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MILES DAVIS - Big Fun cover
4.38 | 28 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1974

Filed under Fusion


A Great Expectations 27:34
B Ife 21:33
C Go Ahead John 28:26
D Lonely Fire 21:21


Side A:
Bass – Ron Carter
Bass [Fender] – Harvey Brooks
Bass Clarinet – Bennie Maupin
Drums – Billy Cobham
Electric Guitar – John McLaughlin
Electric Piano – Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock
Percussion – Airto Moreira
Sitar [Electric], Tambura – Bihari Sharma, Khalil Balakrishna
Soprano Saxophone – Steve Grossman
Trumpet – Miles Davis

Side B:
Bass – Michael Henderson
Clarinet, Flute – Bennie Maupin
Drums – Al Foster, William Hart
Percussion [African] – Mtume
Piano – Lonnie Smith
Piano, Sitar – Harold "Ivory" Williams
Soprano Saxophone – Carlos Garnett
Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Sonny Fortune
Tabla – Badal Roy
Trumpet – Miles Davis

Side C:
Bass – Dave Holland
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Guitar – John McLaughlin
Saxophone – Steve Grossman
Trumpet – Miles Davis

Side D:
Bass – Dave Holland
Bass [Fender] – Harvey Brooks
Bass Clarinet – Bennie Maupin
Drums – Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette
Electric Piano – Chick Corea
Electric Piano , Organ [Farfisa] – Joe Zawinul
Instruments [Indian] – Airto Moreira, Khalil Balakrishna
Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trumpet – Miles Davis

About this release

Columbia ‎– PG 32866 (US)

Track A recorded at CBS Studio E-49E52, New York City, from 2:30 to 5:30, November 19, 1969
Track B recorded at CBS Studio B, 49E52, New York City, from 8:00PM to 11:30PM, June 12, 1972
Track C recorded at CBS Studio B, 49E52, New York City, from 10:00AM to 1:00PM, March 3, 1970
Track D recorded at CBS Studio B, 49E52, New York City, from 2:30PM to 5:30PM, January 27, 1970

Thanks to snobb, js for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

'Big Fun' is one of the best psychedelic records ever recorded in any genre, and as far as production goes, probably Miles' most creative album, and it is topped only by his 'Get Up With It' album when it comes to creative conceptions. The music on here is a blend of psychedelic fusion, rhythms from Africa, Brazil and India and spaced out ambiance all treated to classic early 70s psychedelic production including sitars, tambouras, tape-loop echoes and early analog synthesizers. A wide variety of ensembles appear on these cuts that were recorded between 69 and 72, but the different tracks all hang together as a congruous whole due to the similar production that each song receives. On the original double LP version, one song takes up each of the four sides. Side one consists of the best cut on the album, 'Great Expectations', a three part sound suite that is one of Miles' most original compositional structures. The song opens with a subtle psychedelic groove that is driven by McLaughlin's echo wah-wah guitar plus tambora and woodblocks. Over this groove Miles and Bennie Maupin play a mournful, almost Gregorian melody till they purposefully hit a sour note and the groove dies only to start up again and Miles and Bennie come back with the same tune, the same sour note and so on, repeating this sequence of events till the built up tension is almost palapable. This sort of almost frustrating tension and release was becoming a big part of Miles' 70s compositional technique. The second part of this song is a beautiful slow melody that sounds like a morning prayer from some unknown culture. Miles' breathtaking patience in delivering each note is backed by an ambient orchestra of shining electric pianos and buzzing tambouras. Finally we get to the third part, an uplifting but mellow Afro-Brazilian groove that is a positive affirmation after all the dark mystery of the first two sections.

Side two is made up of 'Ife', a more typical Davis type jam that has Michael Henderson repeating a stop- start bass line similar to a lot of the odd grooves on 'On the Corner'. Fortunately this repeating bass line is very infectious so the song does not get boring as Davis and his band go through a fast version of the line, followed by a much slower version after an ambient break. During the slow part all the psychedelic ambience builds to the point of almost totally burying the bass and drums.

'Go Ahead John' takes up side three and shows the band back on a more experimental tip. This side opens with DeJohnette playing a strange start-stop abstract funk beat in both the left and right channels. It sounds like the producer took two takes of the same track and then staggered them so that the drum phrases constantly overlap. I'm not sure if that is what is happening here, but that's what it sounds like. The overall effect of this drum beat is fascinating. After Miles plays a decent solo McLaughlin comes in with a double-tracked ultra distorted guitar solo that shows a side of McLaughlin that we don't hear often anymore. This is the totally rockin McLaughlin who plays long fuzzed out note bends and sounds like he is having a blast doing it. While McLaughlin's two guitars battle it out, the producers cut the sound of each guitar track off and on producing the effect of a speaker cutting out. It is a weird effect that had many people checking their speaker connections back in the early 70s. After a brief sax solo everything stops and Miles comes in with a doubled tracked ambient trumpet melody that eventually morphs into an avant-garde dissonant spaced out blues based jam. Eventually the opening drum parts return and this side has become a complete sound cycle.

The album closes with 'Lonely Fire', another one of Miles' unique and almost ancient sounding melodies that is played with only ambient backing for a long time before finally settling into a relaxed medium groove. This melody is nice, but after so many repetitions it finally gets a little old after awhile. This side isn't bad, just not as good as the other three.

This album was made when Miles was trying to play music that moved beyond the confines of either fusion or jazz or any combination of the two. His compositional experiments along these lines would finally hit their apex on 'Get Up With It'. If there is any drawback to 'Big Fun' it is the fact that this is very 70s music that came out when people tended to listen to music in a more meditative state. A lot of the music on here develops at a slow and purposeful pace that may be at odds with the constant distractions of today's world.

Members reviews

Sean Trane
This is an album I long ignored, not exactly involuntarily, partly because I associated it more to On The Corner (which not my fave Miles), mainly because of the artwork and the release date. But I became aware of the misleading release time of 73, when almost all of the sessions took place before, during and after the Bitches Brew sessions (between Nov 69 and March 70) but with two Indian instrumentalists invited, except for the track on side 2 (this is also valid for the bonus tracks of the remater), which strangely enough dates of June 72, which features a very different line-up, but stays sonically fairly close to the rest of Big Fun.

The 7-mins Great Expectations opens the double album, with more or less the Bitches Brew crowd, but features two Indian sitar players, which give it its own flavour, but it is much quieter than anything on that groundbreaking BB album. On this first compact disc of this set, the bonus track 17-mins Zawinul-piece is a bit reminiscent of Silent Way, while the 6- mins Trevere is obviously from the same Expectations sessions, with the two Indian guests. As for the afore-mentioned 21-mins Ife track recorded in June 72, filling side B, only Bennie Maupin played on BB, but the piano is played by Lonnie Liston-Smith, who would released an outstanding Astral Travelling album the following year, in a more cosmic-jazz- rock vein, but well in the line of Ife.

The second disc opens up on the Davis-penned Go Ahead John, where he coaxes McL to go forward and assert himself, not only on this track, but to become a band leader, which he will do with Mahavishnu Orchestra. But here, although exuding more energy than the previous disc, something that can be said of its flipside companion piece Lonely Fire as well. Both bonus tracks are also within the boundaries drawn by the original album pieces.

While still an excellent studio release of Miles, Big Fun is a fairly quiet and low-key affair, lacking Bitches Brew's energy and inventive force, but I'm not sure that calling that name was all that wise, because I don't think that it is all that fun, and certainly not more so than the BB or JJ albums. It still remains an excellent double album, which is definitely worth acquiring in your second phase of explorations of Miles' electric music realm. It's also an excellent deal since the bonus tracks are plenty and rather meaty and in line of Big Fun's direction.
The Truth
You want s'more crazy good electric Miles? This may be better than even Bitches Brew!

These pieces of work were released in 1973 although most of the recording took place in 69 and 70 which was an amazing time for jazz music. To me, bringing the electric instrumentation into jazz was one of the greatest things that could happen to modern music and this album is one of the great reasons why.

The overall feel of this album is sheer beauty, Miles trumpet playing over electric guitar and various other noises and as simple as it sounds, you get a really amazing sound from it.

The greatest tracks are the ones McLaughlin plays on, (although their really isn't a weak track on the album) his presence really electrifies (pun intended) the albums power as a piece of music.

But Miles on the trumpet, man... You cannot find a better trumpeteer. Anywhere. He is one of the greatest musicians to every lay his hand on an instrument and when he had this psychedelic shift, his work became true pieces of art.

For fans of Bitches Brew and Get Up With It, five stars in my book.

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