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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Steve Miller

Children of the Future

Review by Gary Hill

You’ll note that I’ve put this album in the “progressive rock” category. Do I consider Steve Miller to be a prog rock act? Overall, the answer would be a definite “no.” That said there are songs here and there in his catalog that fit the bill, and I’d have to say that for the time period (1968) this disc is about as prog as prog got – considering that the genre was just beginning to come into existence. So, I think, at least for this album, it deserves to fit in that category. Certainly it’s the first half of the disc that earns it the classification, but I believe that most of you, at least on the strength of that part of the album, would agree with me.

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Track by Track Review
Children of The Future
Echoey sound effects and general weirdness creates the motif for the first forty or so seconds of this cut. Then it drops to silence and a different form of ambient sound begins to rise up from this. Slowly this begins to take on a more song like structure. A very hippie/prog rock like chorus (falsetto) takes it. This has a texture that seems to convey both the psychedelic sounds of the period and a lot of the motifs of early Yes and the like. In fact, it would be pretty easy to picture (albeit reworked) this track showing up on that band’s self-titled debut. The closing resolution of the track in particular sounds like it comes straight out of Yes’ playbook.
Rushed Me To It
Coming straight out of the last cut, this one seems to feel like a cross between The Guess Who, Grand Funk Railroad, early Yes and even a bit of Hawkwind. Of course on the other hand, at only 38 seconds, this is really more of a part of the cut that came before. Even then, this runs right into the next track, which is essentially a continuation.
You've Got The Power
At only about a minute in length this one is a triumphant sounding piece of music that seems to be the resolution of what has come before.
In My First Mind
Keyboards lead this off and then we wind into a slow moving cut that feels a bit like a cross between early Genesis and Procol Harum. A bit of King Crimson’s first disc is also heard at times on this, and I’d even say that you can make out a bit of Hawkwind’s Hall of the Mountain Grill. It’s nearly two minutes in before vocals enter and still this reminds me of Procol Harum and the ballad side of early Crimson. The place that it lives in is cool enough that it really doesn’t matter. The keyboard textures certainly dominate this number. Of course, the vocals seem to bring in some of the San Francisco hippie sound. This is one of the highlights of the disc, in my opinion, even if it doesn’t go far. At about seven and a half minutes it’s also the longest piece on show here. This one gets quite powerful and at times I can even hear a little Moody Blues.
The Beauty of the Time Is That It's Snowing
A segment of Vanilla Fudge like weirdness begins this and the cut ever so gradually begins to rise in a psychedelic freak out from there. About a minute and a half in a blues jam rises up, but still sounds of the street and other effects seem to scurry about and the melody of the blues feels as if it’s waning and waxing near and far. After a short run like that the sounds of the wind and other nature elements seem to enter and the blues is gone. At times this reminds me of “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” from Pink Floyd. The thing is, though, from this chaos a distant reprise of the “Children of the Future” chorus makes a triumphant return. If there was any question as to the relationship of this album and psychedelic chemicals one really need look no further than this piece for the answer. That said, while a huge slab of weirdness, this thing is cool.
Baby's Callin' Me Home
This rises up like early Hawkwind. As the vocals enter in their echoey way the classic Steve Miller Band sounds that would come to play in later albums takes over. I’d look at this one like a psychedelic ballad with Hawk-elements. That comes pretty close to sizing it up – say in the vein of Spirit jamming with Hawkwind. This one is nice, but not a standout. In some ways it’s too laid back and a bit to pedestrian to really hold up to the material that accompanies it
Steppin' Stone
No, this is not the track that the Monkees made famous (one of the greatest rock songs of all time in my book). Instead this is the most trademark Steve Miller cut on show here. While this one is definitely not prog rock it is a smoking bluesy rocker that feels at once like both Miller and Robin Trower. This is one of the highlights of the disc, even though it’s less “out there” than some of the other stuff. Make no mistake; this one rocks!
Roll With It
Another that feels more like the ’70’s releases by Miller, this one is a bit too clichéd and feels rather dated. It’s not bad, but just not on the level of some of the other stuff here. Still it does have some smoking guitar work.
Junior Saw It Happen
The psychedelic elements are here at the onset of this. Then the cut jumps into a very funky, soulful sort of jam. This one has a lot of the standard Steve Miller sounds, but also a healthy dosage of the Age of Aquarius thrown in for good measure. The guitar work on this one is exceptionally tasty.
Fanny Mae
Now the Steve Miller traditional blues machine is in high gear. This is a twelve bar blues delivered in a very faithful manner. While again there is some awesome fret board acrobatics on this one, it’s not one of the best pieces on show.
Key To The Highway
While this one starts as a very traditional blues cut, and in many ways it remains that, there are elements of Procol Harum that work their way into the mix here. This is a slow jam that is good, but perhaps not the strongest disc closer to be had.
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