The Abstractionist's Music Reviews

Go down

The Abstractionist's Music Reviews

Post by Abstractionist on Sat Jul 10, 2010 8:17 am


tracklisting

o1. pharaohsdance

o2. bitchesbrew

o3. spanishkey

o4. johnmclaughlin

o5. milesrunsthevoodoodown

o6.sanctuary

When it comes to Black music, I find the most interesting to be the sort with extraterrestrial or supernatural implications and themes. Whether Jimi Hendrix is singing the blues about how he's a "Voodoo Chile" or Sun Ra is eerily whispering (with an echoing chorus) that "There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of)," the psychedelic and metaphysical soundscapes involve me the most. Such is the sentiment when I listen to Miles Davis's most controversial and compelling album.

Miles Davis always has been considered one of the greatest within the jazz community, his name often uttered in the same breath as John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Not only had he managed to posit himself in the forefront of nearly every major movement in jazz, yet in a number of cases, Miles Davis became the face of various movements with his cool persona. Cool Jazz, a slick, jazz-nocturne style genre was spearheaded by one of the first of Miles Davis's remarkable releases aptly titled, "Birth of the Cool". With "Birth of the Cool," Miles' prolific career was birthed, he becoming jazz in its various manifestations, perhaps fully recognized with the release of "Bitches Brew" decades later.

"Bitches Brew" - the title evoking the dark imagery of Shakespearean witches brewing malignity with their boiling kettle. The various song titles even hinting at the blackness of the album, beginning with "Pharoah's Dance". The opening track dances around the sound of congas - a frantic collage of horns and piano riffs played by Jazz kings, swooping in and out of the foreground. At times, "Pharoah's Dance" sounds like a disjointed, fractured and abstract reworking of a Fela Kuti song with his "Queens'" chants replaced by Miles Davis's trumpet. The titular track however sets the tone for the entire album - an eerie trumpet solo by Miles Davis weaves in-between the heavy piano riffs that come close to deep-groove of funk, yet never reaching that level of levity, brooding just low enough to possess the listener however. "Spanish Key" and "John McLaughlin" offer slight reprieve from the darker opening tracks, but if one were to go by song length alone, the two tracks combined don't even equal the aural journey that was Bitches Brew. The latter of the tracks is the shortest on the album and as a result, "John McLaughlin" is the tightest and grooviest of all the tracks, blues notes echoing throughout the entirety of the brief track.

"Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" is one of the highlights of the album, standing off with "Bitches Brew"as my favorite song. The track resembles Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" in the beginning, attempting to touch on the sonic blues with a loose-jazz influence. But as "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down", the title becomes more and more fitting, the song becoming more and more chaotic - Miles Davis' masterful trumpet playing being the only thing holding the song together. For a brief moment, the track boils down, the pace slows to a walk instead of a run and the rhythm is relaxed apart from Miles Davis' increasingly energetic solo. It's as though Miles Davis makes a frantic effort to shed his reputation as a "cool" jazz musician - his horn shouting aggressively and vigorously near the end of the song, nearing utter cacophony in his effort to "...Run the Voodoo Down".

"Sanctuary" sounds as the name implies [within the context of the album, mind you]. The soothing conclusion to "Bitches Brew" revealing a similar vibe to Herbie Hancock's magnum opus "Maiden Voyage". The last track, not even making the eleven minute mark, drifts along. Occasionally, the aggressive trumpet solos of Miles Davis push the track along, rousing the listener from their peaceful drifting, only for the vibe to calm again. The album as a whole tells a story that is best recognized upon repeated listens. Initially, the album was met with criticism for its loose, aggressive and disjointed sound. Only in later years was the album's relevance acknowledged and lauded.

Next time: Tony Williams Lifetime's "Emergency!"
avatar
Abstractionist
Admin
Admin

Posts : 242
Join date : 2009-12-13
Age : 28
Location :

View user profile http://martianvoodoo.com

Back to top Go down

Re: The Abstractionist's Music Reviews

Post by Abstractionist on Sat Jul 10, 2010 9:08 am



tracklisting

o1. emergency

o2. beyondgames

o3. where

o4. vashkar

o5. viathespectrumroad

o6. spectrum

o7. sangriaforthree

o8. somethingspecial

Before I begin, let me give a summary of Tony Williams Lifetime. Miles Davis, the leading force in the realm of jazz and music before his passing, had enlisted a number of talented musicians to adventure with him down into the annals of time. Tony Williams had joined the ranks of Davis to wage war on the staler music conventions and following his service on records such as 'Sorceror', 'Nefertiti', and 'Filles de Kilimanjaro' -the beginnings of Miles' own Electric experimentation- Tony Williams created his own band. Tony Williams Lifetime devoted itself to the continuation of Miles Davis' fusion sound as it had just begun on 'Filles de Kilimanjaro' and critics were antagonistic to the sound when the debut album, "Emergency!" was first unleashed in 1969. It is through 'Emergency!' that John McLaughlin, legendary guitar maestro, and Larry Young, keyboard legend that had jammed with Jimi Hendrix, were introduced to Miles Davis just in time for the 'In a Silent Way' and 'Bitches Brew' recording sessions. Before 'Bitches Brew', there was 'Emergency!', perhaps the first important Jazz Fusion album (however, overshadowed by the behemoth that is 'Bitches Brew'). Now, unlike some of the other reviews I'll do, I haven't listened to this album at all yet. Matter of fact, my commentary on it will be written and the music will be unleashed upon virgin ears simultaneously.

"Emergency!" - The album title commands attention and panic or, even more urgent, action. With hesitation I press play and listen to this album. The title track bursts with immediacy, the drums and slick keyboard effects of Larry Young give the song a percussive element while John McLaughlin unleashes his Hendrixian energy upon the guitar. It is evident that, even without the reputation of working with Miles Davis preceding him, Tony Williams is a master musician and band leader in his own right. The song 'Emergency', after a frantic opening, calms down to a simmer, a vibe like that of a classic jazz café. Tony Williams finishes and begins the track with a drum roll before leading into "Beyond Games". The keys serve as the bassline and they sure are funky as a mutha. I was a bit shocked to hear vocals on the track though, but the words are spoken in a very classic 70's rap/spoken word format - words of romantic deceit.

Enter 'Where'. The track begins with Tony Williams' vocals and I don't know what to say, "Where are you going? Where did you come from?" The words are repeated a few times against an eerie backdrop of the organ. Eventually, a riff is repeated by Young while Williams provides the spine for McLaughlin's sonic exploration. 'Where' forces the sense of urgency once again, an unraveling aura of panic and one realizes that they are lost - occasionally interrupted by Williams' "Where are They Coming? Where Did They Come From?", perhaps referring to his aural explorations or an allusion to the Afro-futurism of Sun Ra.

'Vashkar' begins with aggressive drumming on the part of Williams, thus far, the most urgent. Young and Williams work together to provide a sweeping crescendo of sound to support the young McLaughlin, occasionally, Young taking the reins and embarking on a dramatic, anxious organ solo. The entire song, albeit short, suggests the most alarming sense of chaos on the entire album. In direct contrast, 'Via the Spectrum Road' opens with a bluesy electric guitar and Shuggie Otis sounding vocals. After a bit of singing, the song becomes frenzied before settling back into a mellow groove. There seems to be a forced restraint when Tony Williams sings, followed by an all too anxious funk brought on with Young's organ at the low end. As if picking up where 'Vashkar' ended, 'Spectrum' is a frenzied Voodoo funk that is unwilling to relent. While there is a definite jazz foundation in the grooves and riffs of 'Spectrum', the soundscape is dark and heavy, like territory that would be explored further on 'Bitches Brew'. As the track continues, the jazzy vibe dissipates and reveals a darker undercurrent - the layered jazz-fusion funk was hinted at earlier in the song and laid bare by the end. 'Spectrum' is a definite highlight on this album and nothing could have prepared you for its intensity.

Now, 'Sangria for Three' continues with a very heavy fusion vibe, much like 'Spectrum', however, the intentions are different. If 'Spectrum' was meant to show you the 'rock' side of fusion, 'Sangria for Three' was intended to show off the vastness of fusion. Young and Williams waste no time in providing another powerful canvas onto which McLaughlin paints an abstract image of chaos and at the same time, a spaghetti-western. Initially, the track carries on the same density of 'Spectrum', but as Williams lightens up on his drums, the guitar paints a picture of cowboys and ghost towns. This track shows how much control Williams has over his band, directing the mood from utter frenzy and then into a drunken bliss, but only when he ceases to play his drums with vigour. Williams returns to a very structured, yet raw drumming style and the track never ceases to amaze. The entirety of 'Sangria for Three' points in a very exploratory direction that would be hinted at in 'Bitches Brew', and not fully revisited until Miles Davis' heaviest album of all, 'Dark Magus'. Near the end of the track, McLaughlin unleashes a masterful guitar solo, only accented by Williams' drumming and the entire time, Young slams on his keys, increasing the overall effect of the song. In its entirety, 'Sangria for Three'' is a very chaotic and interesting exploration into the funkier side of fusion. As the song comes to a relatively abrupt end, Tony Williams Lifetime leaves the audience with 'Something Special'.

'Something Special' alternates between the ethereal workings of Young and a sudden funk groove. Unlike the later 'Sanctuary' by Miles Davis, closing 'Bitches Brew', 'Something Special' is relentless once the funk is introduced early in the song. Near the end of 'Something Special', the song reluctantly offers its initial calm, but the restraint is so forced that the song is still heavy and funky. It's a bit impossible to explain. When it is all said and done, the praise that 'Emergency!' has garnered over time is well-earned. In retrospect, this album is as important as Sly's 'There's a Riot Going On' when it comes to creating a new and fresh sound. If more musicians had followed in Williams' footsteps to push the envelope of convention instead of settling in a complacent ditch.
avatar
Abstractionist
Admin
Admin

Posts : 242
Join date : 2009-12-13
Age : 28
Location :

View user profile http://martianvoodoo.com

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum