Thursday, November 6, 2014

Steve Miller Band - Italian X-Rays

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Italian X-Rays, the thirteenth studio album from the Steve Miller Band. It went to number 88 in Canada and number 49 in Sweden. Here in the US, it spent ten weeks total on the Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 101.

Side one begins with the thirty second long “Radio 1”. It is the first of a number of short length synth vignettes written for the album by keyboardist Byron Allred. It leads directly into the next track.

The title track and third single is next. “Italian X-Rays” is a trippy dream set to a swinging synth backdrop.

The instrumental “Daybreak” combines a beautiful piano piece with dramatic ambient sounds.

“Shangri-La”, the first single, went to number 84 in Canada and number 57 on the US Billboard Hot 100. This dance tune has a very funky bass groove to it courtesy of Kenny Lee Lewis.

The B-side to the third single was “Who Do You Love”. The song harkens back to the band’s 70’s sound, stripping back the synths and sticking to a simple laid back rock rhythm.

The first side closes with “Harmony of the Spheres 1”, another interlude from Allred. A little of it reminds me of the opening of “Fly Like an Eagle”, an earlier hit from the band.

Side two opens with the thirty second long “Radio 2”. It has a very sci-fi drama element to it.

The second single “Bongo Bongo” stalled at number 84 on the US Billboard Hot 100. I really like the beat on this one; it has a very high energy to it and a clap-along element that I find very irresistible. Is it campy? Sure, but I like campy. It is easily my favorite track on the record.

“Out of the Night” was the final song that Miller wrote with band co-founder Tim Davis; diabetes took a major toll on Davis who passed away a few years later in 1988. The song has a stealthy, espionage vibe to it.

The band again goes back to its earlier pure rock rooks with “Golden Opportunity”. The guitars are very prominent on this one.

“The Hollywood Dream” takes a cross-country trip with a rhythm that is as hypnotic as tires rolling along the highways. Things are punctuated in spots by a lofty synth riff. The combination works really well for me.

The gentle love song “One in a Million” uses a light guitar and percussion to mellow the mood.

The album closes with an instrumental reprise with “Harmony of the Spheres 2”.

This review was my first listen through to Italian X-Rays. I likely heard some of the tracks on the album-oriented rock stations in late 1984 and 1985, but I do not have any specific memories associated to the record. I definitely liked what I heard here and would certainly be open to picking up a few of the tracks for my library.

For more from the Steve Miller Band, click here.

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