Picks and Pans Review: Steve Miller Box Set

updated 09/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Steve Miller

This three-CD retrospective of the career of a seminal musician includes a surreptitious recording that Miller's father made of his precocious 4-year-old, standing in the window of his Milwaukee bedroom, strumming and serenading his pals in the alley outside.

After that the hits just keep coming, from Miller's first renown as a rocker in the '60s ("Livin' in the U.S.A.," "Space Cowboy" and others) to his success a decade later ("Rockin' Me," "Jet Airliner") and beyond. Miller combined a distinctive, dulcet voice, acute song-writing skills and an economical but penetrating guitar style. And he always had a special feeling for the blues, as evidenced by tracks like the chugging "Little Girl" and a live acoustic version of "Come on in My Kitchen."

The box's accompanying booklet is full of interesting confessional arcana, such as the fact that Miller wrote the lyrics to his 1982 hit "Abracadabra" while thinking of Diana Ross. He also tells of opening a 1970 show in Philadelphia for the Grateful Dead and a clearly not-long-for-this-world Jimi Hendrix. When a concerned Miller returned from his dressing room to watch Jimi's set, one of the Hendrix entourage inexplicably pulled a pistol on Miller and ordered him to get off the stage.

All right, the last disc (1973-88) of this collection is a little flabby, but this audio omnibus helps to bring Miller into focus. He's that rare worthy who can carry a boxed set: a pure and prolific pop artist. (Capitol)

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