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Miles Davis - On the Corner CD (album) cover

ON THE CORNER

Miles Davis

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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js (Easy Money)
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Although Miles' first attempts to break with jazz involved inspiring/paying jazz musicians to play rock based jams that were somewhat similar to improvisations by the The Grateful Dead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and others, on On the Corner Miles strove to break even further with the jazz world. The success that former band mate Herbie Hancock had with mixing the new Sly Stone and James Brown inspired funk style with jazz made Miles a bit jealous, and he was out to connect with that younger 'street' crowd that Herbie had connected with.

As an attempt to mix commercial funk with jazz, On the Corner is a total failure, but the end result is something much better and more timeless than any of the other more commercial jazz/funk albums of that decade. This album is only remotely similar to Sly and James because Miles was still getting too much influence from Stockhausen, Sun Ra, psychedelic rock and the traditional music of Africa. The end result is a fascinating quiltwork of disjointed syncopated rhythms with constant, yet almost static, improvisations that bubble up through the thick mix of acid-lounge guitar, jazzy elecric piano, traditional Indian instruments, synthesizers and African persussion. Some might be put off by the fact that the disjointed drum beats rarely change, even as the music moves to a new track, but the static beat is what causes this music to freeze it's linear motion and begin to stretch out in a more horizontal manner.

My take on this album is that this is what traditional African music would sound like if it was played on 70s styled psychedelic electronic instruments. Originally it had been assumed that the only guitarist on here was McLaughlin, but slowly rumors surfaced that the lesser known Dave Creamer also provided some great guitar work. Once upon a time in the early 80s I was looking at music ads in the SF bay area and saw Creamer had an ad in which he offered guitar lessons. I talked with him about lessons and finally asked if he was one of the guitar players on On the Corner to which he cheerfully said yes. I finally admitted I couldn't afford lessons and he said with a classic hippie upbeat attitude to be sure and call him when I was on better financial ground. He was really a nice guy, and very patient with what was an obvious ploy to talk to a major cult figure from the murky and mysterious musical world of Miles Davis.

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Send comments to js (Easy Money) (BETA) | Report this review (#179599)
Posted Friday, August 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars One of the harsh critics Miles faced during his electric awakening was that he was purposely playing to whiter audiences, whichof course was idiotic since plenty of white people listened to his 60's quintet albums or his 50's projects as well. So After the Jack Johnson bracket, where the last spoken words sounded like a threat; Miles 's next studio venture was set to appeal to an African-American audience by re-directing it towards funk, thus creating jazz-funk (as opposed to jazz rock) and displaying a black ghetto artwork. But ultimately this didn't change much his music or Miles' audience, lots of white fans calling this album their favourite, although it's not my case.

Clearly miles took a listen at Sly Stone's funk (and probably James Brown's as well) and started asking his musicians to play funk grooves and keep them up so the frontmen could solo away; while some of these funk rhythms or grooves can be very complex, it appears that they're just staying stuck in that groove, not veering away. This is the first significant change, but it brings also the soloists up front to slightly adapt their play, McLaughlin's guitar (the only track in which he appears) never sounding to acid, while Miles' near-brutal trumpet growls are filling the air. on the title track suite opening the album. Around the end of the track, it veers into an in Indian .music through sitar and tabla drums (Walcoot of Oregon is a guest on three tracks) to metamorphose the funk into a raga. Black Satin picks up that raga, but soon abandons it for some ward Spanish castanet thing, but the whole thing is messy as a George Clinton's Funkadelic album.

The tracks on the flipside are in the same kind of un-moulded mould, very chaotic and not much more accessible, the lengthy Helen Butte/Mr Freedom X holds some superb passages. Miles is also fiddling with many electronic sounds throughout the album, but nowhere is that more evident than on this last track. This is the kind of thing that will give Hancock ideas for his Mwandishi group, first with Gleason as an extra and then handling them himself.

While I am generally anything but square and orderly about music, I find that On The Corner is an incredible mess, with plenty of unneeded lengths, tedious , repetitive and monotonous rhythms and solos, most grooves (usually good , at first) overstaying their welcome in almost every case. No matter how much weaker I think this album is compared to its previous studio effort, I still call this album essential, because it's one of the first example of jazz-funk in history. So it sits proudly in my shelves right next to its better cousins, but gets much less regular spins. .

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#179611)
Posted Friday, August 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
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Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars This is a hard album for me to rate. It's my favourite Miles album but the last half recycles the best moments of the first half. Ever since the 1950s this man was pushing jazz into new territory. Bitches Brew shocked many jazz fans, but with this album he wanted to shock them even more. More importantly, he wanted to connect with the black kids listening to Sly & The Family Stone and Funkadelic. But the music here is crazier and more avant than anything those two groups ever did.

Besides the strong funk influence, there is also paradoxically an influence from avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. This album was a flop and the critics hated it at the time, but it's gone on to almost legendary status. Like Miles' other studio albums of this era, the editing of producer Teo Macero is very important. What he does was similar to what Can's Holger Czukay(a student of Stockhausen) was also doing at the same time. John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea all appear on this album. By this time, all three were well into their post-Miles careers but stopped by to help out their former boss.

The music here is generally avant-funk-rock with some Indian and electronic influences. The first track has it's own unique sound while the other three are very similar sounding. "On The Corner / New York Girl / Thinkin' One Thing And Doin' Another / Vote For Miles" starts right in the middle of a jam as if someone hit the pause button and then un- paused it to start the album. McLaughlin plays some great guitar on this track. Good sax and lots of percussion. Some synthesizer as well. The majority of this track is based around a two-note bass line. You don't hear Miles' trumpet right away; he comes in later. After awhile you hear some sitar. The drums with a hi-hat pattern gets louder and quiter. The beat and bass line changes a little bit near the end. Sitar and tabla to finish it.

"Black Satin" is my favourite Miles song. It starts with tabla and weird synth noises. It then goes into a complex funky beat and bass line with all sorts of oddball percussion noises and handclaps. This song has an awesome melody done on wah-trumpet throughout. The drums drop out and then come back again. Tabla and sitar to end it. "One And One" starts with the same damn bass line but now it's more wah-wahed. The Christmas bells are more noticeable here. Still very similar to "Black Satin".

"Helen Butte / Mr. Freedom X" again has the same beat/bass line. The trumpet melody reappears but now it's done on sax. Some good sax later on. Eventually the bass changes and the drums lay low. The music almost stops before a weird percussion part. The bass and drums come back. Interesting sitar near the end with the bass playing one note.

The first half of this album is excellent but then it proceeds to carry on where "Black Satin" left off. I wish there was more variation in the second half. This is my personal fave from Miles because I'm not a huge fan of acoustic jazz(don't hate it) and I love me some weird funky sh*t. Apart from Sun Ra, jazz rarely gets weirder than this. This deserves at least 3.5 but I'll bump it up to 4 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#339203)
Posted Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Miles and his band hang out On the Corner and add a substantial dose of funk to their fusion sound, previewing the dense, murky sound which would be showcased on a brace of live albums from around this era. Although Miles' fusion period would run out of gas a couple of years later, this album succeeds in adding another facet to it and keeping things hopping for just a little longer by teasing out the funk influences that had coloured Jack Johnson and moving a little away from rock. As a springboard into the deep, sinister waters of Dark Magus or Get Up With It, it's downright excellent.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#991988)
Posted Friday, July 05, 2013 | Review Permalink

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