On The Corner (Miles Davis)
Miles Davis never did anything in a small way, and his foray into funk was no exception. Davis threw everything and the kitchen sink onto ON THE CORNER: Electric guitars and saxophones slam against sitars and tablas; synthesizers and hand-clapping contingents jostle for space with multiple keyboards and drums, a bass clarinet, and, oh yes, Davis's own electric trumpet. On tunes like "Helen Butte" and "Mr. Freedom X" it's nearly impossible half the time to figure out what combination of instruments you're hearing anyway. Holding it all together is a wicked groove that's more indebted to James Brown, Sly Stone, and 1970s funk than it is to any traditional notion of jazz swing. Davis himself plays far less than usual, but individual improvisation isn't what ON THE CORNER is all about. Crazy rhythms and even crazier sonic textures give this gem a density that was finally appreciated a decade later by more experimental, and open-eared, neo-funketeers. Today, ON THE CORNER is a touchstone for forward-thinking jazz and hip-hop artists alike, proving that nothing succeeds like excess.
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This is one of those few albums that as soon as I put on I fell in love with. It is unbelievable and it just rocks. Truly my favourite jazz album. All I can say is the haunting funk rhythms are bewitching.
I love everything Miles has ever put out. Especially BBrew and In a Silent Way. But this grabbed me when it first came out. I knew it would piss off the "purists" and "critics", but that might mean its really good. Critics never like anything different or REALLY good. This is Miles ahead of RAP, ahead of Techtronics, and way beyond worrying about context and continuity with his audience's wishes. If you dont get it ...play it in 10 years or maybe 100. You will.
This album is tough to rate. There is no doubt it is totally different. That does not mean it is an easy listen. The music seems to be one long groove. The ROLLING STONE Record Guide called it 23rd century funk and I cannot argue with that. Until then I will give it a 2 1/2 star rating. At least it is a bargain price.
When I first listened to this, I so confused as to what was going on that I took my headphones off in the middle of the album. Then I tried to listen to it all the way through a second time, and was even more lost than I was before. This may be one of the most forward-thinking albums ever, but maybe Davis thought a little too far ahead.