The May 1976, release of Fly Like An Eagle completed Steve Miller’s transition from bluesy, psychedelic rock musician to a pop rock icon. He came close with The Joker but it lacked the overall cohesiveness and smooth pop sheen of his latest release.
His basic backing band had been reduced to bassist Lonnie Turner and drummer Gary Mallaber while he provided the vocals, guitars, keyboards, and even some sitar work. He filled in the sound with an array of guest musicians including harp player James Cotton, guitarist Les Dudek, dobro player John McFee, and organist Joachim Young. It all added up to an album that has sold over four million copies in the United States, produced three hit singles, and is recognized as one of the better albums of the 1970s.
The singles were perfect for AM and rock radio airplay as they were both catchy and memorable. The title track is driven by Miller’s guitar riffs and Young’s B3 organ that joins together to support his vocal. The short album opening “Space Intro” is the perfect set up for the track. “Take the Money and Run” and “Rock’n Me” are the perfect combination of catchy pop and album-oriented rock.
Many of the lesser-known songs are the equal of the big hits. “Wild Mountain Honey” is a laid-back track that would have fit in with the hippie movement of the late 1960s. “Serenade” is a rocker on which Miller overdubbed his vocal. “Dance Dance Dance” may have been a little short, but his guitar work and John McFee’s dobro play united together and took the track in a country direction. He transformed the blues song “Mercury Blues” into a rock epic.
As good as everything is, the best song may be “Sweet Maree,” which is powered by James Cotton harp. It was a presentation of his new vision but acknowledged his past as well.
The only track that does not fit is his cover of the Sam Cooke classic “You Send Me,” which pales next to the material that surrounded it.
Fly Like An Eagle is an uplifting album of excellent pop rock. It may be a tad dated but is still an excellent listen. It will always be in the discussion for the best of the Steve Miller studio albums.
Article first published as Music Review: The Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle on Blogcritics.