[Review] Steve Miller Band: Rock Love (1971)

A half live/half studio hybrid that no one thought enough of to actually finish.

Kronomyth 6.0: Blues with more than a little blame.

This is generally regarded as the black sheep in the Steve Miller Band’s discography. Although it features new material, the first half is recorded live and the whole thing appears to have been rush released. There are no formal production credits, no engineer (or remix engineer) cited, no explanation of overdubs. Despite all that, Rock Love isn’t as bad as critics have historically made it out to be. As a singer and guitarist, Miller is still as solid as a rock, and the quality of the material isn’t so far removed from the albums before and after.

Rock Love is notable (notorious?) for its decision to jettison the old SMB band and begin a new chapter with drummer Jack King and bass guitarist Ross Valory, both of whom had played together in the band Frumious Bandersnatch. King would stick around for several albums, Valory would find greater fame in Journey. Given the new trio format, both King and Valory are given quite a bit of the spotlight on Rock Love, including an extended solo on Love Shock. But no one buys Steve Miller albums to hear a six-minute drum solo, and so not many people bought Rock Love.

The other knock on the album is its unfinished nature. I’ve heard live bootlegs that sound better than the first half. Harbor Lights is a good idea that could have been great if fully developed. Deliverance is a nine-minute outtake that never should have made the album cut. The fact that the album’s shortest songs are also its tightest suggests that Miller’s muse worked best in a short-song format, something that later albums would confirm.

If you’re a fan of Steve Miller, you’ll probably get around to listening to this at some point. You may even like it, or at least like some of it. The Gangster Is Back, Let Me Serve You, Rock Love and “Harbor Lights” are in line with what you would expect from mid-period Steve Miller. Unfortunately, that only adds up to half a pretty good album, which is probably the most flattering praise you’ll hear for Rock Love.

Original elpee version

A1. The Gangster Is Back (2:28)
A2. Blues With Out Blame (5:42)
A3. Love Shock (11:38)
B1. Let Me Serve You (2:25)
B2. Rock Love (2:28)
B3. Harbor Lights (4:06)
B4. Deliverance (9:18)

All music composed by Steve Miller.

Expanded CD reissue bonus tracks*
8. Fly Like an Eagle
9. Wild Mountain Honey
10. Come in My Kitchen
11. Going to the Country
12. Nothing Lasts
13. Going to Mexico
14. Take the Money and Run
15. Gangster of Love
16. Your Cash Ain’t Nothing But Trash
17. Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma

*Recorded live at the Beacon Theater, NYC 1975

The Players

Jack King (drums), Steve Miller (guitar & vocals), Ross Vallory (bass). A Haworth Enterprises Production.

The Pictures

Cover photos by Black Sun, Richard Upper.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in October 1971 in the US (Capitol, SW/8XW-748), Germany (Capitol, 1C 062-80 962) and Japan (Capitol, BT-5152).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Capitol, ECS-40039).
  2. Re-issued on expanded compact disc in 2009 (Private CD Production, 665) with 11 bonus tracks.
  3. Re-issued on super high material compact disc on April 26, 2017 in Japan (Capitol, UICY-78259).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 2018 in the US (Capitol, 0256742980) [made in Czech Republic].

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