Album Review: Frankie Miller – Falling In Love / A Perfect Fit (1979)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recording process for Frankie Miller’s sixth solo album “Falling In Love”, which was re-titled “A Perfect Fit” for its American release, was a far lower key affair than some of his previous ones. There was no Allen Toussaint, no fancy New York or New Orleans studio, and no band either. The Full House band had long been disbanded and even the main contributers to the last album had gone on to pastures new. Recorded in Surrey, England during the summer of 1978 at the studios of producer Dave Mackay the only real permanent fixture apart from Miller and Mackay was guitarist Steve Simpson. Simpson had played previously with Meal Ticket and was to go on to be an integral part of Roger Chapman’s success in later years. The cast list of session musicians featured Paul Carrack on keyboards who had been on the previous album “Double Trouble” and Chris Slade on drums who would go on to be a member of Uriah Heep and AC/DC as well as being a founder member of The Firm with Paul Rodgers, Jimmy Page and Tony Franklin.

As was becoming the norm for a Miller release the tracks on the album were equally divided between original Miller compositions and covers of other peoples tunes. The first of the self penned tunes ‘When I’m Away From You’ kicks the album off and is a quite fast paced country rock tune with a nice acoustic intro. A typically gritty but heartfelt lyric from Miller gives the song an almost bittersweet feel that remains throughout the album. The track was covered in later years by numerous artists including Kim Carnes and The Bellamy Brothers. Released as a single from the album early in January 1979 it almost scraped into the UK top forty but fell a few places short. The first of the covers is Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ and it is surely the oddest choice of cover in Miller’s career. His leanings towards soul music were obvious and well known but reggae was something of a departure from the norm. In truth this version only has a slight reggae calypso beat and is backed by what sounds curiously like a glockenspiel although there is no mention of it on the credits. It doesn’t sit comfortably on the album for me but that is quite possibly due to the session musician mentality of playing to instructions on a style of music they are not familiar with. The live versions of the song have a more soul like bluesy feel and give some insight into why it was attempted in the studio. ‘If I Can Love Somebody’ is one of the highlights on the album and features a typically Miller melacholy vocal which is absolutely dripping in feeling and emotion over a lone piano …. it is probably what Rod Stewart wishes he sounded like and is amongst Miller’s best ever vocal performances. The string section in the middle is a nice break before Miller is back taking the song to its close with a vocal that would put a lump into the throat of even the most stone hearted listener. It was written by US singer songwriter John Hiatt who never actually recorded it himself. Whether this was because after he had heard Miller’s version he decided he couldn’t better it I don’t know but it is certainly a good theory. The fourth track on the album ‘Darlin’ became Millers biggest hit and although it is a pleasant enough song it is a travesty that Miller is to a mainstream audience best known for what is little more than a throwaway camp fire singalong country song. It was written by Stuart Blandamer who went on to have great writing and limited recording success with the Q-Tips, the band Paul Young fronted before he hit pay dirt with his debut solo album “No Parlez”. It hit the dizzy heights of number six in the UK singles chart in the autumn of 1978 and gave Miller his only ever top ten hit. It is just a shame and one of those sad ironies that he reached the height of his fame with something that was not indicative of his regular output. I wonder what the hundreds of teenage girls who purchased the single made of the B-side ‘Drunken Nights In The City’ which was a typical Miller bar room blues from his 1975 album “The Rock”. I would guess many never played it more than the once. Curiously the track was also recorded by Welsh crooner Tom Jones who had a minor hit with it in America. The second of the self penned songs ‘And Its Your Love’ a slower composition more in keeping with his older material closes the first half of the album with another melancholy lilt.

‘A Woman To Love’ kicks off the second half and had been in the live set for a while. It is a good throwback to the Full House days and not surprisingly it is one of the best tracks on offer here and features some great horn work from Ron Asprey as well as some of the albums better guitar work. The jamming section to fade is also worthy of note as it features some great screaming vocal acrobatics. ‘Falling In Love With You’ is a folky acoustic blues again from the pen of Miller. Grammatical errors in the lyric aside it is great little tune and surely would have been a more palatable hit for Miller than ‘Darlin’ was. On the downside it probably goes on a little too long. ‘Every Time A Teardrop Falls’ is almost veering off into bluegrass gospel territory, Linda Taylor shares a lot of the vocal and its more duet than backing vocal ….. the two voices work well together and give what is in truth a fairly ordinary song a little bit of something to lift it above the ordinary. ‘Pappa Don’t Know’ is a great upbeat fun motown soul type workout and you would be forgiven for thinking it was an obscure composition from one of the soul greats. It is in fact a Miller composition and gives a great insight into his musical roots and influences.. A great bouncing rhythm is garnished with some more great horn work from Asprey and a deep vocal echo which is either Paul Carrack, a vocal group called Plain Sailing, Miller himself using studio trickery or is uncredited. Whoever or whatever it is it is a great foil to Millers velvety whisky tinged soul. ‘Good To See You’ could almost be Rod Stewart’s Sailing revisited especially during the chorus but if you can keep that song out of your mind it is a pleasant enough if not spectacular way to end the album.

The American version of the album was a curious affair. Firstly it was entitled “A Perfect Fit”. Now quite why the album needed a different title in America has never been made clear. It also completely changed the running order but kept exactly the same artwork and packaging. However the strangest thing was the omission of what in my opinion is the best track on the album ‘If I Can Love Somebody’. The only possibility I can come up with is that maybe it was something to do with the American writer John Hiatt not wanting it released in his native country before he had recorded it himself. Although that does seem a little strange. If it was down to some suit at the record company then I can only hope his career was short. The replacement track was the Holland/Dozier/Holland track ‘Something About You’ which was a hit for the Four Tops in 1965. It is perfectly suited to Miller’s style and is similar in feel to his ‘Double Trouble’ album which was released the year before. The decision to omit it from the UK version is almost as surprising as the omission of the Hiatt track from the American version. I would go as far as to say both decisions were criminal. Fortunately the CD remaster age has rectified the problem and they are both now included.

“Falling In Love” gave Frankie Miller his long awaited hit with ‘Darlin’ but also brought with it its own problems. A top ten single, countless plays on national radio, appearances in teenage girls magazines and on Top of the Pops all led to gigs being attended by a different kind of audience to the ones Miller was used to. He still maintains that the song lost him a lot of his fan base as they felt he had sold out to the teeny bopper pop brigade and the pensioners due to the cheesy schmaltz of the hit. The use of Dave Mackay as producer was also something with ultimately didn’t help Miller’s career in the way it was possibly supposed to. The musicians don’t appear to me to have been given enough room for improvisation and even Miller seems more restrained in some places. The overall feel is more geared towards pop and country than the soul, blues and rock of the earlier albums and I would guess that Mackay had more input into the choice of covers and arrangements than Miller did. Having said that it is still a great album from a great under rated singer.

 
© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM July 2011.
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About Martin Leedham

Music critic, Horse Racing Tipster, Hapless Dreamer, Defender of the Underdog
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3 Responses to Album Review: Frankie Miller – Falling In Love / A Perfect Fit (1979)

  1. David Upham says:

    Hi, Martin – thanks for the review.. thought you might know if Ain’t Got No Money – the flipside to the single release of When I’m Away from You – was recorded at these sessions, with these musicians..?

    I’ve got the single and prefer the ’78 version of Ain’t Got No Money (on the flip) to the ’75 version on The Rock – and I’m looking for a clean version of it somewhere. Like a lot of B-sides though, it seems to have slipped through the cracks..

    Incidentally, you can add Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons to your list of artists who’ve covered Ain’t Got No Money – they put it out in 1977 – and Frankie covered their 1978 hit single So Young.

    • I think it may be included on the recent five disc Chrysalis set Dave but can”t check at the moment as my copy is in a different country !!!!

      • David says:

        You mean 4-disc set.. All I’ve got to go on is the track breakdown for that at http://www.frankiemiller.net/news.htm – and Ain’t Got No Money isn’t included there. Interesting reference in an Amazon review to a 4-track EP (source for the Sail Away track on the Chrysalis compile).. but that still doesn’t put my B-side onto CD..
        Let me know if you spot it..!

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