MILES DAVIS — Miles in the Sky (review)

MILES DAVIS — Miles in the Sky album cover Album · 1968 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sean Trane
With its psych artwork as a warning and to be truthful, I always thought this album should've come past FDK as it is more prog than the previous, but I shall stop my revisionism there. Recorded entirely with Herbie Hancock and Ron Cater on electric instruments, Miles is also toying with wa-wah effects on his trumpets (something I find less evident with FDK), Tony Williams is starting to hit those drums in a rockier fashion and just four tracks to grave this album. I never saw the vinyl of this album (never really looked for it either), but I wonder about the track listing on which side and their respective original lengths. I have a hard time believing that the 17-mins Stuff would fit with the 12-mins+ Paraphernalia (adding up to a whopping almost 30-mins), while the flipside would only amount to 21 minutes. It would seem more likely that the shorter 7-mins+Black Comedy skipped/exchanged with Paraphernalia. In either case, the Cd version doesn't seem to care, starting on the phenomenal Stuff, probably the closest Miles ever got to jazz-rock (some would say soul-jazz, but not me) with his 60's quintet, If Hancock is great on his electric piano, Tony Williams is pounding them skins like a rock drummer, Ron Carter is not yet on electric bass. However in the following track, George Benson guests on electric guitar (yessir, you read me fine and if you don't believe, it says so on the sleeve), but the track is closer to standard jazz than Stuff.

Another reason I think the Williams-penned Black Comedy should've been on the other side is that Williams pounds again the skin as hard as in Stuff, although we're again closer to "normal jazz", but there is an unusual amount of energy for that type of jazz (as there would be even more in Frelon Brun of the following FDK) and that's probably part of what scared most purists as well. Country Son is an interesting three part track, with one clearly rock (that means 4/4 in jazz terms) section, divided by two solo interludes from HH. It might appear a little improvised to the rest of the album... and it is!!! Great Williams drumming again. He's the unsung hero of this album.

I have seen recently that this album got a remaster reissue with two alternate take of existing tracks. It's up to you to see if the upgrade is worth it. Personally this album is my personal fave from the 60's quintet (should you only have one from that period, that's the one) and it is probably easiest to jump from MITS to IASW, than from FDK to see Miles' progression.

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