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The Joker
Steve Miller Band

Capitol SMAS 11235
Released: October 1973
Chart Peak: #2
Weeks Charted: 38

Steve MillerSteve Miller is responsible for three of the best and one of the worst albums I own. Miller's recent Recall the Beginning, a Journey to Eden was a confessional work so full of self-awareness I wondered whether he was about to regain the imaginativeness he'd shed over the course of his three preceding albums. Unfortunately his new LP, The Joker, is a lazy slide back into the empty posturing that has marked the second half of Miller's career.

While not as embarrassing as Rock Love, it is disturbing because of his strained references to the personas (like the space cowboy and the gangster of love) that dotted his early music. The title song (which may ironically turn out to be his biggest single) is little more than a series of references to his past, coupled with catchy vocal harmonies and bass line.

Steve Miller Band - The Joker
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
With the exception of the Boz Scaggs-flavored "Sugar Babe," side one consists of Miller's compulsive pseudo-R&B jiving, which used to work in small doses as comic relief, but which palls as the main dish.

The last quarter of the album redeems itself somewhat. That section consists of three credible and well-performed songs: the workhorse country blues, "Come On in My Kitchen," and two originals, "Evil" and "Something to Believe In." Although the first two are live performances, Miller's voice is perfectly controlled and clear. "Something to Believe In" is marked by a guitar intro lifted intact from the Association's "Never My Love," the ethereal pedal steel of Sneeky Pete, and some of Miller's best singing.

It has the intimacy and credibility so lacking in the rest of the album. As the title and cover art suggest, Miller is attempting here to disguise rather than to reveal.

- Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, 12/20/73.

Bonus Reviews!

As a spacey rock prophet he's terrible (who isn't?). As a blues singer he's incompetent (I wouldn't come on in his kitchen for a glass of water). But as a purveyor of spacey pop-rock blues, he has his virtues. Question: what the hell is "the pompitous of love"? The Medallions wouldn't tell me. B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

While not as strong as some of his earlier work, The Joker's title cut (built from a simple guitar riff) was Miller's first huge number one single. "Sugar Babe" and "Something to Believe In" were also highlights. Nevertheless, Miller's focus on basic catchy material laid the groundwork for his incredibly successful late-'70s albums. * * *

- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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