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on 6 January 2010
I fully expect that all of the people that love this album will mark me as 'unhelpful' for this review, but if you already own it why do you need help with it? Anyway I got this CD because it's supposed to be one of those iconic albums that everyone should own and as often is the way with these things, it's a pretentious mess.

"Oh but if you don't like it, you don't understand it" the righteous will proclaim. Well sorry guys it sounds to me like someone making it all up as they go along - which is exactly what it is.

I'm sure the people that believe that "art isn't easy" are more worthy than me and are much cleverer and perhaps the fact that it's a painful listen makes the CD all the better to be seen to say you like it, but not me. I prefer to make my own decisions and not simply say something is great because of image.

If you like this CD I'm happy for you, but don't tell me that just because it has no structure and was made up on the spot it breaks down some kind of barriers. It sounds like a load of stoned musicians warming up before a gig.
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on 17 September 2007
This album is very pretentious. I got it as I like birth of the cool and someday my prince will come. They are albums that make you smile as they are beautiful and impressive. However, this is ridiculous. I should have guessed from the photo of miles davis looking like a poser - but I forgive him as he is very talented; this is experimentation, understandable to want to experiment. If like me you like to pick out jazz that is unpretentious and not all smoothy-smoochy, check out django reinhardt djangoloy and louis armstrong hot fives and sevens (and the aforementioned decent miles davis albums). That is real music, and music that is intelligent without falling into the trap of disappearing up your own ass in an introverted neurotic pile of vain nonsense.

Again, I'd like to remind that I like miles davis a lot when he's on form.
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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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on 24 April 2010
I have long been a fan of jazz fusion or jazz rock music. On Amazon there are plenty of lists of albums iof this genre and this album often features. I have recently read the excellent Miles Davis biography by Ian Carr and also enjoyed the super album "In A Silent Way" and the earlier "Kind Of Blue". So now I was looking forward to playing this CD. Oh dear! I simply do not understand what Davis and the rest of the musicians were trying to achieve. It sounds like each musician is playing his own piece without regard for anyone else. I like lots of types of music from fusion through to thrash metal and after one or two plays of any album I like to think I could hum some of the themes presented. I think I could listen to BB a dozen times and still not be able to recall any parts of it. Perhaps I'm not clever enough to understand it but should you have to have a high level of intelligence to like an album. Sorry it's just not for me at all.
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on 24 June 2016
During a recent visit to a local charity shop, I found a copy of this iconic album for £0.99. As I had never listened to it, I decided to push the boat out and buy it. I have listened to Miles Davis over the years and enjoyed most of what I have heard, however, this is, in my opinion not an enjoyable experience, and as far as I am concerned, not even jazz. I thought that this was a good example of Miles sticking up 2 fingers at his fans. I now consider that perhaps my cash out lay was rather excessive for what I got. However, I am sure that there are many people who enjoy this, but obviously that does not include me.
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on 11 April 2007
All I knew about jazz was learnt from the TV programme The Beiderbeck Connection. "Jazz never does anything", as John Lennon once said.

I heard an interesting song during a party scene in an obscure Christian Bale movie called Metroland. It's amazingly offensive lyrics went something like: "Walking along the beaches/Looking at the b*tches." Then some more offensive variations on calling women b*tches. The song turned up again at the start of Sexy Beast when Ray Winstone is sunbathing.

In one of the strangest leaps of imagination ever conceived by a human mind I somehow came to the conclusion that it was a song by Miles Davis, taken from B*tches Brew (I knew of the cover artwork, but obviously not the contents)! I was aware that the rock song I heard was not jazz, but you know, what is jazz?

So I bought B*tches Brew (my first jazz album) and was dismayed to find that it wasn't even remotely like I thought it was going to be. Bloody hell, there wasn't even any vocals! I almost got through the whole thing in one sitting but decided that life was too short to waste it on this random noise.

When I returned it to the shop the next day I said with great understatement, "It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be."

I checked the end credits of Sexy Beast and found that the song was Peaches by The Stranglers! And I'd also been mishearing the lyrics. It was "peaches", not "b*tches", that was being sung.

I bought a Stranglers Best Of, discovered that almost everything else on it was rubbish and never listened the CD ever again.

About five years passed and I had bought less than ten jazz albums (the good ones were "Birds of Fire" by Mahavishnu Orchestra, "Head Hunters" by Herbie Hancock and "Electric Bath" by The Don Ellis Orchestra).

Eventually I got the 2CD Essential Miles Davis compilation. It was okay. Mostly dull as the tracks all sounded too similar to each other. They get in a groove and just keep at it until everyone's well beyond bored. And then they go at it some more.

The stand out track was Miles Runs The Voodoo Down. The random instruments kept cutting into any grooves that might be developing, slashing them down in their prime or at least complementing them with hard stabs of keyboard or trumpet, thus keeping things interesting. It didn't even sound that avant garde which was very strange as it was from my least favourite album - B*tches Brew.

The randomness was the very thing I detested originally, but it was now its saving grace. The song held my attention in ways none of the other tracks on the Best Of could before they slid off into background Muzak.

So I sat on it for about four months before giving Brew another chance. I bought it and I liked it straight away. It's not majestic in its brilliance but it's an interesting album. It's quite heavy in places, though I dislike the bonus track on disc 2 as it's a bit too polite and quiet to hold my attention.

These are the comments of a non-musician with no love, or even interest in jazz. As a non-jazz bore I can say that this is a good purchase. It might take a few listens but it is worth it. The three albums I mentioned above are more accessible and entertaining than B*tches Brew so I'd recommend them before moving on to this.

I think you've got to approach it with an understanding that it's not meant to be nice polite music. It's meant to be dark and unpleasant. The great album artwork tips you off to its violent darkness.

I think it's thematically similar to music by Joy Division, Tool and Nine Inch Nails. Dark subterranean horror soundtracks. And as an added bonus Davis himself sounds like the Devil when you hear him speak/croak during one of the later tracks.

At least that's how I think of it; hey for all I know you're supposed to imagine tropical beaches when you listen to it.
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on 14 May 2011
The 5 stars are for the original music alone, which is - unbelievably - getting on for 42 years old and still sounds fresh, mysterious, intense and glitters and smokes and boils as much as it ever did. This is a budget version of the recent (2010)big re-issue and very good value for money.

There are 2 questions; why were the 2 previously unissued out-takes not issued on the 'Complete BB Sessions' box set over a decade ago? And, how far are CBS/Sony prepared to go to maximise their profits from the music of Miles Davis? The answer to the first question is that the producers of the box set probably didn't want to have to remix or re-construct the 2 out-takes like they did for most of that issue, and the answer to the 2nd question really depends on the administrators of the Davis estate.

But this is a very good deal, whatever the answers to the above are; the original tracks are what they always have been, and the extras don't detract from that. We get alternates of 'Spanish Key' and 'John McLaughlin', both inferior to the released versions but nonetheless very interesting indeed, and 45-rpm single 'edits' of 4 other tracks. The 2 unreleased tracks shed some more light on the recording process as they show Davis in the process of fine-tuning and focusing his ensemble. Well worth a listen and a 'must-have' for collectors.

Then there is the DVD, of a performance in Copenhagen from the 1969 tour. The sound is good and the camerawork ok too for '69; what is most striking is the way the band goes totally 'out' when Miles isn't playing! There is now quite a lot available from the European tours of 1969 and 1970, and all of it shows how extraordinary and (as it turns out) unique the music of Miles was at this time.

The one thing I really don't like at all about this package is the notes, an essay by one Greg Tate which is nothing more than risible, specious 'hip-dude' tripe which IMHO shouldn't be anywhere in or near this classic reissue. Ugh.
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on 21 April 2013
This is a totally personal review.... The type of music on this CD is not for me, though I am a huge fan of Miles Davis' musicanship
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on 3 December 2016
One word 'Genius'

Some people have a problem with 'electric Miles' albums as most will be fans of his 'A Kind of Blue' album myself included. However I felt that' this album was a masterclass in ensemble playing. The players on this album are Jazz heavyweights and they know how to play. Everyone is given their own space to explore and innovate and it's amazing how little you actually hear Miles. I'm listening to the vinyl album and as the needle hits the groove i sit back and hear the band warming up on Pharoahs Dance along with Miles raspy mutterings. That's all i to hear as the band take me on a ride that just doesn't give up with the funk layered electric Jazz. It's hard to believe this album is 47 years old, yes 47 years old and does it sound dated, not one bit. That is part of the genius of this album it is still relevant today as it was in 1969. A great album.
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on 11 March 2010
I am going to start this review on the defensive! At a number of times over the last 15-20 years I have owned and/or listened to almost all of Miles musical output. Particularly the Columbia stuff. I have days where I crave for nothing but Kind Of Blue, other days where I want dissonance. And if you want one artist to suit each of your million different daily moods - Miles IS your man.

I have purchased Bitches Brew 3 times now. And listened and listened and listened - and I have reached a conclusion. Other than Kind Of Blue - its the one other album many people have in their 'eclectic' music collections. I just bet it never gets played. For this reason I sold it recently. I had it because I thought I should. Its one of 'those' albums after all. But the fact is I find it pretty turgid, sludgy and not a little unsettling. The unsettling I can deal with however (i like Big Black, i like DJ Shadow - i used to be really into 'black metal'). But Bitches Brew really pales into the background when put up against In A Silent Way, Jack Johnson or even Get Up With It. Put simply, I never played it for pleasure - no matter how well I've got to know it. Its a tough call to suggest a starting point to the uninitiated for Miles' electric period. But Bitches Brew ain't it. Not in my opinion anyway. It is neither funky, rocky nor jazzy. In fact - On The Corner has more spare space, funk and tunes, even though its disturbing as hell - and (I've always thought)a perfect distillation of the psyche of the african-american population at that time in history...

Bitches Brew changed Jazz. No question. But in doing that it had to be challenging to the point of unlistenable. Google great unlistenable albums, you always get Trout Mask Replica, Arc, Metal Machine Music, any Stockhausen, Electric Storm... Add Bitches Brew to that list.

Hoever, having said all this, I'll probaby get a hankering to own it again in a few months or years. But I'll bet the housekeeping money on the fact that I'll sell it AGAIN within months.

Not OVERrated. But definately overRATED. Rated X you might say. But then that came later...

Newbies be warned.
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