Fly Like an Eagle—30th Anniversary
By David Chiu
Only in rock and roll can a guy transform himself from a cult blues player to radio-friendly pop music hero. That is what Steve Miller had done starting with 1973’s The Joker album, which elevated him to the big time with bouncy and reliable pop rockers. Miller continued to reap the rewards of his then-new direction with Fly Like an Eagle, an album that probably pleased every radio programmer with tunes were accessible to be on AM pop radio and still hip and cool enough to be on the FM underground. The explanation of Fly Like an Eagle’s success: Miller keeps the tunes simple, clean and efficient with none of the overblown solos or cynicism that were in vogue at the time. Thus the hooks sink in deeply especially from the record’s best-known hits: the title track, “Rock ‘N Me,” and “Take the Money and Run.” There’s also a folksy and trippy charm on album tracks such as the Middle Eastern-tinged “Wild Mountain Honey” and the roly poly feel of “Dance Dance Dance”; a cover of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” might be a little bit over the top with the doo wop-like harmonies, but the sincerity is there. As if not to alienate his old fans, “Blue Odyssey” (featuring some great harp playing by James Cotton) is steeped in the blues. These days professionalism might seem like a dirty word in the context of rock and roll, but Fly Like an Eagle is an accomplishment of high craft. The 30th Anniversary editions also offers alternate versions of the hits “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Take the Money and Run,” and “Rock ‘N Me” and a DVD portion that contains a documentary and a greatest hits concert from 2005 showing Miller still in good form.