Album: Miles Davis, The Complete Miles Davis Columbia Album Collection (Columbia Legacy)
The ultimate Miles: from 'Kind of Blue' to kind of new
Sunday 29 November 2009
Just groove to the statistics: 70 CDs containing 52 Miles albums from 1949 to 1985 in new or expanded editions containing rare or unreleased bonus tracks.
The recommended price – about £160, or a little over £2 a disc – isn't too steep given the obsessive fans and reliable consumers of heritage products (ie the ones you don't always bother opening) it's presumably aimed at.
There are, it has to be said, some amazing things here, although almost all of them have appeared somewhere – usually Japan – at least once before. But we do have the first full and unedited album release of the still shockingly raw Isle of Wight performance from 1970: the same, allegedly drug-fuelled, Bitches Brew-era gurnathon that you can see bits of on YouTube. Here, what was previously considered to be one long track, "Call it Anythin" (titled after Miles' answer when a minion asked the name of what he'd just played), has been divided into six separate numbers with six separate names, not that this leaves you any the wiser.
There's also a wonderful bonus DVD, Live in Europe '67, with film of Swedish and German shows by the classic quintet with Hancock, Shorter, Carter and Williams. And although live tracks from Zurich and Cafe Bohemia in New York by the Kind of Blue sextet have been released before, just hearing the stentorian announcer go through the list of legendary names ("On piano, Bill Evans!") guarantees a thrill. Their version of "Bye Bye Blackbird" contains such an astonishing, sheets-of-sound solo by John Coltrane that it needs pushing to the top of anyone's iTunes favourites.
We also have a previously unreleased "Lover Man" from the 1949 European debut tour quintet with Tadd Dameron, and a complete CD At Plugged Nickel, along with the other 40 or so proper albums – from Miles Ahead and Kind of Blue to Aura – that every Milesophile knows or covets.
Ultimately, the packaging of The Complete Miles Davis also, perhaps, represents some sort of swansong for the dying age of real-stuff-in-a-real-box productions. In the future, when they just sell you the memory stick or the downloads, we'll look back at this lavish 70-decker and sigh.
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