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on 21 December 2009
There are so many reasons why this cd should NOT be good.
Firstly, in characteristic electric-period-Miles-before-the-collapse-mode, Miles doesn't even deign to pick up his horn for the first 10 minutes, and he exits stage-left over 15 minutes before the end.
Secondly, the host of guitarists employed to impersonate Hendrix jamming with Sly Stone (Pete Cosey to the fore) end up sounding like a bunch of teenage garage wannabes on too much caffeine.
Thirdly, Miles sounds like he's haunting himself through the medium of a wah-wah pedal: a bizarrely mournful wail snaking around a black sabbath boogie.
Fourthly, despite the track-listing - this is basically one long formless jam session barely held together by the heavier-than-thou bass of Michael Henderson.
Fifthly, Miles is transparently so up his eyeballs in Columbian marching powder that he could have played a kazoo for two hours and walked away from the performance thinking it was pretty damn brilliant... (the list goes on)

It should be awful. It's not. 'Dark Magus' is a ghastly spectacle - right up there with the Stones Altamont gig - it's the sound of idealism burning out and chowing down on it's own caramelised membranes. It's funky as hell and as down, sleazy, despairing and cynical as Lou Reed's 'Berlin'. Destruction and devastation are just around the corner, but meanwhile, kick back, dance, snort, enjoy, try not to be appalled.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 31 March 2015
This is a complex album in terms of musical content, track titling and release, so let's get those issues out of the way first. Recorded in late March 1974 at New York's Carnegie Hall it was initially only released in Japan in 1977, after Agharta and Pangaea but stylistically before. This was well into Davis' retirement, finally seeing full release in 1997. The titles given are nominal, being Swahili for the numbers 1-4, each piece divided in two segments - Moja, Wili, Tatu and Nne. What they actually contain is as follows:

First set - disc 1

1 Moja part 1 = Turnaroundphrase (12:28)
2 Moja part 2 = Tune in 5 (12:39)
3 Wili part 1 = Funk [aka Agharta Prelude, part 1] (14:21)
4 Wili part 2 = For Dave [aka Mr. Foster] (10:41)

Second set -disc 2

5 Tatu part 1 = Funk [aka Agharta Prelude, part 1] (18:50)
6 Tatu part 2 = Calypso Frelimo (6:23)
7 Nne part 1 = Ife (16:07)
8 Nne part 2 = Turnaroundphrase (6:14) and Tune in 5 (3:07)

Davis by this time was playing all the keyboards himself, preferring a three guitar line up instead with Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas and Dominique Gaumont playing in a style that got this album voted one of the heaviest of all time. The sound throughout is superb, with Miles punctuating sparsely with trumpet runs twisted by wah wah pedal. Mtume is very apparent on percussion, and even at one point introduces an early drum machine to the soup, predating drum and bass by at least 15 years.

It is a monster, rock orientated sound, with the band working extremely hard throughout and following Miles' direction like a well oiled machine. It's hard to believe that Gaumont and saxophonist Azar Lawrence were being auditioned during the second set (in response to a pay rise request from Lucas), so well does the whole fit together. But then this album is all about the groove, and it gives you that in bucketloads.

A quick word about that second set - this is actually edited between Tatu and Nne so isn't the complete performance. Nonetheless this is a superb addition to the electric period Canon.
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on 8 June 2001
Lest you think the tagline above is a gag, I was alternating my headphone listening in my office this week between 'Dark Magus' and 'Best of Motorhead' and the perceived mood was much the same (I have what could best be described as 'eclectic' tastes).

Dark Magus is a loud, heavy and unsettling beast of a record (it recently made Q magazine's top 50 heaviest albums of all time list) and I rather like it that way. Miles isn't merely rocking, he's rocking bloody HARD. If you liked 'In a Silent Way' but were rather intimidated by the thought of Bitches Brew then this album will scare you to death, but if you're open to challenging music, then this will appeal. A lot of 'rock' fans have difficulty embracing jazz (and vice versa) but if you come from a rock background (and ironically, the more extreme your tastes the better in this instance) this may well be your way into the wonderful world of Jazz.
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on 23 April 2006
I would have to disagree with the notion that the first cd is 'flabby'. It's got the raw energy of an electric Miles performance. Moja parts 1&2 are some the best recorded and most intense pieces of Miles ever recorded. They are a fantastic testimony to the bands ability to hold a furious pace and make it funky as hell. Much of the other music is of course very similar to the other live recordings from this period most notably Pangaea, but their sound quality is much better. You can hear so much more of what the musicians are trying to do. Whenever I listen to this record, I feel like I'm on stage with the band. It's not flabby at all, but an intense and driving set of electric live Miles.
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on 27 February 2004
First of all, the 2nd CD in this double Live set is worth the admission price alone. It features some HEAVY playing from both Miles and his guitartist Pete Cosey. Plus Miles gets all lo-fi and starts mucking about with an organ, it sounds amazing, and it will rearrange your understanding of how electronic experimentalism entered popular music.
Pete Cosey sounds like Hendrix jamming in the heart of the sun.
The percussion playing is also very interesting, very organic and funky.
The first CD is a bit flabby, it sounds as if the band are trying to catch up with each other. Theres too much bad-saxophone playing.
If your a fan of Miles's Electric Period you LOVE this, If you regard yourself as chemically-challenged you'll LOVE this.
Lie back, get 'comfortable' and wig out to some SERIOUS astro-funk...
"Can you get to that?"
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on 19 May 2008
The fact that Dark Magus wasn't released outside of Japan until recently (and wasn't performed within the boundaries of the human concepts of time and space) means that it will never garner the respect it deserves, but there's just no accounting for the ground beneath your feet shuddering and moaning in pain when you turn it up loud enough. Jazz from the limits, funky as hell and deceptively evil.
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on 28 April 2016
If you are coming at Miles Davis from a rock direction and are found of anything which might loosely be described as "noise rock", then this CD will blow your socks off. If you like Faust, Hookworms, Can, God Speed You Black Emperor, Mogwai, The Fall, Fat White Family, Girl Band, Vert X, Pharaoh Overlord, The Oh Sees, The Hospitals, LAMPS, Grey Hairs, The Parquet Floors, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground, anything described as "stoner rock" or "dark ambient" or have ever owned a wah-wah pedal, you will absolutely love this. Tatu is worth the cost of a cd or download on its own and it's not even the best track. (That's Wili) It's well noisy!
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on 12 March 2014
What an amazing cd and an amazing artist.A must buy for anyone.Great music to listen too at any time of the day or night.
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on 29 August 2013
This is probably the most experimental music Davis recorded. It is an aural stew of churning, gurgling, sometimes atonal, harmolodic , jazzy, funky musics of varying volume and intensity. Davis draws on a wide range of influences here ranging from Stockhausen to Hendrix to Sly Stone. The music is uncategorisable now, never mind then, and it is easy to see why so many unadventurous critics couldn't get to grips with it. However, that is their stupid fault for being unable or unwilling to drop their preconceptions and allow this complex music that is about texture, rhythm and timbre rather than conventional song structure and harmony to just 'be' [in the Heideggerian sense, my friends..]. Don't expect anything...just listen. You will hear the most wonderful sounds any ensemble could make. This music was years and years ahead of its time, and it makes some of the so-called 'experimental' music of the 70s and 80s look limp and amateurish in comparison. The wonderful thing about Davis, and this is also the case with artists like Brian Eno and Robert Wyatt, is that he knew perfectly well that there are no limits and boundaries in music but he chose to pull back a little from the most extreme position, retaining an audience.

I would recommend 'Dark Magus' to anyone with intelligence and imagination. My only gripe is the unutterably pathetic quality of the double cd packaging. The cd case, made of thinner than usual plastic, literally broke into pieces when I attempted to dislodge the cd. Never mind, the music is wonderful.
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on 24 August 2010
This is typical of Miles' early to mid-seventies live recordings. Just a lot of disorganised noise with screeching "electric" trumpet from the leader and the rest of the band trying to work out what they're supposed to be playing. Tune titles mean absolutely nothing as it all sounds the same, an insult to the listener. It's just an awful noise, best summed up by a recent interview with one of Miles' sidemen of the time who said that for most of the time he hadn't a clue what was going on once they took to the stage! They were probably all on a "drugs high" - at least it sounds that way. This in on a par with the awful later Coltrane stuff.
This period of Davis's recording career, although generally maligned, was not all bad though. The studio recordings such as "Silent Way", "Bitches Brew", "Live Evil", "Get Up With It" and yes, "On The Corner" are "must have" classics for Miles devotees, such as myself. Best to avoid the live stuff!
In my opinion, the comeback years from 1981 onwards,both studio and live, dismissed as pop-funk by some, provided more listenable material, especially when Marcus Miller came on the scene."Live Around The World" is a great album from this period (See my review).
Meanwhile, I think I'll listen to my copy of the wonderful 1964 Philarmonic Hall recording to restore my faith in Mr. Davis's music....
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