Saturday, December 19, 2009

450. Fly like an eagle- in space no one can hear you bootscoot

Album: Fly Like and eagle.

Artist: Steve Miller Band.

Year: 1976

Genre: Rock.


  1. Space Intro
  2. Fly Like an Eagle
  3. Wild Mountain Honey
  4. Serenade
  5. Dance, Dance, Dance
  6. Mercury Blues
  7. Take the Money and Run
  8. Rock'n Me
  9. You Send Me
  10. Blue Odyssey
  11. Sweet Maree
  12. The Window

Unless you’re a huge fan of Firefly you probably don’t think science fiction mixes well with country and western. It’s a fair bet you’re of the opinion that spaceships and intergalactic travel don’t play well with cattle drives and roadside diners. If you hold this view then perhaps you could mention this to Steve Miller.

The first track on Fly like an Eagle is a Spacey intro called Space intro. It’s one minute and eighteen seconds of tripped-out chords that sounds like the incidental music for an eighties sci fi movie. It sends a loud warning to the listener: “Warning! Here be Hippies!” You immediately assume that the Steve Miller Band are the sort of lads who not only believe that Aliens exist but they possess a potent form of love drug and believe in peace, harmony and the sexual revolution. Space intro bleeds into the album’s title track which continues with the synthesized space noises and follows it up with some hippie lyrics- “Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.” Eventually the track subsides off into some more cosmic chordplay while the next song sort of ambles into the mix like a spaceship drifting into a movie-camera’s field of view.

The cosmic sounds prepare you for a journey into the far reaches of the galaxy. It's odd then that the trip appears to stop pretty abruptly in Tennessee. Two tracks later we’re singing about Grandpaw and Grandmaw, sons of a gun and hard workin’ in the noonday sun.

You get the impression that Fly like and Eagle is a concept album with a concept that didn’t make it past the first few tracks. Someone told Steve Miller that sci fi was big and anything spacey sold bucketloads. If he could drop his homeboy image and launch his sound into the stratosphere his albums sales would join him up there in the heavens. Consequently the first four tracks are full of references to stars, space, earth and planets while they ooze synth washes and even include the sitar, which everyone knows is the intergalactic traveler's acoustic instrument of choice. By the time the record reaches Dance Dance Dance Miller has clearly given up on the space image and come crashing to earth with a thud. Most of the rest of the album is light years away from the opening as the band firmly bases itself in the deep south with tales of cars and pretty girls accompanied by guitars straight out of Memphis.

The albums most famous track is Take the Money and Run which features protagonists named Bobby Sue and Billy Joe and is set in El Paso, a place that only exists in order to provide a cast of characters in western narratives. This track and the next one prove that Miller has a great voice for this sort of stuff. It’s hard to pull off Rocking Country if you haven’t got the right accent but Miller does it with ease. It only serves to highlight how wrong the opening attempts at Sci-fi sounded. David Bowie could have done it in his sleep but the SMB fall short.

Fly like and Eagle is a strange listen that tries to do two things but doesn't quite manage either. It would be much better if they’d ditched the opening Space intro and rerecorded the first few songs in the same style they finished the album. If you’re going to record a concept album then you really have to go all the way, there’s no point recording Fly like and Eagle when you could go the whole hog and record Fly like an S-series intergalactic Star Cruiser with Hyperdrive and Dual boosted thrust capacitors. But then why bother recording a sci-fi album at all when you’re clearly a great Rocking-Country band? What was the point? And why bring back the space-synths again on side two for a 55 minute track called Blue Odyssey? And why record a cover version of You Send Me, which is a song that only makes sense if it’s sung by a postcard?

I don’t think I’ll ever get these questions answered but either way I think you’re better off avoiding Fly Like and Eagle and instead picking up a Steve Miller Band Best of or a live album which features this releases high points without the cosmic trappings.

Highlight: Fly like and Eagle is actually not a bad track even if it does feature weird space-noodling and the line “Shoe the children” which sounds like “Shoo the children” until the next line puts it in context.

Lowlight: The last three tracks which really fall away completely and end the album with a whimper.

Influenced by: Merle Haggard and Neil Armstrong.

Influenced: Joss Wheedon and possibly some hillbilly’s from a distant planet who really groove to this sort of stuff.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Steve Miller rule"

-That's it. That's the entire review. A man of few words.

So does Fly Like and Eagle soar for you or is it just taking up space? Let me know below.

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