Before he was FM rock radio king, Steve Miller was known as Stevie “Guitar” Miller. This live release, recorded in 1973 and ’76, shows why.
Culled from Washington, D.C. and New York City shows taped for the “King Biscuit Flower Hour,” the two-disc set eloquently makes the case for Miller as consummate singer, songwriter, and musician.
The first disc features a leaner, tougher version of the Steve Miller Band, with the Texas-born guitarist showing his stuff while leading a smoking quartet that boogies with the best of ‘em. Signature tunes “Space Cowboy,” “Living in the USA” and “Gangster of Love” are standouts, along with lesser-known gems such as the ultra-funky “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma” and a closing string of blues numbers that serve as a true window to Miller’s inspiration.
Miller’s touring band had grown to an equally impressive sextet by ’76, represented on disc two. The expanded lineup allowed him to don an acoustic guitar for many highlights here, including “Going to the Country,” “Seasons” and a rollicking “Going to Mexico” (the ’76 show is also the debut tour for harmonica player Norton Buffalo, who’d collaborate extensively with Miller in the coming years).
The monumental “Fly Like An Eagle” is the 25-song collection’s only overlap, but two versions is a cool thing in this case. The chance to hear the song’s live development over a three-year period is worth the price of admission alone.
Miller’s huge radio hits of the mid/late ’70s have always overshadowed his earlier work, not to mention his guitar chops. This release, a wonderful and valuable in-concert document of a talented artist just before he achieved well-deserved massive commercial success, helps remedy that.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s June. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.