The Steve Miller Band
The Joker, JVC (from Capitol) CD JVCXR-0043-2, 1973/1998
Guitar rock and The Steve Miller Band thrived in the 1970s. The album that broke
Miller to a wide-scale audience, 1973s The Joker, gets a
well-polished re-mastered treatment courtesy of JVC and its XRCD, a form of
compact disc, which, JVC says, "offers clearer definition, more accurate
imaging, and higher audio quality than any compact disc before." Goodness.
The albums sound, twenty-five years after its initial release, is, in
so refreshingly new and clear that it really sounds like a new release.
Miller, whos not released an album since 1993s acclaimed
River, marks his thirtieth year of recording this year. He splits his time
between homes in Sun Valley, Idaho and Washingtons San Juan Islands, yet
still quietly involved in music. Last year he played guitar and co-wrote several
tunes with Paul McCartney on Pauls well-received album, Flaming
Nevertheless, Miller is without a record contract, despite having recorded a
of tunes in the past year or so.
Still, Miller remains a fixture on the concert circuit (though he only performs
sporadically) and classic radio, attributable to the timeless quality that
surrounds his music. Twenty-five years ago millions of fans sang along to the
"The Joker"and undoubtedly still doas it strolled its way
up the Top 40 charts, becoming the first of his three #1 singles. The
languid, laid-back approach became the foundation for Millers trademark
"The Joker" may have been the only hit produced on the album, but like
all good 70s rockers, Miller recorded albums, not just singles. Save a
number or two (such as the dreadful "Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma"), very
little filler can be found on The Joker. Especially noteworthy are
blues-rock numbers such as "The Lovin Cup" and the slow-paced
"Evil," two of six tunes written by the native Texan that draw from
background. A protege of the legendary Les Paul, Millers guitar prowess,
usually understated, has pretty much been overlooked throughout his
careerironic when you consider that his career thrived during the height
the guitar-rich 70s.
Still, its a surprise, especially in hindsight, that tunes such as
"Sugar Babe," a song that features the incredibly noticeable Miller
sound fully intact, was never a hit. Like most of his tunes, "Sugar
Babe" is no lyrical masterpiece, yet it possesses the unmistakable sway and
appeal of much of his hits. Despite a lack of hit singles, "The Joker"
became Millers first platinum selling album, rising to #2 in the nation,
beginning a string of successes that would continue for a
notes on the recording
The Joker is an "Extended Resolution Compact Disc," or XRCD,
JVC. How does JVC turn an ordinary CD into an XRCD? Basically, by paying close
attention to mastering and manufacturing and judging the results by listening as
well as measuring. It's pretty simple. No decoder is needed to play back XRCDs,
and since JVC found no improvement in gold-plating the discs, XRCDs are ordinary
aluminum. But they are packaged in handsome book-style albums, which may help
the buyer feel more comfortable about shelling out two to three times the price of a
The XRCDs so far are mostly jazz and blues reissues from Fantasy (Prestige,
Milestone, Riverside, Pablo), AudioQuest, Analogue Productions and JVC itself.
you are familiar with these labels, you will recognize that JVC starts off with
albums that sound pretty good already. They recently started reissuing pop CDs
like The Joker and Tina Turner's Private Dancer.
So, how do they sound, dammit?! Compared to the often very good originals, XRCDs
have a rounded three-dimensionality that is quite noticeable. Especially for
and blues CDs, it can make a real improvement. Glenn Brooks