Four 1980s albums showing Miles Davis moving in a new direction…
Miles Davis – The Man With the Horn (1981), We Want Miles (Live, 1982), Decoy (1982), You’re Under Arrest (1985) – Sony Music, Columbia Records
Outside of perhaps Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis is the most well known jazz musician in the history of jazz. Miles’ career went from the 1940s to the beginning of the 1990s. He was always on the vanguard in the development of jazz genres throughout his career. From bop, to cool, and all the way through electronic manipulations, Miles Davis was always there pushing the envelope and setting the stage for others to follow.
Sony Music/Columbia Records has just released four of Miles’ early 1980s albums (from Japanese pressings complete with OBI wrappings). They will be of strong interest to fans of late period Miles.
These recordings—remastered from original tapes—are being released on Vinyl this summer, now available for pre-ordering:
The Man With The Horn – 1981, crystal clear vinyl (available July 29)
We Want Miles – 1982, opaque yellow vinyl, 2 LP set (August 12)
Decoy – 1984, crystal clear vinyl (August 29)
You’re Under Arrest – 1985, crystal clear vinyl (September 16)
Due to significant health issues, Davis had taken a six year hiatus (1975-1981) from recording. He then resumed recording with limited touring. He ended his recording contract with Columbia in 1985, when he signed with Warmer Bros.
His early 1980s output ranged from an exploration of soul and pop idioms with a heavy emphasis on funk, to revisiting prior electronic periods. Davis was always on the lookout for new areas to explore, and the music of Sly and the Family Stone, as well as Prince, held a fascination for him. He was more apt to work with spare musical ideas and brief melodies, satisfied to let his sidemen expand on his framework. There is a strong emphasis on a heavy bass line (electric) and an aggressive influence from his drummers and percussionists. Guitarists, John Scofield, and Mike Stern, are featured as well as bassists, Marcus Miller and Darryl Jones. The dynamic drummer, Al Foster fit right into Miles’ vision, as does percussionist, Mino Cinelu. The saxophone duties during this four year period were split between Bill Evans, Branford Marsalis, and Bob Berg. Each primarily played soprano sax.
The end result of this late period Miles Davis was mixed. Critics were not as impressed, as was a newly discovered young audience both in Europe and Japan, as well as back home in the States, who loved Miles’ new work. Mr. Davis began to re-enter a more melodic playing at times, that could mix well (especially when using a muted trumpet) with pop tunes. This worked very well with Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” and Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” from the You’re Under Arrest album.
In chronological order, other distinguished tracks include:
From The Man with the Horn, “Fat Time” has a catchy melody and a funky solos from saxophonist, Evans, and guitarist, Mike Stern. “Back Seat Betty” shows rock influences, yet some tender lines from Miles. It’s a nice mix of funk and fusion. Randy Hall does triple duty on the title track with vocals, synthesizer, and electric guitar.
We Want Miles is mostly lengthy live jams done in Boston, NYC, and Tokyo. Davis’ long time producer, Teo Macero, is onboard. “Jean Pierre’ has a repetitive riff that expands in a “head nodding” listening fashion. Marcus Miller sets the funky bass line and the others are locked into the groove. “Back Seat Betty” gets another run through.
On the Decoy album, Miles uses his former arranging partner, Gil Evans, on “That’s Right” and its polish and sophistication stands right out. John Scofield co- wrote the three tracks on side two of the album, and on the closer, “That’s What Happened,” his influence and chunky guitar is felt.
You’re Under Arrest is perhaps the weakest album of the four, and with the exception of Miles’ working of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” this album has not aged well. Critics complained that most of the songs could be used as a cheesy sound track for a 70s porno movie. “One Phone Call/Street Scenes” with Miles’ growly vocal is particularly embarrassing.
I found the influence of Prince to be felt in what Davis was digging at this time period. There is lots of synthesizer and guitar effects to be found here.
Fans of guitar god, John McLaughlin, will appreciate his talents on “Ms. Morrisine” and “Katia.”
Miles Davis completists and funk aficionados will find lots to enjoy on these four 1980s re-releases, and the acoustics will please audiophiles and collectors alike. I would expect that these releases will be limited, so it would be wise to make their purchase soon.
For more information, please visit vendor’s website:
Fat Time, Back Seat Betty, Shout, Aida, The Man with the Horn, Ursula
(Miles Davis- trumpet, pedals; Barry Finnerty, Mike Stern – guitar; Marcus Miller – bass guitar; Al Foster – drums; Sammy Figueroa – percussion; Robert Irving – Yamaha Synthesizer, piano; Randy Hall- synthesizer, guitar , celeste, vocals (5); Felton Crews – bass guitar; Vince Welborn, Jr. – drums)
Jean Pierre, Back Seat Betty, Fast Track, Jean Pierre, My Man’s Gone Now, Kix
(Miles Davis – trumpet; Marcus Miller – Fender bass; Bill Evans – soprano sax; Mike Stern – guitar; Al Foster – drums; Mino Cinelu – percussion)
Decoy, Robot 415; Code M.D., Freaky Deaky, What It Is, That’s Right, That’s What Happened
(Miles Davis – trumpet; Branford Marsalis – saxophone; John Scofield – guitar; Bill Evans, Branford Marsalis – saxophones; Robert Irving III – synthesizers; Darryl Jones – bass; Al Foster – drums; Mino Cinelu – percussion)
One Phone Call/Street Scenes; Intro: MD1/Somethings on Your Mind/MD2;
Ms. Morrisine, Katia Prelude, Katia, Time After Time, You’re Under Arrest, Medley: Jean Pierre/You’re Under Arrest/ Then There/Were None
(Miles Davis – trumpet, vocal; Robert Irving III – synthesizer; Bob Berg – soprano sax; John Scofield – guitar; John McLaughlin – guitar; Darryl Jones – bass; Al Foster or Vince Wilburn – drums; Steve Thornton – percussion)