Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra

Steve Miller Band - AbracadabraSo…what if someone took the traditions of rockabilly and the blues and shoehorned them into a new-wave sound? Wouldn’t that be cool? This seems to have been the train of thought pushing the Steve Miller Band’s Abracadabra down the tracks 20-odd years ago, and for those who picked it up on the basis of the truly cool title track (which, at the time, was a huge single, absolutely inescapable on radio), the bulk of the album may have been a major disappointment. In hindsight, it sure was for me.

That title track, though, deserves some praise of its own. “Abracadabra”, the song, is one of those staples of classic-’80s-stations playlists that simply can’t be removed without said station losing all credibility. Its combination of icy ’80s synths and red-hot guitar licks is hard to put away without a repeat listening. Some stations in more conversative areas of the country might have forgone this ’80s treasure due to the “black panties with an angel’s face” line in the lyrics, but for the most part this song got tons of airplay. And it sounded so cool, it earned every repeat it got. For the record, this is the slightly-extended version that didn’t get as much spin as the radio edit did (it’s got a longer solo), so if you know “Abracadabra” only from a best-of-the-’80s compilation, you’re in for a surprise here.

“Cool Magic” runs a distant second for songs with a similarly new sound on this album, but the rest of Abracadabra – the album, not the song – chafes a bit with me, reeking of lost potential. Dropping 2 out of 4some newfangled effects on traditional rockabilly and blues riffs does not a new sound make, and in any case, Dave Edmunds did it better on Information a year later. Still, this is a rare case where I’ll recommend an entire album to you if only on the basis of its one extraordinary single. It’s just too bad that Abracadabra the album wasn’t as beguiling as “Abracadabra” the song.

Order this CD

  1. Keeps Me Wondering Why (3:45)
  2. Abracadabra (5:08)
  3. Something Special (3:33)
  4. Give It Up (3:38)
  5. Never Say No (3:39)
  6. Things I Told You (3:20)
  7. Young Girl’s Heart (3:38)
  8. Goodbye Love (2:57)
  9. Cool Magic (4:26)
  10. While I’m Watching (3:26)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1982
Total running time: 37:30