Wide River

Steve Miller Band

Polydor Records, 1993


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I remember when Wide River, the last studio album (at least so far) from the Steve Miller Band, came out in 1993, I had two distinct emotions about it. On the positive side, I was able to snag a promotional tape of the title track, and I listened to it incessantly. Sure, it wasn't quite on the level of songs like "Jet Airliner" and "The Joker," but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Then, I happened to catch Miller perform on The Tonight Show, and was greatly disillusioned. I don't remember exactly what about the performance bothered me - maybe it was that Miller wasn't playing a lot of guitar, maybe he had an off-night singing - but it was enough to sour me from buying the album... that is, until a few weeks ago, when I snagged a copy from an eBay auction.

Wide River is not the kind of album that you're going to like right out of the box. In fact, I actually spent an entire evening listening to nothing but this album, in the hopes that my opinion of it would change. Oddly enough, it was after I popped it into the cassette deck of my car for one last listen a few days later that certain aspects of the album finally showed their mettle. Too bad most listeners don't have the time or patience to put into a pop album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There are some positives to Wide River. The title track still is a decent song, even if it didn't get the kind of attention from the same radio stations who play his older material to death. In this song, you can clearly hear the multi-tracking of Miller's voice - especially in a brief moment where the tracks do not sync. It's not the best "single" that Miller has ever done, but it's more than listenable, and I still enjoy it.

Likewise, "Blue Eyes" is a track that will quickly grow on you. Almost delivered like a rock shuffle, Miller weaves his way through the song with his lyrical prowess and a killer chorus riff.

However, lyrics - rather, the continued dependance on some lyrics - is a problem that Miller has. On no less than two tracks, Miller makes references from some of his better-known hits like "The Joker" and "Gangster Of Love". In the track "Conversation" - which is not one of my favorites off the bat - Miller sings, "I want to talk to you about the pompatus of love." Hey, Steve, let's not and say we did, okay? You used that line over 25 years ago; it's time to put it to rest.

And there are songs on Wide River that will grate on your nervous system like so much cheese on a super-slicer. "Walks Like A Lady" is a song that goes from mediocre to downright annoying by the third listen, and is not a great example of the songwriter that I know Miller is. "Horse And Rider" is a half-hearted attempt at a gentle, semi-acoustic ballad that just fails to get off the ground.

Yes, if you have a lot of time to spend, repeat listens will show you that tracks like "Midnight Train" and "Stranger Blues" are well worth your time - but I think most people will lose patience with Wide River rather quickly. I don't doubt that Miller still has the ability to make great albums. But seeing that it's been six years since this one was released, it would be a real downer to think that the last studio effort from the Steve Miller Band would be so blah. (Maybe this won't be the case; rumors have it that Miller has a new album ready to go for 2000.)

Rating: C-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polydor Records, and is used for informational purposes only.