Frankie Miller

...That's Who! The Complete Chrysalis Recordings (1973-1980)

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Scottish whiskey-voiced vocalist Frankie Miller never made much of a splash in the States, despite, or perhaps because of, his fixation on American soul and R&B. Yanks have never been terribly appreciative of the music that originated in their homeland, which might have been a contributing factor to Miller's marginal popularity in the U.S. He was a fairly major star in the U.K., though, big enough for EMI to remaster, repackage, and reissue his catalog (at least for the titles on their Chrysalis imprint) into this generous four-disc box. They even include a few rare singles and, more importantly, the original mix of his second effort, High Life, along with the previously released one, expanding this set's total to eight albums from 1973 through 1980. Because he has recorded just a handful of platters since, and only one after his debilitating brain hemorrhage in 1994, this covers the bulk of his output and all of his best-known songs. The playing time of each runs over 75 minutes, yet there are songs missing that were included as extras reissued on the individually expanded editions by Eagle/Repertoire in 1994. Not including those cuts, most of them as good and some even better than the ones on the albums they were appended to, is a major miss for a compilation that implies completeness. Regardless, the spiffed-up audio is crisp and warm, and while some of the material is spotty, Miller's performance is consistently energized and enthusiastic. From the gritty pub rock of his Brinsley Schwarz-backed debut to the raw soul of the Allen Toussaint-assisted High Life to the harder-edged rock of The Rock and the somewhat slick Easy Money, there is a plethora of terrific material here. Miller is as impressive singing ballads as tough, Faces-styled rockers, which makes each release reverberate with an ebb and flow making even some of the filler -- and make no mistake, there is a good-sized helping of that -- worth hearing. Well-arranged horns and occasional strings help, and a wide variety of producers, some of whom aren't mentioned in the skimpy notes, all do well by Miller's substantial talents. The set is reasonably priced, which makes it a logical choice for those who want to explore Miller's talents more exhaustively than Capitol's excellent 1993, 19-cut collection allows. Unfortunately, the slapdash booklet with a few hastily thrown-together pictures and credits that are lodged under the translucent trays that hold the CDs is a huge disappointment. It's difficult to see who plays what and only the most basic information about each album is available. It follows suit with similarly poorly annotated sets in the 2010-2011 Chrysalis remaster series (Robin Trower, Tangerine Dream, Ten Years After), but because Miller is less well-known worldwide, it's more frustrating that EMI wouldn't have taken the same care they did with the remastered audio to provide more information. Still, for those looking to get a sense of what makes Miller such a respected musician by his peers and dedicated U.K. fan base, it's convenient to have the bulk of his finest music in one handy package.

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