Band members Related acts
- John Miles (aka John Errington) -- vocals, keyboards, guitar
supporting musicians: (1980)
- Barry Black -- drums, percussion
- Brian Chatton -- keyboards
- Bob Marshall - bass
- The Influence
- The John Miles Set
Rating: 4 stars ****
Country/State: Jarrow, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: no poster insert
Catalog ID: 1390
From the mid-1970s through the earlier 1980s my family lived in Belgium. We had access to American Forces Network radio, but amid between the never ending stream of top-40 tunes, I also discovered the wonders of Radio Luxemburg and Radio Caroline; both which played an array of music that you would never hear on American stations. One of my first discoveries was an English guy by the name of John Miles and the singles 'Highfly' and 'Music'. I'd never heard of Miles and I could never find any of his music through the Army and Air Force base exchanges, but luckily there were lots of records stores in Belgium and it didn't take me too long to track his debut album down. I ran still remember finding a copy of 1976's "Rebel" and thinking that in spite of the fact Miles was shown a-la James Dean posing with an ancient rifle on his shoulders, this skinny, pale English guy looked nothing like a rebel - more like a pissed off clerk typist than a rebel. Not that it mattered since the guy could sing has a** off.
Produced by Alan Parsons, 1976's "Rebel" was simply one of the best mid-1970s pop albums ever released. It remains all but unknown in the States (when released it managed to hit # 171 on the US charts), and didn't exactly make Miles a superstar in the UK. That's probably to be expected given Miles had it all - great voice; talented multi-instrumentalist (lead guitar, keyboards), and a songwriter who was capable of crafting highly commercial material that spanned a broad spectrum of genres and styles. Top-40 pop (the title track), mid-'70s rock ('Highfly'), Stevie Wonder-influenced soul ('Lady of My Life'); it was all represented on the debut album. He was the consummate professional ... While his stuff was simply too mainstream and commercial for hardcore rock fans (occasionally a little too precious for everyone), anyone with an ear for top-40 radio was bound to find something enjoyable on the album. And while I've always enjoyed a good pop tune, it's the Alan Parsons connection that's provided the collection's true charm to my ears. Anyone who's a fan of Parson's early works like "Tales of Mystery and Imagination", "I Robot", "Pyramids" is liable to hear echoes of those works across these ten tracks. Since I'm a big Alan Parsons Project fan, that's a big selling point for me. Like Parson's best material, these songs frequently had entertaining lyrics (check out 'Pull the Damn Thing Down'), included interesting orchestration, yet were highly commercial and radio friendly.
Given the relative absence of American promotion, the album did well in the States, ultimately hitting # 171 on the US charts.
"Rebel" track listing:
1.) Music (John Miles) - 5:58 rating: **** stars
Yes, yes, yes the sentiments were incredibly sappy and the over-the-top arrangement came awfully close to MOR territory, but for some reason I've always loved this song. I'm guessing it has something to do with the fact it was the first song I ever heard on Radio Luxemourg when my family moved to Belgium in the mid-'70s. There was just something totally endearing in the way Miles stitched together the sappy ballad portions of the tune and the Live-and-Let-Die-styled orchestration. Add in harpsichord and this was a winner. YouTube has a clip of an April 1976 performance of the tune on the BBC's Top of the Pops: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrrY_vRb7Fc
2..) Everybody Wants Some More (John Miles - Bob Marshall) - 3:58 rating: **** stars
'Everybody Wants Some More' was an interesting ballad that incorporated a mixture of Beatles-styled baroque moves and a hyper-catchy series of melodic snippets that bore more than a passing resemblence to something Paul McCartney might have written.
3.) Highfly - 3:53 rating: **** stars
A classic slice of mid-'70s English pop that sounded like a cross between Pilot and Styx ... Maybe his best tune, hearing the killer melody with those quick guitar riffs and the harmony vocals instantly pushes me back to my high school years.
4.) You Have It All - 7:01 rating: **** stars
I've always loved Miles' unique bell sounding lead guitar on the epic 'You Have It All'. This was the "big" kind of tune that every band hoped to come up with, though few have done it as well. If you ever wondered where Alan Parsons got the inspiration for The Alan Parsons Project, then I suggest checking this tune out. This is the track Parsons strove to top throughout his career.
With it's martial beat, clipped lead vocal, and pseudo-Broadway-ish melody 'Rebel' was another standout performance. Elsewhere Andrew Powell's unexpected classical arrangement snippet (about two minutes into the tune), always made me smile. Geez, I can remember running cross country with this on my mini-cassette player.
2.) When You Lose Someone So Young - 4:35 rating: *** stars
As a youngster who had never lost anyone, I remember thinking this melodramatic ballad sounded like a bad Elton John tune. Years later it's still highly sentimental and the uplifting lyrics are certainly a bit simplistic, but I'll admit to liking it more now than originally. Miles introductory comments are muddy as is the overall sound quality, so all I know is this was recorded for a 1983 charitable event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihaGFFinorA
3.) Lady of My Life (John Miles) - 4:0 rating: **** stars
Kicked along my some sweet, if cheesy synthesizers, 'Lady of My Life' found Miles seemingly turning in his best Stevie Wonder impression. With it's silky double tracked lead vocals, the ballad literally would not have sounded out of place on "Songs In the Key of Life". A bit short on originality, but quite impressive, especially if you were a Wonder fan.
4.) Pull the Damn Thing Down - 7:18 rating: **** stars
With Miles weaving his way through what sounded like a dozen different tunes stitched into a rocking McCartney-styled medley, 'Pull the Damn Thing Down' was another personal favorite. Complete with one of his best guitar solos and some none-to-subtle social commentary thrown into the mix, it was another track that was so goofy, you had to eventually surrender to it's charms. Always wondered if Miles sang the segments with the deep vocal ...
5.) Music (reprise) (John Miles) - 2:11 rating: *** stars
The earlier tune segued into the closing 'Music' reprise, which came off as a touch MOR-ish.
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: Jarrow, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: cut lower right corner
Catalog ID: 5560
I remember first hearing John Miles as a teenager on Radio Caroline between a Clash track and some weird slice of Britpop and thinking the guy was dynamite. Next time I heard him he was working as a hired gun for The Alan Parsons Project ... he was still pretty friggin' impressive !
Continuing his partnership with producer Alan Parsons 1979 saw Decca release "More Miles per Hour". I've never understood the rationale behind the decision, but the album never saw an American release. Instead, having signed a multi-million dollar deal with Arista the company inexplicably elected to cannibalize the earlier album, combining five of that set's songs with three new Gary Lyon produced studio efforts ('Sympathy', 'Do It All Again', and 'Where Would I Be without You'). Given new artwork and entitled "Sympathy" the album marked a return to a more pop oriented sound similar to Miles debut with "Rebel". Like the debut, the combination of Miles' great voice, a great backing band and his knack for crafting killer melodies with insidiously catchy hooks made this a wonderful album. Simply first class pop-rock, material like 'Where Would I Be without You', the rock edged title track, and 'Do It All Again' was the kind of stuff most power-pop bands would have killed to have at their disposal. Ironically that commercial edge may have proven the album's downfall. With audiences embracing punk, new wave and disco, good old fashioned pop was sooooo yesterday !!! How unfortunate, though Miles occasionally went too bubblegummy - C'est La Via'' could have passed for an Elton John outtake ... (Hopefully Miles gave up the tobacco habit ...) Elsewhere the two albums were tapped for a series of three singles:
- 1979's 'Can't Keep a Good Man Down' b/w 'Sweet Lorraine' (Arista catalog number )
- 1980's 'Where Would I Be without You' b/w 'Fella In the Cellar' (Arista catalog number AS 0504)
- 1980's 'C'est La Vie' b/w 'Sympathy' (Arista catalog number AB 4261)
Backed by an extensive English tour "More Miles Per Hour" hit # 46 in the UK. "Sympathy" did nothing on the US charts.
"Sympathy" track listing:
1.) Where Would I Be without You (John Miles - Bob Marshall) -
2.) It's Not Called Angel (John Miles - Bob Marshall) -
3.) Sympathy (John Miles - Bob Marshall) -
4.) We All Fall Down (John Miles - Bob Marshall) -
2.) Do It All Again (John Miles - Bob Marshall) -
3.) Can't Keep a Good man Down (John Miles - Bob Marshall) -
4.) Fella In the Cellar (John Miles - Bob Marshall) -
YouTube has a couple of nifty live performances of material from the LPs:
'Don't Give Me Your Sympathy'
'Do It All Again'
There's a great John Miles website at:
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