Monday, 25 June 2018

Miles Davis - On The Corner (1972)

Someone mentioned late 60s-70s Miles in the comments recently, which made me dig this one out.  When On The Corner got its Columbia Legacy reissue in 2000, it became my introduction to Miles Davis' electric period - and holy crap, what a choice for diving into his post '68 journey to the outer limits of jazz fusion.  Already getting a hammering from establishment jazz critics for setting his sights light years farther than theirs, by 1972 the James Brown/Sly Stone-influenced Davis cared less than zero with On The Corner, its straightahead funk cacophony and its cartoon cover by illustrator Corky McCoy (Miles' idea being to appeal to a younger African-American audience).

 If On The Corner was meant to be a record to groove to, that's not exactly easy at the outset, as the odd rhythm (the sixteenth-notes on the hi-hat are the key to following it) cuts in mid flow.  The title track - the first three minutes of the opening suite - is the kind of full-on fury that would lead to scorching live documents like Dark Magus and Agharta a few years later, with John McLaughlin's guitar and Collin Walcott's sitar wah-wahing like fighting lions.  Even as the larger 20-minute track opens up to give a bit more space, the subsequent sections deftly spliced by Teo Macero (wonder if he was ever aware of Tago Mago?), the groove doesn't calm down until the very end.

The head-shaking of the jazz critics continued as the rest of the album - that's 34 minutes - proceeded to hinge around one single bassline.  I must admit on early listens this did make me tune out, particularly on the 23 minute Helen Butte/Mr Freedom X - big mistake.  To follow these tracks closely is to hear infinite variations from the assembled players (Miles himself sticks mostly to electric organ, in his Fela-like lead shaman role), and an abundance of clever editing and other studio trickery, influenced by both Stockhausen and Paul Buckmaster  Essential, life-affirming deep groove music that the rest of the world is still catching up to.

mega / zippy

8 comments:

  1. And a record that Cabaret Voltaire, circa 1981-82, MAY have been listening to a tiny bit. Or at points blatantly ripping off to an almost comical extreme. Whichever description one prefers.

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  2. Massively influential album outside the jazz realms, as anonymous alludes to. Ask the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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    1. "Ask the Red Hot Chili Peppers."

      Must we speak to them?

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    2. No, you may just listen to their music. But word has it they're nice blokes so you might chat them up some time anyway.

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    3. I'll pass on both options, thanks.

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  3. Good pick to put some funk in the trunk.

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  4. Not Buckminster Fuller: Paul Buckmaster the strings arranger, some of whose best-known work at the time was with Bowie and The Stones, but was mostly familiar to 70s listeners through Elton John's early albums. According to wikipedia he's still involved with some of the most commercial musical acts out there: Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Train, etc.

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    1. Duh! Heatwave brain... better get that fixed. Thanks for pointing it out! :-)

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