Steve Miller Band, Ultimate Hits (Capitol/UMe, two discs)
The best thing about the Steve Miller Band is that no one in his right mind would ever accuse them of being a major rock band a la The Beatles or Stones or Who or Zeppelin or U2. We probably ought to think of them as a tasty San Francisco treat, like Rice-A-Roni.
What's close to irresistible about this two-disc career portrait is its reminder of how long Miller has been around and how auspicious his beginnings. Les Paul was his godfather, for pity's sake. If you can't be charmed to death by the opening of the disc when we hear godfather Les delighting in little Stevie's pre-teen voice, you certainly will be when a grown Steve Miller gets nostalgic about having a 12-year old rock band in Texas which included Boz Scaggs.
The career he put together isn't just one that entitled him to an immortal rant when he was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, it's one of foolproof radio charmers beginning with "The Joker" (on which he claimed to go by the name of Maurice so he could sing about "The Pompatus of Love") and full of masterly hooks (often using Buffalo drummer Gary Mallaber.) Writer Anthony DeCurtis describes it nicely in the notes to this: "hit followed hit in what seemed like an endless flow: 'Take the Money and Run," "Rock'n Me," "Fly Like an Eagle," "Jet Airliner" and "Jungle Love" among them. To this day, those songs are instantly recognizable when they come on the radio and impossible not to sing along with." Their hooks are indelible. Saying they're impossible not to sing along with may be rhetorical overkill. Let's just say it's "difficult" not to sing along.
Hooking you and charming you to pieces (and then blasting away at the Hall of Fame) might be more than enough for one rock career. Miller proves it.
3 stars (out of four)