Friday, 8 July 2016

"Number 5" by STEVE MILLER BAND (2012 Edsel 'Special Edition' CD Remaster in Digipak) - A Review by Mark Barry...


"...Industrial Military Complex Hex..."

For many worshippers of 70ts Rock and Steve Miller's LP output from that revered period – our home collections would probably have consisted of 1973's "The Joker" on Capitol Records (in a natty gatefold), 1976's "Fly Like An Eagle" and the wonderful but sorely overlooked "Book Of Dreams" from 1977 (with Inner Sleeve) – both on Mercury Records.

Well here's another 'overlooked' nugget in his voluminous back catalogue - 1970's "Number 5" - loaded down with the talent of Boz Scaggs, Ben Sidran, Nicky Hopkins, Lee Michaels and members of Charlie McCoy's Area Code 615 (who did the 'Old Grey Whistle Test' theme "Stone Fox Chase" on their 1970 LP "Trip In The Country").

Edsel of the UK have been steadily feeding Steve Miller Band fans a diet of these tastefully presented CD reissues in foldout card digipaks - all newly mastered with superb Audio and featuring upgraded booklets with the artists’ involvement (photos from his own collection, reminiscences) - but sadly minus any outtakes (see full list of titles in the series below). Here are the details for five alive...

UK released 17 September 2012 (25 September 2012 in the USA) - "Number 5" by STEVE MILLER BAND on Edsel EDSA 5007 (Barcode 740155500733) is a straightforward 'Special Edition' Remaster of the 1970 US 10-Track LP with CD Digipak Packaging/Expanded Liner Notes and plays out as follows (36:20 minutes):

1. Good Morning
2. I Love You
3. Going To The Country
4. Hot Chili
5. Tokin's
6. Going To Mexico [Side 2]
7. Steve Miller's Midnight Tango
8. Industrial Military Complex Hex
9. Jackson-Kent Blues
10. Never Kill Another Man
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 5th studio album "Number 5" - released July 1970 in the USA on Capital SKAO-436 and November 1970 in the UK on Capitol EA-ST 436. Produced by STEVE MILLER - it peaked at No. 23 in the USA but didn't chart in the UK.

As you can see from the list of reissues provided below - Edsel of the UK have had a go at a huge swath of his entire recorded out (excepting a few albums from 1971, 1972 and 1973). The card-digipak is a three-way foldout affair with a picture CD and a new 12-page booklet. JOEL SLEVIN of the Soul Francisco Chronicle fanzine and all-round Music Consultant has done the short but informative liner notes which includes photos from Steve's collection, lyrics, original recording credits/reissue details and some label repro's of American 45s ("Going To The Country" on Capitol 2878 and "Going To Mexico" on Capitol 2945) and the British LP on Capitol Records EA-ST 436. It's nicely done. PHIL KINRADE did the new CD Master at Alchemy in London and it sounds amazing - really lovely warmth on the instruments - none too hissy - but too dry either where NR has been excessively used.

"Number 5" was Steve Miller's best selling American album to date (over 350,000 copies on release in 1970) and featured the songwriting talent of BOZ SCAGGS, Fusion Keyboardist BEN SIDRAN, his Bassist BOBBY WINKELMAN and his Drummer TIM DAVIS as well as great STEVE MILLER originals. The players included England's ace Keyboardist NICKY HOPKINS and members of AREA CODE 615 - Charlie McCoy, Bobby Thompson, Buddy Spicher and Wayne Moss along with ex Family Tree Guitarist LEE MICHAELS. It opens on a song from their soon-to-depart bassist Bob Winkelman called "Good Morning". Winkelman takes Lead Vocals on the song while Steve's younger brother Jimmy Miller plays Lead Guitar - it's tippy wind-swirling entrance is almost Todd Rundgren in its feel and Winkelman's voice could easily be mistaken fro Steve's. Jimmy Miller plays a lead guitar blinder on it too.

Things go decidedly 'Steve Miller' with the wickedly good "I Love You" - the first of four solo-penned songs on the album. While the Acoustic Guitars strum and cascading vocals swoon over your speakers like The Beach Boys circa "Sunflower" and "Surf's Up" - the song is anchored by brilliant Charlie McCoy Harmonica playing. Along with his fellow Area Code 615 band mate Buddy Spicher on Fiddle - McCoy's Harmonica presence is felt again on the first single released from the album in August 1970 - "Going To The Country" - an unconvincing Country-Rock song that's busy but not particularly memorable. Drummer Tim Davis offers up the first of two songs "Hot Chili" (with one 'l') - the other being "Tokin's". Bud Billings provides the multi-layered Trumpet on the Herb Alpert 'Tijuana' vibe to "Hot Chili" while three members of Area Code 615 countrified the hometown "Tokin's" with McCoy's Harp and Bobby Thompson's Banjo.

Side 2 opens strongly with the 2nd 45 single issued by Capitol from the album - a Funky-Blues co-write with Boz Scaggs by Miller on "Going To Mexico". I've always been a sucker for this groovy little tune that features Lee Michaels on Organ and Curley Cooke on Rhythm Guitar while Steve lets rip on some rather excellent lead Guitar. Benefitting from an expert remix from famed Audio Engineer Glyn Johns - "Going To Mexico" was paired on the rarely seen Capitol 2945 7" single in the USA with "Steve Miller's Midnight Tango" - the first of Ben Sidran's compositions on the album (his second was a co-write with Miller on "Going To The Country"). Love it. With Sidran providing cool keyboard tinkles - "Steve Miller’s Midnight Tango" is the kind of SM song that stays with you.

Jon Savage who compiled the superb "1966" double-CD and accompanying book - put together a CD compilation I loved called "Meridian 1970". On it he chose Miller’s sick-of-it anti-war song "Industrial Military Complex Hex" where he wearily sings "...from Sunday to Sunday...all I hear is bad news..." as the mood chugs along feeling like The Who on a melodic song tip. Just as good is the album’s final showings – two more SM originals – the trippy seven-minute guitar and voices of "Jackson-Kent Blues" - another song raging at the 'four shot down by the National Guards' because they didn't agree with Nixon's views on Vietnam. I've always loved it's echoed space guitars and manic voices - like a nation stoned - a nation that doesn't want to be. The album bows out on "Never Kill Another Man" with Lonnie Turner on Fretless Bass and Nicky Hopkins on Piano - both they and Keith Spicher (on Strings) give the ballad a majesty as Miller wishes "...if I can make it through through this life...I'll never kill another man..."

For sure the grittier 'trying times' Side 2 of the "Number 5" LP feels far better than the slightly ditzy Country jigs of Side 1 - but its once again one of those Steve Miller albums that has great moments criminally overlooked with the passage of four and half decades. Time to brings the numbers back into your home...

The 2011 and 2012 STEVE MILLER BAND 'Special Edition' 
CD Reissue Series from Edsel Records of the UK

1. Children Of The Future (April 1968) - released 17 September 2012 on Edsel EDSA 5003 - Barcode 0740155500337
2. Sailor (October 1968) – released 17 September 2012 on Edsel EDSA 5004 - Barcode 740155500733
3. Brave New World (June 1969) - released 17 September 2012 on Edsel EDSA 5005 - Barcode 740155500535
4. Your Saving Grace (November 1969) - released 17 September 2012 on Edsel EDSA 5006 - Barcode 740155500634
5. Number 5 (July 1970) – released 17 September 2012 on Edsel EDSA 5007 – Barcode 740155500733
6. Fly Like An Eagle (July 1976) – released 11 October 2010 on Edsel EDSX 3010 (with Bonus DVD) – Barcode 740155301033 – see REVIEW
7. Book Of Dreams (May 1977) - released 7 February 2011 on Edsel EDSS 1051 – Barcode 740155105136 – see REVIEW
8. Circle Of Love (October 1981) – released 7 February 2011 on Edsel EDSS 1052 – Barcode 740155105235
9. Abracadabra (June 1982) - released 7 March 2011 on Edsel EDSS 1053 – Barcode 740155105334
10. The Steve Miller Band Live! (April 1983) - released 4 April 2011 on Edsel EDSS 1056 – Barcode 740155105631
11. Italian X-Rays (November 1984) - released 7 March 2011 on Edsel EDSS 1054 – Barcode 740155105433
12. Wide River (July 1993) - released 7 March 2011 on Edsel EDSS 1055 – Barcode 740155105532

PPS: Could someone please get to Remastering long-standing holes in the Steve Miller back catalogue - October 1971's "Rock Love", March 1972's "Recall The Beginning...A Journey From Eden" and especially October 1973's "The Joker" – that way fans and the curious would have access to a 'near' complete run in decent Audio... 

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