I’ve seen his record covers through the years and always been a little intrigued by Frankie Miller, but somehow — content to park him alongside the Rory Gallaghers and Robin Trowers of the world — assumed I’d find them about as musically uninteresting as I found John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (who I desperately wanted to get into when I was in love with all-things-Eric Clapton in my mid-teens, but ended up coming to the conclusion that you maybe had to be a British schoolboy — still terrified by James Brown’s hips & lips — to properly enjoy). So I stayed away from the Scottish singer’s albums.
Until last week. I ran across his Full House album (from 1977) on a blog and downloaded it on the strength of the album cover alone. How could I not give it a try. He looked like Braveheart at the mic, lost in an ecstatic moment. Was it before battle, mid-battle or after? I had to find out.
I was instantly seized by his voice. It took me back to the eighth grade, when I was just discovering Joe Cocker, Bad Company, Thin Lizzy and Rod Stewart by way of Q-98 (Fargo’s classic rock radio station), BMG & Columbia House tape clubs (I didn’t get into CDs until a year or so later) and the public library’s LP collection. The combination of a great rock band, a passionately soulful vocalist unafraid to let his voice break (to be taken to its illogical conclusion a year later when I first heard Nevermind) and a particularly great repertoire struck a chord with me. It felt like I was driving my Chevy Cavalier down University Drive again, windows down, my home speakers blaring fat & punctured (I hadn’t yet figured out that home speakers don’t sound as good in a car), my shades too big for my face. Frankie felt like an old friend I was meeting for the first time. By the time I was done with Full House, I had Once In a Blue Moon (1972) and The Rock (1975) in cue. I was not disappointed by either. Once in a Blue Moon — with pub rock band Brinsley Schwarz as the backup band — feels like the winner of the three so far, and I’ve only made it a few passes through each of these albums.