Children of The Future by The Steve Miller Band

November 4, 2012

Two generations of music fans will associate Steve Miller with his series of picture perfect pop rock hits produced during the mid-1970s and early 1980s. Songs such as “Jungle Love,” “Rock’n Me,” “The Joker,” “Fly Like An Eagle,” and “Jet Airliner” propelled his Greatest Hits: 1974-1978 album to over 13 million copies sold in the United States and Canada.

As the older generation of music fans already knows, The Steve Miller Band of the late 1960s and early 1970s had a far different sound. They were one of the better psychedelic blues bands in existence and were in the first wave of bands to find widespread commercial success without any hit singles.

Originally called The Steve Miller Blues Band, they were formed during 1967 by guitarist/vocalist Steve Miller, guitarist/vocalist Boz Scaggs, bassist Lonnie Turner, keyboardist Jim Peterman, and drummer Tim Davis. A little over a year later they produced one of the better albums of 1968.

Children of the Future was an auspicious debut album. It was really two distinct half albums that were easily discernible on the original vinyl release. Side one is a Steve Miller affair, which was really a cohesive suite of songs that can be described as avant-garde in places. The second side has a rawer sound and is a full band affair with other members sharing the vocal duties.

The title song is the first track. It is experimental, bluesy, and moves in an early folk rock direction yet fit well into the psychedelic era. The harmonies are a standout element. Two very short connecter pieces lead to “In My First Mind” and “The Beauty of Time Is That It’s Snowing.” They segue into each other and are improvisational pieces at heart.

Side two begins with two Boz Scaggs compositions for which he provides the lead vocals. “Baby’s Calling Me Home” has a jazzy feel with a harpsichord and acoustic guitar and was a form he would explore later in his solo career. His “Steppin’ Stone” is the heaviest track on the release as it fuses blues and rock. Tim Davis stepped forward and provided the lead vocals on “Junior Saw It Happen” and the former R&B hit (by Buster Brown), “Fanny Mae,” which is transformed into West Coast blues. “Roll with It” is Miller’s only composition on the second side and is the album’s most mainstream track. The blues classic “Keys to the Kingdom” brings the album to a close as Miller and his cohorts present an easy flowing and improvisational rendition.

Children Of The Future is an album worth exploring as it is a fine example of late 1960s psychedelic blues. It shows that Steve Miller had a life before he was a 1970s superstar.

Article first published as Music Review: The Steve Miller Band – Children of the Future on Blogcritics.

Speak Low by Boz Scaggs

May 14, 2009

Boz Scaggs is now entering his fifth decade as a recording artist. His first claim to fame came in the late 1960s as a member of The Steve Miller Band; Steve Miller had been a high school friend. He played on the group’s early classic albums, Children Of The Future and Sailor, before embarking on a solo career.

His 1976 release, Silk Degrees, sold millions of copies and produced such hits as “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle.” He would continue to be a commercial success into the early 1980s with his form of laid back rock ‘n’ roll and occasional dance tracks.

Boz Scaggs has continued to tour and release albums. His sound has matured and increasingly become very mellow. 2008 finds him producing a light and laid back jazz release. He has assembled twelve classic songs by such composers as Rodgers & Hart, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer and others and given them a melodic but definite jazz interpretation.

The use of vibes, piano, bass and strings provide a nice instrumental bass for the album. Despite this under pinning, however, Speak Low is above all a vocal album. Boz Scaggs gives some wonderful performances on these tunes. Tony Bennett comes to mind as the vocals do not overwhelm the music but rather exists side by side with them and are both subtle and emotional.

The opening tune, entitled “Invitation,” sets the tone for the rest of the release. The use of a bass clarinet and vibes provide a nice nesting place for Boz Scaggs’ vocals to explore the song.

Other highlights include Scaggs singing counterpoint to the sax lines on “Save Your Love For Me,” the creative vibe bridge of “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me” and the bass line-piano combination of “I Wish I Knew.”

If you have followed the entire career of Boz Scaggs, this album makes sense and it is a destination that he has been moving toward for a number of years.

Speak Low is music from the heart and soul of Boz Scaggs. It is meant to be savored and appreciated like a fine wine. It is music for the fire place as it allows the mind to wander. In a real sense he has arrived at a very comfortable place in his musical journey through life.