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Steve Miller Band - Fly Like an Eagle Print E-mail
Monday, 17 November 2003
ImageOriginally released in 1976, this album was a classic of its time. We can assume that the original mix was performed for quad, with four speakers equidistant from the listener. Jim Gains did the mixing, while the A/D transfer was by Kevin Reeves at Capitol and mastering was performed by Peter Mew at Abbey Road - a formidable combination.

There are potential challenges when an album was mixed for quad and is played back in 5.1. For a start, there is no center front channel. This sounds like a problem, but it's really fine: quite a number of engineers mixing surround today feel that music should not have a CF channel, and as the standard HDS liner notes point out, it's an artistic decision. The other problem is that you may well be closer to the surrounds than you would have been in a quad set-up. In the case of this album, it's not a problem. Yes, you are conscious of the rear channel content being quite nearby, but the mix is so crystal clear that everything comes through fine.

It's been a long time since I've owned a (stereo) version of this album, but the surround mix sounds as if it has the same feel as the original. Thankfully, nobody thought they should conform to any significant rules about instrument placement on this mix. Although drums are across the front and much of the mix is a kind of "wrap-around stereo" (intensified by the change in rear speaker positions pulling edge elements towards the rear), there are panning-round-the-speakers effects that work quite nicely. The overall feeling is very much one of being in the midst of the band – and definitely a reminder that we could do quite creditable surround mixes in the mid-‘70s.
Some of the performances on this album are, of course, legendary. "Fly Like an Eagle" still gets plenty of airplay today (if your local classic rock station still exists, anyway), while "Wild Mountain Honey" and "Take the Money and Run" also spark memories. But did you remember this slow-driving, true-blues version of KC Douglas' "Mercury Blues," so distinct from almost any version recorded since? I didn't, and it was a happy discovery. The final track, "The Window," is unlike any other track on the album, with a virtually completely different lineup, and quite a different sound.

If you enjoyed this album at the time (or even, perhaps, if you didn’t), try it again in surround: rediscover some hits from the past and perhaps hear some things you never noticed before.

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