The conversation usually starts with the gritty great "Exile on Main St."
Then comes "Sticky Fingers," "Let it Bleed" and "Beggars Banquet."
The psychedelic-leaning "Aftermath" might get mentioned.
Maybe even the sinister "Some Girls."
But no one picks "Steel Wheels" as their favorite album by The Rolling Stones.
The band, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first official gig last week, has issued at least a dozen better studio full-lengths over the years.
"Steel Wheels," though, might be the Stones' most important.
At least in regard to the group's survival.
Before "Steel Wheels" came out, The Rolling Stones looked like another classic rock dinosaur lost in the 1980s.
They had just released back-to-back duds with "Undercover" (1983) and "Dirty Work" (1986).
Mick Jagger refused to tour in support of the latter so he could concentrate on a modern-sounds solo career that quickly tanked.
Keith Richards, while sticking to his roots-rock guns, also failed to find a large audience for his solo work.
So the Glimmer Twins reunited the old gang.
And recorded "Steel Wheels."
Released in August of 1989, the new Rolling Stones album received 4.5 out of 5 stars from the magazine that shares a name with the band.
Not all reviewers were so generous.
But RS writer Anthony DeCurtis didn't miss the mark when he wrote "'Steel Wheels' rocks with a fervor that renders the Stones' North American tour an enticing prospect indeed."
The singles "Mixed Emotions" and "A Rock and a Hard Place" as well as "Almost Hear You Sigh" all topped Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart.
And while the new songs weren't going to eclipse anything the
Stones did in the late 1960s, or even anything on 1981's "Tattoo You," they held their own in concert alongside, say, "Dead Flowers" and "Honky Tonk Women."
Just ask anyone who saw the Stones perform a sold-out show at old Tampa Stadium on Nov. 18, 1989.
The performance, attended by at least 1,000 people who bought tickets at the old Spec's Music store in Bradenton, received glowing reviews from publications as far away as Orlando.
After a seven-year hiatus, The Rolling Stones' "Steel Wheels" album and tour put the band back on top of the rock 'n' roll world.
The Stones, rumored to be recording touring again next year, have remained among the most popular acts on the planet ever since.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.