I have a ritual on my 25-30 minute drive into work every day. I flip around the radio to see what my station (and our competition) is up to, drop by the Big Sports Talk station to see if they’re talking baseball (they weren’t today), and then spend a few moments with my own tunes.
I tripped upon a little-known Steve Miller Band track on the way in today. It didn’t match the warm, sunny weather, but I let it play because I hadn’t heard it in a while: “Love’s Riddle” off the forgotten 1972 album “Recall the Beginning… A Journey from Eden.”
If you know me, you know I’ve been a major booster of the early Steve Miller Band: basically the core of Steve Miller, Lonnie Turner and Tim Davis that created five excellent psych-blues-rock albums between 1968 and 1970. Certainly the 1973-1982 “hit years” have their moments as well; some of which I still dig (“Fly Like An Eagle”), and some of which constant radio play has ruined for me (“Swingtown,” “The Joker,” “Rock’n’Me,” and “Abracadabra.” Okay, I never liked “Abracadabra.”)
So, what of that gap of 1971-1972? Steve recorded two albums that, to this day, have never been issued on CD, though they are available to purchase digitally. The first was “Rock Love,” which I’ve listened to a couple times and really didn’t develop a passionate feeling for or against, it’s just kinda “there.”
1972 delivered “Recall The Beginning… A Journey From Eden.” If this album is known for anything at all, it’s where Steve would introduce his “Maurice” character on side one, on this goofy doo-wop mini opera called “Enter Maurice.” It’s a tough listen, honestly. The rest of side one bounces all over the place from there, and is largely forgettable.
Flip it over to side two, and you’re treated to a side-long suite of elegant (for Steve) mood pieces, ranging from the mournful, autumnal “Love’s Riddle,” to the more upbeat “Fandango,” the elegiac “Nothing Lasts,” and ending with the wistful, nocturnal “A Journey From Eden.” Though “Journey” is perhaps my all-time favorite Steve Miller track, “Love’s Riddle” is the perfect table-setter for the side, drenched in lethargic acoustic guitar, Nick DeCaro-arranged strings, and Steve’s multi-tracked harmonies. When I get into this track, I don’t even notice the slightly dopey lyrics (a Steve Miller trademark).
Most will tell you Steve Miller’s greatest album is 1976’s “Fly Like an Eagle.” I’ll likely tell you his greatest album is 1969’s “Brave New World.” If I were to rank and album side, however, it’s a draw between side one of his debut, “Children of the Future,” and side two of “Recall the Beginning…” which just happen to be the opening and closing parentheses of the true first chapter of his career, and still my favorite chapter.
By the way, Steve, you didn’t have to be a dick to The Black Keys at the Hall of Fame. They didn’t deserve that.