Rock Candy Records [Release date 30.07.21]
With 3 outstanding albums under his belt, but no substantial success, you could have forgiven Frankie Miller for just accepting his fate.
Judging by his genre hopping fourth album, Full House, (1978) he never stops long enough in one place to gain any lasting recognition. From the solid pop of ‘Doodle Song’ to the sweetly soulful ‘This Love Of Mine’, to the country flavoured ‘Let The Candle Shine’, Miller’s interpretation of his self penned material is always impressive. And just when you’re looking for more of that, he gives you something else.
Then there’s the covers: You need to be brave or foolish to interpret a John Lennon classic, ‘Jealous Guy’, or a universally recognised standard, ‘Love Letters’. Miller’s almost tangible heartfelt sincerity amplifies the fragile lyrical quality in both songs. He makes them his own. No mean achievement.
That said, it’s opener, ‘Be Good To Yourself’ that really stands out. Up front of a solid, bolted-to-the-floor rhythm section, the precision and depth of guitarist, Ray Minhinnett’s playing is a wonder to behold. His fiery licks elevate this already great Andy (Free) Fraser song way beyond its starting point. And once the Memphis Brass get on board, we’re on a funky, bluesy, rockin’ journey we hope will never end.
This remaster comes with a bunch of live tracks not previously released. If ever a voice was made for live performance, it’s Miller’s. ****
A year later, Miller recorded his fifth album, Double Trouble, at The Record Plant in New York. Jack (Cheap Trick/Aerosmith) Douglas was brought in to produce. Eric (ELO II) Troyer and Steven Tyler help on backing vocals. But beyond Miller, the real star here is Paul (Ace/Squeeze/Mike&The Mechanics) Carrack.
Carrack wrote five of the songs here with Miller. One of their better collaborations, ‘Good Time Love’ is not especially well served by Douglas’s all over the place production. It’s never quite sure if it’s funk, rock, gospel or soul. Yet still, it ultimately emerges as one the album’s most memorable cuts.
Another Andy Fraser song, ‘Double Heart Trouble’ is a swaggering, earthy, best-song-that-Free-never-recorded chunk of bluesy hard rock, it comes bubbling to the surface quickly, setting up the album. But disappointingly, quite a few of the songs are a little too perfunctory to really land. Early hopefuls ‘Love Waves’ and ‘Breakaway’ start strong and fade quickly.
It’s left to a fabulous cover of thirties’ romantic ballad ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ to close the album in style. A classy, reined in vocal from Miller is perfectly pitched, suggesting that this is a milieu he should have explored further.
Miller fans will love the bonus tracks here. They are all demos, embryo recordings, showing us how it all began. The demo of the Marvin Gaye cover, ‘Stubborn Kind Of Fellow’, full of raw energy, is a peach. ***
Review by Brian McGowan
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