[Review] Steve Miller Band: Number 5 (1970)

This is probably the most underrated of their first five albums.

Kronomyth 5.0: Starship troubadours.

The band’s cleverly titled fifth album more or less repeats the formula of their last, Your Saving Grace, although for some reason I enjoy Number 5 more. Maybe it’s the strong opening trio of tracks, beginning with new bass player Bobby Winkelman’s Beatlesque Good Morning, Miller’s psychedelic acoustic I Love You and the California country-rock of Going to the Country, one of several tracks to feature Charlie McCoy on harmonica. Or it could be the lush production, this time credited to the band, which includes contributions from a wide host of session players.

The album again features two tracks from the departing Tim Davis, the humorous Hot Chili and the slightly more philosophical Tokin’s. Although Steve Miller has since overshadowed the group, they were faithful to the band aesthetic in the beginning. Ultimately, however, the songs succeed or fail based on Miller’s guitar playing and vocals. He may indeed be a troubadour (as he confesses on Industrial Military Complex Hex), but he’ll always be a guitar-slingin’, smooth-singin’ space cowboy to me.

The second side is mostly blues-rock, highlighted by Jackson-Kent Blues, which feels like a bad trip. Going to Mexico and “Industrial Military Complex Hex” belong with his best blues-rock numbers, Steve Miller’s Midnight Tango is a dreamy departure, and the record ends with an anti-war song, Never Kill Another Man. It’s a bit eclectic, but that would describe most Steve Miller Band albums up to this point.

Despite the absence of a hit single, Number 5 is a solid album featuring some surprisingly good production from the band. Recorded in Nashville, it appears to be a collection of different sessions featuring a rotating lineup around the core of Miller, Davis and Winkleman. It’s a fun record to spin through and may be the most underrated album they’ve made. It’s too bad audiophiles didn’t take an interest in this album, since the production warrants a proper remaster.

Original elpee version

A1. Good Morning (Bobby Winkelman) (2:45)
A2. I Love You (Steve Miller) (2:49)
A3. Going to the Country (Steve Miller/Ben Sidran) (3:43)
A4. Hot Chili (Tim Davis) (3:28)
A5. Tokin’s (Tim Davis) (4:20)
B1. Going to Mexico (Steve Miller/Boz Scaggs) (2:23)
B2. Steve Miller’s Midnight Tango (Ben Sidran) (2:38)
B3. Industrial Military Complex Hex (Steve Miller) (3:54)
B4. Jackson-Kent Blues (Steve Miller) (7:15)
B5. Never Kill Another Man (Steve Miller) (2:48)

Original 8-track version
A1. Good Morning
A2. Steve Miller’s Midnight Tango
A3. Industrial Military Complex Hex
B1. I Love You
B2. Going to the Country
B3. Going to Mexico
C1. Hot Chili
C2. Tokin’s
C3. Never Kill Another Man (part 1)
D1. Never Kill Another Man (conclusion)
D2. Jackson-Kent Blues

The Players

Tim Davis (drums, back-up vocals, lead vocals on A4/A5), Steve Miller (lead vocals, lead guitar, 12-string guitar, echoplex guitars, piano, bass, back-up vocals, condor innovator), Bobby Winkelman (bass, 12-string guitar, lead vocals on A1) with Bud Billings (trumpet on A4), Curley Cook (acoustic guitar on A4, rhythm guitar on B1), Nicky Hopkins (piano on A4/B3/B5), Charlie McCoy (harmonica on A2/A3/A5), Lee Michaels (organ on B1), Jim Miller (lead guitar on A1, rhythm guitar on B4), Wayne Moss (guitar & bass on A4), Ben Sidran (keyboards on B2), Buddy Spicher (fiddle on A3), The Norman Keith Spicher String Heptad (strings on B5), Bobby Thompson (banjo on A5), Jimmy Tilman (drums on B2), Lonnie Turner (fretless bass on B5). Produced by The Steve Miller Band; engineered by Wayne Moss; B1 mixed by Glyn Johns.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in July 1970* in the US (Capitol, SKAO/8XT-436), the UK (Capitol, EA-ST436) and France (Capitol, 2C 062-80.510) with gatefold cover. Reached #23 on the US charts. (*First appeared in 7/11/70 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Capitol, SKAO-436) [cutoff red label] with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Capitol, ECS-80910) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Capitol, 29686-2).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc on September 5, 2007 in Japan (Capitol, TOCP-70278).
  5. Re-issued on 180g vinyl elpee in 2018 in Czech Republic (Universal, 602567239062).

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