All posts tagged: Miles Davis

Van Hood

Desert Island Discs with Van Hunt

Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt has been one of the music industry’s best kept secrets for almost a decade now. Starting his career writing songs for and with artists like Dionne Farris and Rahsaan Patterson, and coming into his own as an artist with his self-titled 2003 debut, the Ohio native (and current L.A. resident) has proven himself to be a singular talent that defies description. The fact that he isn’t so easily labeled might be a reason that he hasn’t broken through to mainstream success, despite his obvious talent, his close association with “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson, and stints opening for everyone from Mary J. Blige to the Dave Matthews Band. The Grammy-winner recently released a new album entitled What Were You Hoping For?, a Dirty Mind-esque collection of provocative, funk-etched rock and roll that reveals a wealth of influences ranging from Rick James to Iggy Pop (whose “No Sense of Crime” Van covered on his second album, On The Jungle Floor.) Van’s choices for Desert Island Discs should give you a pretty good idea …

Desert Island Discs with Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies

We’re honored to have Cowboy Junkies guitarist Michael Timmins as our guest for today’s edition of Desert Island Discs. The Junkies are currently celebrating the digital release of their latest offering Demons (physical copies of the album will be available on February 15th), a tribute to the music of singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt.  Demons is the second release in their four album arc dubbed “The Nomad Series.”  We’ll tell you some more about the album in a moment, but first, here are Michael’s desert island picks! 1) The White Album – The Beatles I think that Magical Mystery Tour has more songs on it that I’d consider my favorite Beatle songs, but the White Album has so much variety and oddness that I think it can be listened to endlessly.

CD Review: Miles Davis, “Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Edition”

Miles Davis once quipped that he had changed the course of jazz “four or five times.” If you know anything about jazz, and I don’t profess to know much, you know that it was no idle boast. One of those times came with the release of Bitches Brew in April 1970. These days, no significant album release anniversary seems to go by without the release of an expanded, remastered, repackaged, revised re-release, and for the most part, that turns out to be a very good thing. In fact, these releases are often the only rays of light coming from a music industry that is in the throes of a long and protracted demise. What the major labels have is catalog. Eventually, that may be all they have. So why not make the most of it as Sony Legacy has done with the 40th Anniversary reissue of Bitches Brew. In April 1970, Miles Davis hurled Bitches Brew like a thunderbolt into a pot that was roiling with the likes of Sgt. Pepper, the White Album, Electric …

Cratedigger: Joni Mitchell, “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”

Joni Mitchell is a long-time member of my personal pantheon. It’s a short list of artists who I revere not just for what they produce, but for the journey that informs their work, for their willingness to live on the edge artistically, and to blur the lines between genres. Miles Davis is another member. Picasso too. As I said, it’s short list. Given the esteem I hold for Joni, The Hissing of Summer Lawns is a big deal for me. It’s not only her best album, but her artistic peak. It was a continuation of her flirtation with jazz, which began in earnest with her 1974 album Court and Spark. Less than two years after the release of that masterpiece, along came another one for the ages. The Hissing of Summer Lawns was released in November, 1975, and reached #4 on the Billboard album chart. Sadly, Joni’s audience was unprepared to accept the eclectic nature of her work. She hasn’t had another top ten album since then. The album’s players are a who’s who of …

Sugar Water: There’s Always a Riot Goin’ On

The following piece originally appeared as an entry in Popdose’s Most Disturbing Halloween EVER! series. “Everyday People” entered the Billboard Top 40 on January 4, 1969. Six weeks later it was the number-one song in the country, holding onto the top spot for an entire month. The lead single from Sly & the Family Stone’s upcoming album Stand!, it espoused “different strokes for different folks,” with the group’s leader, Sly Stone, assuring listeners that “I am no better and neither are you / We are the same whatever we do.” Later that year the “psychedelic soul” band from San Francisco — featuring black, white, male, and female members — played the Woodstock festival, taking the stage at three in the morning on August 17 with inspirational anthems like “You Can Make It If You Try” and “I Want to Take You Higher,” which quickly moved the predawn crowd out of their sleeping bags and onto their feet. In hindsight, it was as high as Sly & the Family Stone would go. On January 10, 1970, …

White Label Wednesday: Artists United Against Apartheid, “Sun City”


Ladies and gentlemen, meet the rarest of breeds in the music world: the protest remix.

It’s unclear which is more inconceivable today: that a major label would release a stinging protest song aimed at the government of an extremely wealthy country, or that the song would crack the Top 40. But thanks to the overwhelming good will that came from Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in late 1984 and USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” a few months later, benefit fatigue had thankfully not yet kicked in, and “Sun City,” shepherded by Steven Van Zandt, became a surprise hit in late 1985. Now consider some other curiosities about the track:

– Two of the verses feature rappers, a full six months before Run-DMC and Aerosmith would drop their game-changing collaboration.
– The production was by New York big beat maestro Arthur Baker, who was adored by musicians but not exactly known as a hitmaker.
– The majority of the artists who sang on the record hadn’t scored a Top 40 hit of their own in years, if ever.

Indeed, “Sun City” is about as hipster a benefit/protest record as you’re likely to find. Daryl Hall and John Oates, Pat Benatar and Bruce Springsteen are easily the biggest commercial names at the time to appear on the record, while socially conscious artists like Gabriel, Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett and, of course, Bono would find mainstream success in the coming years. The rest of the contributors are a who’s who of New York cool. Joey Ramone, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC, Duke Bootee, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Stiv Bators and Lou Reed all make appearances, as do Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, George Clinton, a pre-comeback Bonnie Raitt, Temptations David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Wolf, and Herbie Hancock. (Jackson Browne contributes as well, though getting him to work on a protest song back then was like shooting fish in a barrel.) Bob Geldof’s name appears on the 12″ single’s back cover, though one wonders if that was the benefit record equivalent to giving Berry Gordy writing credit on a Motown single; whether he contributed to the track or not, you gotta put Bob’s name on it.

DVD Review: Miles Davis, “That’s What Happened”

In my Cratedigger colum last Saturday, I got out my vinyl copy of the 1965 Miles Davis album, E.S.P. The journey from that classic album to this DVD of a 1987 Miles concert in Munich is more than just 20-plus years. Musically, it’s a lifetime, stretching from the acoustic hard bop of the great Miles Davis Quintet to the hard funk of his late ’80s band. One of the great misconceptions about Miles is that following the six-year hiatus that began in 1975, when he stayed off the road to address health issues, he was never the same as a trumpet player. If this DVD exists for no other reason, it would have value simply because it gives the lie to that perception. Miles plays wonderfully here, and he plays a lot. According to keyboard player Adam Holzman, “When he first made his comeback, he was not that strong and he was building his lip strength so he didn’t play a whole lot. By ’84,’85 he was playing a very healthy amount on stage again. …