Steve Miller has a knack for writing hit tunes. His smooth vocals, slick arrangements and catchy beats have often mixed with innovative synthesizers and harmonies.

The man who jammed with Paul McCartney and James Cotton came from a musical family. His father, George "Sonny" Miller, was an amateur recording engineer, and his aunts and uncles on his mother's side played guitar, banjo and violin.Miller's determination and drive for perfection kept him above water during his developmental years. And that same drive kept him sane throughout the constant recording and touring that came with his brain-spinning success during the mid-1970s. All of this is documented in a booklet accompanying this three-CD boxed set.

The compilation is a musical piece of history. It's an audio-photo album. The first 25-song CD reflects Miller's early years and even starts off with a recording of a 4-year-old Steve giving a concert for his friends ("Child Medley").

The next cut heard is guitar guru Les Paul - who became Miller's mentor - praising the young Miller for his performance. The third cut features T-Bone Walker, another Miller influence, playing his jazz and blues at the Miller home in 1952. (The song was recorded by Miller's father.)

The disc features previously unreleased recordings of a 15-year-old Miller and his first real band, the Marksmen Combo, doing "Candy Cain" and the Goldberg-Miller Blues Band doing another original, "Met a Little Girl on Her Way to School."

While it's interesting hearing where Miller came from, nothing matches the energy and sound of his popular tunes.

"Livin' in the U.S.A.," "Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma," "Children of the Future (The Beauty of Time . . .)" and "Space Cowboy" are among the early jewels of Miller's career.

The musical dirge of "Jackson-Kent Blues," "Your Saving Grace" and "Seasons" are also included. Former Steve Miller Band member Boz Scaggs is heard singing leads on "Steppin' Stone."

Disc 2 contains Miller's most popular tunes. "Space Intro/Fly Like an Eagle," "Take the Money and Run," "Rockin' Me," "Jungle Love," "Swingtown" and "Jet Airliner" can be found along with "The Joker," "Abracadabra" and the psychedelic hint of "Wild Mountain Honey" in this 22-song compilation.

If Disc 1 features Miller's formative years and Disc 2 the hits, Disc 3 is the blues collection.

The 10-minute "C.C. Rider/All Blues" is there, along with "Come on in My Kitchen," "The Loving Cup" and "`I Wanna Be Loved."

What's missing is anything from the band's latest release, "Wide River." It's a shame the box only goes up to 1988's "Born 2B Blue." By adding "Wide River" and "Cry, Cry, Cry," this compilation would have been complete.