After twelve years, the eighth and final Miles Davis on Columbia box set, The Complete On The Corner Sessions (Sony/Legacy) has at last been released in all of its lavishly garish, embossed-metal glory:
This 6-CD box set goes a long way towards rationalizing an important, but critically neglected period in Miles Davis’s career. For example, the unedited tracks from 1972 that would become On the Corner are a revelation: inspired by the magnetic tape compositions of Karlheinz Stockhausen and musique concrete, the original LP was full of startling jump-cuts and electronic processing, while the unedited tracks are beatifically extended, trance-inducing jams.
After the tabla and sitar experiments of On The Corner, Miles’s working band from 1973-1975 featured electric guitarist Pete Cosey - jazz, funk, and coruscating heavy metal converged, as demonstrated on the legendary live albums Dark Magus, Agharta, and Pangaea. It’s nice to have all of the studio sessions together in one place since this material had been haphazardly scattered across disparate releases. Plus, hours of unreleased tracks shed further light on what had always been a murky discographical era.
As the liner notes intimate, this was, in fact, a particularly dark time in Miles Davis’s life, full of drug abuse, catastrophic health problems, and domestic turmoil and that kind of heaviness certainly pervades most of these tracks. Accusations that Miles was somehow “selling out” with this music never made any sense to me; this stuff is intense!
By the end of 1975, Miles had retired from music altogether. That is, until his “comeback” in 1981. . .but it was never quite the same.
Truly, a monumental body of work, the now completed series does look suitably impressive on the shelf: