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Miles Davis - Big Fun CD (album) cover


Miles Davis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.27 | 141 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The shortest route across the electric metamorphosis of Miles Davis in the 1970s is through his many live albums from the era (the unedited concerts; not the scissor-mad hybrids of "Live-Evil" or "Live at Fillmore"). His studio output after "Bitches Brew" was often erratic, and released in too fitful a manner, with cuts recorded years apart forced onto belated albums or spread throughout different compilations.

Albums like "Big Fun", or its equally schizoid 1974 companion "Get Up With It", should rightly be considered compilations. But the former title in particular (both the original vinyl and the expanded compact disc edition) shows a remarkable uniformity in mood and emotion for a collection of music spanning three tumultuous years, and culled from sessions for albums as divergent as "Bitched Brew", "Jack Johnson", and "On the Corner". If you approach it with no awareness of the sporadic recording details (and there's really no reason why you need to be aware of them) "Big Fun" stands as one of the trumpet player's more haunting and mysterious efforts, making even the enigmatic grooves of "Bitches Brew" sound almost conventional by comparison.

The emphasis is often on mood and texture instead of rhythm or melody. And the straightjacket of time has even less meaning here than it did in the notoriously protracted "Brew" sessions. The original LP included only four tracks, each one filling an entire side of vinyl, and in two cases pushing the limits of analog storage toward the half-hour mark. A dreamlike weirdness abounds throughout, from the hypnotic minimalist funk of "Great Expectations" to the bizarre, misaligned double-tracking of drums and guitar in the propulsive "Go Ahead John" (the unedited tapes can be heard in "The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions", and sound even better when stripped of their razzle-dazzle studio camouflage). The soothing "Recollections" is a clear offspring of "In A Silent Way" (both were composed by pianist Joe Zawinul), and the addition of sitars, tablas and tambouras adds an exotic undercurrent to some already alien soundscapes.

It's too bad this album wasn't released immediately following the success of "Bitches Brew"; its influence might have been equally as profound, if a little more complex. The sessions for both were more or less contiguous, but some of the music here had to wait almost half a decade before seeing daylight. In a literal sense, this was an album ahead of its time.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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