John Miles ‘Rebel’ Album Review

John Miles Rebel Albums Review

Feature Photo: Ralf Liebhold / Shutterstock.com

Like many rock fans, the first time we got into a musical artist was when we heard a song of theirs on the radio. For all of us who grew up in the 1970s, that happened pretty often. One either discovered music from the radio or took a chance on a really cool album cover one saw while strolling through the record aisles at your local Sam Goody’s. In 1976 I heard a song called “Highfly.” played on a local radio station. (I can’t remember which one) At first, I thought it was Elton John. Yet listening closer you could hear that the voice was different. It was somewhere between Elton John and David Bowie. The melody was incredibly powerful and the groove just punched me in the face and said “wake up boy, listen to this.” It turned out that the singer behind the song “Highfly,” was England’s John Miles. Of course, I went to my local Sam Goody’s record store at the Smith Haven mall and searched for the album.

In 1975, John Miles had signed a contract with Decca Records. The first song he recorded and released was the above-mentioned “Highfly.” Eventually, the success of the song would result in John Miles recording a full album for the label. The album Rebel would turn John Miles into a big star in the United Kingdom. In the United States, he remained relatively unknown. It was only hardcore music fans like my teenage self that discovered an artist like this and tried to turn all my other friends on to him.

The album cover for Rebel portrayed John Miles as a very James Dean looking character. Decca was of course trying to reach the American audience. It was a very basic vinyl release. It was not a gatefold album as all the information was on the back of the vinyl record jacket. There didn’t seem to be a very big budget for this release. Nonetheless, I purchased the album walked home from the mall, and was completely blown away by what I heard when I first placed it on my turntable.

Music

John Miles’ Rebel album opens up with a song called “Music.” The first few measures feature a very simple solo piano and a jaw-dropping vocal performance. Slowly, a set of strings starts to wrap beautifully around John Miles’ stunning voice.  Out of nowhere, the song morphs into a rock and roll groove led by a David Bowie style guitar riff. As the song continues onward, it bounces back and forth between an intense rock and roll groove and a thunderous but beautiful ballad-style orchestrated middle and end. Words can’t describe how intense and astonishing this piece of music can be upon first listen. Music fans in the United Kingdom ate it up. It went all the way to number three in the UK. It remains John Miles’ signature song. It’s a true gem! Sadly, it never became a hit in the United States.

Everybody Wants Some More

After being blown away by the opening track, anything that followed would have had to be a letdown I thought. However, the next song showcased another brilliantly written song full of melody and was so well produced. In fact, there was a very Beatles meets Alan Parsons sound to it among the high-end production values. I went searching for the production credits and almost knocked over my lava lamp when I saw that it was the legendary Alan Parsons who produced the record. It all started to make sense. There has to be a lot of juice there to get someone like Alan Parsons to produce an album for an unknown musical artist. John Miles’ talent filled any glass.

Highfly

The album’s third track was the song that started it all for John Miles and helped him get the chance to record a full album. The song “Highfly,” was written by Bob Marshall and John Miles. One can hear that mid-1970s sound very clearly. Dry drums, flanged guitar, and heavy backing vocals harmonies. The song “Highfly” is an incredibly catchy piece of music that never gets too old to listen to. John Miles could hit those high notes with a resonance that not many others could compete with.

You Have It All

Closing out side one of John MilesRebel albums was the stirring track “You Have It All. One can really hear the presence of Alan Parsons on this track. As amazing of a vocalist as John Miles was, he was also a very good guitar player who was responsible for all the guitar parts on the album. He also played all the piano and keyboards on the album. Bob Marshall who co-wrote many of the songs on the album played bass. The drums were handled by Barry Black. The lush string arrangments were conducted by Andrew Powell.

Rebel

Opening up side two of the album was the title track, “Rebel.” This was one of the most rocking tracks on the album. There’s a bit of a 10cc vibe to the song’s sound. John Miles‘ distinct guitar playing is front and center on this one. Of course, in the middle of the rocker is a stop that presents a very baroque-sounding string section that comes out of nowhere, It’s very interesting and entertaining songwriting. There is also a bit of madness to it.

Following the opening track on side two is the heartbreaking song “When You Lose Someone So Young.: It’s a tough listen for a lot of people. That song is followed up by the very different-sounding song “Lady Of My Life.”  This one sounds like nothing else on the album. It has a Stevie Wonder meets José Feliciano vibe. They were definitely aiming for the r&b charts with this one.

Pull The Damm Thing Down

One distinct feature of 1970s rock albums was the fact that record companies loved to close out album sides with killer epic tracks. Even though there was a reprise of “Music,” at the end of the album which was just as stunning as the opener, the true album closer was the emotionally spirited rocker called “Pull The Damn Thing Down.” This sparkling cut once again featured the musical contrasts of a fast rocking groove against the fully orchestrated ballad that bounced back and forth against each other’s styles all in one single song. The depth of these compositions juxtaposed with Alan Parsons’ illustrious production techniques and of course, an all-star musical performance by John Miles left music fans with one of the most enjoyable rock records of the classic rock era.

John Miles ‘Rebel’ Album Review article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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