Steve Miller / Steve Miller Band

Bingo!

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Bingo! is the Steve Miller Band's first studio record in 17 years. Thematically, it's a look back at the the electric blues and R&B that influenced him as a young man. Issued on his own Space Cowboy imprint, is also the final recorded appearance of blues harmonica great Norton Buffalo who passed away in 2009. Blues classics by B.B. King, Lowell Fulsom, Otis Rush, Howlin' Wolf, Earl King, Jimmy Reed, and Jessie Hill are here, along with three selections by contemporary bluesman Jimmie Vaughan. What all of these tracks all have in common is Miller's signature approach: he is a stellar guitarist who has no need to show off, a tight arranger, and an intuitive modern producer (with help from Andy Johns).These 14 tunes (all under four minutes) actually extend the electric blues tradition. While paying tribute to his heroes and contemporaries, there are also nods to his own history as a recording artist. Check Vaughan's "Hey Yeah," with wah-wah guitars and killer solo breaks in the intro and verses. Miller's and Buffalo's harmonies are tight, and evoke the early fusion of blues with psychedelic rock (à la the earliest Steve Miller Band). One can also hear traces of Jimi Hendrix's production style in the tune as well as in his stellar version of Rush's "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)," that adds some gorgeous Latin percussion -- courtesy of Michael Carabello and Adrian Areas --to the silvery, reverb-laden guitar work. Fulsom's "Tramp" has that trademark opening chord, but the rest is pure Miller. He plays sparely, but with swagger aplenty, the funky shuffle at its heart played by rhythm guitar ace Kenny Lee is deep in the pocket; the vocal trade-off between Sonny Charles and Miller is priceless. The lone ballad on the set is the Vaughan/Nile Rodgers' tune "Sweet Soul Vibe." With Joe Satriani guesting (he appears on "Rock Me Baby" as well) it touches on gospel, soul, and modern R&B. Miller's and Satriani's alternate leads are deceptively sweet, but they feel more like knives being sharpened and carried confidently in sheaths. Earl King's "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)" is a burning solo workout and takes the party jam into an entirely new musical dimension. Vocally, Miller touches on his '70s persona, but it's only a glance; the rest is burning blues. There are also four bonus tracks, the most notable are readings of Elmore James' "Look on Yonder Wall" -- with a killer vocal from Charles -- and the closer, Roosevelt Sykes' "Drivin' Wheel," with Miller's filthiest guitar work of the set. This is a welcome return for Miller, and a must for modern electric blues fans.

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