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on 4 July 2011
A few years ago, my brother bought me my first jazz album; Miles Davis' 'A Kind of Blue'. After a couple of years of listening to the cool, laid back music of this album, I felt ready to explore Davis' other work. I was quite surprised to find that, a few years after 'A Kind of Blue', he had delved into much more experimental and extended forms, with weird and wonderful tracks stretching beyond the 20 minute mark. Being a progressive rock fan, I leapt on what was said to be another of his key works, the double album 'Bitches Brew'.

I was quite literally buzzing with excitement when I first heard it! It was so energetic, fresh, unpredictable and trippy. For example, the first track plays for a couple of minutes only to 'reset' itself (via a tape loop) and replay the exact same recorded sounds a second time. This was revolutionary stuff at the time and still sounds it.

I haven't yet digested the album fully as it is so packed with content that it's impossible to grasp it fully after even half a dozen listenings. But, nevertheless, I can say with confidence that this album is fantastic and has shown me that jazz can be weird and epic in the same way as progressive rock or classical.
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on 25 May 2017
Challenging piece of work..but well worth the effort....concentrate though....no distractions.!
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on 23 March 2017
Still sounds fantastic after a few decades.
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on 9 July 2016
I love this album,but unfortunately I bought a pre owned copy and disc two is unplayable. That'll teach me.I' m now going to order a new copy.
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on 5 September 2010
Most people reading this review will probably be familiar with the 40 year old classic Jazz/Fusion album 'Bitches Brew' and are probably asking themselves whether its worthwile buying this new Legacy 2CD + DVD edition. This set features the original double album, an additional 2 alternate takes of ` Spanish Key' and ` John McLaughlin' and the 45 rpm single edits of `Miles Runs The Voodoo Down', `Spanish Key', ` Great Expectations' and `Little Blue Frog' plus a DVD of a live concert filmed in Copenhagen in 1969.

This really is a great box set to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Miles first `Gold Album', and probably its the closest that Jazz/fusion ever came to rock music.

Whilst, if you have the original album and/or the Complete Bitches Brew sessions, you would have the majority of the audio content, this is still a very worthwhile purchase if you appreciate this era of Miles music, where he came close to being the Jimi Hendrix of his genre. 'Bitches Brew' still features in the Rolling Stone Greatest 100 albums of all time and I highly recommend this edition of what I consider to one of the best albums from 1970s, as the additional audio material and previously unreleased DVD concert from Copenhagen make this essential for people who enjoy Miles late 60's/early 70's music.
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VINE VOICEon 16 January 2003
It is hard, 37 years on to imagine the impact this album had on its release in early 1970. It out sold all Miles' previous albums in its first year, inspired a new movement in jazz, and crossed musical boundaries, yet it led conservative jazz critic Stanley Crouch, amongst others, to dismiss it as an act of 'self violation'

Miles had already taken steps down the path of fusion, the use of electric instruments and rock sounds in jazz, with Filles do Kilamanjaro and especially In A Silent Way. However this was a much louder, bolder, brasher statement. This was the point of no return.

This controversial classic was both a logical continuation of where Miles' music was going, and a groundbreaking, unique album, which still sounds fresh exciting and compelling today. It incorporates a range of influences Miles was bringing to his music: jazz improvisation, blues, Jimi Hendrix inspired rock, African grooves and rhythms, Sly Stone and James Brown inspired funk.

The same principles of a deep groove laid down by layers of rhythm, electric keyboards and guitar, and of post performance studio editing and reconstruction, follow on directly from In A Silent Way. The sound though, is much denser and heavier, with bass clarinet, thudding electric bass and powerful rock backbeats and African rhythm adding to the 'brew' to create a swampy, menacing and bottom heavy texture.

Over the top, Miles is the main solo voice, his trumpet deliberately louder in the mix than the solos of guitarist John McLaughlin and Wayne Shorter on soprano sax, both of whom emerge more subtly through the dense backdrop. In this sense, Miles was to some extent retreading a fusion version of the call and response work on Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain where he was the lone solo voice over the orchestral ensemble, only here the ensemble was far noisier, abstract and experimental. His playing is magnificent on this album, some of his most powerful and declamatory soloing on record, with just the odd touches of mournful vulnerability, made more poignant by their scarcity.

While an atmosphere and sound pervades the whole album, the 2 discs neatly contrast with the first 2 tracks being lengthy studio reconstructions, heavily edited from experimental jams with a minimal theme, and the shorter tracks on disc 2 being untouched complete studio takes, released as they were recorded.

Both Pharoahs Dance and the title track are fascinating examples of post production, and while mostly compelling, are less immediate and obviously structured, and both would have benefitted from a little more trimming. Pharoahs Dance slowly creates an atmosphere, the 'theme' of which is only played towards the end by Miles, otherwise only hinted at before, but it somehow makes sense of the previous 16 minutes. B Brew itself is a little too long, but the opening and repeated 'call and response' fanfare is beautifully done, one of the most memorable parts of the album, with Miles' trumpet calls treated with reverb and echo to give a more majestic sound.

The standout track for me, and one of the finest things he ever recorded, is Spanish Key. It follows in a long line of Spanish/Flamenco flavoured tracks Miles recorded: Blues For Pablo, Flamenco Sketches, the Sketches of Spain album, Teo. In fact, as is pointed out in the liner notes, it is related to Flamenco Sketches also in its structure, the use of scales and key centres, cued at the improvisers will. The tighter structure of Spanish Key, obvious solo spots and continuations from his previous work make a nonsense to some of the critics claims at the time that Miles was abandoning jazz in his search for new sounds and forms.

The dancing rhythm and thudding bass line propel the track along with extra rhythmic sounds from Don Alias. Miles plays with passion ecomomy and precision, slowly building tension to fever pitch in the first few minutes, while in his second solo, he briefly slows things down with some beautiful haunting and lonely phrases, as the rhythm dies down to a whisper before picking up again for the final coda. In between, McLaughlin and Shorter solo from deeper in the mix but to great effect. A brilliant track from start to finish.

The bluesy Miles Runs The Voodoo Down is similarly more approachable than disc 1, but is slower, prowling along like a big cat stalking its prey. Miles gradually and powerfully builds up a head of steam, no hint of vulnerability here, then sits back until the ensemble reaches a messy peak of intensity before he returns at the end.

Sanctuary is curiously made up of 2 separate takes simply glued together, when just one would possibly have been more effective. It is by far the most becalmed thing on the album, but still has an underlying unsettled, restless feel and is an effective closer.

All these tracks were recorded on just 3 days, in August 1969, but were not unleashed on the world until April 1970, when Miles had already recorded several other studio sessions, breaking further new experimantal ground, which is fully documented on 'The Complete BB Sessions'

This album stands as it is though, and is one of the most fascinating albums amongst Miles' vastly varied output. The dense new music is not always successful, as there are passages which are a little cluttered or lacking in direction, but for the most part this is remarkable, trailblazing and thrilling music.
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on 20 April 2016
I am obviously missing something with this album. Over the years, I must have heard it ten, twenty, maybe more times than that. "It's Miles Davis' best album!" people tell me. I just don't get it! If you know the music, this package is great, go ahead and buy it. If you don't read on...
I have no idea how this music was made, but if I was set about making something similar, this is what I would do.
First take some brilliant musicians. You need quite a number of them. I think there are 3 keyboard players and two drummers. There are certainly two bass players and there's trumpet, saxophone and bass clarinet. Next take some LSD. Or at least, give it to the musicians. Next take some superglue and slightly mess up their instruments. Stick some keys down. Make them awkward to play. Finally seal each player inside a sound proof box so that they only have muffled vibrations to tell them what the others are playing.Now you are ready to record Pharaoh's Dance.
Ask they players to improvise a creepy atmosphere and then try to build it up into a groove.
What happens on the real Pharaoh's Dance is that it takes about 4 and half minutes before they manage to get some kind of rhythm going but, what with the sound-proofing and they instruments being all jammed up, they've lost it again by 7 minutes. They find another little thing about 9 minutes in but it lasts even less long. This goes on quite painfully till 18 minutes, at which point, the producer seems to have removed the sound proof boxes and the band manages to break into a tune. Then he hits the faders.
For Bitches Brew, the recipe seems somewhat simpler. Using the same jam session, wait until the band are really cooking and somebody has started to solo. The other players are all biding their time, filling in with plinks and plonks and the occasional little fill on bass or drums. Make sure this really cooking solo goes on for 20 minutes. Then destroy the track with the solo on it and release the backing tracks. It's a kind of negative print of a track. Interesting in a way, but you'll never get those twenty minutes back.
Spanish Key is actually quite a good track but it's never allowed to settle down and switches and changes slightly too much to be really kicking. Only Miles Runs the Voodoo Down (which is as good as anything miles ever recorded) really hits you at first listening.
As I say, I am probably missing something but if you want to know why people dig Miles' electric period, I wouldn't go here first. Try Tribute to Jack Johnson, On the Corner or Disc 1 of Live Evil for the real heavy s*** and then go onto early Miles (Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, Filles de Kilimanjaro) to get the jazzier side of things. After that, it may be worth trying to suss out this enigma. I'll certainly give it another 20 or so tries.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 March 2012
I know I am about to be shot down for this, but I have always felt this work from all round jazz great and musical innovator Mile Davis to be less than successful, and is one that I very rarely, if ever, listen to.

I can see the merits of it. It's a grand experiment, pushing the boundaries of music. Such things are to be lauded and encouraged. And while it does really push the boundaries in its attempts to merge rock and jazz, the end result is not an enjoyable listen.

And it is that aspect that is important for me. No matter how grand the vision, how deep the ideas, how boundary pushing the enterprise, music has to be enjoyable for me to listen to it, otherwise I see no point whatsoever. Dissonance and jarring rhythmic devices can work in jazz, look at the work of Charlie Mingus for example, but here Davis uses it too much and creates pieces that too jarring, too uncomfortable on the ear, and seemingly too introspective an noodly. It's the bridge between jazz and prog rock (a genre I tend to have little time for, for much the same reasons), coming at it from a jazz god's perspective.

Compared to In a Silent Way, Davis' 1969 album that started explicitly to explore the jazz rock fusion that finds its apotheosis here, this is a harsh and grating listen with no real joy. The aforementioned is full of sweet, melodic work that draws you in and is a thing of beauty. Bitches Brew is too harsh too often and I cannot hear the beauty or get any enjoyment from it. It's hard work to listen to, and music should not be hard work for the audience.

Three stars for this. I laud what Davis was trying to do and admire the majesty of the failure. But at the end of the day it's an album I personally dislike, and I think it fares poorly when compared to some truly classic previous albums such as In a Silent Way, ESP, Kind Of Blue, Milestones or Birth Of The Cool.
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on 29 May 2007
This is fantastic, innovative, original and wonderful. This is the first jazz album i purchased and i have to say i couldn't have made a better choice. Everything else i have listened to in this genre has been slightly disappointing compared to this album. The music is either too loud, messy, horrible and simply annoying, or far too subdued to be anything like as exciting as the rhythms and musical interplay on this album. I can see why Miles Davis is so revered; he was one step ahead of the game every time. He also knew who would make good musical companions (i am in awe of John McLaughlin's guitar work) and he could make something musically innovative without loosing melody.

Buy this and you'll never look back.
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on 9 September 2008
I'd be some kind of pretentious idiot if I tried to give any kind of in depth review of this album, so I'll keep it short. I have just come back to this particular album after a 23 year absence: it's incredible, quite incredible. The sound quality over my original vinyl copy is breathtaking and within minutes of hearing Pharoah's Dance, I am caught and off and running. Bitches Brew rewards the listener on so many levels;complexity, drive and sublime intelligence.

Columbia/Legacy are to be highly praised with the packaging; the sleeve notes are copious and very detailed

Hey, you know that Desert Island disc thing? Well, it'd be a toss up here between Bitches Brew and Trout Mask Replica.............

Finally, an open question: how come every time I listen to Miles Davis, it makes me want to cook for my friends?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address.............
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