Nothing is what it used to be, except perhaps for the Fleshtones -- since 1976, America's leading Super Rock band has been exploding into a ball of entertainment on a regular basis in front of audiences around the world with their patented mixture of garage rock, vintage pop, hard rock, first-generation punk, and anything else that sounds cool to them. But if 2014's Wheel of Talent finds them proudly flying the rock & roll flag into the 21st century, it also shows they're not afraid to try new things nearly 40 years into their career. Two cuts on Wheel of Talent were recorded in Spain with brass and string sections joining them, and "How to Say Goodbye" and "Available" show the Fleshtones can add some widescreen pop grandeur to their sound without diluting their traditional melodic strengths, and on "For a Smile," they bring Mary Huff of Southern Culture on the Skids to the mike for a guest lead vocal that gives the band a woman's perspective for a change. But most of Wheel of Talent is the Fleshtones in classic style" gutsy guitar work from Keith Streng, cool keyboard punctuation from Peter Zaremba, inspired rhythms from bassist Ken Fox and drummer Bill Milhizer, and gale-force vocals from Zaremba and Streng. If the passage of time has made an impression on the Fleshtones, it's mostly in terms of subject matter; "Available" laments how their hometown of Brooklyn has changed, "Hipster Heaven" pokes wicked fun at clueless would-be bohemians ("I got a new tattoo and money from home!"), and "Remember the Ramones" is a celebration of Queens' greatest contribution to rock & roll from guys who were there when it started. But "It Is as It Was" makes clear they're still in it for the long haul, and any band that can deliver a killer cover of the Music Machine's "I See the Light" in Spanish is clearly having too much fun to quit anytime soon. The bulk of Wheel of Talent was recorded in Detroit with producer and engineer Jim Diamond, and his high-energy/low-frills style was made to order for this band, and the truth is, the Fleshtones sounds tighter and every bit as ferocious as they did on 1982's Roman Gods, and no less inspired. The Fleshtones are still kicking out the jams in a career that has spanned five decades so far, and Wheel of Talent shows they're one natural resource we can still believe in.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming