[Review] Steve Miller Band: Children of the Future (1968)

Psychedelic blues-rock that somehow finds common ground between Brian Wilson and Frank Zappa.

Kronomyth 1.0: Cruisin’ with Reuben and the jet airliners

Big things were expected of Steve Miller Band when they signed a lucrative five-album contract with Capitol Records in 1967. The band’s first album, recorded in London, had big designs including a psychedelic suite that stretched along all of side one. What it didn’t have was a big hit, and so the album made only minor waves in the rock community (their next album, Sailor, did better).

Children of the Future is really the product of two major talents—Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs—with the pair more or less diving the album into halves. The first half, written by Miller with some help from Jim Peterman—is a psychedelic carousel that features some short, psychedelic doowop send-ups reminiscent of The Mothers. The music also includes some sophisticated harmonies that suggest Brian Wilson on acid (i.e., Brian Wilson) and an early progressive rock number, In My First Mind, that prefigures the mellotron magic of King Crimson. If you weren’t expecting to encounter references like Frank Zappa and King Crimson in a Steve Miller Band album review, neither was I.

The second side starts off with a pair of blues-rock originals from Boz Scaggs (including Steppin’ Stone, which would have earned my nod for the single), another psychedelic blues-rock song from Stevie (Roll With It) and a few blues covers at the end. Of the closing trio, Junior Saw It Happen is the most happening. Miller playing the mouth harp on Key to the Highway is pretty cool; Ben Sidran playing the harpsichord on Baby’s Callin’ Me Home is just weird.

The Steve Miller Band definitely had a bright future in front of them, and it didn’t take long for that future to arrive. I tend to view the first two albums as psychedelic anomalies (although there were still psychedelic overtones on Brave New World), a case of Miller playing to the tastes of the times while indulging a genuine interest in the blues. He’d trade the psychedelic blues for blue jeans soon enough and Boz Scaggs would find his own fortune as a solo artist, proving that even the greatest of men have to start somewhere.

Original elpee version

A1. Children of the Future (Steve Miller) (2:58)
A2. Pushed Me to It (Steve Miller) (0:36)
A3. You’ve Got the Power (Steve Miller) (0:55)
A4. In My First Mind (Steve Miller/Jim Peterman) (7:31)
A5. The Beauty of Time Is That It’s Snowing (Psychedelic B.B.) (Steve Miller) (5:23)
B1. Baby’s Callin’ Me Home (Boz Scaggs) (3:24)
B2. Steppin’ Stone (Boz Scaggs) (3:02)
B3. Roll With It (Steve Miller) (2:29)
B4. Junior Saw It Happen (Jim Pulte) (2:29)
B5. Fanny Mae (Buster Brown) (3:11)
B6. Key to the Highway (Bill Broonzy/Charles Segar) (6:18)

The Players

Tim Davis (drums, vocals), Steve Miller (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Jim Peterman (Hammond organ, mellotron, backing vocals), Boz Scaggs (guitar, vocals), Lonnie Turner (bass guitar, backing vocals) with Ben Sidran (harpsichord on B1). Produced by Glyn Johns.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in April (June?) 1968 in the US (Capitol, SKAO/8XT-2920) [rainbow circle/top center logo label], the UK (EMI, ST 2920) and Japan (Capitol, CP-8685) with gatefold cover. Reached #134 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Capitol, SKAO-2920) [green label/target logo] with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and 8-track in 1971 in the US (Capitol, SF/4XF/8XF 500-718) [orange label] with different cover.
  3. Re-packaged with Living in the U.S.A. on 2-for-1 2LP in the US (Capitol, STBB-717 with gatefold cover.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in Japan (Capitol, ECS-80888).
  5. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Capitol, SN/4N-16262) [green label].
  6. Re-packaged with Sailor as Milestones on 2-for-1 2LP in the Netherlands (Capitol, 5C 184-50197) with gatefold cover.
  7. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Capitol, C2-91245).
  8. Re-issued on compact disc on September 5, 2007 in Japan (Capitol, TOCP-70274).
Childrne of the Future 1971 reissue
1971 Capitol SF-718 album cover

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