Published on October 9th, 2014 | by Andy Sedlak
‘Wandering Spirit’ – Mick Jagger 
Summary: Jagger’s individualism pays off, even if he’s riding the coattails of Rolling Stones’ successful 'Steel Wheels.' It was released only a few years earlier, and 'Wandering Spirit' has the feel of a worthy sequel.
Released: Feb 8, 1993
Producers: Rick Rubin & Mick Jagger | Label: Atlantic
Peak Position on Billboard Album Chart: 11
U.S. Top 40 Singles: 0
Truth be told, Mick Jagger’s solo career has been as interesting as anything the Stones have done since the early ’80s.
There was enough triumph to warrant the release of Jagger’s own Best Of album in 2007. If you count the Alfie soundtrack, Jagger has released five solo albums since 1985. His first solo disc was called She’s the Boss. His last proper effort – now almost 15 years old – was 2001’s Goddess in the Doorway. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards once referred to Goddess as Dogshit in the Doorway. Fair enough, but Richards can’t make the same cheeky pun about the record that preceded it.
Wandering Spirit, released in 1993, was Mick Jagger’s only solo record of the ’90s. It’s also the best solo release of his career. The album –the third on his own – followed the Stones’ phenomenally successful Steel Wheels comeback record that in turn led to a historically lucrative tour. The link between Steel Wheels and Wandering Spirit is undeniable. And in spite of Wandering Spirit’s flourishes of ’90s-era pop and funky undertones, it essentially feels like the sequel to Steel Wheels.
For example, take the opener, “Wired All Night”. The song is a brash reworking of the rapid-fire rhythm Bob Dylan made famous on “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” U2 would later emulate the formula on “Get on Your Boots.” Was it a Steel Wheels throwaway? I doubt it, but it’s got Steel Wheels written all over it.
And say this about Mick Jagger – he gets away with lines few other musicians could.
From “Wired All Night:”
Gimme a drink, you’re talking too much
You’re a pain in the butt
A 2007 interview with Jagger, on release of his solo Very Best Of album.
It’s no secret Richards waxed bitterness over Jagger’s solo career. He never gave it much more credit than being the byproduct of schlocky showbiz.
“Mick kind of lost touch with how important the Stones were for him,” Richards told Rolling Stone Magazine in 1988. “He thought he could just hire another Rolling Stones, and that he could sit around and control the situation more, rather than battling with me.
“I think there’s a little bit of a Peter Pan complex,” Richards said.
Jagger responded in Rolling Stone in 1995.
“When we signed with CBS, I had a provision to make a solo record,” Jagger said. “Keith knew all about it.”
Ironically, Keith was recording his own solo album while Jagger was recording Wandering Spirit. Keith’s record, titled Main Offender, was released first. The record barely cracked the Top 100, peaking at Number 99. Wandering Spirit, meanwhile, peaked at Number 11.
Wandering Spirit’s first single, a tempered track called “Sweet Thing,” was a minor hit in the States but found more success overseas. It reached the Top 10 in Norway, France and Austria. Its shape-shifting keeps it from ever settling into drudgery. The same goes for “Out of Focus,” the album’s third track, which begins with a gospel piano line but morphs into a backyard barbecue vibe with deceptively transparent lyrical dexterity.
From “Out of Focus:”
I saw towering spires
I heard beautiful chimes
Yeah, I heard them peal
I saw visions of grace
I saw a heavenly place
Then it disappeared
The video for “Don’t Tear me Up,” one of the record’s most soulful cuts.
“Don’t Tear Me Up” is an updated take on the blue-eyed soul the Stones could unassumingly work up at the drop of a hat. The beginning of the song is akin to 1976’s “Fool to Cry.”
From “Don’t Tear Me Up:
Life is a bitch, it’s way too short
Unlike a politician it just can’t be bought
“Put Me in the Trash” features Mick in all of his Mickness. Lenny Kravitz lends his vocal to the funky “Use Me,” a Bill Withers cover. Elsewhere, Flea plays bass. But that’s about it for guest stars. It’s a relatively modest lineup compared to the personnel list on Goddess in the Doorway. Bono, Rob Thomas, Wyclef Jean, Pete Townshend, Joe Perry and Kravitz all appeared on that record.
The ever-elastic Rick Rubin produced Wandering Spirit. He shoves the guitars up front to create some of the sharpest sounding beat-up rock songs you’ll ever hear. God bless Rubin and Jagger for keeping the train on the track. Their album was more polished than the grunge that was popular at the time, and light years away from other best-selling albums that year like The Bodyguard soundtrack, Breathless by Kenny G, Unplugged by Eric Clapton, Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by the Wu-Tang clan.
Instead, Mick sticks to Stones-style muscle. The thorny “Evening Gown” is an anthem for the aging outlaw. Mick sings it with the same suck-it twang that was all over “Dead Flowers.” “Evening Gown” was taken to even greater heights about a decade later when Jerry Lee Lewis covered it.
From “Evening Gown:”
People say I’m a drinker, but I’m sober half the time
People say I’m a loser, but I get lucky on the side
And I can still paint the town all the color of your evening gown
While I’m waiting for your blonde hair to turn grey
“Hang Onto Me Tonight” is the type of torch burner that Jagger services well.
From “Hang Onto Me Tonight:”
Like a movie, you swept into my life
And like a movie, the stars just fade away
All the characters are mouthing out their lines
And the love scenes are shot in shades of grey
“I’ve Been So Lonely For So Long” is the last pop song on the album. “Angel in My Heart” is the last Jagger composition. The record ends with Jagger’s retelling of the traditional folk song “Handsome Molly.”
The music video for Wandering Spirit‘s first single “Sweet Thing.”
Jagger and Richards’ solo output is a case study in musical liberalism versus musical conservatism. Jagger is the progressive. Richards is the traditionalist. That blend produced some of the Stones’ best work. Apart, it’s Jagger who takes the extra steps to construct and release a proper album, rather than the mere collection of songs that Richards offers up on Main Offender.
That’s not to say Main Offender is without highlights. “Eileen” is Richards at his best, dishing out jarring riff rock as his woman waits just out of reach. The slithery “Yap Yap” also turns heads.
But here’s a fun fact. Both Jagger and Richards include the line “You’re talking too much” on each of their early ’90s solo efforts. Were they talking to each other?
As it turned out, Richards never recorded another solo album. Jagger essentially had one more in him. Truth is, Jagger and Richards put up solo careers with highlights and disillusionment. While Jagger’s was longer and more varied, each labored over their respective callings. Wandering Spirit was a highlight during this time period but Mick and Keith are men who abide by the bottom line.
And the bottom line is that they’ll always be Rolling Stones.