Tuesday, 17 October 2017

STEVE MILLER BAND - ULTIMATE HITS (Virgin/UMG 2 x LP, CD, D/L, Deluxe 2 x CD, Deluxe 4 x LP).

Steve Miller is a survivor…………….a journeyman song writer/guitarist at best that due to some great business smarts prospered while many of his contemporaries crashed and burned. Always happy to hitch his thang to any bandwagon going, he first appeared playing the Blues in Chicago before relocating to the West Coast playing regular gigs at the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore while recording what many consider to be the finest Steve Miller Band album ever, 1968’s Sailor released by Capitol records to great critical acclaim. Fast forward five years and the big hits started appearing as the Steve Miller Band evolved into a bland, radio friendly, slick and successful arena band with the true nadir being the atrocious mega hit from the 80s, ‘Abracadabra’. Still recording and touring Steve Miller, along with bands such as the Eagles, has become the epitome of what everybody hates about the 70s bands that sold their soul for heaps of cash and coke.………….erm…….take the money and run. Happily wringing out the last drops of cash from an artist that ceased to be relevant nearly 45 years ago, Virgin/UMG have released a lavishly packaged Steve Miller Band compilation titled Ultimate Hits that charts Steve Miller’s decent to the seventh circle of AOR hell but manages to neatly sidestep most of the good stuff he was recording in the late 60s.

Released as a single CD/double LP with two previously unreleased live recordings of ‘Living In The USA’ and ‘Space Cowboy’ as well as a never before released Steve Miller solo recording of ‘Seasons’, for those who mainly want the hits and a more expansive 2 x CD/4 x vinyl set packed with more rarities and live recordings, Ultimate Hits is aimed squarely at existing fans. With the first big Steve Miller Band hit, ‘The Joker’, being the jump on point for the “hits” package, it quickly becomes a series of diminishing returns………………………the slick if unthreatening Country/Blues (a hangover from the late 60s Psychedelic phase) of the early big singles soon evolves into formulaic, radio friendly Pop/Rock with the genuinely strange and funky ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ being an exception. We can imagine that this CD would on the car stereo when Jeremy Clarkson is tailgating some poor sod on the Basingstoke bypass. The more expansive deluxe edition is more interesting as it least acknowledges that Steve Miller was making records before 1974 with a smattering of tracks from some of the earlier, more Psychedelic/Blues based, albums including ‘My Dark Hour’ from 1969 recorded in London with Paul McCartney playing practically all the instruments under the alias Paul Ramon and sounding not unlike a Beatles out-take. There are also live recordings of the previously mentioned ‘Living In The USA’ and ‘Space Cowboy’ and ‘Kow Kow Calculator’ from the 70s/80s that really are not a patch on the album versions. Unless you are a fan of the Steve Miller Band, this is a pretty disappointing compilation. The annoying thing is that there is a warehouse full of interesting Steve Miller archive material going back 50 years that includes tracks recorded with McCartney but never released plus some pieces with Brian Wilson and Cannonball Adderly that have yet to see the light of day which must be more worthy than this album…………..also a vinyl box set, also with bonus tracks, is being prepared for 2018 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first two Steve Miller Band albums, Children Of The Future and Sailor………….in the meantime Ultimate Hits exists in order to squeeze a bit more cash out of the hardcore fans. We suggest you save your money and wait until the cool 60s stuff gets released.

Ultimate Hits is out now and available everywhere, but to be honest you would be better off picking up a copy of Steve Miller Band : The Best Of 1968 - 1973 which is way more psychedelic and you can usually find it on Amazon for a few quid.

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