During the 1970s Steve Miller had become a star. Fly Like An Eagle and Book of Dreams were smooth pop/rock albums that produced a number of memorable hit singles and each sold several million copies. They were followed in 1978 by his Greatest Hits 1974-78 album, which has sold close to 13 million copies in the United States. On the heels of these three albums came Circle of Love.
Miller had not issued a new studio album in almost five years so there was a great deal of anticipation prior to the release of Circle of Love. What his fans got was two very different half albums. The first side of the original vinyl release was comprised of four catchy if dissimilar tracks. The second side of the vinyl release was one 16-minute song that was very different from just about anything else Steve Miller has ever released.
It was a simpler album in many ways as it was just vocalist/guitarist Miller and his three member backing band consisting of keyboardist Byron Allred, bassist Gerald Johnson, and drummer Gary Mallaber.
The first track, “Heart Like a Wheel,” was a catchy pop piece in which Miller layered his vocals. It may have veered in a rockabilly direction but was close to his classic 1970s material. It was released as a single with moderate success. The six-minute title song was the weakest song on the first side as it dragged a bit and was a miss as a single. The short two-minute “Baby Wanna Dance” was the hit single that never was and would have fit in well with either of his two big selling studio albums.
“Macho City” started off well as a searing political statement about the issues in El Salvador and Afghanistan at the time but then drifted off into an extended funk/pop instrumental. It was a song that people tended to like or hate with little middle ground. Today the first part seems dated and the last 10 minutes sort of fades into the background music category.
Circle of Love was listenable but paled next to the albums that surrounded it. It is a Steve Miller album for fans who want everything Miller-related.
Article first published as Music Review: Steve Miller Band – Circle of Love on Blogcritics.