The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991
Cole then goes on to devote nearly 100 pages to Miles' many tours, and the posthumous live album, Live Around the World. As much as Miles' '80s albums had their appeal, Cole makes it clear that live, the material took on a whole other perspective. While some members of Miles' bands would leave because of the movement towards more restrictive form and Miles' concerts would, in fact, begin to take on more of a rock concert vibe than anything else the one thing that becomes evident is that, as prearranged as his concerts would appear to become, band members were still required to stay on their toes, as Miles would signal song and solo changes by sometimes the most innocuous of cues.
The format of the book has its advantages and disadvantages. Giving a track-by-track, blow-by-blow account of every song Miles recorded in the '80s means that it becomes increasingly difficult to find new and novel ways to say "funky. Perhaps Cole should have stuck with placing the songs in musical perspective, and avoided trying to describe each and every one as a unique piece of music.
The editing also leaves something to be desired. An extremely interesting and little-known fact is that keyboardist Lyle Mays, long-time member of the Pat Metheny Group, was actually considered as a potential collaborator for Tutu. What is annoying, however, is the constant misspelling of his name as "Mayes. Later in the book, Cole tries to describe the functioning of the whammy bar of a guitar, and is, quite simply, incorrect. Last, there are far too many instances of self-reference "see below being the worst offender. Referring to a future or past chapter is one thing; referring to something as vague as "below in a 500-page book is more an exercise in futility.
These quibbles are, however, largely unimportant when one considers the scope of Cole's book and how incredibly thorough it is. There simply hasn't been another book published on Miles Davis, in any period, that has managed to obtain the wealth of interview material and cover his recorded work and various live tours in such a complete and comprehensive fashion.
While The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991 may not convince the real purists out there that Miles' last years were anything more than simple commercial pandering, anyone who either appreciates the period, or has felt perhaps slightly ambiguous about it will likely be convinced that, while Miles wasn't forging new paths as he had previously, there was much more going on then met the eye.
Engagingly written from start to finish, filled with more facts than you'll be able to remember first time through, The Last Miles is an essential portrait of Miles' last decade and a strong argument that his music was both valid and perfectly in keeping with a musical philosophy that would ultimately stretch over six decades.