Friday, April 11, 2008

No. 450: Fly Like an Eagle

Band: The Steve Miller Band
Album: Fly Like an Eagle
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Steve Miller had been recording music for eight years before his seminal work was released. Well-produced and catchy, the album is a very 1970s thing...
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: ... which is probably why I could do without it. It's not terrible like a Meat Loaf album, but if "Fly Like an Eagle" fell off the face of the earth, I would not be upset. It's mindless, catchy radio-friendly junk.
Best song: The title track is pleasant.
Worst song: "Wild Mountain Honey" is awful.
Is it awesome?: Nah.

Because I find Steve Miller to be mostly junk, I'll keep my feelings on this album brief. Miller's infusion of easy blues and even easier stoner vocals into straight rock and roll is somewhat attractive if boring. It is, like so much popular music from the 1970s, pleasant and mindless. "Fly Like an Eagle" is a song that says essentially nothing while attempting to sound like philosophy. It's "Free Bird," only infinitely worse. "Rockin Me" is a song about rocking -- these songs are almost always terrible -- complete with a thin guitar sound. "Take the Money and Run" isn't terrible, but like the rest of the album it's simply sugar.

I can appreciate the use of synthesizers; Miller clearly embraced the demon technology that so many mainstream rockers feared. That he overlayed it with an organ is even better. But, again, "Fly Like an Eagle" is nice record for stoners and I don't smoke weed.


I know I'm a terrible writer. I'm not a writer, actually. By trade, I'm a Web producer for a magazine, a journalist. For this project and for my baseball blog, I'm simply opinionated. That's my gift. I have tons of opinions. If I had my way, I'd be ranting on the radio; it is my best medium. But, unfortunately, those jobs are scarce and require a lot of hard work to get. Work, as it turns out, that I'm not willing to do.

Anyway, the point is that I'm not a skilled writer. Maybe my saying that is a defense system to deflect any criticism hurled my way. I know I'm not good. I'm trying to get better.

Nevertheless, overwriting is a pox on record criticism. I often reuse my own clichès because I worry about falling into the trap of using terrible metaphors in describing a mellotron. If I sound repetitive, I apologize, but the rapid-fire nature of the project makes for repetition and, more importantly, my aversion to overwriting is strong.

Which brings me to a review of the 2003 "Fly Like an Eagle" reissue from Rolling Stone magazine. The opening paragraph reads as such:

Fly like an Eagle may be the most complete and effective musical statement Steve Miller has ever made. Always enigmatic, always eclectic, Miller's albums have usually been ill-fitting jigsaw puzzles, but in this latest album he puts all of his cards on the table, face up. The result is a full house of rock & roll.

Any writer knows that mixing metaphors is bad. How the jigsaw, the cards and the table fit together, I'm not sure. More importantly, the card metaphor is ridiculous. For one, it assumes that the album is somehow akin to a card game to Miller & Co. I imagine it is not, but I'm not in his head.

Also, the drama involved in the writer's depiction is problematic. The conceit of laying one's card on the table is normally a last chance situation. Miller was not against the wall (to use a metaphor) in 1976, he was simply a struggling songwriter who had yet to break out.

Most importantly, though, the card metaphor is a tiredclichè. It's horrible and it has been used so many times in writing, my brain turns off the second I see it. I'm not a great writer and I should not be a better writer than someone who is writing for Rolling Stone.


padraig said...

I'm willing to forgive Steve Miller for his awful music b/c his songs have provided samples for a whole grip of classic hip hop tunes. "Take the Money & Run" and especially "Fly Like An Eagle" both provided breaks for like a thousand dope songs from the late 80s, back when dudes could get away with stuff like that. EPMD sampled him for like 4 songs on their first album alone. Plus "The Joker" provided the hook and vocal sample for the Geto Boys' timeless, tasteless, over the top classic "Gangsta of Love".

Jeff said...

I know I'm catching on to this list a bit late but I really like how you're taking on such a major task like reviewing all 500 albums.

Anyway, I never got into Steve Miller for many of the reasons you mentioned. His music is too simple and directed to being radio friendly. However, I won't turn it off if it's on the radio, I just won't go out of my way to listen to it.

kellydwyer said...

He actually put out a couple of good albums early in his career, Boz Scaggs was in his band.

My Dad always relayed a story about the tour behind this album. He went to see Miller after his first pair of albums, and Miller kept coming out for encore after encore because the set was so good. After a while, he was repeating songs.

By the time this piece of shit came out, Dad tells me, he'd have a roadie walk out with a guitar in between songs to replace the one he was playing. Miller was so fat and shitty ("Rocking Me?" What a piece of shit) that he wouldn't even meet the roadie halfway.

Just a lazy, lazy album, artist, and set.