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Best "Bootleg" yet
on 1 April 2014
La Rubia, my long-suffering significant other, shoots me an overindulgent “Yes dear” kind of look as she realises that the package that has just plopped through the postbox is yet another (Yet another? Yet another!) live Miles set. I cautiously avoid the information that, in a way, I already have this one, discretion being the better part of valour at times.
Originally released in heavily edited form due to the limitations of vinyl, this set is supposedly the complete recordings from four nights at the Fillmore East during June 1970. Yet despite having owned and played the original release for a long time now I struggled to recognise anything on CD1, and CD2, whilst starting off sounding familiar, soon moves into unfamiliar ground. There’s some intriguing fiddling with the potentials of the new electronic keyboards, and DeJohnette’s drums are relentless, though sometimes their syncopation works against the flow (a good thing, in this context) and it is Dave Holland’s metronomic bass which is the lynchpin of the enterprise, holding it together rhythmically. As an encore, CD2 features a previously unreleased version of Spanish Key that is almost worth the price of the record on its own.
On CD3 the breakdown in Bitches Brew sounds familiar, but looking at the timings on the liner that appears to be the only piece that survived the cutting room floor on the original release. On CD4, notwithstanding a different title on the original, the opening is instantly recognisable, but with the first statement of the chorus from Directions it becomes fresh and new again. Occasionally, further familiar passages crop up, such as during another Bitches Brew, but overall the good news is that, just like releasing the complete Cellar Doors recordings did not kill Live Evil, so the original Fillmore East release will stand as a valid recording in its own right, and it’s a tribute to the engineering on that release that none of the joins were discernible.
CD1 and CD3 feature between them three tunes from an earlier gig at Fillmore West. On CD1 this is almost better than the Fillmore East material that precedes it, with a richer sound and more driven pace. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down on CD3 is also different in some respects from the East material, being somewhat funkier, DeJohnette’s drums have a different tone, and the mix is different. Unfortunately, possibly due to the original tapes, this dies a rather sudden, ignominious death. The good news from this respect, though, is that whilst I had doubts about mixing the East and West material as it has been, it actually works rather well.
There’s no doubt in my mind that, first, this is the best “Bootleg” release yet in the series, and that second, like the others, it’s mostly not actually a bootleg, although the West material may well be. So far Sony have been quite lucky in plundering years where Miles was relatively well and was touring constantly. Their challenge, if they intend to continue with the series, will come with 1971 and 1973, years for which there is very little live material available, and none, to my knowledge, on Sony. But if they can get it, I’ll be first in line.