Music

Roger Miller: All Time Greatest Hits

Jason MacNeil

Roger Miller

All Time Greatest Hits

Label: Mercury
US Release Date: 2003-04-22
UK Release Date: 2003-04-21
Amazon
iTunes

Roger Miller was always a tough nut to crack when it came to defining -- too humorous to be taken seriously but often too good to be ignored. Whether it was songs talking about "bobbies on bicycles, two by two" or skating in a buffalo herd, the tunes had a certain quirky-yet-catchy quality to them. But behind each nonsensical tune, gems such as "King of the Road" or "Me and Bobby McGee" were close by. This collection of both is twenty songs deep and runs less than an hour. Thankfully, though, Miller's legacy as one of the finer, yet underrated, songwriters Nashville had to offer is in full force. And if those who have covered his songs are a measuring stick, he's in elite company with Faron Young, Ernest Tubb, and Jim Reeves to name a few.

The opening track is an enjoyable song called "Dang Me", recorded in 1964 and reaching Number 1 on Billboard's country charts. Miller's acoustic guitar is what carries this song, while Miller scats a little bit after the chorus, at times bringing to mind the late Johnny Cash throughout the number. "Dang me / Dang me / They oughta take a rope and hang me", he sings before sounding like a horse. The way Miller approached most songs was to get the most out of them in the shortest amount of time. And this is no exception, creating a toe-tapping old-time country sound. "Chug-A-Lug" is possibly the earliest binge-drinking tune on record. Another simplistic track that just ambles along like most Miller songs, the piano work is another highlight before Miller talks about doing a double back flip.

"Do Wacka Do" has more of a standard, traditional '60s country sound, despite the humorous catchphrase and more adlib scatting. "In the Summertime (You Don't Want My Love)" has a jugband aura to it and has a certain polka tone to it. It's probably the earliest of many highlights here. What's more amazing is its quick pace, sounding like two minutes at just past the minute mark. "King of the Road", probably his signature song, is a finger-snapping tune that recalls what Bobby Darin was doing during "Mack the Knife". Although this track was covered several times, including by the Proclaimers, this is still the best recording by far. "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" is basically self-explanatory. Miller, to use a Brit term, is "taking the piss" with the audience, having a laugh while still making it a good song overall.

"One Dyin' and a Buryin'" has Miller talking through the early portion before the country honky tonk takes over. And Miller drops the fun and games here for one of his better sensible tunes. "Last Word in Lonesome Is Me" only adds more proof that his talents were always apparent. "England Swings", which starts with whistling, is a brief, audible Fodor's London guide for the most part. "Let me tell you where to go, go to England-O!" Miller sings, the rhythm arrangement sparse, but again melodic. "I've Been a Long Time Leavin' (But I'll Be a Long Time Gone)" has the verse and chorus completed in thirty seconds as the singer goes into a quasi-falsetto in certain spots. It's also an early rap moment as he reaches the song's homestretch and laughs like he just swallowed the canary.

"Walkin' in the Sunshine" often resembles a fellow comedy-meets-serious performer in Ray Stevens. The tune, which cracked the Top 40 in both the pop and the country charts, features a late '60s-style organ that adds a great deal to the song. "Little Green Apples" shows Miller's skill, but if there's one drawback, it has to be how the song fades out so early, almost before tune track ends. "Me and Bobby McGee" has a certain flare to it, but doesn't measure up to Kris Kristofferson's original. Miller lets loose a tad on this track, which isn't saying that much given how tame it truly is. The ending is fully flushed out with a larger ensemble. "South" exemplifies how Miller's best work came in just talking about the mundane things like going for beer or just sitting on one's porch. This has a swing to it courtesy of horns and a subtle string section supporting it.

Miller passed away over ten years ago after a year-long battle with throat cancer. While his passing came too early, this body of work should stand much longer than anyone could have hoped for. The line between quirkiness and corny is thin, but Miller toed it better than anyone around.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image