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Music Review: Steve Miller Band – Your Saving Grace

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The Steve Miller Band returned in November of 1969 with their fourth studio album in two years. The fourth time was not the charm as it did not measure up creatively, artistically, or commercially with their first three releases. Gone were the psychedelic excursions and the cohesive nature of their previous albums. What emerged was a solid, if not overly spectacular rock/blues album.

The group was still a band but Miller was taking more control of the material and musical direction. The sound was a little sparser than in the past. Miller was now the only guitarist and bassist Lonnie Turner, keyboardist Ben Sidran, and drummer Tim Davis were the only other musicians except for pianist Nicky Hopkins, who contributed to two tracks.

“Little Girl” was very close to power pop long before there was power pop. It was a bluesy rock love song. “Don’t Let Nobody Turn Around” was similar in style but the lyrics took a social consciousness direction and explored the issue of civil rights.

The two Hopkins tracks proved how he could influence a band. He and Miller co-wrote “Baby’s House,” which was a sprawling eight-minute piece that allowed the two to play off of one another. It also showed that at his best, Miller was one of the better guitarists of his era. Likewise, Hopkins takes Miller’s bluesy “Feels So Glad” and moves it in a jazz direction.

“Motherless Children” was a traditional blues song from the 1920s made famous by the Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Willie Johnson. This was a song made for the early career of Steve Miller as he keeps the tune’s basic blues approach.

The title song was written and sung by drummer Tim Davis. The vocal may have been the best of Davis’ career and makes one wonder why his voice was not highlighted more often.

Your Saving Grace finds Steve Miller in a sort of holding pattern. He was leaving his psychedelic roots behind but was not ready to embrace his pop future. It is many times a forgotten album in his catalogue of releases but is a good, if not great, listen when approached individually and on its own merits.

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