November 1999

Steve Miller Band - Greatest Hits
DCC GZS-1103
Originally released: 1978
Remaster released: 1997
Sound Quality ***1/2

Comparison Releases:

Greatest Hits
Capitol CDP 7 46101 2

Sound Quality **1/2

The Joker
JVC XRCD JVCXR-0043-2 (1998)

Sound Quality ***

by Greg Smith

[Reviewed on Gold CD]Recycling wasn't yet in fashion in 1976, but Steve Miller was already practicing it. His hit "Fly Like an Eagle" reused a guitar lick that first made its appearance on a 1969 song titled "My Dark Hour." The old song was good, but in its new form it would help Miller sell millions of records. This contrasts with today's currently musical practices, which often involve sampling past work and making additions that result in music worse than the original. But I digress.

The most popular form of Steve Miller ingestion nowadays is his Greatest Hits 1974-78, which has also sold many millions of copies in both LP and CD form. While not a bad-sounding CD, there's certainly room for improvement. DCC has been releasing hits collections from a number of popular artists the last few years, and in addition to sounding better, they usually include extra material not available in the regular release.

"The Joker"

I wish I knew why the old CD release of this song is missing the opening drum beat; this is only a second of extra material.

  • Original: While it's not offensive, this track is a bit soft at both ends. The bass is muddy and the drum snaps are very dull. During the chorus, the mass of vocals are overloading something in the mastering chain.
  • DCC: You can hear a lot more noise, which isn't really good. But you can hear much, much better cymbals too, so I guess we'll have to live with the hiss. The other drum parts are still a bit dull, though. The vocal mix on the chorus is considerably clearer.
  • XRCD: The cymbal transients are sharper than those on the DCC version, but there's less ambiance to the overall soundstage. XRCD nails the guitars better, but doesn't do as good of a job of sorting out the vocals. It's impossible to pick a favorite here.

"Fly Like an Eagle"

The original CD? Three minutes and its over. Bah. DCC gives you the full length intro, and a little extra at the end, making for a six-minute "...Eagle."

  • Original: For such an early CD, the imaging here is surprisingly good and expansive. The other characteristics of the song are average all around.
  • DCC: The double-tracked vocals really come into their own here. There are the usual improvements in cymbals and bass response. Surprisingly, the sense of envelopment, already good on the regular CD, takes a leap forward. If anyone has a surplus of vintage Hammond B-3 organs to sell, DCC's "Fly Like an Eagle" would be the demo material I'd recommend you advertise them with.

"Jet Airliner"

We find another truncated single on the old hits collection, clocking in at a sanitized ("funky kicks going down in the city") 3:34. The extra long version of the opening on the DCC version adds almost a full minute to the song.

  • Original: Miller's continued use of the double-tracked vocal comes through very well on this one. The most obvious flaw here is more mushy bass.
  • DCC: There isn't as much improvement here as on the previous songs. You get a bit better resolution on the bass guitar and a touch more air on the cymbals, but it's a fairly subtle difference.

The liner notes on the original CD are, to put it nicely, pathetic. You get a track listing and some dates. DCC's release adds a listing of the musicians involved and a lot of pictures, including what the original LP looked like. Still no lyrics, though.

Recycled or not, Steve Miller's music isn't going away. A hilarious Pitchfork special report suggests that "this greatest hits collection will even outlive the cockroaches after the plague erases us from the map." Having gotten used to the higher quality and complete versions of these songs on DCC's release the last few months, it's hard to listen to my ancient aluminum CD anymore. If you want a single Steve Miller disc with the hits from the most popular part of his career, this DCC release is the one to have.