On the Corner / Big Fun / Get Up With It
(Columbia / Legacy)

The folks at Legacy just reissued three more titles from the vast catalog of Miles Davis: On the Corner, Big Fun, and Get Up With It. Miles lost a lot of fans when these albums came out, and in some cases, rightly so. On the Corner is probably the most hated album he ever released. The latter two albums were compilations of previously unreleased material that was lying around in the vaults. Some of it is quite good; some of it should've stayed there. All three albums include expanded liner notes, and have been digitally remastered for noticeably better sound quality than the original releases.

MILES DAVIS: On the Corner (Columbia / Legacy)Let's start with On the Corner. Originally released in 1972, this record has been hailed by some as a precursor to hip-hop, trance, jungle, and a host of other currently fashionable musical styles. To these ears, it's a repetitive mess that never gets off the ground. Davis' trumpet is buried in the mix, and there's no real melody to speak of either. The best track on the album is "Black Satin," a cut that Bill Laswell remixed with superior results on the excellent Panthalassa CD in 1998. The sound quality on that album was far superior, and the song worked much better within the context of that CD. Here, it just serves as the theme for the last half hour of the disc. On a historical note, this was the first Miles album to utilize overdubs and multiple tape machines.

MILES DAVIS: Big Fun (Columbia / Legacy)Big Fun originally hit the stores in 1974, and was a 2LP collection of outtakes recorded between 1969-72. The new version is a double CD, with an additional 45 minutes of music added to it. Ordinarily, bonus tracks are a good thing. However, if you bought the Complete Bitches Brew box last year, you already have all of the 'new' material. While it definitely has its moments (namely "Recollection," and the last section of "Ife"), the rest of the album is a hit and miss affair at best. "Great Expectations" is mainly an annoying mix of ethereal sounds and droning trumpet. "Go Ahead John" features some incendiary guitar work from John McLaughlin, but the channel panning will make you nuts by the end of the track.

MILES DAVIS: Get Up With It (Columbia / Legacy)The best of the three new reissues is Get Up With It. Released just before Miles 'retirement,' Get Up With It was another 2LP collection of outtakes (this time from 1970-74), and most of it was quite good. Disc one starts with the dark, ultra cool "He Loved Him Madly." Dedicated to the life and works of Duke Ellington, the 32-minute track is an eerie piece of music that grabs your attention and never lets go. "Maiysha" starts off in a funky, almost tropical groove; then after about 10 minutes, goes over the top with a blazing, abrasive guitar solo. Other highlights include the extended fusion workout, "Calypso Frelimo," "Red China Blues," and the hard driving "Mtume."

If, for some reason, you had to pick only one of these three albums, Get Up With It is the one to get. It's a great representation of Miles' electric period during the 70's, and hints at what was to come when he returned to music in the 80's.

© 2000 Steve Marshall