The Steve Miller Band was in transition during 1971. Miller was the only original member left and now, for all intents and purposes, it was him and a backing band.
Rock Love was released during September of 1971, and it found him in a holding pattern. His first five releases had all been strong blues/rock/psychedelic albums. Rock Love was a more haphazard affair and in retrospect seems like a hastily thrown together album, consisting of three live tracks and four recorded in the studio. Still, there was some good music to be found, but it was not of the quantity or overall quality of his early career releases.
Much of the music was stripped down and basic. There were only three musicians listed in the album credits. Guitarist/vocalist Miller was accompanied by bassist Ross Valory and drummer Jack King. When a second guitar is heard, it was band member Bobby Winkleman who was not credited. Without the usual keyboards to consistently fill in the tracks, it was one of the most basic releases in his vast catalogue.
Side one of the original vinyl release consisted of three live tracks. The short “The Gangster is Back” and “Blues without Blame” are competent, if not spectacular, blues/rock fusion pieces.
Listening to the nearly 12-minute “Love Shock“ is a travel back in time. It remains very much connected to its era with the extended drum solo. On the other hand, I remember consistently playing the track during my college radio station days. Miller does a very good Hendrix interpretation. His improvisation on his 12-string guitar demonstrated just what an accomplished musician he was, especially live onstage. It was a glimpse of how he could carry a song, and despite its age is still worth a listen.
The studio material travelled in a number of directions. The title song could have been a hit single and looked ahead to the pop/rock commercial success that was in his immediate future. “Harbor Lights” was subtle and subdued. The nine minute “Deliverance” and the short “Let Me Serve You” never really takes off but was not terrible either.
Rock Love is one of those albums that are easy to pass by. It is not the place to start when exploring the music of Steve Miller as it serves as a connecter between the two most creative periods of his career.
Article first published as Music Review: The Steve Miller Band – Rock Love on Blogcritics.