The Electric Explorations
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By Paul Tingen

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Miles Beyond contains elaborate descriptions and analysis of 30 electric Miles Davis albums (almost 60 CDs in total). Here are some recommendations for those who want to further acquaint themselves with this wonderful music. By clicking on the album covers you are linked to the page where you can order the album in question. All links open in new windows.

The first fully realized expression of Miles's search for combining jazz with rock, folk, and soul influences. The album's introverted, tender, and minimalist sound has become a blueprint for ambient music. Clever editing and looping by producer Teo Macero expanded some very sparse musical material to a mesmerizing whole, while John McLaughlin's understated playing is one of the highlights of his career.

The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions 3-CD boxed set contains much high-quality additional material, is beautifully packaged, has interesting liner notes, and sounds great.
In A Silent Way

Bitches Brew
The Big Bang of jazz-rock. Miles further developed the concept of In A Silent Way (three keyboard players, and McLaughlin on guitar), working with two drummers, two bassists, and Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet, The boiling brew of disparate ingredients resulted in a tour de force that hit the 1970s music world like a bomb, and still reverberates today. The original 2LP/2CD set contains few weak moments.

The 1998 4-CD boxed set The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions has one CD with mostly redundant material, but contains another CD with excellent additional music, and the remixes sound better than the original.

"I could put together the greatest rock and roll band you ever heard," boasted Miles in December 1969. Five months later he proved his point with a small ensemble featuring Stevie Wonder's bassist Michael Henderson and John McLaughlin on heavily distorted rock guitar. "Right Off" is a glorious, high-energy boogie, with some amazing playing by Miles. "Yesternow" makes elegant and spacious use of the bass riff from James Brown's "Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud." This exhilerating album is the closest Miles ever came to playing straight rock 'n roll.

The 6-CD boxed set The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions was released in 2003. The 6-CD set is indispensible for genuine fans of this album, but the original version contains almost everything that's essential for most.
For more info read Miles Beyond's in-depth article
The Jack Johnson Sessions.
A Tribute to Jack Johnson

Presented as the follow-up to Bitches Brew (the cover also features the art work of Mati Klarwein), Live-Evil takes Jack Johnson several steps further. Miles's regular live sextet is augmented by John McLaughlin for one live performance in December 1970. Although Keith Jarrett makes his mark on electric piano and organ, once they hit their stride the music is dominated by the rock and funk riffing of Michael Henderson and John McLaughlin, propelled by Jack DeJohnette's driving beat. Many of producer Teo Macero's edits disturb the flow, but otherwise this well-recorded set contains much great music.

Dedicated to Duke Ellington, who died in 1974, the centerpiece of this album is undoubtedly the 32-minute epic "He Loved Him Madly," whose 'spacious quality,' became the benchmark to which Brian Eno frequently returned in his ambient experiments. Other highlights are "Calypso Frelimo," which comes closest to the way the legendary 1973-75 sounded live, and the riveting blues-funk of "Honky Tonk" from 1970. The rest is a rather mixed bag. "Billy Preston" is an interesting funk-exercise, but the abrasive "Rated X" is likely to grate on many people's ears.
Get Up With It

The registration of a live concert in Japan on February 1, 1975, this is the most fully realized expression of the direction Miles Davis was pursuing with his 1973-75 band. This is how far Miles came in his musical explorations that ended with his collapse in 1975, and it is very far indeed. Pete Cosey's scorched earth solo guitar playing still sounds futuristic 25 years later, while the funky rhythm section of Reggie Lucas, Michael Henderson, Al Foster, and Mtume kicks some serious ass. Sonny Fortune is great on flute and saxophone, and Miles is also in excellent shape. If you have adventerous ears and there's only one electric album you want to buy, make it this masterpiece. Or, as Thom Jurek states in a review on the AllMusic site, "This is the greatest electric funk-rock jazz record ever made—Period." No argument there, especially since Jurek appears to have studied Miles Beyond in great detail...

Recorded hours after Agharta, Pangaea doesn't quite reach to the same heights because Miles had become unwell, and the band could not get up to full speed after already having a 2-hour concert under their belt. Aside from the intense opening section, the music is more low-key than Agharta with several sections where nothing much is happening. There are nevertheless many great moments during this evening concert, for instance the bluesy second section of "Zimbabwe," and several wonderful solos by Cosey. The deeply melancholic and yet light-footed jazz-swing section at the end of the second CD is also pure joy.

In 1998 producer and bassist Bill Laswell re-mixed original multi-track tapes from electric Miles tracks from 1969, 1972, and 1974, and combined the results in a suite. His versions of "Rated X" and Black Satin" are revelations. Enhanced by late 20th century production techniques and mix perspectives this previously obscure music suddenly reveals all its meaning and beauty. Another bonus are the two previously unreleased tracks, "What If," and "Agharta Prelude Dub," while Laswell's reworking of In A Silent Way is gorgeous. The only track that is weaker than the original is the trunctuated version of "He Loved Him Madly."

This CD contains material from Miles Davis's comeback concerts in June and July 1981, which were among the most publicized musical events of the decade. Miles had lost tone and strength during his absence, but his capacity to put a top-level band together from mostly unknown musicians and lead them to great things was still in full force. Bassist Marcus Miller, percussionist Mino Cinelu, and guitarist Mike Stern were real finds, and together with drummer Al Foster and saxophonist Bill Evans they put down excellent versions of new material such as "Jean-Pierre" and "Kix," while "My Man's Gone Now" from Gershwin's Porgy & Bess," is a masterpiece.
We Want Miles

Star People
Star People contains the most creative and groundbreaking music that Miles created during the 1980s with his live band. He'd come up with the idea of recording and transcribing the solos of especially his guitarists Mike Stern and John Scofield, and using their abstract, often highly chromatic lines as melodies for pieces of music. Combined with Marcus Miller's funky bass-lines, this resulted in strange but exhilerating 'chromatic funk.' In addition, the title track is a return to Miles's blues roots, while "U 'n' I" is a funky round with a child-like theme.

Miles's pop album, so don't expect any pioneering stuff. With that in mind, it's possible to appreciate this album for what it is and have fun with it. The title track is one of the best officially issued expressions of the 'chromatic funk' direction, while "Ms. Morrisine" is a great quasi-reggae work-out with John McLaughlin in a star role. In addition there are three covers of pop songs, the most famous Miles's versions of Toto's "Human Nature" and Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time." Both became signature songs that he performed live until his death in 1991.
You're Under Arrest

The 1980s follow-up to Miles's celebrated orchestral collaborations with Gil Evans in the late 1950s. This orchestral work, composed by the Danish composer/trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, is a genuine tour de force, or as Miles put it, a "motherfucker." Although some of the rhythms are a little stiff, there's amazing inventiveness and richness in this music, especially the glacial beauty of "White" and the pastoral elegance of "Green." John McLaughlin (once again), and Miles are the star soloists. Aura contains some of Miles's best playing of the decade.

Almost entirely written and played by Marcus Miller, this could have been a Miller solo-album in all but name. Miles's presence nevertheless dominates this album, humanizing the synthesizers and drum machines. Pioneering in the mid 1980s and one of the decade's defining albums, some of the music sounds dated today, but several of the tracks still stand out like timeless classics, like the majestic "Tutu," the moody "Portia," and the gloriously swinging "Full Nelson."

Again almost entirely composed by Marcus Miller (with some help from George Duke and John Bigham), this is the follow-up to Tutu. Because of the inclusion of many more live musicians, and Miles's direction to Miller to use go-go and zouk influences, this has a very different, much brighter and more upbeat feel. Highlights are the infectious "Catémbe," the sparkling "Jo-Jo," and the ballads "Amandla" and "Mr. Pastorious." Miles plays some beautifully lyrical open trumpet over jazz swing on the latter.

Eleven years after Miles's death, Warner Brothers finally released some of the excellent concerts Miles played in the last of years of his life, documenting much music that had previously only been available on increasingly-hard-to-get bootlegs. What's more, this 20-CD set also includes two CDs with a concert Miles gave in 1973 with his 'funk collective,' featuring Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas, Michael Henderson, Mtume, Al Foster, and in this case Dave Liebman on saxophone and flute. It is the only officially documented live music of this band from 1973–a few months after it was formed–and especially the seamless lyricism of the second disc is pure joy. In addition there are four discs of excellent 'chromatic funk' from the 1984 band, featuring John Scofield on guitar, Darryl Jones on bass, and Al Foster on drums. Two discs with the first official documentation of guitarist Robben Ford's stint in Davis's band in 1986 are also of special value, with the guitarist stretching well beyond where he would normally go. The 20th—bonus—disc, containing part of a concert given in Nice by the small and powerful 1991 band, with Deron Johnson on keyboards and Richard Patterson on bass, is excellent, even as Prince sadly wouldn't give permission for the release of Miles's superlative cover of Prince's "Penetration." This 20-CD set does contain some duff moments—the rhythm section of the mid-1980s was often awkward and stodgy, by the late 1980s the band was drowning in keyboards, and 1989 guest vocalist Chaka Khan is far from her best—but if you can spare the cash, this is a worthwhile investment.

Live Around The World
If you can't afford the Montreux set, this CD is a partial substitute. It contains a compilation of live material recorded between 1988 - 1991, and at least gives an idea of how Miles would stretch his musicians on stage within this fairly arranged and melodic setting. Miles's playing on "Time After Time" is touching, saxophonist Kenny Garrett solos impressively throughout, and the previously unreleased "Intruder" and "Wrinkle" offer added value.

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