By mid 1976 Frankie Miller had three albums under his belt which despite their quality had failed to make much of an impact sales wise. Miller’s new manager Keith Reid, the former Procul Harum lyricist, was of the opinion that this was partly due to Miller’s lack of activity on the touring front. Incredibly for someone so well suited for live performance Miller had never toured extensively and his live activity had been restricted to the odd show here and there around the time of the release of his albums. Subsequently Reid set about forming a touring band, initially based on the little known northern group Highway, and sent Miller off on a fifty date UK tour throughout May and June. This was just the start though as Miller and his new band, christened Frankie Miller’s Full House, spent most of the next eighteen months on the road.
The original plan was to record the Full House album live at the Roundhouse in London but problems with the sound scuppered this plan and they ended up going into the studio with Chris Thomas at the production desk in November 1976. During the preceding tour there had been a couple of personnel changes and Chrissie Stewart had returned on bass to join Ray Minhinnet on guitar, Jim Hall on the keys and Graham Deakin on drums. Some high profile special guests were also drafted in including ex Free man Rabbit Bundrick and Gary Brooker from Procul Harum who completed the keyboard duties as Hall departed before the albums completion. Chris Spedding also guested on guitar, much to the chagrin of Minhinnet who felt he was unnecessary and sounded wrong for the band. The Memphis Horns provided the brass and Peter Knight handled the orchestral arrangements.
In keeping with the earlier Miller albums “Full House” consists of a mixture of self penned compositions and carefully considered covers and standards. As with the previous album “The Rock” the opening cut ‘Be Good To Yourself’ was written by former Free bassist Andy Fraser with whom Miller had almost formed a band some years earlier. The track gave Miller his first taste of chart success reaching number twenty seven in the UK singles chart. A fast paced feel good song with some great use of the horn section it remains one of Miller’s best known songs. It was actually the first Frankie Miller song I ever heard and I was hooked straight away. The following ‘Doodle Song’ is, like ‘Highlife’ from the second album, all too brief but also brilliant. Ridiculously catchy it again features great use of the horn section and displays Miller’s love of motown. There is also a lovely little guitar riff that ensures the song bobs along nicely and keeps one foot in the country rock/blues camp. It even managed to scrape into the lower reaches of the US singles chart. Curiously the track was covered by Scotish duo The Proclaimers for their ‘best of’ album a few years ago. The superb opening of the album is completed with the first cover; John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’. This must surely be a contender for the best cover ever and knocks spots of any other version I have heard, including the original. Miller’s voice being far more suited to the raw emotion and passion in the lyric than Lennon’s ever was. ‘Searching’ suffers from following such a perfect performance but still shows off Miller’s fine voice although the song itself does get a little maudlin and dreary in places. At 4:48 it is probably a minute too long. Another cover, the Ketty Lester hit ‘Love Letters’ closed the first half of the album and once again is as good as any version recorded before or since.
The uptempo horn sound is back for the start of the second half of the album with ‘Take Good Care of Yourself’ which could almost be a slower brother of the album opener. Once again Miller’s vocal spans rock, blues, soul and motown all within three minutes. ‘Down The Honky Tonk’ is another fast paced stomping strut of a song with some nice piano and a good driving guitar. Far rockier than most of the album it provides a perfect contrast for the following ‘This Love of Mine’ which is almost Frankie does Otis. Co-written with Robin Trower it is as full of feeling as the earlier Lennon cover and features a fabulous horn break mid way through. ‘Let The Candle Light Shine’ is a more country tinged track which nods in the direction Miller was to take with ‘Darlin’ a few years later. Still good stuff though. ‘I’ll Never Live in Vain’ is another track that bobs along nicely and makes good use of the horns. It ensures the album ends on an upbeat fast tempo note as classily as it had begun.
The album hit the streets in June 1977 but before the year was out Full House had disbanded after a lengthy US tour with Foreigner and The Climax Blues Band. Change in personnel may be ever present in Frankie Miller’s backing band but one thing that never changes is the quality of the performances. Frankie Miller is up there with Paul Rodgers and Jess Roden as the best soul/rock singers Britain has ever produced and it is surely time he, along with Roden, recieved the accolades his talent deserves.