The Steve Miller Band’s Children Of The Future was one of the better debut albums of the late 1960s. Not content to rest on their laurels, they one-upped themselves with their second album, Sailor, as it was a stronger release.
Sailor was not as avant-garde or psychedelic as their first album as it moved more toward the mainstream. It was also more melodic in places, a style Miller would eventually embrace, and which would ultimately bring him huge commercial success.
The album would also be the last for the original Steve Miller Band. Guitarists/vocalists Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs, bassist Lonnie Turner, drummer Tim Davis, and keyboardist/vocalist Jim Peterman were a true band that did not always center on Miller, despite the group’s name. Miller only wrote four of the 10 tracks, while Scaggs contributed three and Peterman one.
One of the songs Miller did write remains one of the best of his career. I have listened to “Living in the USA” literally hundreds of times and it never gets old. While Miller has always been a somewhat underrated guitarist, the song is driven by Peterman’s organ as it just rolls along. It was an uptempo, melodic, and catchy burst of energy that was one of the better listening experiences of the era.
All of Miller’s compositions were strong. The album’s lead-off track, “Song for Our Ancestors,” is atmospheric and includes some blues guitar playing by Miller. “Dear Mary” is a smooth pop ballad. “Quicksilver Girl” is a pop-blues fusion that is both catchy and gentle.
Scaggs went in a number of directions with his contributions. “My Friend,” with the lead vocal by drummer Tim Davis, is the most psychedelic piece on the album, while “Overdrive” is a combination of country and blues. “Dime-a-Dance Romance” is a raw blues piece and very different from the smooth pop that would dominate the first part of Scagg’s solo career.
Jim Peterman may have provided the vocals on his slow blues piece, “Lucky Man,” but it’s Miller’s riffing that remains memorable.
The band performed a credible cover of Jimmy Reed’s “You’re So Fine.” There’s also a short version of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Gangster of Love,” whose title would follow Miller throughout his career.
Miller would go on to huge pop rock success, making Sailor a sometimes forgotten album. However, if you want to be exposed to some of the finest music of the late 1960s, then this is an album to track down.