Columbia/Legacy is embarking upon a hot fusion reissue program, reshaping many of their classic albums via digital technology to make the roots of today’s music more relevant. Among the first reissues slated for 2000 are two of Miles Davis’ most misunderstood but oddly influential offerings, “On The Corner” and “Get Up With It”. At the “On The Corner” sessions Miles went nuts with electric eclecticism. He hooked a pickup and wah-wah pedal to his trumpet, hired three drummers and three percussionists, and expanded upon the electric guitar and keyboard concepts he had begun exploring a couple of years prior. He used looping technology at length, most notably on the four-part title suite that opens the disc.
Track 2 is unusual but captivating to this day with its multi-tracked trumpet, layered percussion, handclaps and whistled melody echoes. Bassist Michael Henderson might have gone stir-crazy on this album, as he basically played permutations of the same damned vamp over and over, if it wasn’t for the chance to funk it up via Mu-Tron on Track 3. The last track expounds further upon some elements introduced in #2, the textures building up to a bizarre, powerful orchestra by the disc’s close. You’ve heard this music sampled innumerable times for rap tracks. Now latch on to the original deal and find out how funky fusion used to be.
"On The Corner" Tracks - On The Corner/New York Girl/Thinkin’ One Thing and Doin’ Another/Vote For Miles; Black Satin; One And One; Helen Butte/Mr. Freedom X.
The two-disc “Get Up With It” from 1974 is perhaps a more accessible release, less repetitive than “On The Corner” and more finely colored, though the shades remain mostly black and blue. This contemplative moodiness lingered in Miles’ music well beyond his impending hiatus and on to his death in 1991. The personnel shifts wildly from track to track; only Miles and Henderson appear consistently on all eight selections.
Half of disc 1 is taken up by a deep meditation on the legacy of Duke Ellington written not long after his passing. The piece is underscored by Miles’ funereal organ, with Dave Liebman’s alto flute adding a ghostly Ducal air. Next, a funk ballad floats on the foaminess of three guitars, Pete Cosey’s pretty chordal vamps clashing with the dissonant organ. Track 3 was recorded in 1970 with Miles’ important lineup of Henderson, John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Airto Moreira and soprano saxophonist Steve Grossman. “Rated X”, recorded in ’72, sounds indeed like some twisted porn soundtrack with its horror-film organ and electric sitar.
Disc 2 begins with another half-hour marathon that sounds like an acid trip on a beach in Trinidad. Dave Liebman’s liner notes say that track 2 wasn’t originally intended for Miles but he latched onto it after hearing it in the studio. It briefly sounds out of place with its large horn section and Wally Chambers’ hot harmonica, but soon enough the wah trumpet brings it all back home. Next comes a tribute to Mtume, the stellar percussionist who graces most of the tracks, loping along with underwater guitar sounds. The disc closes with Miles’ nod to soul icon Billy Preston. “Get Up With It” offers a most interesting look at Miles’ artistic development across the first half of a controversial decade, a valuable document.
"Get Up With It" Tracks – Disc 1: He Loved Him Madly; Maiysha; Honky Tonk; Rated X. Disc 2: Calypso Frelimo; Red China Blues; Mtume; Billy Preston.