It’s amazing to me when I start seeing 30th and 40th Anniversary discs proliferating for the biggest and most popular albums of my time (that is, when I was a young laddie). It seems that these albums were released not all that long ago, but actually…they date me. Oh, but what great albums they were.
Steve Miller, after his very popular (and STILL my favourite), The Joker album from 1973, began working in 1975 on his next album with a new drummer (Gary Malaber), and remaining longtime bassist, Lonnie Turner. The album, Fly Like An Eagle, went on to spin-off three hit singles and sell more than 4 million units. That’s nice business for a band back in those days.
Capitol Records revisits those glory days with the 30th Anniversary, 2-disc reissue of the Steve Miller Band’s spectacular Fly Like An Eagle. Housed in a tri-fold digipak, the two discs represent the album on the CD along with 3 bonus tracks, and in film along with a 5.1 Surround mix of the entire album on the included DVD. There is a 16-page booklet filled, largely with an essay written by Joel Selvin, and a few photos, new and old, as well as track listings and credits.
The remastered album found on the CD is quite good – clean, defined, and revealing. The album starts with the short “Space Intro,” Miller’s instrumentally stated declaration of moving into the next phase, and thus into the future with his synthesized opening that segues into the first single off of the album, “Fly Like an Eagle.” There, you’ll enjoy hearing a very clean, if not loud (you won’t have to turn your volume dial up too far) familiar track.
The other two hits off this album, “Take The Money and Run” and “”Rock’n Me,” a song, as it is revealed in the essay, that was written specifically for a performance with Pink Floyd at Knebworth Festival. But the album isn’t all hits, and the non-hits were pretty great, if not AM radio playable. Anyone who has heard Miller’s great, and highly replayable version of Alan Lomax’s “Mercury Blues” can attest to the FM cool factor of that song, seriously expanding Fly Like An Eagle beyond the hits drive that fueled this album’s run on the Billboard 200 for several years. Add in the country flavour of “Dance, Dance, Dance,” the California pop of “Serenade,” the blues of “Sweet Maree,” and the smooth “The Window,” with its “beautiful planet” and “we are all one” theme, and Fly Like An Eagle soars.
The first CD is completed with three bonus tracks, all sounding great by the remastering process, certainly better than demos should sound. The first song is a slowed down, bluesy “Fly Like An Eagle ‘73” that definitely deserves its inclusion on this set. The second treat is “Take The Joker and Run,” a vocal rendition of “Take The Money and Run” and laid over the music of “The Joker” creating a hybrid that is quite bluesy and damn near perfect (yep, it works brilliantly; another worthy inclusion). Finally, there is a slowed version of “Rock’n Me,” much more demo quality but still sounds nice to hear; glad it’s here but it isn’t as essential and important as the first two bonus tracks.
The DVD provides the 5.1 Surround mix that Miller, who originally mixed this album for Quad, says, “…people will finally hear the album as I originally intended it to be heard.” In a nicely done menu, you can select the surround Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The mix is wonderfully done with a centred stage feel. That make this 5.1 mix a real bonus to this collection. Also on the DVD disc are two films. The first is a making of Fly Like An Eagle presented in widescreen but with only 2.0 Stereo. This film is largely an interview with The Joker, The Gangster of Love, Maurice…Steve Miller. It’s an interesting sit down with the man as he reminiscences about the album, how it came about, and other pieces of insight that he would have. What’s nice is that it adds seriously to the value of the entire package. Also, there is a 2-hour, 22-song, 5.1/Stereo audio, widescreen display version, film featuring a 2005 concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA. With a host of guests that include Joe Satriani and others, this show runs through a wide selection of Steve Miller Band hits and FM staples. It is an essential addition and further underscores the completeness of Fly Like An Eagle:30th Anniversary Special Limited Edition.
I love the complexities of a Special Edition of an album. With provided demos, photos that we haven’t seen, essays discussing the album at length, and a newly cleaned audio collection, we get an album from planning to birth and beyond. It puts the album in historical mode and therefore becomes definitive in its presentation. I have further ideas on what should complete an Ultimate presentation of any given album but I’m not in that field (but I would love to be).
“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future…”
Indeed, it does!