Rock elite pay tribute to the staple of American music in a quest to find the secret meaning of it all.
Picking a right bird is a difficult task when it comes to pigeonholing Steve Miller’s collective who, over the course of almost five decades, moved over from blues to blues rock, to art rock and to pop. It’s the latter that shows Billy Sherwood’s ingenuity in placing artists this time, because the decision to set Rick Wakeman, the avatar of prog, to pitch a couple of solos in the John Parr-voiced “Abracadabra” elevates the simple piece to much more soulful, higher ground. Sherwood, a YES associate, has shaped similar projects before, yet he always made rather obvious choices, while now he throws the usual suspects in at the deep end by giving them covers least obvious for their manner; that’s how John Wetton ends up swinging wild, after a long while, on “Jet Airliner” in the company of Steve Stevens, as do Rod Argent and Steve Hillage who received “Rock ‘n’ Me” to turn it loose, English-style. Never a dull moment, then…
But many an inspired one. Such are “Winter Time,” a majestic ballad made poignant by Sonja Kristina‘s dramatic delivery and Peter Banks’ liquid strings, possibly the very last part the late guitarist played, and the title composition psyched up by NEKTAR and Geoff Downes. The drift gets harder on “Space Cowboy” that sees Jimi Jamison reaching out to where Jordan Rudess’ ivories rage, and on “Jungle Love” where Joe Lynn Turner and Steve Morse let rip. Yet it’s less unexpected than the pairing of XTC’s Colin Moulding and another YES alumnus, Tony Kaye, which may seem incongruous to some purists yet, as organ purrs under soft vocals, the two infuse opener “Take The Money And Run” with elegant intelligence. That goes for most of the songs here, Sherwood providing backing for most of the tracks that are somewhat faithful versions taken further down the line, up and away, the eagle-way, so titling it all after STEVE MILLER BAND’s crowning achievement is the only mistake.