Review: The Steve Miller Band- Bingo!
Bingo! is the first studio album to be released by the Steve Miller Band since 1993’s Wide River. The album, released on Miller’s own Space Cowboy Records, is made up of covers of blues and R&B tunes originally by artists such as B.B. King, Otis Rush, Earl King, as well as three tunes by Jimmie Vaughan.
The fact that Miller would release a blues album shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. The godson of Les Paul, Miller grew up around blues musicians such as T-Bone Walker and when he later moved to Chicago became acquainted with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters. One of the earliest incarnations of the Steve Miller Band even backed up Chuck Berry on a set of blues tunes on a 1967 live album. After getting a record deal, the band made several great blues-rock records until 1973’s The Joker brought them commercial success and a change of style.
So Miller’s decision to record an album in the blues-rock genre really isn’t the problem. Nor is the problem with the selection of material or the band. Indeed, the band sounds as great as ever, creating a fusion of classic electric blues with their own brand of classic rock, and Miller sounds as good vocally as he did during their mid-’70s run of hits and also shows off his very underrated skills as a guitarist. In addition, 1960s soul singer Sonny Charles is now a permanent member of the Steve Miller Band and he sings lead on two tracks and duets with Miller on another.
This album is very good for what it is, but it still feels like something is wrong. An album of songs that originally inspired him from a 66-year-old rock legend is fine and is even to be expected at this point in his career. But only if he is still making his own great music. Try as I might, I simply cannot be convinced that the man who penned some of the catchiest tunes in rock history has not written a single song worth recording in the past 17 years.
Bingo! is an enjoyable listen that showcases a great band performing songs you are mostly familiar with. None of these versions are as good as the originals, but I doubt if they were meant to be. The whole album is about having fun and if you listen to it with that in mind and try to forget that it is the first thing the band has released in almost two decades, you will do just that. Still, it is far from essential and I hope Miller will give us at least one more album of original material.