What does it sound like?:
I’m slowly working my way through Miles Davis’ recording career in a haphazard fashion, jumping back and forth and just following my nose.
This LP dates from 1970, and is the result of Davis’ usual working practice by that time, jamming for hours in the studio and allowing producer Macero Parker free reign to edit down the results to two sides of vinyl.
It’s much, MUCH looser and rawer than the lush sound of the preceding, more well known LPs, In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Probably due to the fact that he’s ditched the triple Fender Rhodes piano attack and the principle sound is just guitar, bass and drums, with the occasional trumpet skronk over the top. There’s a little Herbie Hancock organ solo in there, but apparently that was just the result of Herbie wandering into the studio halfway through a jam and having a little noodle.
The drums are rock drums, Billy Cobham I believe. The guitar by John McLaughlin is shockingly raw – the hoary old anecdote goes that Davis asked him to play guitar as if he’d never played before, so he sounds like Pete Townsend.
If you listen to this with your jazz head on, you’ll think this sounds like a brave, new muscular sound.
But if you listen to this with a rock and roll head, it actually sounds a little flat and passé. Like a bunch of jazz players trying to copy ’68 Hendrix, Can or Velvet Underground but unable to truly let loose. In that way, it reminds me in a funny way of ’50s British session musicians (schooled principally in jazz and swing) trying to recreate US rock and roll but ending up sounding twee (see Cliff vs Elvis, for example).
So I’m unconvinced so far, but it might grow on me. It’s pleasant enough, and I haven’t played it loud in the car yet, where it might truly shine.
What does it all *mean*?
It means I’m probably going back to Sketches of Spain for a while, which is truly otherworldly, innovative music, unashamed of its own lushness.
Goes well with…
Moving, not sitting. Probably best to enjoy on a long walk or a long drive. And not in company.
Might suit people who like…
The kind of bluesy, aimless jams that make up a lot of Hendrix vault stuff. And possibly… drugs (am I wrong in detecting a slightly stoned vibe to this recording?).