The Stones have connected best when they've delivered simple truths through their music. These simple elements include lyrics that tell a story and melody and rhythms that seem to explode out of that story.
Richards once said the Jumpin Jack Flash was his favorite song to play. Using this song as a standard helps to show why Steel Wheels doesn't make it. "Sad Sad Sad" and "Hearts for Sale" approximate the Stones standard but the question is do they matter and who in the band (or elsewhere) really cares what these songs have to say.
Rather than go through the list of songs that don't quite deliver on this Stones excursion, it's better to look at the one song that jumps out. "Mixed Emotion" has enough power by itself to make the CD worth clicking the 'buy it now' button. It's a total of four driving chords, committed vocals, a clean story line, and at least a sense that someone in the band cares about this song. It charts a simple rebirth of a musical relationship - a letting go of stupid things that don't matter and a reconnection with primal fire that has sustained this band.
Stack this song up against any of the golden age Stones numbers and it holds its own. The great news is that, even though the Stones so often shoot blanks in their later years, they can still can tell the truth in a way that has defined rock and roll for decades.