Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Miles Davis
Miles Davis in Concert

Released 1973 on Columbia
Reviewed by maningrey, 21/04/2014ce

Miles Davis issued a plethora of material during his funk rock 70's heyday. It can be a bit intimidating to get your head round it all but frankly the best thing to do is just buy it all and let it wash over you. Even though he replays the same themes over and over again they are always different and he always managed to keep things interesting by changing band members and instrumental textures.

Out of all his albums this is probably the closest he got got almost pure electronic music in the Stockhausen sense. The first track Rated X was always one of his most intimidating tunes and the album blasts off with a dense swampy version that echos Stockhausen works such as Kontakte. Every instrument is warped through various effects pedals and it is some times difficult to tell who plays what. Part of enjoying this music is to put aside the old Western idea of what music is supposed to represent and revel in the textures and polyphony. I listened to and read about Pygmy music and realised, whether intentional or not, that a lot of Miles's funk music worked in a similar way. A communal music that striped away people's preconceived notions of the "star" soloist and the rigidity of Western harmony. Miles possibly heard these elements in New Orleans music of the time which is of course heavily influenced by African traditional music.

This concert features the key players of his later, maybe more celebrated, funk metal albums such as Dark Magus and Agharta such as Reggie Lucas and Michael Henderson but adds strange colouration with the addition of sitar and keyboards, something he would soon abandon, leaving all the chordal work to the rhythm guitar and his own more percussive keyboards. The material is based in the main on the Jack Johnson and On The Corner albums, it is a good deal funkier and more similar to work by James Brown and Sly Stone as befits the aims of the material. However it has an uneasy constantly shifting weave of instruments that keep it from "getting down" in a conventional sense. The band had perhaps not fully jelled as the previous albums were such studio creations that they were tricky to recreate live so much of the playing has a tense nervous quality to it. There is less of a rock and roll edge to it, particular in the guitar work which is only handled by Reggie Lucas and is pure funk rhythm. Peter Cosey's Hendrixy freak outs had not yet become a part of the band and from this show you can see what an influence his work had on later recordings.

This brings Henderson's mammoth bass to the for, his playing is often lost in later albums, but he is the main focus here much as he was on On The Corner. As a bass player this is possibly why I enjoy this cd so much and the intricate grooves and rhythmic placements of his and Al Foster come to the surface.

Miles himself is surprisingly not the main focus but you can sense his presence in every element of the music, gentle (and sometimes not so gently) guiding the progress of each tune. He will rise up through the mix like a muezzin call playing through his wah wah and sometimes a savage burst of dissonant keys will shake things up when he gets bored, possibly leaning on Cedric Lawson's keyboard.

Over all I would say this is a transitional album but I treasure it as a unique line up playing some of my favourite of his studio tracks live. Live Evil is possibly a better starting point for those new to live electric Miles but it is is definitely worth picking up once you caught the bug.

The album was issued as 4 medleys but the actual tracks are:
Rated X
Honky Tonk
Theme from Jack Johnson
Black Satin/The Theme
Right Off/The Theme

maningrey @ london school of sound

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