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Rediscovering the Best of Frankie Miller

May 28, 1993|ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

There's a touch of Bob Seger and a lot of Otis Redding in Frankie Miller's raspy, soulful voice, which ought to be recommendation enough to check out Chrysalis Records' new "The Very Best of Frankie Miller" compilation.

Pop history is filled with tales of excellent singers who failed to connect commercially, but few British singers have deserved greater recognition more than Miller, who was born in Glasgow in 1950 and began his recording career in the early '70s.

Miller was backed on his debut album by Brinsley Schwarz, the invigorating British pub band whose membership at the time included Nick Lowe. Two tracks from those days, including Miller's interpretation of Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready," are included in the Chrysalis retrospective.

His next album, 1974's "High Life," was recorded in New Orleans and produced by noted writer-arranger Allen Toussaint. It contained some of Miller's finest work, including "The Devil Gun," which is also featured in the new package.

Miller's third album was even stronger--the commanding "The Rock," which is represented in the new album by the especially moving "A Fool in Love" and "Hard on the Levee." Despite all this, neither "High Life" nor "The Rock" generated enough sales to reach even the Top 200 sales chart in this country.

The Scotsman's next album, 1977's "Full House," did result in a British hit single ("Be Good to Yourself"), but the song went largely unnoticed in this country, as did "Darlin'," a second Top 10 hit in Britain. And so it has gone.

Miller still tours and records in England, but remains a neglected pop resource in the United States. If his music went largely unnoticed the first time around, this 19-song collection gives Miller a second chance to be discovered. (63 minutes, liner notes)

Other recent CDs of note:

* Frank Sinatra's "Sinatra Sings Greatest Songs From Great Britain" on Reprise. The first U.S. release of an album that Sinatra recorded in 1962 for the British market. The 11 ballads range from "The Very Thought of You" to "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." (38 minutes, new plus original liner notes)

* "The Rodgers & Hammerstein 50th Anniversary Collection" on MCA. A four-disc box set built around selections from "Oklahoma!," "Carousel" and "The King and I"--featuring members of the original Broadway productions--plus 18 versions of Rodgers & Hammerstein songs by such artists as Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and Al Jolson. (3 hours, 44 minutes, photo-essay booklet).

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