.
However it is great to finally hear the song and there are several other songs known to be recorded at Monserrat which haven’t surfaced yet including “Sweet Thing,” “Three Oceans,” “When I Get To Thinking,” “You’ve Got Some Nerve,” “Hot Line,” “Hang On,” and “Gangsters Moll.” “Sweet Thing” and “Hang On Tonight” (aka “Hang On To Me Tonight”) were later used by Jagger on his solo album Wandering Spirit.
The complete running time of the tape clocks in at about eighty-three minutes, just too long to fit onto one CD. If Social Graces were to trim three minutes it would have fit. However it is great to finally have more outtakes from these sessions and hopefully this new label will continue with great Stones releases in the future.
Excellent review – I picked this up as soon as I could grab it. To me Steel Wheels was pretty much the Stones last gasp; I haven’t really liked them since Mr. Wyman left the band. Although “Mean Disposition” on Voodoo Lounge was a throwback to better days with Charlie’s swinging beat.
I know what you mean, but haven’t you heard “A Bigger Bang”? “A Bigger Bang” may not have any truly awesome songs on it, but it sure doesn’t seem to have any that are mediocre or even worse, so in my personal opinion, “A Bigger Bang” was the Stones’ last great album…considerably better than anything they did after 1983’s “Undercover”, and even a littler better than “Undercover” itself, “Tattoo You”, “Emotional Rescue”, “Some Girls”, “Black & Blue”, “It’s Only Rock & Roll”, & “Goats Head Soup”.