A much different album than you might expect from the cover – hardly the funky 70s set implied by the Big Fun-styled cover – and instead a lost slice of work from his groundbreaking late 60s years! The set was recorded in 1967, but unissued until Miles late 70s time away from the studio – hence the cover, which attempts to contemporanize the record – and the music is very much in the dark moods and sharp tones of Filles De Kilimanjaro, and features a somewhat similar group! The core quintet of Wayne Shorter on tenor, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums handles the first half of the set – but the group's then expanded to include Chick Corea on electric piano along with Herbie on keys – and Ron Carter steps out so that Dave Holland can bring some more modern tones to the bass. Tracks are all somewhat long, and titles include "Capricorn", "Water Babies", "Sweet Pea", and "Two Faced".
A set of outtakes released during Davis's retirement, three songs recorded during sessions for Nefertiti, and two cut during exploratory sessions for In A Silent Way, with Chick Corea and Dave Holland added on electric piano and bass respectively. It's a weird set because the Nefertiti side has the anything-can-happen combustibility of the Shorter-Hancock-Carter-Williams quintet ("Capricorn"), and the second side has the mostly absent Miles and endlessly raining electric pianos of the Zawinul-Corea-McLaughlin group ("Two Faced"). The first side isn't up to Quintet standard - the title track is a simple sequence outlined by block chords from Hancock, with unremarkable solos from Davis and Shorter - but the gently unhinged "Sweet Pea" (a tribute to Billy Strayhorn) is a classic, and I like even the later tracks better than most of Davis's fusion, because Williams keeps things from drifting entirely out to sea, and there are recognizable tunes and a minimum of tape manipulation. All the tunes are Shorter's except for "Mr. Tillman Anthony (William Process)"; the 2002 reissue also includes Davis's "Splash" (I believe the same take that's on on the Silent Way Sessions boxed set).David Bertrand Wilson
A 3CD box set collection chronicling Miles’ musical evolution in the studio from 1966-1968 working with his “second great quintet,” the latest edition in Columbia/Legacy’s acclaimed Miles Davis Bootleg Series provides an unprecedented look into the artist’s creative process, drawing on full session reels including all rehearsals, partial and alternate takes, extensive and fascinating studio conversation and more. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Miles Smiles, the groundbreaking second studio album from the Miles Davis Quintet–Miles Davis (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums)–this definitive new collection includes the master takes of performances which would appear on the Miles Smiles (1967), Nefertiti (1968) and Water Babies (recorded 1967, released 1976) albums alongside more than two hours worth of previously unreleased studio recordings from original sessions produced by Teo Macero (with the exception of “Fall,” produced by Howard A. Roberts).
Along with its sister recording, Pangaea, Agharta was recorded live in February of 1975 at the Osaka Festival Hall in Japan. Amazingly enough, given that these are arguably Davis' two greatest electric live records, they were recorded the same day. Agharta was performed in the afternoon and Pangaea in the evening. Of the two, Agharta is superior. The band with Davis – saxophonist Sonny Fortune, guitarists Pete Cosey (lead) and Reggie Lucas (rhythm), bassist Michael Henderson, drummer Al Foster, and percussionist James Mtume – was a group who had their roots in the radically streetwise music recorded on 1972's On the Corner, and they are brought to fruition here.
This was the first real attempt by Columbia to make any comprehensive sense of Miles Davis' colossal output for the label. This set, then, was bound to be controversial no matter how it turned out, but even so, Columbia could have done better with a strictly chronological approach. Instead producer/compiler Jeff Rosen had the cockeyed notion of organizing each of the original five LPs around a single theme.
Could there be any more confrontational sound in Miles Davis' vast catalog than the distorted guitars and tinny double-timing drums reacting to a two-note bass riff funking it up on the first track from On the Corner? Before the trumpet even enters the picture, the story has been broken off somewhere in the middle, with deep street music melding with a secret language held within the band and those who can actually hear this music – certainly not the majority of Miles' fan base built up over the past 25 years.