And Yet More...

That’s replaced in turn by the sound of a motorcycle, a driving beat and harp solo at the start of Living In The USA. The organ comes in, along with a breezy vocal as Miller offers socio-political observations: Dietician, Television, Politician, Mortician... mightn’t be the sharpest bit of cultural commentary ever written but the Somebody give me a cheeseburger! at the end of the track says it all, really. You want fries with that?

Side Two kicks off with Miller’s Quicksilver Girl, a saccharine tribute to Girl Freiberg, teenage bride of Quicksilver Messenger Service’s bassist. Pleasant enough, but although it's pretty it is also pretty lightweight. On the other hand if you skip it you don’t get the contrast as a little acoustic guitar lick leads into Peterman’s Lucky Man. Keyboards, high harmonies behind the lead vocal and prominent drums before assorted hipster voices take us into Johnny “Guitar” Watson's Gangster of Love, slurred vocals from Miller that turn into a chortle as Miller expounds his prowess as a lover and before you know it you’re into Jimmy Reed’s You're So Fine, the album’s excursion into the blues with tasty harp and guitar work.

There’s a floating intro to Overdrive, written and sung by Scaggs over a chugging semi-Bo Diddley beat, with tasty slide licks. The lyrics aren’t the greatest philosophical statement you’ve ever heard, but there you go. The killer punch comes with the album’s closer, again written by Scaggs. Dime-A-Dance Romance is a solid rock and roll invocation of the joys of the dance that presumably would have gone down well in the dance halls. Come on honey, Scaggs entreats, we’re bound to make it. It’s the high point of an excellent album that isn’t quite what you might have expected.

Internal tensions, however, meant that by the time they were back in the studio to record the third album, 1969’s Brave New World the Steve Miller Band was a trio with occasional keyboard help from Nicky Hopkins and Ben Sidran. In line with the power trio configuration the softer elements on the first two albums are gone, and even the delicate touches come with a harder edge. After all they’re on their way from a dream of the past to a brave new world as the album’s leadoff track explains, where nothing can last that comes from the past.

Actually there’s quite a bit from the past lurking behind that harder edge. The title track comes first, a three and a half minute statement of intent, high harmonies behind Miller’s vocal, a jaunty opener with precise instrumentation. That’s followed by Celebration Song with the high sha-la-sha-la-la-la-la’s as Miller informs that the listener’s in for a good time since the band is gonna play. Maybe they’re not the greatest lyrics you’ve ever heard but they fit the vibe. Paul McCartney’s lurking in the background there as well. Things move up-tempo for Can’t You Hear Your Daddy’s Heartbeat? underpinned by a surging bass line and slick overdubbed guitar work from Miller. Got Love ‘Cause You Need It keeps the jaunty up-tempo thing working, but there’s a touch of menace lurking behind the singer’s message.


B© Ian Hughes 2012