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Miles in the Sky
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 2008
Miles Davis' second great quintet, as they are usually known, featured such stellar musicians as Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayner Shorter on saxophone and Tony Williams on drums. By the time of this 1968 album, they had already made such classic albums as "Miles Smiles" and "Nefertiti". These had inaugurated the style known as "time-no changes". But Miles, ever the musical explorer, started to change tack with this album towards a more rock direction (which would ultimately lead to supreme classics like "In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew").

The first indication of this is the electric piano Hancock is playing - the first time an amplified instrument featured in a Miles Davis album. (Later of course he would favour the electric bass, and within 6 years would make the album "On The Corner" which is as far from traditional jazz instrumentation as it is possible to go). But here the "fusion" (as it would be known) is only sketchy - there's a lack of focus, there's not the integration of vision and method which make albums such as "Kind Of Blue" and "Miles Smiles" so breathtaking.

Not that the music is boring or uninteresting - not with musicians of this calibre! But it does seem like a highly gifted doodling, based on long grooves, rather than coherent articulations. This might well be suggested by the song titles, the first two of which are "Stuff" and "Paraphenlia".

This release also includes alternate takes of the latter two of the album's four songs, the differences in which are fairly marginal and add to a certain flabbiness. All the same, this is a very enjoyable album, with tremendous drumming by Williams (in "Stuff" especially), consistently excellent playing by Hancock and strong lines by Davis. There are better albums by Miles Davis out there, but this album is the pivot on which his traditional and fusion works join - his "Rubber Soul" perhaps.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2013
The "transitional" nature of this album has been exaggerated a little. Yes, it features the first appearence of amplified electric instruments in Miles Davis's groups, and the track on which they appear definitely points forward to Miles's next album (Filles de Kilimanjaro) which was much more of a departure - but here the electric instruments are only on the one track. George Benson plays electric guitar on a second track but is used as little more than an effects-man in this context and barely registers a presence. In retrospect you can see the seeds of what was to come next, but more in the principle that Miles was experimenting with new sounds/instrumentation than in much change in the actual music. Filles de Kilimanjaro, with electric instruments and new musical conceptions throughout, is more clearly the "transitional" album.

It makes most sense therefore to consider this album a continuation of the Second Great Quintet formula of Davis's previous few albums (E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer and Nefertiti). Although the Second Great Quintet is rightly one of the most famous and influential bands in Jazz; for whatever reason this album has never been particularly well known nor critically successful. I'd say that this is largely because there's nothing here they didn't do as well or better on the previous albums, though there are some good bits and the album stands well enough when considered in isolation,. Taken with the electric track, one gets the impression of various things cobbled together to make a release rather than a coherent whole; the tunes are pretty forgettable and it's difficult to recommend this to anyone other than Miles completists (though it's much better than many of the albums of which one could say that). If it weren't for the fact that the Second Quintet produced so much great music (Miles Smiles and Nefertiti are my favourites) my rating for this might be higher, as it is it's more of a footnote.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2008
Miles Davis' second great quintet, as they are usually known, featured such stellar musicians as Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayner Shorter on saxophone and Tony Williams on drums. By the time of this 1968 album, they had already made such classic albums as "Miles Smiles" and "Nefertiti". These had inaugurated the style known as "time-no changes". But Miles, ever the musical explorer, started to change tack with album towards a more rock direction (which would ultimately lead to supreme classics like "In A Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew").

The first indication of this is the electric piano Hancock is playing - the first time an amplified instrument featured in a Miles Davis album. (Later of course he would favour the electric bass, and within 6 years would make the album "On The Corner" which is as far from traditional jazz instrumentation as it is possible to go). But here the "fusion" (as it would be known) is only sketchy - there's a lack of focus, there's not the integration of vision and method which make albums such as "Kind Of Blue" and "Miles Smiles" so breathtaking.

Not that the music is boring or uninteresting - not with musicians of this calibre! But it does seem like a highly gifted doodling, based on long grooves, rather than coherent articulations. This might well be suggested by the song titles, the first two of which are "Stuff" and "Paraphenlia".

This release also includes alternate takes of the latter two of the album's four songs, the differences in which are fairly marginal and add to a certain flabbiness. All the same, this is a very enjoyable album, with tremendous drumming by Williams (in "Stuff" especially), consistently excellent playing by Hancock and strong lines by Davis. There are better albums by Miles Davis out there, but this album is the pivot on which his traditional and fusion works join - his "Rubber Soul" perhaps.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 February 2012
To Me, the importance of Miles Davis lies in three main areas.Firstly he was a capable and highly distinctive soloist, a great spotter of talent and a restless musical free thinker who was always aware of new trends and how they might serve his particular ends. All these three factors are arguably identified in the relatively under appreciated 'Miles In The Sky'.

'Miles in the Sky' is essentially an album that is not so great for what it is, but the suggestion of what Miles had lined up for the future. Miles wanted to take his jazz vision into the rock / funk territory, hence the focus on instruments like the electric bass and piano and the inclination for soloing over extended vamps,where rhythm rather then melody was at the centre of the action. All this would find fruition in albums like 'Jack Johnson', 'Bitches Brew' and the less digestible efforts such as 'Live at the Filmore East' and 'On The Corner'. In a way, this is the point were Miles started to lose some of his traditional audience and began to get attention from listeners for whom James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and their ilk were the focus of attention.

For me , 'Miles in the Sky' is in it's own rights a very good album. It is not one that I revisit often, but when I do, I'm always struck by the level of musical interaction, invention and drive. The tunes themselves ( maybe with the exception of 'Stuff' and 'Country Son' are not in themselves particularly memorable, but it's only when you listen closely to say Tony Williams (colossal throughout) or Wayne Shorter (plays some beautifully fluid lines on 'Paraphernalia')that you become gradually more and more absorbed and appreciative of what Miles and the band are trying to do here. The music is all about creating and releasing tension- sometimes this is achieved by densely textured ensemble work, sudden changes of pace or simply moving on to another rhythmic or musical idea within the context of the composition.Listen to 'Country Son' to hear how disparate musical ideas,segments and moods collide and coalesce to produce an intriguing patchwork that somehow keeps the listeners rapt attention for the 9 minutes or so of the tune's duration.

As an example of how progressive this set is, George Benson makes his first and only(?) appearance on a Miles recording.Remarkable player though he is, he doesn't really fit in with the band. It is clear that Miles needed a guitarist who could handle the complex harmonies that the group sought to develop but also be contribute ideas that could help propel the band into new areas away from the jazz mainstream.Such a person Miles was able to unearth in John McLaughlin - at home in jazz but also able to expand the sonic possibilities of his instrument in the way that Hendrix was already doing in rock.

The more I listen to 'Miles in the Sky' the more I like it- there is a acerbic quality to it and certainly the album lacks the warmth and melodic accessibility of much of Mile's earlier work, but even so I'm glad it's in my collection.Recommended - but get 'ESP' or 'Milestones' first,if you are new to the second quintets work.!

Esp
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on 14 October 2013
This album shows Miles on the cusp of change from the classic acoustic period with his first dalliance with electric music. Yet to come were Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way and Bitches' Brew, but here was the last full album recorded by his second great quintet. In it's original form it featured just four long tracks, with "Black Comedy" and "Country Son" harking back to the acoustic sounds. But the group really let loose on "Stuff" and "Paraphernalia" which made up side 1 of that original album. Here there is electric guitar, bass and piano taking over from the more traditional sounds - and that experimentation clearly pays off. As with all the second great quintet's work it's not really for the beginner, start in the mid-late 50's/early 60's, but for jazz lovers looking to expand their palette a little this album is very rewarding.
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