70 FROM ’70 — THE TOP TEN — #3

3.  MILES DAVIS — BITCHES BREW

It shimmers, it growls. It moans and howls. There is glowing radiance and dirty work.

With this double album—sometimes mesmerising and occasionally jolting—Miles Davis changed both jazz and popular music. Having done cool, modal and progressive (all that restlessness!), Miles and producer Teo Macero engineered this vast work from jams, improvisations and compositions played in the studio by a large cast of musicians, most of whom became major players in the emerging jazz-rock scene. Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter formed Weather Report, Chick Corea created Return To Forever, John McLaughlin lit the fuse of Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Davis absorbed the white-hot energy of eruptions in soul and funk, the exploratory psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix, and the spirit of musical adventure wafting through the early years of the new decade. Bitches Brew isn’t easy work to begin with, but it pays generously. There’s a bonus, too: the fabulous, powerful cover art by Mati Klarwein (featured previously here, with extra info).

In his (almost as legendary) cover notes, Ralph J. Gleason wrote,

it will never be the same again now, after in a silent way and after BITCHES BREW. listen to this. 
how can it ever be the same?

For those wanting more more more Brew, the Columbia ‘Complete’ series are sprawling, fascinating documents of the master’s explorations. The Bitches Brew release is almost overwhelming in content, but revelatory too. (I believe a two-LP set of session material is slated for the upcoming RSD.)

Have you sampled this heady brew?

 

32 comments

  1. I was expecting this at #1!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And fair enough too, G! Would it be for you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I made a 1970 list I would probably put jazz off to the side as not enough in my wheelhouse. I do enjoy Davis fusion stuff though – In A Silent Way is a favourite.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes indeed (re In A Silent Way).
          Although I have a lot of jazz, there’s not the coverage that I have for pop/rock. If I attempt “71 FROM ’71” I think a couple of sub-categories might be helpful.

          Like

  2. The music remains hard to describe yet Bitches Brew rewards repeated listening even fifty years after its release.
    It just had to be in the top three.

    BTW: I think a Teo Macero playlist would add spice to another weekend in lockdown.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just looked up Teo Macero’s production credits. There’s a whole lot of top shelf jazz there. Enough for a couple of heady weekends I reckon!
      Pleased to note your concurrence with the placing of B’s B, DD. 🙂

      Like

      1. BB a major in any league.
        Teo Macero – Miles, Monk and Mingus in my deck with Nefertiti my first choice.
        A raspberry, coconut almond cake with vanilla and all spice the product. Baking in teo goodness now.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Nefertiti has climbed my Miles ladder steadily over the years. A delicious cake for company might just take it to the top.

          Like

  3. I must buy an album featuring Teo M. as a leader. I’ll have a browse later.
    Meanwhile my excitement grows in anticipation of the announcement of the next two albums.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hand-wringing, isn’t it? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Time is being bent in stage 4 lockdown, so it feels like a week since your Bitches Brew post. Thus I was looking for an update. (Yes. Deliciously adolescent isn’t it. Another unexpected consequence of Covid-19).
        Meanwhile, Dance Cadaverous has ended and the silence following Wayne Shorter’s hypnotic compositions for Speak No Evil is pulling me back to the present. It’s an aching quietude.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Beautiful prose.
          Less lovely is the discovery that the VC collection lacks Speak No Evil. That needs to be remedied, methinks.

          Like

  4. Not a bad LP.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t help thinking that someone should have noticed this fact before I did.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Some people are simply ahead of the curve, Joe.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Clearly outside my core wheelhouse and definitely something that would be acquired taste. That being said, how can you not recognize the musicianship on that album and how Miles Davis pushed the envelope!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, Christian! (Persons interested in expanding their wheelhouse 🙂 could be encouraged to check out B’s B’s predecessor, the accessible and superb In A Silent Way, covered here)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “It shimmers, it growls. It moans and howls.” That says it all. I’m grateful for the link back to your November 2014 post about Mati Klarwein…somehow I’d missed that. And I don’t think I’d ever noticed the ‘Directions in Music by Miles Davis’ perched above the album’s title.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think Miles new he was going boldly where no jazz musician had gone before.
      As for Mati K, although some of it is definitely ‘of its era’, I find his work quite mesmerising. When i win the lottery (which, I concede, may take a while as I believe one must purchase a ticket), when, as I say, the money is in the bank, I will tour the world (masked) and find all Klarwein’s LP covers. So start that list of East coast record shops, JDB.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice choice, Bruce.
    This one also features my favourite behind-the-scenes memorandum, “Miles just called and said he wants this album to be titled, Bitches Brew. Please advise.”
    !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One hip motherf+@7er (as Miles himself might have said).
      !

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I struggle with this album, firstly there’s a lot of it and secondly the percussion gets on my nerves for some reason I imagine someone piling up sandbags. Lot more love for silent way and it’s predecessor ( in the sky?). I tend to feel it’s my fault all the critics seem to love BB

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many do revere B’s B, for sure. There is however, some dissent. I recall, not long after first tackling it myself, watching a doco where a music critic of African-American background emphatically stated that he would rather have his hands nailed to a table than listen to it again.
      IASW is an all time favourite in VC land.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think we’ve been down this road before and we will go again.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Agree on IASW there. Just sublime…I listened to BB again last night to inform my comment here. Trying to avoid the temptation of “going back” and the nostalgia when I first heard it. Last night though, a Sunday, and with my IKEA bookshelf speaker and the volume really high man, it filled the house nicely. Kind of reawakened my love of it and didn’t feel quite as weird as it has in the past. I used to save it for very special, late night purposes. I don’t see it as a morning record for sure but maybe I’ll pull it out more often now. Monday’s I make a habit of ending my day with Miles (used to be Kind of Blue); tonight I’ll put on IASW. Thanks Bruce! Top of the morning to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Monday Miles. Love it Bill. One of the things I find fascinating and mysterious about music is how something that, when first heard, caresses the ear like barbed wire on a tin roof, becomes, over time, something comforting and familiar. Or comforting because it is familiar.
      Stay well mate. (And try Nefertiti).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Yeah you too! Stay well…and I’ve tried Nefertiti, I’ll try it again. Thanks for that, good observation with the comfort in barbed wire.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        And hey just FYI, the Nefertiti is the bees knees late summer, somehow…thanks for that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Pleasure. Summer evenings… ahhh.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Great great album. And along the way my copy disappeared! Time to restock… – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bet Marty. It’s such a timeless album I can easily imagine a joyful reunion with a brand spanking new copy!

      Liked by 1 person

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