The much-anticipated list for Record Store Day 2023 dropped February 16th and the next (and likely last) Miles Davis release based on a “Complete Sessions” box set is on the list. Titled Turnaround : Rare Miles from the Complete On The Corner Sessions, it is a four-song excerpt from the 2007 box set of sessions before and after the ones used on Miles Davis’s 1972 album On The Corner.
On The Corner was the third in a series of Davis’s 1970’s Jazz Fusion releases and similarly to the previous Bitches Brew (1970) and Jack Johnson (1971) (both of which also got the Complete Sessions treatment) the album was a pastiche of recording sessions.
On The Corner’s Complete box spans a wide range of recording dates starting in March of 1972 and continuing through May of 1975. So, it’s a bit disingenuous to say that everything in the On The Corner Complete Sessions box was really sessions for On The Corner. Especially considering how many sessions were after the album itself was released– the tracks on On The Corner come from June and July 1972. But, I suppose that Sony’s attempt at clearing the vaults for release necessitated expanding the scope of sessions to include and there wasn’t enough material to give releases like Big Fun and Get Up With It their own box sets, so combining them makes sense.
Below is the tracklisting, which I got from the website of the French version of RSD called DisquaireDay. I got the session information from the infinitely-handy Paul Tingen site miles-beyond.com dedicated to the Electric Miles period. Per Tingen’s site, all four of these tracks were at-the-time remixed and remastered for the boxset by Richard King and Bob Belden in 2007.
The Jazzdisco.org site is missing the session information for “U-Turnaround” and “The Hen.” Tingen says that the “U-Turnaround” track is the same theme as used on Agharta after “Prelude.”
…Turnaround and U-Turnaround are based on the tune that appears after 22:01 in “Prelude” on Agharta. On the LP version it’s actually called “Prelude Pt2.” It also appears on another official Sony release, Bill Laswell’s Panthalassa. Laswell calls it “Agharta Prelude Dub,” and Enrico Merlin and I simply refer to it as “Agharta Prelude.” Why the makers of the OTC boxed set didn’t stick to convention as established by Sony itself is a mystery.
The album comes out on sky blue vinyl and implements a pink version of the original artwork done by Corky McCoy with some of the clothing in different colors from the original art.
This is a custom YouTube Playlist I made of the four tracks on Turnaround:
Davis hit the studio as a bandleader with a concept of what On The Corner was to become. His intention with On The Corner was to reconnect with the African American audiences who had moved away from jazz to rock and funk bands like Sly and the Family Stone. Unfortunately, by creating an albums with a foot in both worlds, he was never fully embraced by either jazz or rock and funk fans and critics.
Following On The Corner Columbia would create a string of releases comprising studio outtakes. Big Fun (1974), Get Up With It (1974) and Water Babies (1976) while released before his four-year hiatus, were made up of outtakes and unused sessions dating back into the 1960’s which adds to the general confusion around his work during this time.
There has been a reappraisal of Davis’s jazz and rock fusion albums of the late 60’s and early 70’s in the last decade with tastemakers like The Wire and Pitchfork praising albums like On The Corner. It clearly took a while for audiences to catch up with the genius of Miles Davis. As a fan who only recently came around to Electric Miles, I’m happy to have these really unique and cool RSD releases in my collection.
A side note: These Rare Miles from the Complete Sessions releases have been “RSD First” releases, which means that Sony/Universal could choose to reissue these later. I think that a boxset treatment with all four of these would be a cool release and would give some people who missed out on these a chance to get them.
Here are links to the previous article I wrote about the series:
2021 was a year that was framed pretty much as “the year after 2020.” Every topic of discussion in 2021 seemed to be saddled with the context of the previous year. As I’m writing this, the topics still surround COVID, and lately the latest variant of that, plus vaccinations, and boosters.
All aspects of the music industry resumed with fits and starts. Concerts kind of resumed and kind of didn’t. Artists needed to evaluate for themselves what kind of risk they were willing to put their fans in and themselves. At this writing I have not been to a concert since March of 2020. I had tickets for three shows this year that honestly I wasn’t comfortable attending so I skipped them. This summer was looking better for outdoor shows, and maybe in 2022 I’ll look closer at those kinds of events.
The vinyl record situation was worse than 2020. All of the manufacturing issues we saw in 2020 were still in effect and delays were commonplace just in getting the records pressed. This was compounded by shipping issues– records manufactured overseas were held up on shipping containers– my vinyl copy of the brilliant Promises by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra was ordered in March and didn’t ship until September! This was certainly out of Luaka Bop’s control, but they did a really great job of keeping folks in the loop about where things were with the shipping. It was not a big deal for me since I had the digital stream and download for it.
Record Store Day resumed in 2021 as a two-date “Drops” one on June 21st and one on July 17th. This accomplished a couple of things. First, it would theoretically reduce the attendance (and lines) by splitting up the releases, and secondly it would help with the delays from manufacturing as well. The upshot of that was that the titles I wanted were moved to the 2nd Drop so I only needed to go to the 2nd one. That happened to be the Grand Opening of the new Davenport location of Ragged Records, too, so that was really great!
With all of that, let’s get to the list! In no particular order, these are my favorite releases from 2021! It’s interesting to me that all of these releases were available on Bandcamp, which is where I did the majority of my purchases in 2021. The first six in this list are all Iowa, or Iowa-adjacent acts.
Joel Sires – Dog Years – The debut solo EP from Joel Sires, frontman for Cedar Falls band TWINS came out in April. I reviewed it for Little Village in November of 2020, but delays with manufacturing the 10″ vinyl EP held the release until April. This release on the new Seeder Records label started out as a release based on the amazing solo shows Joel does in the area, but in an interview with KUNI recently, he said that he really wanted to have a full band on these songs, so he quickly assembled a band to back him producing a release that doesn’t stray far from the last TWINS album’s sound, leaning towards folk rock. A fantastic release from one of Iowa’s best new songwriters.
David Huckfelt — Room Enough, Time Enough – David Huckfelt released his second solo album in 2021. Since Huckfelt’s other gig was over 10 years in The Pines, it’s not surprising that his solo work sounds reminiscent of those brilliant albums. With Room Enough, Time Enough he continues his own musical path surrounding himself with brilliant sidefolks including luminaries Howe Gelb and Billy Sedlmayr as well as notable . The album has an overarching concept regarding land rights and the plight of native Americans. As a solo artist Huckfelt has expanded beyond the folk atmospherics of The Pines to a bold sound of his own. My review for Little Village Magazine.
Alex Ramsey – Bonsai – Speaking of The Pines, keyboard player and brother of Benson Ramsey, Alex released his debut solo record in 2021– a release that was a long time coming. He recorded it before COVID, but the mastering and mixing all happened during it. All of the instruments were played by Alex at home, but certainly doesn’t sound like it. The album, as you might expect leans towards his keyboards and vocals, which makes it stand out from the catalog of The Pines. Delightfully complex record. You can read my review and Q&A with Alex in Little Village here.
Hex Girls – Pop Fluff – Cedar Falls band Hex Girls returned with their second EP titled Pop Fluff, but the title was more tongue-in-cheek than an accurate description of what was contained inside. The band gained some polish by filling the group out with a dedicated keyboard player moving from their rough-and-tumble post-punk sound to something I think is more akin to the no wave sound of early Talking Heads and Television. The band’s dedication to offbeat humor continues to make them one of the most interesting bands to come out of eastern Iowa. You can read my review from Little Village here.
Anthony Worden and the Illiterati – How Could We Lose When We’re So Sincere? – Iowa City band Anthony Worden and the Illiterati’s 2021 album How Could We Lose When We’re So Sincere? finds the band returning to the winning pop rock formula they used on their 2020 album Voilá– beautiful melodies and harmonies, polished production. Again, the secret sauce is letting Penny Peach take lead in spots. WOW. Killer formula. The constructs of the album are clearly influenced by a time when AM radio would bring the hit singles– a time sorely lost, I’m afraid. If you’re a fan of Elvis Costello, Todd Rundgren or Big Star, I think there is enough here to satisfy. Plus this album is available on super limited edition vinyl– well worth occupying your turntable.
Penny Peach – brain gamez Speaking of Ms. Peach, she put out her debut EP in 2021. I described the record on Facebook as being, “a shoegazer cupcake with sludgy frosting.” Thick distorted guitars provide a bed for Elly Hofmaier’s powerful vocal acrobatics: swooping to dizzying heights, yodeling and dipping to growling metal. It’s at once pop and dark.
loess – totems – Somewhat unexpectedly, loess released their first album since 2017’s brilliant Pocosin. Earlier in the year there were some photos in Ian Pullman’s Facebook feed that hinted that there was some activity in the duo’s camp and then the album kind of dropped with little notice at the end of September. totems continues the beautifully glitchy soundscape loess has been known for now 20 years on (wow). Some say that the sound of loess is derivative of the early works of Boards of Canada, but since BoC didn’t stay in that mode long, and I welcome more of the pretty clockwork sounds.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Quietly Blowing It / O Come All Ye Faithful – In 2021 we got not one, but TWO new releases from Hiss Golden Messenger! In June, the follow-up to the fantastic Terms of Surrender came out. Titled Quietly Blowing It, it feels like a sequel to me as it shares the intimate emotion of the previous album. The band backing him is largely made up of his touring group and the locked-in grooves benefit from the road wear.
In October we were gifted another release in the form of a holiday album. O Come All Ye Faithful is a mix of holiday standards and original tunes. Not content with straight readings of perennial favorites, the HGM spin on songs like the title track and “Silent Night” end up being dramatically new readings: new keys, changed rhythm and melody. If you’re not listening closely, these seem like HGM originals. Not a bad thing, and ends up being a really fresh addition to my expanding Christmas collection on vinyl. I ordered the “Peak Vinyl” variant which came with a 2nd LP called The Sounding Joy: Hiss Golden Messenger Meets Revelators on South Robinson Street which is a dub/remix record of some of the tracks from the album. Incidentally, The Revelators is a new side-project/collaboration with Cameron Ralston that is supposed to have a release in 2022 and will be dub and free jazz influenced.
Elsa Hewitt – LUPA– Kind of an unexpected release from Tompkins Square in that it doesn’t really fit the typical American Primitive guitar or archival releases they’re known for. For me this release really establishes Tomkins Square as a curator of music– no matter what genre. Hewitt hails from the UK and her latest release is a jaw droppingly gorgeous blend of her vocals and electronic production. It seems like this release was overlooked by many this year.
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises – This release is seemingly on everyone’s Top list for 2021 and for good reason. It’s a compelling blend of Floating Points electronics, sax (and vocals) from jazz legend Pharoah Sanders and lush orchestral additions by the London Symphony Orchestra. The main composition in multiple parts is titled “Promises” and is composed and scored by Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points. Sanders and Shepherd worked together in the studio, with the LSO part added later. Since the album is really one large work in movements, there are recurring themes throughout as you’d expect but the payoff for me is listening to the work as a whole. I’m always looking for new directions for jazz beyond the standards, and this album fits that bill nicely.
Eleventh Dream Day – Since Grazed – One of the more surprising things about the latest from Chicago band Eleventh Dream Day is the how this band continues to be GREAT after 40 years. The formula of the band is pretty straightforward– strong garage rock with heavy Neil Young leanings makes for a sound that is both classic and uniquely fresh in the current landscape of rock bands. This album started as a solo Rick Rizzo album but morphed into an EDD album. Sprawling over 2 LP’s it moves around stylistically. More so than their last couple of albums which were well-heeled rockers. After I picked this album up, I decided to revisit their earlier releases again.
Marisa Anderson/William Tyler – Lost Futures – Tyler and Anderson met while doing a tribute show to the late David Berman and became quick friends. The obviously have simpatico ideas about guitar music and Lost Futures cements that idea. I was less familiar with Anderson’s albums than William Tyler’s but listening to Lost Futures, it isn’t possible for me to tell who is doing what– the two of them together creating a work bigger than the both of them. A wonderful addition to my growing collection of Tyler’s work.
I Think Like Midnight – Interim Contingent – I Think Like Midnight started out as sort of a tribute to the defunct American instrumental rock band Pell Mell, and certainly their first album Warm Seclusion Structure achieved that goal in its intuitive understanding of the source music. It wasn’t a cover album, but it sounded like what Pell Mell might have sounded like had they stayed together. Fast forward seven years and I Think Like Midnight has moved away from strictly being a guitar effort but holds tight to instrumentals. Every release from ITLM is worth checking out– cinematic and unique with enough obscure tips of the hat in the mix to keep music geeks searching for references. ITLM had planned to hit the studio to work on their next album, but these plans were derailed by COVID and Interim Contingent was birthed instead. This album leans heavily towards loops of electronics as the basis and as a result makes a really compelling argument for the band to work more in this arena. “Kit Lambert Begins To Dream” sounds like an outtake from the Wang Chung “To Live and Die in L.A.” soundtrack. “Dot Outlier” sounds like Michael Brook– breathtaking and reverbby. This is a record any instrumental rock band should check out. Brilliant release.
Neal Francis – In Plain Sight – In Plain Sight is the second album from Chicago songwriter Neal Francis and the first on his new label home ATO Records. His first album Changes was on Colemine Records’ subsidiary Karma Chief, which is how I first heard him since I follow all of the releases on that label. Francis’s particular blend of Dr. John and Leon Russel funky keyboard-driven soul is earthy and real and it fuels his trajectory as one of the bigger independent artists.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Georgia Blue – Fulfilling a promise that Isbell made on election night in 2020 where if Georgia “turned blue” he recorded an album of covers of Georgia music. We have two tracks from R.E.M. (“Nightswimming” and “Driver 8”), James Brown, Indigo Girls, Gladys Night, The Allman Brothers and more. Anyone who’s been to an Isbell concert is familiar with the covers he’ll usually bring out– he’s a fan of music. So, this album is a really great addition to the Isbell catalog. Plus, he does “Driver 8” which is my very favorite R.E.M. song. I picked up the blue vinyl version for RSD which is gorgeous.
Surf Zombies – In Color – More tasty surf-influenced guitar rock from Iowa’s premier guitar instrumental band. Can’t get enough from Surf Zombies’ modern take on surf rock.
Nathan Salsburg – תהלים = Psalms – Nathan Salsburg is usually known for his albums of American Primative-influenced guitar work. For Psalms his inspiration was the joy he experienced as a child singing Hebrew at camp and a desire to bring that joy back to his own life. For this album he created wholly new arrangements of these to fit how he wanted to sing them. The resulting album is a beautiful testament to his spirituality and desire to share it. I love “Psalm 147.”
El Michels Affair meets Liam Bailey – Ekundayo Inversions – In 2019 Leon Michels produced UK artist Liam Bailey’s album Ekundayo for Michel’s label Big Crown. Michels is “El” as in El Michels Affair who is maybe best known for their Wu-Tang Clan instrumental covers albums. I was familiar with El Michels Affair, but not Liam Bailey or the Ekundayo album. I first heard about Ekundayo Inversions from an email from Colemine Records and the sample track was enough for me to decide to order it. Ekundayo Inversions is remixes and dubs of some of the songs from Ekundayo plus some interstitial skits. Plus, it has what is probably the last appearance of Lee “Scratch” Perry (R.I.P).
Jeff Parker – Forfolks – Just barely making 2021 is the latest from jazz guitarist Jeff Parker (it came out 12/10/21 digitally). I was pretty surprised about this release considering all of his work in 2020, including the BRILLIANT Suite For Max Brown. Forfolks is a strictly solo Jeff Parker record. Stripped down guitar and loops, but really big sounding ironically. Beautiful record.
Charlie Parr – Last of the Better Days Ahead – Duluth musician Charlie Parr’s sixteenth album is on the legendary Folkways label after a brief turn on Red House Records. He’s not braving any new territory here, but we get more of the amazing Piedmont Blues style guitar work and Parr’s warm and human songwriting. Double LP!
At some point I found a copy of She’s The One in a CD cutout bin not too long after the album was released in 1996. From a Tom Petty fan perspective, ironically, I heard this before I ever heard Wildflowers completely. 1995 and 1996 were years of exploration for me musically. I was living in Minneapolis (Eagan, specifically) and my ears were filled with the alternative nation of REV-105 and I was discovering new bands and music every day it seemed and I wasn’t focused on classic rock. I missed the Wildflowers release completely and ended up picking up its neglected sibling purely coincidentally. The irony being that She’s The One became the home for tracks that were lopped off Wildflowers when Warner Brothers suggested it be a single album rather than Petty’s original vision of a double.
As much as I have come to love Wildflowers and its 2020 bloated retort to the eternal Pettyfan joke “When is Wildflowers going to be reissued?”, Wildflowers… And All The Rest gave us nearly every minute of tape we could stand of the album, with every possible session that could be considered related to Wildflowers proper, I still hold a fondness for She’s The One, the quirky non-sequitur of songs collected spanning incidental music, covers and multiple takes.
One of the criticisms put forth about Wildflowers… And All The Rest was that it didn’t include any of the at-the-time new songs from She’s The One. Most people looked at She’s The One as kind of an extension of Wildflowers— particularly since the soundtrack benefitted by the inclusion of four very strong songs from those sessions: “Climb That Hill,” “Hung Up And Overdue,” “California,” and “Hope You Never.” The rest of the original soundtrack was new material recorded specifically for the film including two songs which would become important songs in Petty’s catalog, “Walls” with its amazing chorus “‘Cause you’ve got a heart so big/ it could crush this town/And I can’t hold out forever/Even walls fall down” and Petty’s tribute to his future second wife Dana, “Angel Dream” which became a staple in later live shows.
Amidst all of the personal turmoil in Petty’s life including the firing of drummer Stan Lynch from the Heartbreakers, divorce from his wife of 22 years Jane and the beginning of a heroin addiction that was hidden from public view until Warren Zanes’ “Petty” biography came out in 2015, he was approached to curate the soundtrack for the Ed Burns film She’s The One. Quoted in “Petty,” he says about the project, “I was approached about putting together a soundtrack for the movie. I liked what I’d seen of Ed Burns’s work. But, when I took the job I didn’t think it through. I wound up in a situation where they wanted different artists for a soundtrack. They had a few, but they wanted me to call more artists.” Eventually he called his manager Tony Dimitriades and told him he couldn’t do this. Dimitriades suggested that he should do the soundtrack himself, “like Paul Simon did for The Graduate.”
Ultimately, it was a failure on many levels. Petty was forced to rush to meet a deadline, “I was completely off my game.” he says in his biography, “I was doing something that was against my grain.” The film’s release was pushed back six months, leaving the soundtrack to appear to be a Heartbreakers album, “Some people thought I was following up Wildflowers… My record came out with no movie, I was so depressed– that just made me more depressed.” The album sold only 490,000 copies and ultimately went gold, but marks the sole disappointment in his catalog.
I would say that the 1996 version of She’s The One suffers from being a somewhat literal listing of the songs included in the soundtrack. We get two versions of “Walls”: one version is what was the single (“Walls (Circus)” and the other is “Walls (No. 3)” apparently created to satisfy Burns’s request of having a different one for the closing credits. We get two versions of “Angel Dream” as well and things cap off with a 57-second bouncy piano/organ instrumental “Airport.” The strings/piano/guitar instrumental arrangement of “Hope On Board” is positively breathtaking and too short. Another complicating factor are the two cover songs, which Petty typically didn’t include on proper albums. The resulting release comes off as kind of a cast-off in that regard, and if anything a bit unbalanced particularly considering the usually careful sequencing on Petty albums.
What the team ultimately settled on is now titled Angel Dream: Songs and Music from The Motion Picture ‘She’s The One’ and capitalizes on the great songs included on She’s The One: “Walls,” “Grew Up Fast” (a personal favorite), “Zero From Outer Space,” the Lucinda Williams cover “Change The Locks” (a typo according to Dana Petty in her interview with David Fricke on SiriusXM since the correct title is “Changed The Locks”) the Beck cover “Asshole,” “Supernatural Radio” (which is presented now as an extended take) and adds two songs recorded in July 1993 (in the middle of the sessions for Wildflowers, incidentally) during the sessions that produced “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” for the Greatest Hits album (“Something’s In The Air,” the other new track, was recorded in February that year). These songs are notable as having Stan Lynch on drums. None of the songs on the original Wildflowers nor the original She’s The One had him on them. These songs are a JJ Cale cover “Thirteen Days” (recorded on July 22, 1993, this shows up in a photo of a proposed tracklist for Wildflowers included in the box set), “105 Degrees” (recorded on July 23, 1993) and “One Of Life’s Little Mysteries” (the earliest track, recorded on August 4, 1992). We also get an instrumental reworking of “Angel Dream” titled “French Disconnection.”
It’s interesting to note that the song “Lonesome Dave” from the Wildflowers sessions which was included in the An American Treasure box set and not in the …All The Rest boxset was recorded on July 23 as well. In the “Petty” biography by Zanes, George Drakoulias remembers cutting many more tracks than “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and we’re getting a bit of a peek into those sessions with Stan Lynch with the posthumous releases.
“…The idea behind Angel Dream was to make it a tighter album, and something that would make sense with this music after the three original Wildflowers tracks were taken off of it (for inclusion on Wildflowers All The Rest). It was important to have a really tight set of songs, sequenced in a way that honors Tom’s sense of how important albums are, in the story that they can tell. (This logic is behind the decision to leave certain songs off of the original Wildflowers, as McCool discussed in his earlier post.)
For Angel Dream the decision was made to not include the second versions of two songs (Walls and Angel Dream) that are on the She’s The One soundtrack, and also to not include the music cues that related more to the film. This was reconfigured to be a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers album, not a film soundtrack album. Since we needed more material to fill out the album, we went back to three tracks that were recorded during the Wildflowers sessions, and an unreleased instrumental track.”
Steve Hoffman Forums post 6/15/2021
Ulyate touches on the inclusion of the new songs, “Can songs that were not recorded at the same time as others live on the same album? Yes they can, if they fit into the “vibe”. Without Tom there will always be second-guessing, but please know we did our best.”
The album is a really good listen and while I question the absolute necessity of its existence, it’s a record I’ll play frequently. The idea is that this is the version that will “replace” the original album in the new cataloging of Petty, though the original 1996 version (which was remastered in 2018) will continue to be available as a download.
Angel Dream Tracklist with my notes (special thanks to Mark Felsot for corrections):
Angel Dream (No. 2) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Grew Up Fast from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Change The Locks (Lucinda Williams cover) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Zero From Outer Space from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Asshole (Beck cover) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
One of Life’s Little Mysteries new track recorded August 4, 1992 with Stan Lynch
Walls (No. 3) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Thirteen Days (JJ Cale cover) new track recorded July 23, 1993 with Stan Lynch
105 Degrees new track recorded July 24, 1993 with Stan Lynch
Climb That Hill from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Supernatural Radio (extended version) new version recorded June 4, 1996
French Disconnection (Instrumental) new track recorded April 11, 1996
The new RSD Drops lists came out April 7th for both the June 12th and the July 17th Drops. Similar to 2020, Record Store Day is being split into multiple dates to help with crowding in the stores. I think this also helps with the vinyl pressing delays as the record manufacturing is still catching up from the COVID shutdowns and related problems.
As I predicted in my post last year about the excellent Double Image: Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions 2 LP release, the next in the series is one based on the 1970 sessions that resulted in the Jack Johnson (AKA A Tribute To Jack Johnson) album. Titled Champions – Rare Miles from the Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, it will come out for the second RSD Drops on July 17th, and will be around $21.97 according to Bull Moose, and will be on opaque yellow vinyl.
According to the expert in all things Electric Miles, Paul Tingen, Davis was spurred on by his recent exposure to Jimi Hendrix to state in a 1969 Rolling Stone interview, “I could put together the greatest rock ‘n roll band you ever heard.” Tingen surmises that Davis seeing Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies at the Fillmore East New Years Day, 1970 was the biggest catalyst for his new sound.
Davis was in the Columbia studios with his band for a marathon 12 dates starting February 18th and continuing through June 4th– an incredibly productive time for Davis yielding many more recordings than the two that ended up on the 1971 LP. Distilling the massive amount of time in the studio for Davis into releases that make sense organizationally continues to be a challenge, and has since the beginning involved some creativity on the part of the record producers and the label. This is compounded by the fact that Davis rolled tape for every minute he was in the studio.
Following the sessions that would form Bitches Brew (August 19th-21st, 1969) Davis continued recording music that followed the new electric Jazz/Funk path he was taking. The compilers of the Complete Bitches Brew opted to take sessions from November 1969 through to February 1970 that used the same band lineup as Bitches Brew. In that regard, the Double Image release is less of an outtakes of Bitches Brew as it is maybe a part II.
The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions pretty much pick up where The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions drop off. “Take It Or Leave It” was recorded on February 2nd, and the initial “Willie Nelson” sessions start just over two weeks later on February 18th.
Side A 1. “Duran – Take 4” (March 17, 1970 at Columbia Studio C) 2. “Sugar Ray” (March 20, 1970 at Columbia Studio B) 3. “Johnny Bratton Take 4” (February 27, 1970 at Columbia Studio B)
Side B 1. “Ali – Take 3” (May 19, 1970 at Columbia Studio C) 2. “Ali – Take 4” (May 19, 1970 at Columbia Studio C) 3. “Right Off – Take 11” (April 7, 1970 at Columbia Studio B)
As an entry in the catalog of Miles Davis music, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions represent a transitional snapshot. These are the sound of Davis and his sidemen searching. Big looped sections on the eventual album from these sessions show the band landing blocks of music that work, but also seems to include the band kind of reaching. A lot of this was a result of the very unstructured approach in the studio. From the Tingen article:
“Everything was experimentation,” recalled drummer Billy Cobham. “There was not one moment that whatever was put on a piece of paper would not be changed.” “A lot of times the way we did things was very fragmented,” added Dave Holland. “Often I didn’t know whether we were recording or rehearsing. We would have these fragments, these sketches of ideas, and we’d play them for 10 minutes. And then we might do one more take like that, and move on to the next thing. One of the things that created the sound of the studio recordings is that were all trying to figure out what was going on. This created a certain space—it wasn’t tentative, but it was searching. And Miles had a policy of taping everything. When it was then finally put together, there was a lot of editing that went on.”
Even with this somewhat randomly-organized recording, the highlight is Davis, who plays some fantastic runs around the grooves. This seems to be a result the physical and mental health of Davis during this time. The cover of Champions is a photograph of Davis in the ring taken by Jim Davis shortly after these sessions. Tingen quotes Chick Corea, “Miles was, “totally clean, working out in the gym, physically looking great, and living the life of a health freak. He had this thing about fish and told me how good fish was for you.” In short, Miles was in great physical and mental shape, and at the peak of his trumpet powers.”
In the Davis catalog, Jack Johnson is a record that is somewhat obscure; maybe “obscured” is a more accurate description. Even though it uses a similar approach of editing miles of tape into a two-track epic funk, it is overshadowed by achievements of Bitches Brew. The Champions collection of tracks from these sessions helps put some context around somewhat meandering Jack Johnson album and also opens the door for the following Electric albums which include my personal favorites Big Fun and On The Corner.
Speaking of On The Corner, it’s almost certain that the next RSD-exclusive title based on the series of “Complete Sessions” for Miles Davis will be from the 2007 Complete On The Corner Sessions made up of sessions from June of 1972 through May of 1975.
I’m a sucker for earnest songs about heartbreak. Clearly.
When I watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia, I was struck by the songs from Aimee Mann. Like many, I was familiar with her band, the MTV darlings Til Tuesday, but I hadn’t really kept up. Though, there wasn’t much to keep up with. The classic yarn of a band breakup followed by a couple of brilliant solo albums that her label didn’t know what to do with caused her to crash land in 1999 with no label and a record in the can that wouldn’t be released.
As the story goes, Paul Thomas Anderson was moved enough by the demos of this album to craft Magnolia around it and get some more songs from her. He connected to Mann through her husband Michael Penn who scored Anderson’s first two films. She got an Oscar nom for “Save Me” (a song that was written for the film).
I rewatched Magnolia recently. A horrific storm called a “derecho” blew 130+ MPH winds across Iowa, removing over 65% of the tree cover of Cedar Rapids and knocking power out for days and cell service and internet for weeks. Once power was restored, my wife and I still didn’t have internet and cell service was spotty, so we took to digging through our sadly-neglected collection of DVD’s and Blu-Rays for stuff to watch. We hadn’t seen it probably since I bought the DVD when it came out in 2000. The film’s three hours is not an easy watch, and twenty years later the heavy-handedness of the story arc and plot devices seems almost dated. Considering this was Anderson’s carte blanche film following the breakout success of Boogie Nights, it’s apparent he was pulling out all of his directorial tools for this. The soundtrack and score of the film end up being an essential part of the narrative with songs belonging to the characters, the culmination of which is when the film pauses for the characters to sing “Wise Up.”
This part of the film was a real lump-in-the-throat moment for me and how I became a fan of this soundtrack and Bachelor No. 2. I wrote an article back in 2008 proposing a mix people could make of the two CD’s to make a perfect version of the album.
Bachelor No. 2 was released in May 2000 on Mann’s own record label Super-Ego Records. It included “How Am I Different,” “Deathly,” and “You Do” from Magnolia. “Nothing Is Good Enough” appears on the soundtrack as an instrumental. Interestingly, “Wise Up” was originally intended for the film Jerry McGuire. A really great article breaking down the soundtrack by A/VClub by Alex McLevy makes the observation that in a literal sense the song says that the film “is not going to stop” until the characters wise up. Certainly the scene in the film where the characters sing “Wise Up” is a point of inflection.
In 2006, Mobile Fidelity Soundlab corrected sin of this album not existing on vinyl by pressing a limited run of 200g half-speed mastered LP’s based on the original US CD (which means it doesn’t have “Save Me” on it in place of “Driving Sideways” as the UK version did). These days copies of this are running around $200 and I was keeping an eye out to see if any might show up for a deal.
It will be interesting to hear that new version of “Wise Up.” If I had to guess, it probably removes the drum machine. In the press release she mentions that she “used a lot of drum loops” and nowhere is it more apparent than on “Wise Up.” Though for me, that works great.
UPDATE: The 2020 COVID pandemic resulted in the standard April Record Store Day being canceled in favor of three “Record Store Day Drops” August 29th, September 26th, and October 24th. All of these are Saturdays, incidentally. The original Record Store Day list has been split up over these three dates. It’s worth noting that Black Friday Record Store Day (Friday, November 27th) has not been changed, yet, and is kind of a 4th “Drop” I suppose, coming a month after the last Drop.
The Miles Davis Double Image: Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions will be released on the 3rd drop on October 24th.
The 2020 Record Store Day List came out this week, and I’m pleased to report that Sony is continuing the trend of releasing compilations of Miles Davis outtakes that they started for the 2019 Black Friday RSD Early Minor release for the In A Silent Way sessions. This release titled Double Image: Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, takes the unreleased studio recordings from the 1998 Columbia boxset The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions.
Sony is stepping up their game with this release. It is a two LP gatefold with opaque red LP’s. Bull Moose Records (kind of the original home of RSD) shows their list price as being $25.97 (note: this price went up $1 since it was originally announced in March) which is a pretty fair price for such a nice presentation. According to the RSD site, there will be 6000 pressed worldwide.
Like many people, my first exposure to Miles Davis’s catalog started with his groundbreaking 1959 album Kind of Blue and by most accounts this is the album most people wanting to get into Davis or jazz in general should start with. Wanting to dig further into his catalog I went earlier in his career with his pre-modal style Prestige Records catalog, then moved into his early Columbia career with albums like Round About Midnight (1957), Sketches of Spain (1960) and Someday My Prince Will Come (1961). At the time I was aware of Bitches Brew, but it took a long time for me to really appreciate the album, initially seeming too cacophonous and lacking any discernible structure. For me it took listening to the Chicago jazz artists like The Chicago Underground Ensemble/Chicago Underground Trio and bands on Delmark Records who were related to post rock band Tortoise to really be able to appreciate Bitches Brew. Further, it was interviews with Tortoise bass player Doug McCombs about how Teo Macero’s tape editing work on Bitches Brew informed how his 2009 album with David Daniell Sycamore was created– improvisational recording sessions were edited into the resulting album that pushed me to take a closer look at the album.
The album as released was recorded over three days in August of 1969 (19th-21st) at Columbia’s Studio B in New York City. The band was the largest collection of musicians Davis had assembled to date. The core of the band was a partial carry over from the In A Silent Way sessions with Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Dave Holland on bass, Chick Corea on electric piano, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Notably, this was the live touring band and had already been performing some of the key pieces from Brew including early versions of what became “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down”, “Sanctuary”, and “Spanish Key”. According to Paul Tingen (who wrote the essential book on this period “Miles Beyond : Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991”), this pre-work with a band before hitting the studio was rare (apparently not considering the fact that most of the 1950’s Prestige releases were based on in studio takes of what was his live show at the time). The five-piece was joined in the studio by Joe Zawinul (electric piano), John McLaughlin (electric guitar), Larry Young (electric piano), Lenny White (drums), Don Alias (congas), Juma Santos, and Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet).
After some meetings with the band at his house where they, according to the JazzTime article Tingen wrote, brought in their own compositions for Davis to choose from and he made sketches that they would work from in the studio during the three days booked. At these sessions (with Teo Macero producing and engineer Stan Tonkel), Davis acted more like a conductor than composer. The tapes typically ran the entire time and he used playbacks to further tailor the works.
Davis left the post production work to Teo Macero. Macero used extensive tape editing and effects like delay and echo on previous albums In A Silent Way and Circle in the Round to create new works from the raw recordings which many consider to be groundbreaking work in itself. Extensive tape edits were done to create the first two tracks on the album “Pharaoh’s Dance” (which has 19 edits) and “Bitches Brew” (which has 15). Davis had the final approval of the recordings, but according to Tingen never really gave Macero the full credit he deserved and Macero’s own opinion was that Davis didn’t really want to credit even the musicians. This is why In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew are credited as “Directions in Music By Miles Davis” as a kind of way to take full credit for the recordings.
The second LP in Bitches Brew had less studio manipulation than the first two sides. This was largely because these songs were more fleshed out due to live performances. “Spanish Key” and “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” had no edits. “Sanctuary” has one edit where Macero clips in a different take. “John McLaughlin” is an edit of a studio improvisation where Davis isn’t playing. According to Tingen, Davis gives some rough vague instructions during the session and they lumber along not knowing where to take the work until Davis says “John” and McLaughlin takes a guitar solo and then the band falls into lock step. Macero edited this down to McLaughin’s solo and following for the final recording.
The resulting album was somewhat baffling to the musicians who performed on it. Tingen quotes a famous story by Zawinul where he says he was standing in the offices of CBS and heard music over the speakers and asked a receptionist what it was when she replied that it was “that Bitches Brew thing.”
When you look at the jazzdisco.org entries for August 19-21, 1969 sessions and compare it to the track listing for Double Image, you’ll notice that the songs included were not recorded during the sessions that were used for Bitches Brew. So, what are these recordings?
Reissue producer of the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions Bob Belden told Tingen that they included the extra tracks that used a lot of the same musicians as Bitches Brew and also that these songs were additionally electric piano focused. As was typical of this later period Davis studio work, he had a lot of sessions recorded that were not intended for any particular album release, and CBS kept cranking out new albums that were ostensibly just compilations of unrelated songs– oftentimes songs many years apart. The 1979 compilation album Circle in the Round has tracks from 1955 through 1970. Exploitative? Maybe, but the renewed posthumous effort of getting Davis’s work released in a somewhat orderly fashion serves the purpose of making some sense of the progression made over his life in music.
Below is the track listing from Double Image: Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions with my added notation of what the recording dates were.
LP 1 / Side A “1. Yaphet” (11/19/69) 2. “Corrado” (11/19/69) LP 1 / Side B “1. The Little Blue Frog (master)” (11/28/69) 2. “The Big Green Serpent” (11/28/69) 3. “Trevere” (11/28/69) 4. “The Little Blue Frog (alternate take)” (11/28/69)
LP 2 / Side A “1. Double Image (first version)”(1/28/70) 2. “Feio” (1/28/70) LP 2 / Side B “1. Recollection” (2/6/70) 2. “Take It Or Leave It” (2/6/70)
I’m going to predict that since we have had an LP from In A Silent Way’s complete sessions (which was box set #5 of the “complete” series) and now Bitches Brew (which was box set #3) that the next RSD release will be based on the 2003 box set for The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (box set #6). The Jack Johnson album only had two tracks on it and there were a lot of sessions not used, so it should be interesting to see what they’d include on a vinyl comp.
If that wasn’t enough, reissue label Get On Down is releasing a previously Japan-only album of Miles Davis in concert from 1964 with an early iteration of his “second great quintet.” It was released in the US on CD in 2005, but not on vinyl. Titled simplyMiles in Tokyo, the album originally came out in 1969 on Sony/CBS and this release copies that release down to the gorgeous black and white cover art and the OBI strip (which is slightly modified to show the Get On Down catalog number and logo). The original pressing was a gatefold, I’m hoping the replicated that as well, but I have no indication one way or another. (Chris from Bull Moose hasn’t done his rundown yet. I’ll update this if he mentions it).
Sam Rivers joined Miles Davis’s quartet in April of 1964 replacing George Coleman according to the Sam Rivers sessionography. This database quotes Davis as saying he wanted to hire Wayne Shorter but Art Blakey had him tied up in the Jazz Messengers, so he hired Rivers at Tony Williams’s suggestion and took him on tour. Rivers would stay with the quintet through July 15th, which is the day after the Miles in Tokyo recording took place. Rivers would be replaced evenually with Wayne Shorter in September, which would establish the “second great quintet” which would stay in place until 1968 and recorded the albums E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, and Filles de Kilimanjaro.
I think the reason for Rivers’s short stint in Davis’s band is two-fold. Clearly Rivers was Davis’s second choice, and also the general opinion is that Rivers’s style on the sax didn’t mesh well with Davis’s, and this is apparent according to critics on the Miles in Tokyo album. To me the recording is notable in its frenetic pacing of the songs. I think it picks up the energy from the Lincoln Center performance, which shares a lot of the same songs, including the sped up “So What.”
Here is the track listing for Miles in Tokyo:
A Side : “If I Were A Bell”, “My Funny Valentine” B Side : “So What”, “Walkin”, “All Of You”
Helpfully, there is a YouTube video of the complete album:
Anyone familiar with the Davis catalog are likely familiar with the fact that his later years releases didn’t often correspond to the idea of an album release. When you look at the sessionography information for Miles Davis, he seemed to hit the studio whenever it suited him (or maybe when he needed money) and recorded with little regard to the idea of an album release.
The proper In A Silent Way album is two tracks, both of which were recorded on the same day. The expanded group of Miles Davis on trumpet; Wayne Shorter on soprano sax; Joe Zawinul on organ; Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, electric piano; John McLaughlin on guitar; Dave Holland on bass and Tony Williams on drums hit CBS’s 30th Street Studio in Studio B on February 18th, 1969. The sessionography at jazzdisco.org shows that the group recorded three takes of “In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time” and two takes of “Shh/Peaceful.”
The band returned to the studio two days later on February 20th and tracked the over 26-minute “The Ghetto Walk” and “Early Minor.” According to Wikipedia’s entry on In A Silent Way, which quotes Victor Svorinich’s essay on In A Silent Way, “The Ghetto Walk” was originally considered for In A Silent Way, but was ultimately dropped in favor of “In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time.”
Those two tracks plus “Splashdown” which was tracked on November 25th, 1968 are what make up the RSD release. These tracks are notable as being the three songs on the Complete In A Silent Way box set that were previously unreleased prior. I prefer this over including multiple takes of “In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time” and “Shh/Peaceful.”
According to Svorinich’s essay, Joe Zawinul brought his composition “Shh/Peaceful” to the sessions, and it had a couple of working titles before it was settled, one was “On The Corner” which was the working title for the album at one point, and also “Mornin’ Fast Train From Memphis To Harlem” which was also a working title for the record. The Wikipedia article is a bit confused about this as it says that Davis composed “Shh/Peaceful” and Zawinul composed “In A Silent Way.” The facts of this are probably tied to how Teo Macero edited the sessions into the final recordings. This is further supported by the fact that Zawinul blamed Macero for editing the recordings and crediting Davis as the sole composer.
No matter what the details were about how the sessions were used, history has shown that In A Silent Way has become one of the most important albums in Davis’s career and is credited as the first complete foray into what would be his electric period and would pave the way for Bitches Brew.
I created a YouTube playlist of the three songs as they were included in the boxset so you can listen for yourself.
From Universal/Virgin Records: “Following on from the phenomenal success of the RSD 2018 white vinyl edition of David Sylvian’s album from 1999, we now present the album on 180 gram black vinyl for the first time. Now expanded with the addition of four non-album tracks, “The Scent of Magnolia”, “Albuquerque (Dobro #6)”, “Cover Me With Flowers” and “Aparna and Nimisha ( Dobro #5)”. The artwork differs from the RSD edition and features a photograph by David’s ex-partner Ingrid, plus some rare photographs by Anton Corbijn.”
I’ll admit that I’ve been occasionally searching the internet to see if Universal would do a regular reissue of one of my favorite David Sylvian albums Dead Bees on A Cake since they did the UK/Australia/Canadian Record Store Day reissue, that I reported on HERE. In a Steve Hoffman forum discussion about the RSD release someone said that there was going to be a black vinyl version of it coming, so rather than bid on the eBay auctions which are running up over US$100, I just kept hopefully waiting. People were reporting bad pressings of the white vinyl version, too.
Yesterday a few places mentioned the release, including a post from Sylvian’s Facebook page:
Some people complained about the original artwork which was a picture of Sylvian and then-wife Ingrid Chavez. It’s a shot similar to the back cover on this release. I’m not sure why they are not using the original artwork.
Like the RSD pressing (which was limited to 1000) the expanded edition takes the release to 2 LP’s by adding four non-album tracks: “The Scent of Magnolia”, “Albuquerque ( Dobro #6 )”, “Cover Me With Flowers” and “Aparna and Nimisha ( Dobro #5 )”. All four of these tracks were included on the 2000 compilation Everything and Nothing. “The Scent of Magnolia” was the single released with that compilation and is one of my favorite songs from this period and is really completes this album. The “Dobro” tracks feature guitar work from Bill Frisell.
There is also a PledgeMusic Page for it, so you can pre-order the release now for $28.50, but the shipping from the UK to the US is $12.00. When I used PledgeMusic to order the new Calexico, at least I could justify the postage due to the fact that I was getting the unique City Slang pressing (which was signed, too) that had a bonus 12″ with extra songs. This will be a big enough release that I should be able to wait for the always awesome ImportCDs.com to carry it, and if they put it on their eBay site, then the shipping is free.
This year’s Record Store Day list seems to have a lot more interesting releases than previous years– or at least more things I’d consider picking up. One release that is coming out for Record Store Day, but unfortunately not in the U.S. is the (at least for me) long-awaited reissue of David Sylvian‘s 1999 sequel to 1987’s Secrets of the Beehive (another favorite of mine). Dead Bees on a Cake was a return to solo for Sylvian after 12 years of collaborations with the likes of Robert Fripp in Sylvian/Fripp (which was kind of a successor to their collaboration on Return to Earth), two albums with Can’s Holger Czukay, and the abortive quasi-reunion of Sylvian’s first band Japan as Rain Tree Crow.
Dead Bees was recorded while Sylvian was living in Minneapolis with his then-wife Ingrid Chavez (who is pictured on the new reissue album artwork) and echoes the very personal and intimate songwriting that he had for Secrets. A beautiful and sprawling work, it collects pretty much every style of music he had dabbled in leading up to it and introduced some new Eastern spiritual themes not previously represented on his albums. In some ways this is the last album that would feature more conventional song writing from Sylvian. The releases that followed have been a lot more experimental in nature. While I enjoy those releases from him, Dead Bees On A Cake is the album I’ll always go back to because I identify with these songs more.
The UK RSD reissue of Dead Bees On A Cake has brand new cover art using photos from Anton Corbijn and designed by Chris Bigg of v23 fame. Bigg and Vaughan Oliver were the groundbreaking graphic design house for a lot of albums– primarily identified with 4AD records, but they also did the cover art for Secrets of the Beehive. Pressed in complimentary white, the reissue represents the first vinyl version of this album, and expands it to 2 LP’s by adding four non-album tracks: “The Scent of Magnolia”, “Albuquerque ( Dobro #6 )”, “Cover Me With Flowers” and “Aparna and Nimisha ( Dobro #5 )”. All four of these tracks were included on the 2000 compilation Everything and Nothing. “The Scent of Magnolia” was the single released with that compilation and is one of my favorite songs from this period and is really completes this album. The “Dobro” tracks feature guitar work from Bill Frisell.
Here is what Sylvian said about the reissue on Facebook:
It’s a bummer that we’re not getting this release in the U.S., so I’ll just have to see if I can get one of these for a deal.