The Very Best Of Frank1e Miller (Chlysalis UK)
Frankie Miller
Burn Down the Night (Emotion/Japan)
Bill Champlin

By Allen Howie

If you've never heard the whiskey-voiced R&B served up by Scotland's Frankie Miller, this new collection will show you why big names like Bob Seger and Rod Stewart have cited him so often as a favorite. And if you're familiar with Miller's records, this compilation. will be a welcome reminder of a talent who's languished far too long in the twilight zone of critical praise and radio neglect.

The seventeen tracks that make up this anthology are drawn from two decades of great albums. While fans will miss some of their personal favorites (I think the omission of "Gladly Go Blind" and "To Dream the Dream" should be felony offenses) every selection shows Miller at his soulful best. Highlights include his own "When I'm Away From You," the rousing "Be Good To Yourself" (which made it into the Top 40 in Britain) and a magnificent cover of Marvin Gaye's "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" that should make pretenders like Michael Bolton hang their heads in shame. And the collection includes a brand-new song, the Scottish anthem "Caledonia," which may be a sign that Miller's career will have a second act after all. EMI has plans to release a version of this album in the U.S. later this year, but which songs will appear remains to be seen. Until then, The Very Best of Frankie Miller is among our coolest imports.

A dozen years ago, Bill Champlin cracked the Top 40 with a ballad written by Alan Thicke called 'Sara" (not the Jefferson song of the same name). That album, Runaway, was one of the bestof the year, with its cool urban blend of jazz and pop. Champlin has since joined stadium schlock-meisters Chicago, giving them the only shred of credibility they have left.

Champlin's new solo album, the Japanese project Burn Down the Night, finds the singer/player beginning to feel the effects of his time in radio-rock purgatory. The new record lacks some of the rhythmic urgency and lean dynamic feel that made Runaway shine so brightly. That's the bad news. The good news is that Champlin is still a talent, and on the new album he's written a batch of songs that stand head and shoulders above Chicago records from the last decade. From ballads like the acoustic farewell of "The Thunder" and the pointed "Same Old Song" to guitar-driven rockers like "In Love Too Long," Bill Champlin proves that he still has something to say and a potent way of saying it. And luckily, the same Japanese label has also reissuedt he long-out-of-print Runaway, which sounds -better than ever on CD.