The 1968 debut of the Steve Miller Band begins with a shattering cacophony, followed by an acoustic strum emerging like a beacon of light amidst the darkness and clatter. The album’s title track “Children of the Future” is far removed from the ironic detachment of “The Joker” or the sleek majesty of “Fly Like an Eagle,” later hits that proved the group could go “pop” while still showing off their versatility and impeccable musicianship.
Though the blues-rock guitarist from Wisconsin rose through the ranks in the fertile Bay Area psychedelic rock scene, Miller’s first album was recorded by producer Glyn Johns at London’s Olympic Studios. Miller and his band (originally Boz Scaggs on guitar/lead and background vocals, Lonnie Turner on bass/background vocals, Jim Peterman on mellotron and organ/background vocals, and Tim Davis on drums/lead and background vocals) married blues guitar licks to hazy, lysergic melodies. The centerpiece of Children of the Future is the side-long suite which opened the LP, primarily written by Miller.
It’s bookended by the title song (“We are children of the future…wonder what in the world we are going to do…When they get high, they can see for miles and miles/When we get high, I can see myself for miles…You know I’ve got something that you can use”) and the B.B. King-influenced closer “The Beauty of Time is That It’s Snowing (Psychedelic B.B.),” an instrumental with only the “We are children of the future” mantra for lyrics. What Mr. King thought of it, I don’t know. Miller did, indeed, get high, as his lyrics went, and was busted and imprisoned for marijuana possession while recording the album. The suite’s lyrics combine optimism with hippy-dippy cosmic belief redolent of the period (“In my second mind, I can see you grow/Feel you flow/It moves my soul, yeah”) though traditional love song sentiments and blues tropes are also present.
The second side is more traditional, though songs still flow into one another. Boz Scaggs, on the verge of coming into his own as a solo artist, contributes two tracks to Side Two. His pretty, ethereal pop song “Baby’s Callin’ Me Home” (with Ben Sidran on harpischord) segues into the electric rock of “Steppin’ Stone” (not the Monkees hit). Long before “Jet Airliner,” Miller contributed the folk-rock “Roll with It” (“There’s a plane goin’ down the runway…Believe I better go with it/There’s a train goin’ by the highway…believe I better roll with it”) with its wailing guitar solo.
The album is rounded out by Jim Pulte’s “Junior Saw It Happen” and a couple of R&B covers, “Fanny Mae” (with its striking R&B harmonica and a riff that was also semi-appropriated for The Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda”) and the slow-burning “Key to the Highway.” The new reissue adds one bonus track, the shimmering non-LP single “Sittin’ in Circles,” written by another well-regarded tunesmith, Barry Goldberg of the Electric Flag.
by Joe Marchese
1. Children Of The Future – 2:59
2. Pushed Me To It – 0:35
3. You've Got The Power – 0:53
4. In My First Mind (Miller, Jim Peterman) – 7:31
5. The Beauty Of Time Is That It's Snowing (Psychedelic B.B.) – 5:24
6. Baby's Callin' Me Home (Boz Scaggs) – 3:24
7. Steppin' Stone (Scaggs) – 3:00
8. Roll With It – 2:29
9. Junior Saw It Happen (Jim Pulte) – 2:29
10.Fanny Mae (Buster Brown) – 3:09
11.Key To The Highway (Big Bill Broonzy, Charlie Segar) – 6:16
12.Sittin' In Circles (Barry Goldberg) - 3:06
All songs by Steve Miller unless as else stated
*Steve Miller – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*Boz Scaggs – Guitar, Vocals
*Lonnie Turner – Bass, Vocals
*Jim Peterman – Hammond Organ, Mellotron. Vocals
*Tim Davis – Drums, Vocals
*Ben Sidran – Harpsichord