Miles Davis

Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955-1985

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This was the first real attempt by Columbia to make any comprehensive sense of Miles Davis' colossal output for the label. This set, then, was bound to be controversial no matter how it turned out, but even so, Columbia could have done better with a strictly chronological approach. Instead producer/compiler Jeff Rosen had the cockeyed notion of organizing each of the original five LPs around a single theme. Disc one was called Blues, Disc two was devoted to Standards, Disc three had Miles Davis Originals, Disc four was something vaguely entitled Moods and all of the electric recordings were segregated on Disc five (the CDs naturally screw up the "logic" with overlaps). Thus, the first four sections jam together all kinds of unrelated sessions from different eras and the listener never gets any idea of how Miles' music evolved and changed over the years. There are only four outtakes, three of which are gratuitous alternate takes, and the fourth is a live version of "I Thought About You." However, The Columbia Years stands as a casual collage -- the only way, actually, to acquire a bop-to-rock, fairly representative selection of Miles from those decades in one package. Also one must admit that the electric section, despite the chronological chaos, is put together very cleverly, opening with precisely the hottest stretch of music from Live-Evil (the opening 3-and-a-half-minutes of "Sivad") and closing with the long, swaggering "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" from Bitches Brew. Nat Hentoff's biographical essay makes good reading -- and of course, along the way you'll hear some of the greatest music of the 20th century.

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