During the late 1960s, The Steve Miller Band produced an excellent series of psychedelic rock and blues fusion albums. They switched directions during the mid-1970s through the early 1980s by issuing some of the finest pop rock albums of the era, whose commercial success elevated Miller to superstar status. That success came to a sudden halt in 1984 with Italian X Rays.
I have no doubt that somewhere in the Steve Miller universe there are fans who appreciate this release. It is an album I have really tried to like but it always comes up short and remains one of the weakest of his studio releases.
Basically the songwriting just did not measure up to his best work. Miller depended heavily on his band mates, Byron Allred, Kenny Lee Lewis, and Gary Mallaber, with and without whom he wrote a number of forgettable tracks. He also co-wrote two tracks with Tim Davis, the original drummer of The Steve Miller Band, who was ill with severe diabetes which would shortly claim his life. Unfortunately “Who Do You Love” and “Out of the Night” were more poignant than good. His only solo composition, “One in a Million,” was a nice acoustic love song, which suggested he should have taken more control of the material.
The other major problem was he tried to fit in with the music scene of the mid-1980s. He used a synthesizer sound, which eliminated many of his guitar solos. When combined with drum machines in places and a thumping bass, he was far removed from his best and most successful styles of music.
So what does that leave other than the aforementioned “One in a Million?” The answer is not much. The title track may be a tad repetitive but it has a nice funky feel with a deep bass sound in places. I could do without the excessive keyboards of “Bongo Bongo” but it is somewhat catchy.
Italian X Rays was a difficult listen in 1985 and remains so today. What made it worse at the time were the comparisons to what had preceded it. It is one of those releases only for Steve Miller fans who must have everything.