Two years after the release of Night Owl, Gerry Rafferty presented his fans with Snakes & Ladders, and although some of his former album's charm and lyrical appeal manages to resurface, the whole of the album comes up short. The memorable melodies, moving allegories, or genuine lyrical warmth that was put into past efforts arise in a couple of tracks, like in the beauty of "Bring It All Home" or in the mystique of "Look at the Moon." It's not that Rafferty's writing is weaker or has been restrained, it's the fact that he fails to present enough passion from an instrumental standpoint throughout the entire album, and to a lesser extent a vocal one, to establish the same type of emotion or atmosphere as he did with City to City or Night Owl. "Royal Mile" was released as a single in the U.K., but only climbed as high as number 67 there and number 54 in the U.S. The album went to number 15 in Britain, but Rafferty showed signs of relinquishing his genuine style ever so slightly, and 1982's Sleepwalking disappointingly confirmed this. Even though his exterior talents had dwindled only slightly, the intangible qualities that made Rafferty such a compelling artist seemed to be left behind in the past decade.
AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne