Steve Miller / Steve Miller Band

Young Hearts: Complete Greatest Hits

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At his best, Steve Miller offered great rock & roll thrills -- sleek, insidiously catchy, relentlessly propulsive, effervescent pop gems, songs that were possessed with their own cheerful momentum that proved irresistible and surprisingly enduring. At his best, he made rock & roll that evoked its time but transcended it since its song and studiocraft were precisely executed, and never running longer than needed; like all perfect pop or rock singles, they sound too short since you'd want them to last forever. Unfortunately, Miller at his very best is ten, maybe 12 (and if you're kind, maybe 14) songs, much shorter than the generous Complete Greatest Hits, which clocks in at 22 tracks. Strangely enough, that title is a bit disingenuous, since this does not contain all of Miller's charting singles, which, strangely enough, clock in at 20 tracks, if all the Billboard charts are used as a guideline. Of those 20 singles, a whole bunch are missing: "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' but Trash," "Going to the Country," "Heart Like a Wheel," "Circle of Love," "Give It Up," "Shangri-La," "Bongo Bongo," "Nobody but You Baby," and "Cool Magic." That's nine songs, nearly half of his charting singles. Then again, charting singles don't really tell the story of Miller and his band, since they were more popular on album-oriented radio than they were on the charts, which is why songs like "Space Cowboy," "Wild Mountain Honey," and "Dance Dance Dance" are better known than "Bongo Bongo." Nevertheless, if the compilers of this compilation were going to take its title seriously, these songs would be present (even if Miller seems to have disowned 1981's Circle of Love, since it's out of print and none of its singles are here), along with the cuts that remain staples of AOR to this day. Instead, it's a bit of a hodgepodge, containing all but three tracks from the classic Greatest Hits 1974-1978, plus the three other songs every listener wants: "Abracadabra," "Livin' in the U.S.A.," and "Space Cowboy." If those three tracks were substituted for those missing from Greatest Hits 1974-1978, this wouldn't be just the great Miller album; it would be one of the great rock guilty pleasures, the kind of records everybody would own but all serious rock geeks would be ashamed to have, even if they play it far more than Trout Mask Replica. But this collection meanders, adding a bunch of latter-day songs that are largely unknown. Some of them are good -- 1993's "Wide River," if given a better production, could be mistaken for the Steve Miller Band at its peak -- but by and large, they slow this record down more than necessary. What makes this recommended -- and, make no mistake, it is -- is that it contains that core 12 to 14 songs that would make for one of the great rock albums. What keeps it from essential is the eight to ten songs that surround them, particularly since this starts off so strong, and then peters out, saving "Dance Dance Dance" for a last hurrah. Even so, this is the only place to go for all of Miller's hits (not counting the 1999 Australia collection, which has a similar feel but a slightly sharper track selection and a little leaner 20-track running time). But keep this in mind: if you want a party, you want Greatest Hits 1974-1978, since the feel and the groove is the same, and it clocks in at 14 tracks and 47 minutes -- perfect length for repeated plays. At the end of the exhaustive Complete Greatest Hits you're pretty much exhausted -- glad you have the key songs in your collection, wishing that the disc itself was as sleek and irresistible as the best tunes here.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 02:52 Amazon
2 03:41
3 03:08 Amazon
4 03:39
5 04:29
6 03:47
7 01:14
8 04:06
9 01:06
10 04:30
11 04:59
12 03:10
13 03:15
14 04:09
15 05:44
16 03:59
17 04:54 Amazon
18 03:34
19 02:39
20 02:50
21 04:31
22 02:21
blue highlight denotes track pick