Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Shangri-La" by Steve Miller Band

Song#:  2074
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  74
Peak:  57
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  In 1982, Miller scored his third (and last) #1 Pop hit with "Abracadabra," a single from his platinum album of the same name. Two years later, Miller was ready to unleash his follow-up LP titled Italian X Rays. This album dove even further into the synth sounds of the 80s and this first single was an example of that experimentation. Unfortunately, it was nothing like the catchy "Abracadabra" or Miller's previous hits and the song quickly peaked outside the Top 50 and disappeared. It also managed to miss the Rock chart completely. The failure of the single along with critical pans killed sales of the album and it would peak at a very low #106 - his worst performing album since 1972.

ReduxReview:  I'm all for artists pushing boundaries, especially in sound and technology. I may not even really like the artist, but appreciate something unique they did (i.e., the Neil Young synth-based oddity Trans). However, sometimes an artist can just stumble on these experiments and Steve Miller certainly did. The problem is that the technology took over and the songs themselves either got lost in the shuffle or seemed like afterthoughts. "Abracadabra" worked for a lot of folks because it was a solid song. There is nothing remotely close to it on the album. Therefore, nothing really worked because the base material was lackluster. There were also odd little instrumental tracks that made it feel like a concept album, yet there was no concept that I could discern. I think Miller just took one step more than he was capable of and the results nearly killed his career. He struggled to sell albums after this. It's a bit too bad as the sound of the LP is good and it has some cool spots, but when applied to clunky songs like this one, it's like one step forward, thirty steps back.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  With the advances in digital music recording and electronic instruments, Miller's label, Capitol, seemed keen on Miller experimenting with this new technology. According to Miller, the label provided a huge budget for the album, so he dove in and dressed up his songs in layers of digital sounds. Capitol seemed to love the album and touted it with a huge ad in Billboard magazine and called it "State-of-the-Heart Rock And Roll" and describing it as Miller taking his pop music to the next level using digital, computer generated, and electronic sounds. Basically, they probably thought they had a trailblazing LP on their hands. It didn't turn out that way. The album didn't connect with listeners, or even a lot of his fans, and it tanked. Although some people now like the album and champion it as an overlooked gem, most consider it a WTF moment in Miller's catalog.


No comments:

Post a Comment