"Well I don't know why I came here tonight...I got the feeling that something ain't right..." You know the tune, you know the words, and chances are you'll think of Mr. Blonde, Michael Madsen's brilliant, psychotic portrayal in Tarantino's cinema classic Reservoir Dogs. Mr. Blonde slashes the ear off a captured copper to the tune of Stealers Wheel's Stuck In The Middle With You for his own sick pleasure, giving birth to one of cinema's most memorable, and most grisly scenes.
Thus, the further re-inventions of Stealers Wheel takes shape. The band released two albums in the early-seventies and then disbanded; frontman Gerry Rafferty later hit monster success with Baker St and never looked back, and yet Stuck In The Middle With You, taken from Stealers Wheel's self-titled debut album, arguably now ranks as the most popular song Rafferty became involved in. It's possible that Stealers Wheel were Britain's answer to the success of Crosby, Stills & Nash, and yet there potential was never realised. When the Stealers Wheel album was released, it failed to make a dent in the charts, causing Rafferty to leave the band. It was only the later single success of Stuck In The Middle With You that brought Rafferty back to the band to try again. Songwriting partner Joe Egan was the only survivor alongside Rafferty for the second album Ferguslie Park; the rest of the band were dispensed with in favour of session musicians.
Listening to Stealers Wheel in today's light reveals an album of gentle, acoustic Britishness. Egan and Rafferty demonstrate their capable songwriting talents, and their efforts are helped by the experienced production capabilities of Lieber & Stoller, who maintain the organic feel to the profuction whilst still adding some musical shine. Harmonies are strong, and prevalent throughout the album, such as the downbeat Next To Me or the lush opener Late Again, but it's the catchier numbers that are more endeared to your heart, such as You Put Something Better Inside Me or everyone's favourite ear-cutting anthem. It might not pack the presentation of second album Ferguslie Park, but Stealer's Wheel certainly does possess a rugged, acoustic charm that is decidedly British.
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