Steve Miller Band: Brave New World (1969)

While best remembered today for the string of huge classic rock radio hits that littered the 70s, the Steve Miller Band actually started out as purveyors of a fascinating mix of blues, folk and psychedelia emanating out of San Francisco's Summer of Love; I have little use for those best-selling 70s albums (though it's hard to argue with the longevity of some of those singles), but still enjoy their string of late 60s/early 70s albums.

While I'm partial to 1968's Sailor (which had a pair of stunningly beautiful tracks in "Dear Mary" and "Quicksilver Girl"), I give a slight nod to their third album, which lost original bluesman Boz Scaggs but benefited from the addition of Paul McCartney(!) on a few tracks.

The album kicks off by announcing its more pop-oriented intentions, both the title track and follow-up "Celebration Song," fairly repetitive but catchy, the latter benefiting from some nice Beatlesque backing vocals (apparently from McCartney, who was in the studio and fighting with the other Beatles at the time this was recorded).  They take it up a notch with "Can't You Hear Your Daddy's Heartbeat," a frenetic blues-rocker, and the straight-out bluesy "Got Love 'Cause You Need It."  

But it's the second half of the album that shines.  "Kow Kow Calqulator" is a lovely, languid, mid-tempo pop-rock song, presaging the band's later 70s hits, but with a nice mellow groove, one of the band's best tunes; "Seasons" is a quiet acoustic number, reminiscent of some of Sailor's highlights; "Space Cowboy" is an upbeat rocker, another one that sounds more like their later 70s hits, rocking a "Lady Madonna" groove (and later nicked by Wilco for "Hoodoo Voodoo"); and "LT's Midnight Dream" is some punchy R&B/Americana.  The album closes on a highlight, "My Dark Hour," a raging rocker (with a riff the band would re-use on "Fly Like An Eagle") co-written by McCartney, who also adds vocals and plays most of the instruments; it's as (or more) deserving as inclusion in the band's canon as their better-known later works.

It's a short album, checking in at under a half hour, but worth checking out even for those put off by the band's later FM radio saturation.

Here's an audio rip of "My Dark Hour":
 Here's a later live (acoustic) performance of "Kow Kow Calqulator":
...and a video for the lovely "Seasons":