Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Steve Miller Band [extended]

  • Your Saving Grace [Capitol, 1969] B
  • Number 5 [Capitol, 1970] B
  • Rock Love [Capitol, 1971] C-
  • Recall the Beginning . . . A Journey from Eden [Capitol, 1972] C-
  • Anthology [Capricorn, 1972] B+
  • The Joker [Capitol, 1973] B-
  • Fly Like an Eagle [Capitol, 1976] B+
  • Book of Dreams [Capitol, 1977] B-
  • Greatest Hits 1974-1978 [Capitol, 1978] A-
  • Circle of Love [Capitol, 1981] B
  • Abracadabra [Capitol, 1982] B
  • Wide River [Polydor, 1993] C

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Your Saving Grace [Capitol, 1969]
The usual sweet-hard rock, pleasant and soulful enough. B

Steve Miller: Number 5 [Capitol, 1970]
The songs about going to the country, going to Mexico, and eating chili are more substantial than those about Vietnam, Jackson-Kent, and the military-industrial complex. Fortunately, all three of the latter are supposed to bring the album to a rousing (zzzzz) climax, which leaves side one free to bring you back humming. B

Steve Miller: Rock Love [Capitol, 1971]
Those who deemed Number 5 a throwaway should find number six instructive: one side of live "blues," one of dead "rock." C-

Recall the Beginning . . . A Journey from Eden [Capitol, 1972]
I think this is a concept album in which Miller's rejection by a female drummer named Kim symbolizes "all the pointless suffering/Humanity." But I don't intend to make sure. C-

Anthology [Capricorn, 1972]
Says Miller in the notes: "Always before, you know, people more or less needed to be fans to like the albums. Oh, I mean there'd be some good cuts and a couple of not-so-good cuts, and then some cuts I don't even like to remember. But Anthology is what I always wanted to make--two good LPs that'll hold up." And you know what? That's so accurate I won't bother quibbling about "Motherless Children" or "Baby's House." But what can it mean that thirteen of the sixteen survivors were recorded three years ago? B+

The Joker [Capitol, 1973]
As a spacey rock prophet he's terrible (who isn't?). As a blues singer he's incompetent (I wouldn't come on in his kitchen for a glass of water). But as a purveyor of spacey pop-rock blues, he has his virtues. Question: what the hell is "the pompitous of love"? The Medallions wouldn't tell me. B-

Fly Like an Eagle [Capitol, 1976]
Miller's eccentricity--James Cotton harp amid the Sam Cooke amid the technologized ditties--has no center or even epicenter except for the pastoral antimaterialism so common among exurbanite rock tycoons. But in the end his borrowed hooks and woozy vocal charm are an irresistible formula. Finds good covers, too--"Mercury Blues" (copyright 1970 by K.C. Douglas, whoever he is) fits right in. B+

Book of Dreams [Capitol, 1977]
This one avoids significance as aggressively as a Coca-Cola commercial (unless "My Own Space" counts). And thanks to the sidemen's songs, it isn't as catchy as a Coca-Cola commercial. Not to mention Fly Like an Eagle. B-

Greatest Hits 1974-1978 [Capitol, 1978]
In which Miller selects seven tracks from Book of Dreams (I'd omit the garbled non-original "Jungle Love" and the long synthesizer intro to "Jet Airliner," but he did bag every good one), six from Fly Like an Eagle (an easier job), and one from The Joker (ditto), revealing a California singles artist as likably lightweight as Jan & Dean. This music may recycle blues riffs, but its spirit is pure escapist pop; country living replaces surf and cars as utopian metaphor and Miller's voice, always too slight for real blues, sounds suitably out-of-it. As philosophy it's venal, but as unabashed diversion it's pretty nice. After all, was he ever good for anything else? A-

Circle of Love [Capitol, 1981]
You whippersnappers want catchy pop tunes, this high-tech cornball's got 'em with blues changes--four nifties on side one. You want hypnotic electro-groove, he's got that with blues changes too--eighteen minutes of it, complete with muddled attack on the military-industrial establishment. Both sides offer sound effects at no additional charge, and Steve would like everyone to know that he's been doing this shit since 1968. B

Abracadabra [Capitol, 1982]
With longtime bandbuddy Gary Mallaber making like Jeff Barry, Miller fulfills his hippie destiny and turns into the Archies, or really the Monkees, since he did write the title hit himself, and it will probably stand as the biggest pop tune of 1982, by which I definitely don't mean the most quintessential, because this one is blissfully catchy and blissfully simple and blissfully schlocky and blissfully tricky, like the rest of the album only more so. B

Wide River [Polydor, 1993]
Anyone naive enough to believe there's nothing more distasteful than a middle-aged man pretending his hormones are too much for him has never encountered a middle-aged man trying to act cute. Not to mention a middle-aged white "bluesman" who compares himself to Picasso whilst suing black people who sample his hooks. C