Soul mining

By Tom Von Malder | Apr 22, 2014
Photo by: Columbia/Legacy Records Miles Davis performs.

Owls Head — Decades on, new collections make it easier to stock up on the great soul music of the past.

Miles Davis: Miles at the Fillmore -- Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 (Columbia/Legacy, 4 CDs). Trumpeter Davis may not fit the usual definition of soul, but surely his music is filled with it. He also is the only jazz artist and the only solely instrumental artist ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What Davis was, in fact, was an innovator who helped change the sound of music several times.

These live recordings from four nights at the Fillmore East -- June 17-20, 1970 -- came two months after the release of Davis’ groundbreaking double-LP “Bitches Brew,” as Davis began reaching out to the rock audience that came of age in the late 1960s. By this time, Davis had started listening to the funk of James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, the Chambers Brothers and Jimi Hendrix -- all great soul acts -- as well as the Beatles. This is the first official release of these recordings in their complete versions. In October 1970, Columbia Records released the two-LP set “Miles Davis at Fillmore,” which consisted of performances culled from the four nights, edited to fit the LP vinyl format. With the release of the full unedited shows, we get more than 100 minutes of previously unreleased music. There also are three previously unreleased bonus tracks -- another 35 minutes -- recorded in April 1970 at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. There, Davis played on a bill with the Grateful Dead and Stone the Crows; while in New York, he opened for Laura Nyro.

Davis’ band was a the quintet of Chick Corea on electric piano, Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums (all three were part of the core of the “Bitches Brew” recording sessions in August 1969), plus soprano saxophonist Steve Grossman and percussionist, flutist and vocalist Airto Moreeira, both of whom had played on studio sessions since November 1969 and then joined the touring band in February and April of 1970, respectively. The delight of these recordings is that the band was joined by Keith Jarrett on organ and tambourine for the Fillmore East shows. (For three historic months, Corea and Jarrett both played keyboards for Davis.)

The box set has one disc devoted to each of the four nights, with two bonus tracks on the first disc and a third bonus track on the third disc. The sets range from 46 minutes to nearly an hour. The original remote live recording tapes, produced by Teo Macero and engineered by Stan Tonkel, were used for this release. Each night the band played “Directions” (a staple from 1969to 1971 of Davis’ shows, but not issued on record until 1980), “The Mask” (a new composition, recorded only two weeks earlier at the tail end of the “Jack Johnson” sessions), “It’s About Time” (from the “In a Silent Way” album of early 1969) and “Bitches Brew” (lean, but muscular in the 10- to 14-minute range, compared to the powerful funk of the 27-minute album version). On the second night, Davis played a rare encore, performing “Spanish Key” from the new album. On the last two nights, he performed the World War II evergreen “I Fall in Love Too Easily” (Davis recorded it in 1963) and Wayne Shorter’s “Sanctuary,” also from the new album. For the final night, Davis added “Willie Nelson,” which he had recorded in February.

The bonus tracks include Wayne Shorter’s “Paraphernalia” and “Footprints,” both from Davis’ acoustic repertoire, and a 13-minute live version of the Hendrix-influenced “Miles Runs  the Voodoo Down,” also from “Bitches Brew.” The set comes with a 32-page booklet that includes a 2,500-word chronological essay by reissue producer Michael Cuscuna, who was a first-hand witness to Davis’ development, as he was a disc jockey on New York’s influential WPLJ-FM. There also is an overview of Davis’ Fillmore period and the project itself by reissue producers Cuscuna and Richard Seidel.

Otis Redding: The King of Soul (Atlantic/Rhino, 4 CDs). This collection presents 92 tracks of magical soul from Redding, who died way too young. (His hit “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” which closes the collection, did not chart until after his death in December 1967 at age 26.) The collection generously samples his main eight albums, as well as four posthumous ones, a Christmas collection and a previous box set issued in 1993. Six tracks are from “King & Queen,” the duet album he recorded with Carla Thomas. His recordings were first issued on the influential Stax label and he helped identify the label’s classic style. Redding wrote a lot of his own songs, either alone or with Phil Walden or Steve Cropper, who was part of the Stax in-house rhythm section. Examples of his writing with Cropper that are included here are “Mr. Pitiful,” “Any Ole Way,” “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song),” “I’m Sick Y’All,” “Happy Song” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” Other of his well-known songs include “Respect,” “These Arms of Mine,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now),” “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.” Artists he covers here include the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Smokey Robinson.

Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul (Atlantic/Rhino, 4 CDs). If there is a King of Soul, there certainly has to be a Queen of Soul, and that, of course, is the incomparable Franklin. This anthology presents 87 tracks of her finest work, mostly from her first 10 Atlantic albums, albums that sizzled with hits and in performance. Ms. Franklin was on fire during this period. Many of Franklin’s 88 charted singles came from the late Sixties, after she signed with Atlantic in 1967. Among those represented here are “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Do Right Woman -- Do Right Man,” “Respect” (by Otis Redding), “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” her own “Think” and Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Say a Little Prayer.” Like the Redding collection, this is essential soul music.

Aretha Franklin: Original Album Series Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (imports, Atlantic/Warner and Atlantic/Rhino, each 5 CDs). With “The Queen of Soul” collection, you get about 75 percent of her most famous albums. In these two budget-priced sets, you get the whole of her first 10 albums. Vol. 1 includes the albums “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” “Lady Soul,” “Aretha Now,” “Spirit in the Dark” and “Aretha Live at Fillmore West.” Vol. 2 includes “Aretha Arrives,” “Aretha in Paris,” Soul ‘69,” “This Girl’s in Love With You” and “Young, Gifted & Black.” While I still have most of these on the original vinyl, they are well-used, and I do love complete albums.

Dionne Warwick collections (British imports, Edsel/Rhino). Speaking of complete album collections, there are four new sets that include Warwick’s first 16 albums -- three have two CDs and the other has three. Each comes with a 28-page booklet with a detailed historical essay and vintage album and single photos. This was the period in which Warwick, whom I got to see perform at Northwestern University during this period, was the voice of songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The first set includes the albums “Presenting Dionne Warwick,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Make Way For Dionne Warwick” and “The Sensitive Sound of Dionne Warwick.” Set one includes the hits “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “Make It Easy on Yourself,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “A House is Not a Home,” “(They Long to be) Close To You,” “Walk on By” and “Wives and Lovers.” All are by Bacharach and David, who wrote a total of 27 songs on the first four albums.

Set two includes the albums “Here I Am,” “Dionne Warwick in Paris,” “Here Where There is Love” and “On Stage and in the Movies,” including 19 more Bacharach/David songs, among them French versions of “A House is Not a Home” and “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart).” Set three includes four of my favorite albums of all time in “The Windows of the World,” “In the Valley of the Dolls,” “Promises, Promises” and “Soulful.” Plus, there are 19 bonus tracks, including her very different cover of “MacArthur Park.” There are 19 more Bacharach/David songs, including “I Say a Little Prayer,” “The Windows of the World,” “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?,” “Where Would I Go,” “Walking Backwards Down the Road,” “Promises, Promises,” “This Girl’s in Love with You” and “The April Fools.” Finally, set four includes the albums “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “Very Dionne,” “Dionne” and “Just Being Myself,” plus 11 bonus tracks. The haul is 27 more Bacharach/David songs, including bonus track duets with B.J. Thomas on “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “They Don’t Give Medals (To Yesterday’s Heroes).” Familiar Bacharach/David songs include “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “Loneliness Remembers (What Happiness Forgets),” “Paper Mache,” “Knowing When To Leave,” “Let Me Go To Him,” “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” “They Long to Be Close to You” and “One Less Bell to Answer.” Despite all her success with Bacharach and David, on “Just Being Myself,” Warwick turned to Motown greats Edward Holland, Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier for the bulk of the songs. Well done, Edsel, especially adding the bonus tracks and wonderful booklets.

Evelyn “Champagne” King: Action, the Evelyn “Champagne King Anthology -- 1977-1986 (British import, Big Break/Cherry Red, 2 CDs). We now move in the disco era, when RCA recording artist King had several memorable hits, among them “Shame,” “I Don’t Know If It’s Right,” “Let’s Get Funky Tonight,” “I’m in Love” and “Love Come Down.” The fun of this 31-song collection is that 10 tracks are presented in their longer 12-inch versions. There also is a fine 24-page booklet, with an essay on her career that incorporates an exclusive interview with the singer. Both King and her producers give comments on each individual track.

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