Frankie Miller’s eighth solo album “Standing On The Edge” was his first away from the Chrysalis label and was also at that point his rockiest and most polished effort. The bar room backing or stripped back blues and soul of the earlier albums being replaced with a polished, sleek and far more rocky production. Musically and arrangement wise this was more akin to Bad Company, Foreigner or even Whitesnake than the old blues and soul feel of its predecessors. Thats to take nothing away from those albums by the way as each and every one of them was a classic in its own right.
After leaving Chrysalis Miller signed with Capitol and soon found himself in the deep south of America at the Muscle Shoals Studio recording with three quarters of the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as his backing band. The three in question being Dave Hood on bass, Barry Beckett on the keyboards and Roger Hawkins on the drums. For some reason house guitarist Jimmy Johnson was not used and the guitar parts were provided by Pete Carr, Chris Spedding, Wayne Perkins and Miller himself. Beckett handled the production duties assisted by Mary Saums who has since gone on to become a best selling science fiction author.
The majority of the tracks were co written by Miller and former Free bassist and long time friend Andy Fraser or Miller alone. Opening track ‘Danger Danger’ is a typical fast paced ‘rock band’ opener which was penned by Miller and immediately highlights the difference in production values between this and the earlier albums. Everything here is geared up for American FM radio, crisp drums and high guitars giving it a real American rock feel. This is accentuated even more by the title track which is the second offering and the first of the Miller/Fraser compositions. It is basically a Bad Company track with Miller singing instead of Paul Rodgers and despite being the shortest track on offer is one of the highlights. Had it been recorded by Bad Company or Foreigner it would have been a rock radio classic by now even though I doubt either could have performed it better. ‘Zap Zap’ is another fast paced rock tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Bad Company or even a pre hair metal Whitesnake album. Things steady down a little for ‘To Dream The Dream’ which is a slower paced but still fairly uptempo song of the type favoured by American bands and rockier singer songwriters. Think Springsteen, Cougar Mellancamp or even Van Morrison for example. ‘Don’t Stop’ is possibly the heaviest track on offer and is in many ways pure heavy rock. Lyrically too it nods heavily in the direction of David Coverdale with lines like “… kiss kiss lick me, soaking wet”, “leave your dress on that chair” and ‘wrap your legs round push and pull got me coming on you like a raging bull’. With an infectious beat and melody it really is a case of Miller out rocking the out and out rock boys at their own game.
Another anthem like acoustically driven ballad of the kind favoured by American radio ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’ kicks off the second half of the album. Whilst it is quite possibly the weakest track on the album it is still of the highest calibre and could in no way be described as filler. ‘Firin’ Line’ takes us back to a rockier sound and is probably one of the more British sounding tracks on the album and features a short but tasteful guitar solo. Thinking about it the track itself is not unlike Joe Lynn Turner era Rainbow. ‘Jealousy’ is easily the song that most sounds like Millers earlier output though. A simple but emotional vocal over a mostly minimalist musical backing. Once again though there is a beautifully understated crying blues guitar solo towards the end which builds up in the background whilst Miller is singing before taking off and claiming the limelight for the main part of the solo before the voice returns and in tandem with the guitar takes it to a climax. ‘It’s All Coming Down Tonight’ is another American radio friendly mid paced rocker which was performed by Joan Jett and Michael J Fox in the film Light of Day. It wasn’t the only track from the album to appear in a film though as opening track ‘Danger Danger’ was featured in Super Sucker. The final track on the album ‘On My Way’ may well be the highlight, it certainly is for me anyway, as it perfectly combines the talents of songwriting partners Miller and Fraser. It is a lyric and vocal typical of Miller, full of bittersweet hope, emotion and melancholy regret. Musically it is the closest Fraser gets to recreating the feel of a Free song. Which is a curious little aside as of course there was a Free track of the exact same title composed by Fraser and Paul Rodgers. It is also noticable that the musicians and producers have made no attempt to Americanise the sound on this particular track and it is all British blues rock of the seventies in feel and delivery. It could almost have been written for The Rumbledown Band the short lived group Fraser and Miller had with Paul Kossoff in the mid seventies.
“Standing on The Edge” is an album that surely deserves to have been heard by a wider audience. At the time of its release, 1982, this was the type of album that was very in vogue and quite why Capitol never managed to promote it above many of the lesser but similar offerings that were around at the time is yet another example of how Frankie Miller has not had good fortune of many of his contemporaries. The excuse that he was too similar to Bob Segar and that Segar had cornered the market for this sound is lame to say the least. This has far more power than anything Segar has ever put out and Miller is twenty times the singer Segar will ever be …. and I actually think Segar is quite good so that will give you some idea of my opinion of Frankie Miller.
© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM June 2011