Sound — 9
This 1968 album actually is the debut of Steve Miller Band and Steve Miller's first professional music effort. The album begins with a shattering cacophony followed by an acoustic strum emerging like a beacon of light amidst the darkness and clatter playing "Children of the Future," I would say there is definitely a psychedelic experimental edge to here and a lot of studio effects all around with the seagulls and distant acoustic guitar playing that seemingly comes closer to the speaker. The album's title track "Children of the Future" is definitely a more psychedelic pop style folk jam of a mellow flow, the splits on the original Capitol vinyl have the grooves push the track to the short "Pushed Me to It" quickly transitioning then to "You Got the Power" which sounds more blue eyed soul like. The whole album has a range of different popular sounds at the time performed by the band in a more mainstream pop fashion but still showcasing their talent and impeccable musicianship.
There are a lot of effects as far as sound effects and studio tricks here in store for the listener, the organ and free California bay area style psychedelic rock taken in with blue eyed soul organ that moves into a slight symphonic work with mellotron, the famous prog/psych synthesizer featured by many other artists like The Moody Blues and King Crimson, it definitely has that edge of being nothing along the lines of anything progressive or experimental while getting close to the point but producing it in a more pop that could be accepted by the average listener of the time to actually get more of an audience. I would say there are a variety of echos of different common music variations of the time here mainly revolving around rhythm and blues, soul, and psychedelic rock. The style is predominantly a mixture of blues and psychedelic rock reflecting the ambience of the British blues revival along with a group of talented young musicians beginning a career. The organ on here and harpsichord along with any other keyboards, like melltron which I mentioned, are quite atmospheric and always help add to give a brighter texture. The back album cover does have a short description about the group of "love and psychedelia" here with brighter sounds and that definitely is the case on an all around great album. Miller still rocked and contributed the folk-rock "Roll With It" ("There's a plane goin' down the runway…believe I better go with it/There's a train goin' by the highway… believe I better roll with it") with its wailing guitar solo.
Lyrics — 9
For beginning young musicians I would have to say the lyrics and music all around on here are quite astonishingly good. There is a good sense of light free form flowing words and random little bits that are sang along with the whole mellotronic orchestral sound that hums throughout "In My First Mind" in a very calm and soothing unearthly medley, the beat on there held down by Tim Davis are really good. Steve Miller's efforts from writing resonate in a side one free-for-all that launches with the keys and swirls of the title track and segues smoothly through "Pushed Me Through It" and "In My First Mind," bound for the epic, hazy, lazy, organ-inflected "The Beauty of Time Is That It's Snowing," which ebbs and flows in ways that are continually surprising, a lot of the first half of the album is mainly instrumental including, "The Beauty of Time Is That It's Snowing" which gives more interesting snowing windy type of sound effects along with the organ rumbling and a recording of some daily activities of people walking in some public place leading into some nice psychedelic bluesy guitar in the "Psychedelic BB" part that pays homage to the B.B. King. Though the blues-rock guitarist from Wisconsin rose through the ranks in the fertile Bay Area psychedelic rock scene, Miller's first album was recorded by producer Glyn Johns at London's Olympic Studios.
Miller and his band (originally Boz Scaggs on guitar/lead and background vocals, Lonnie Turner on bass/background vocals, Jim Peterman on mellotron and organ/background vocals, and Tim Davis on drums/lead and background vocals) married blues guitar licks to hazy, lysergic melodies. The centerpiece of "Children of the Future" is the side-long suite which opened the LP, primarily written by Miller. The second side of the album really has a more pop/rhythm and blues and rock type of approach to it and at a less sluggish pace leaving behind the folk psychedelic mellotron jam. "Baby's Callin' Me Home" is a more pop song with a harpsichord and sparse instrumentation throughout but still very catchy written by Boz Scaggs who was a member of this band at the time and who would later be a renowned musician in his own right, he would release his second album the next year in 1969 with a harmonious set of vocals. Once again on the more "rock blues" laden second half, there are more effects, some sound effects and the tracks notably merge together, on the vinyl you can see the small amount of space in the "joint" between the tracks. So after "Baby's Callin' Me Home" it all fades and merges into the more all out psych freakout of a bluesy blue eyed soul "Steppin' Stone" not to be confused with The Monkees hit of the same name.
The second side overall does carry a more traditional feel while the tracks still fade and merge together. "Steppin' Stone" is a raucous, heavy-handed blues freakout with a low-riding bass and guitar breaks that angle out in all directions and reminds me of "Space Cowboy" which would be soon to come and done in the same vain from "Brave New World" in 1969. The album is yields more quality rhythm and blues with some killer organ on "Junior Saw It Happen" and a couple of R&B covers, "Fanny Mae" with a spectacular organ solo then the slow-burning "Key to the Highway" with more bluesy jamming. This is an excellent performance and an almost perfect debut with great playing from all musicians and nice soul vocals.
Overall Impression — 10
"Children of the Future" was a brilliant debut. And while it is certainly a product of its era, it's still a vibrant reminder of just how the blues co-opted the mainstream to magnificent success. The new reissue adds one bonus track, the shimmering non-LP single "Sittin' in Circles," written by Barry Goldberg of The Electric Flag which is another great band of the time featuring guitarist Mike Bloomfield. The album definitely produced excellent folk rock type tunes in a rhythm and blues blue eyed soul fashion, having a clean free sounding peace and love psychedelia side while offering the blues fashion common during the time with a low down dirty Hendrix wah and fuzz in "Steppin' Stone" a great bluesy tune and more wailing Hendrix reminiscent soloing, I mean so many guitar greats including Steve Miller himself were greatly influenced by the legend and this album is another piece of history of how Hendrix helped influence more mainstream pop rock music and help make it better. I will say overall "Roll With It" and "Steppin' Stone" my favorite track with a freewheeling rock and roll attitude and sound. Somewhat of a Grateful Dead type of California psych sound but coming in from all different angles in a more up front pop rock sense, this album can really range. "Anthem of the Sun," "Quicksilver Messenger Service" both of 1968 and "Santana" from 1969 are also good examples of great music that came from this era.