Picks and Pans Review: Italian X-Rays
Rock stars, devoted as they are to fantasy and hyperbole, are easy targets for wild rumors. Remember the specious "proof" spurred by the release of the Beatles' Abbey Road to support the theory that Paul McCartney was dead? Or the gossip that the actor who played Eddie Haskell on Leave It to Beaver had grown up to become Alice Cooper? It's time to get those suspicious minds over at rock's rumor mill to work on the strange case of Steve ("Guitar") Miller. In the video made from his last hit, 1982's Abracadabra, Miller was represented only in still photographs of indeterminate vintage. Then the normally prolific Space Cowboy didn't put out an album for a couple of years. Now comes Italian X-Rays, a record that sounds as if it might have been generated by a music computer trying (and failing) to clone Miller's style. A machine that sophisticated, however, wouldn't create the doggerel found in the title cut: "I met a woman by a babbling brook/ She was gifted, she was wise,/ She was reading a book." The machine certainly wouldn't be impressed enough with those lines to repeat them twice, as Miller does. Miller, 41, along with University of Wisconsin classmate and former bandmate Boz Scaggs, has always displayed some of the best pipes in rock 'n' roll. But his marvelous voice can't salvage such weak material as The Hollywood Dream, an unintentional lullaby, or Golden Opportunity, paint-by-numbers rock with a hectic beat. From his earliest albums Miller has displayed an unerring knack for choosing material. That hasn't disappeared completely. There are signs of a pulse on Bongo Bongo, with its tom-tom beat and seamlessly overdubbed harmonies, and Out of the Night, which has a bluesy feeling Stevie has always excelled at. For those who remember the grit of such previous Miller songs as The Joker and Going to Mexico, this is a feeble album. (Capitol)
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