appropriate this music would be if it were coupled with some videotape of West Coast hang gliders and used for a Pepsi commercial.
To those who have been dismayed by the progress of the Beach Boys' more or less grotesque attempts at a creative comeback, the recent commercial success of such journeyman survivors as Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac and Steve Miller is a heartening sign. It means that laid-back rock and no-thought lyrics can still be had in something other than the dude-ranch space-out of such L.A. hustlers as Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. What is at stake is the future of open-highway rock. The success of Frampton, Mac and Millerespecially Mac and Millermeans the genre is not being abandoned to the cosmic cowpokes.
This is important for variety's sake, and also because the cowpokes' vision of life as some sort of sun-drenched avocado sandwich seems essentially wrong. With the Beach Boys unsteady on their lurch toward reality, it's up to people like Miller to attempt the mindlessly breezy music the whole world wants and not even Paul McCartney can deliver every time. But this is tricky business; you can't just retread the old Beach Boys stuff. They preached fun to a generation that was opening up; Miller has to preach fun to a generation that's closing in.
Miller has a strong nesting instinct. His idea of fun is apparently a combination of rural isolation and independence and happy domesticity. As the title of an album that's mostly filled with songs about love, his Book of Dreams is not much different from a hope chest. In "Swingtown" he coos, "Come on and dance/Let's make some romance." In "Jet Airliner" and "My Own Space" (neither of them his own composition, it's true) he sings about the need for a home and the pain of leaving it. Then there's "True Fine Love," in which he really alters his pitch: "So come on pretty baby," he sings this time, "we're going to raise a family."
This pretty well sums up what Miller has to say. Most of his energies have apparently gone into the sound, and with good results. At its best, Miller's music has always been rich, clipped and characterized by a powerful forward momentum not unlike Fleetwood Mac's. At its worstwhen he was hampered by a schizoid image, a revolving-door band and the all-too-apparent absence of any purpose to his workit was sloppy, aimless and dull. But Miller began to pu