[Review] The Steve Miller Band: Your Saving Grace (1969)

The pressure of releasing an album every six months was beginning to reveal some cracks in the material.

Kronomyth 4.0: Save it for later.

The Steve Miller Band’s fourth album is a little light on material, which is what happens when you release four albums in two years. It’s not a stylistic step forward from their last album, Brave New World, but a holding in place as the band sticks to psychedelic blues rock with a pronounced Beatles influence (although Traffic and Led Zeppelin can be glimpsed in the shadows). The album’s saving grace is its production, with Glyn Johns again taking an active hand by playing guitar and percussion on several tracks.

There isn’t a standout track on Your Saving Grace. Little Girl didn’t light up the radio as the single, but it’s a groovy blues-rock number featuring a multitracked Steve Miller on vocals and guitars. Baby’s House, cowritten with special guest Nicky Hopkins, is an epic acoustic/electric number that had me thinking of Zep’s “Your Time Is Gonna Come.” My favorite song on here is a trippy version of Motherless Children that gets to the heart of the song’s sadness as few artists have. The closing Your Saving Grace, one of two tracks featuring Tim Davis on vocals, holds its own with any of Dave Mason’s contributions to early Traffic.

The rest of the album is more or less filler with aggressive production that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Your Saving Grace has had few champions over the years, marking the soft middle between Steve Miller’s first three albums and his commercial breakthrough, The Joker. I’m not sure I’d call any of these mid-period albums a compulsory purchase, although there’s some joy to be had in hearing Steve Miller sing and play guitar, and a little extra joy in hearing Glyn Johns try out some psychedelic sound effects to punch it up.

Original elpee version

A1. Little Girl (Steve Miller) (3:20)
A2. Just a Passin’ Fancy in a Midnite Dream (Steve Miller/Ben Sidran) (3:38)
A3. Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around (Steve Miller) (2:27)
A4. Baby’s House (Steve Miller/Nicky Hopkins) (8:55)
B1. Motherless Children (trad. arr. by Steve Miller) (5:52)
B2. The Last Wombat in Mecca (Lonnie Turner) (2:53)
B3. Feel So Glad (Steve Miller) (5:22)
B4. Your Saving Grace (Tim Davis) (4:55)

Original 8-track version
A1. Little Girl
A2. Motherless Children
B1. Just a Passin’ Fancy in a Midnite Dream
B2. Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around
B3. Baby’s House (part 1)
C1. Baby’s House (concl.)
C2. Your Saving Grace (part 1)
D1. Your Saving Grace (concl.)
D2. The Last Wombat in Mecca
D3. Feel So Glad

The Players

Steve Miller (vocal, guitars, electronics), Tim Davis (drums, vocals, electronics, percussion, vocal on B2/B4), Nicky Hopkins (piano, organ, harpsichord), Lonnie Turner (bass, vocals, slide guitar on B2) with Barnes Ensemble (vocal chorus on A4), Curley (guitar on B4), Glyn Johns (tambourine, vocals, guitar, electronics), Ronnie (vocals on A3), Ben Sidran (organ on A2), Minor Wilson (guitar on B2). Produced by Glyn Johns.

The Pictures

Design by Lockart. Photography by Ivan Nagy, Camera 5.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette, 8-track and reel-to-reel tape in November 1969* in the US (Capitol, SKAO/4XT/8XT/X-331) [target logo green label] and Germany (Capitol, 1C 062-80 277) with gatefold cover. German version has unique cover. Reel-to-reel switches sides one and two. Reached #38 on the US charts. (*First appeared in 11/15/69 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Capitol, SKAO-331) [red cutoff label].
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Capitol, SN/4N-16079).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Capitol, ECS-80909).
  4. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1990 in the US (Capitol, CDP 7 94448 2).
  5. Re-released on 180g and white vinyl elpee in 2018 in the US (Capitol/Universal, 0256723909/0256742984).

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