MILES DAVIS LIVE Black Beauty (1970), Dark Magus (1974), Pangaea (1975) & Agharta (1975)

Another blast of Miles Davis… four 2CD live sets that were issued by CBS after Miles went into retirement in the mid-70s. The music Miles made in late 60s got all the attention for his fusion of electricity, funk rock beats and free improv… but none of that precedent-setting music (for jazzers, anyway) compares to the downright obnoxious and relentless noise Davis and his mates were churning out on stages all over the world in 1974-75. Four releases, eight discs, eleven “songs,” all ranging from 25 minutes to an hour (how did that measly 12-minute track get in there?). In reality, all of this is little more than free jamming, with the odd recognizable theme accidentally slipping into the mix every now and then. The relentless beats only occasionally let up, and when they do, they do abruptly – surely on Miles’ cue, for no apparent reason and with little artistic sense. As for Miles himself… jeez, it’s not hard to understand why he would retire soon after these recording dates, since it’s mighty hard to get more abstract than this stuff. He’ll blat for a bit then stop, rarely offering anything in the way of melody or sense of purpose. The All Music Guide called some of this music “greasy, mysterious, and full of menacing energy. Dark Magus shows a band at the end of its rope, desperate to change because the story has torn itself out of the book, but not knowing where to go, turning in on itself.” I’ll go further and lovingly call it just plain obnoxious… and I’ve got a neighborhood police complaint on my record to back it up. Black Beauty is the most coherent of the bunch, but not by much, even though it was recorded in 1970, after the release of Bitches Brew. The 74-75 stuff is a step beyond, and not necessarily in the best sense (though, I’ll never part with any of it). All these are ripped from Japanese imports, while Pangaea and Agharta (recorded the same day) come to us courtesy of Spoerl. There’s no room for a streaming player on these sets, so you’ll have to dive in with your ears closed this time… just like the audiences of the day did. Click the covers to get hard copies at Amazon. There’s plenty more Miles in the archives, HERE.

Black Beauty Part I, II (41:27)
Black Beauty Part Ⅲ, Ⅳ (38:31)
Miles Davis, Steve Grossman, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette & Airto Moreira

DARK MAGUS (Carnegie Hall, March 30, 1975)
Dark Magus – Moja (25:23)
Dark Magus – Wili (25:02)
Dark Magus – Tatu (25:21)
Dark Magus – Nne (25:30)
Miles Davis, Dave Liebman, Azar Lawrence, Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas, Dominique Gaumont, Michael Henderson, Al Foster & James Mtume

Miles Pangea
PANGAEA (Tokyo, February 1, 1975)
Zimbabwe (41:42)
Gondwana (49:46)
Miles Davis, Sonny Fortune, Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas, Michael Henderson, Al Foster & James Mtume

Miles Davis Agartha
AGHARTA (Tokyo, February 1, 1975)
Prelude (32:33)
Maiysha (13:10)
Interlude/Theme From Jack Johnson (100:49)
Miles Davis, Sonny Fortune, Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas, Michael Henderson, Al Foster & James Mtume


  • Willard
    April 2, 2012 - 08:54 | Permalink

    Search HERE

  • buzzbabyjesus
    April 2, 2012 - 09:43 | Permalink

    After this I’m not sure I’ll need anymore. Thanks for sending my life in an unexpected direction. I’ll never be same.

    • Willard
      April 2, 2012 - 10:07 | Permalink

      Glad you’ve been checking it out out, BBJ… and thanks for the encouragement the last two weeks. Yeah, 50-some-odd Miles discs should be plenty enough for almost anybody. This last post is kind of for you, since you seem to like the noisy shit. Of course, it’s even debatable if anyone even needs more than one of these sets, because they’re all pretty much the same (generally speaking, the 74-75 stuff anyway). I’ve amassed this stuff over the years, so getting them all at once might just be a sensory overload. But, hey… so what. Here they are anyway. I’m just happy a few folks are turning on to a few of them, if not more. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

  • buzzbabyjesus
    April 2, 2012 - 10:31 | Permalink

    I’ve been talking about Miles with people I talk to about music, and it’s true that a lot of fans say they don’t like the electric stuff and haven’t even really heard it. Someone said they only like ’50’s Miles. I said, “Talk to the hand.”

    • Willard
      April 2, 2012 - 11:11 | Permalink

      Been like that since the 60s. Part of the reason is that 50s Miles IS brilliant, and his later electric stuff does NOT possess the same musically nuanced style and tradition as his older work (especially this noisy shit). But, some folks just get stuck in one mindset and can’t get past it. Fortunately, Miles himself wasn’t like that. What those 50s disciples fail to realize is that HAD Miles continued to do the same stuff over and over, even as the world was changing around him, he would’ve become a tired relic and might have even sullied his own past as a result, like a boxer that doesn’t know when to retire. To milk the metaphor, Ali changed his stripes in his old age (the rope-a-dope), took a chance that others thought was crazy and became a legend (not just great) in the process. Miles did the same thing in my mind. And to milk it even further, Miles DID retire after this music (he knew he’d already run the voodoo down and there was nowhere else to go), only to come back strong and assured in the 80s.

      • April 2, 2012 - 20:45 | Permalink

        “his later electric stuff does NOT possess the same musically nuanced style and tradition as his older work”
        Sheesh, I don’t know. Nefertitti was excellent, and the song itself is a hell of a lot of fun to blow on, and then there’s Big Fun. Maybe not quite so great for Miles ,but the choice of Hermeto Pascoal material for the band to cover is hot shit! If you guys ever want to get into Hermeto, send me a line. that dude is INSANE

        • Willard
          April 2, 2012 - 21:46 | Permalink

          I meant the later electric stuff. Like this noise.

  • Adam Crocker
    April 2, 2012 - 11:33 | Permalink

    “As for Miles himself… jeez, it’s not hard to understand why he would retire soon after these recording dates, since it’s mighty hard to get more abstract than this stuff.”

    Well that and several health problems in addition to renewed drug and alcohol abuse…actually come to think of that maybe that explains the content of these albums. If osteoarthritis, sickle-cell anemia, depression, bursitis, ulcers, AND was doing a whackload of cocaine, I’d probably churn out something like Agartha.

    Oh, who am I kidding? I’m even a lightweight when it comes to beer and the laughing gas in the dental office. I’d churn out something Agartha because my bike tire went flat…or I was really happy that day and had been grooving out to early Public Image Ltd and Killing Joke and decided, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we could give this music more James Brown qualities”?

    Agartha is the only one of these I heard so far. As a noise-fiend I look forward to hearing the rest. Thanks for posting these!

    (Hmmm…Pangaea, Dark Magus, and Agartha. With the possible exception of Black Beauty these titles are evocative of magic and mythology, even Pangaea carrying some of those qualities.)

  • Willard
    April 2, 2012 - 11:54 | Permalink

    You’re right, of course… I didn’t bother getting into all of Miles’ issues at the time. And, you’re surely accurate about all of those issues directly effecting the music, or lack thereof. I read somewhere that the song titles on Dark Magus are Swahili for one, two, three & four (if memory serves…). If you know Agharta, you know the rest, so enjoy. Just keep the volume down unless you have an attorney on retainer. Thanks as always for the additional insight, Adam.

  • Adam Crocker
    April 2, 2012 - 12:39 | Permalink

    “Just keep the volume down unless you have an attorney on retainer.”

    Good thing I’m in law school! :p

    (Still it’s not Peter Brötzmann though. :p )

    And I’m glad my morning, coffee-fueled rambly of the patently obvious was appreciated. :p My musical blather has been limited by end-of-year law school work, but somehow seeing these posted spurred on this post.

    What those 50s disciples fail to realize is that HAD Miles continued to do the same stuff over and over, even as the world was changing around him, he would’ve become a tired relic and might have even sullied his own past as a result…

    And I agree completely with your assessment of Miles’ artistic development over his career. Arguably that’s why his 50s work is so brilliant too. By the time Kind of Blue had come out he had already helped fashion cool jazz and hard bop and was now doing modal music (yeah I don’t get what that entails either, I just know that it sounds cool). His mid 60s second quintet and his electric work, while sounding different, follow the same protean methodology he had always approached jazz with.

    “…only to come back strong and assured in the 80s.”

    What is his 80s work like? I’ve never heard much and am weary of it since some of the examples I heard were too poppy for my tastes. (Sure, sez the guy who checks out Power Pop Overdose frequently.)

    • Willard
      April 2, 2012 - 13:54 | Permalink

      His 80s work? Just as you heard… on the poppy side. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was smart and confident (or, at least, sounded as such). Covering Cyndy Lauper’s “Time After Time,” kinda sums it up, though. But, producer Marcus Miller helped him move into a new decade with some dignity, even if it couldn’t be compared to his 50s, 60s and 70s. That said, it wasn’t horseshit… his earlier self was just a tough act to follow. It’s not my go-to period when I need a Miles fix, but I enjoyed it at the time (and probably still would if I ever had the time to drag it out).

      I caught Miles my first and only time in the early 80s. It was a small venue show – a cultural center type place that had “patrons of the arts” down front. I remember just before the show started a bunch of blue haired old ladies, one in a wheelchair, were ushered into their front row seats. I though, my lord, these old girls don’t know what they’re in for. And, while Miles was kind of tame compared to all this stuff we’re posting here, it was still loud, electric, somewhat funky and rather noisy. I kept waiting for the mass exodus of the aged but, to their credit, they hung in for the entire show (surely with their hearing aids turned off). This, despite the fact that Miles was one of the rudest performers I’d ever seen in this kind of venue. Virtually the entire show he kept his back to the audience, hunched over, except for the couple of times he’d turn around, put his finger to his nose and snort snot onto the stage. The first time he did it, it almost seem to be a purposeful statement directed at the audience. Like a big fuck you. But… by the end of the show I got the distinct impression he barely knew or cared the audience was even there. Personally speaking, the attitude is what convinced me I got my money’s worth.

  • Johnny Kinkdom
    April 2, 2012 - 13:24 | Permalink

    Thanks as alway, Willard. Used your post as inspiration. Just started to play all 4 sets back to back while lounging on a beauty of a day in Scottsdale, AZ. Playing in reverse order though, cuz I love the vibe of Pete Cosey and Mtume on Agharta. Always felt Pangaea was a second set to Agharta anyway. Saving the moody Fillmore show for last. PS: Of the 80’s stuff, I still play Decoy, featuring John Scofield, every once in a while. PPS: The Unofficial Bitches Brew snipets allow for a great time putting yourself in Teo’s producers seat. I was able to piece together a very interesting sequence of snips that I burned to CD and now listen to in the car. No one ever figures out what it is I am listening to when that disc hits play!

    • Willard
      April 2, 2012 - 13:57 | Permalink

      Thanks JK. Feel free to post it if you’re inclined.

  • Kwai Chang
    April 2, 2012 - 13:56 | Permalink

    I am the Miles Novice…and oh so grateful
    (and if that sounds kind of blue in a silent way…
    it’s because I’m not on the corner but in it
    …with a Miles Monkey on my back)
    So what!

  • Le G Freak
    April 2, 2012 - 15:18 | Permalink

    thanks for all this Miles, Captain . I’m kind of a novice in his field mysellf, only knowing 2-3 albums (kind of ’round midblues of spain, that kind) and of course Davis/Coltrane stuff (i’m much more Trane than Miles).
    So now I know i’ll be able to investigate further. i’m not sure i should, but i might as well begin with these, you got me curious !

    • Adam Crocker
      April 2, 2012 - 15:58 | Permalink

      I’ll second Willard’s point, unless you have an affinity for pounding rhythms with wonky abstract noises like I do (my early musical education was punk and post-punk; I also discovered John Cage and Free Jazz early on). For his electrical period, his albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew might be a better place to start which have more conventional musical and melodic grounding (and Miles just gets weirder from there).

      If you want to expand on Miles from the albums you mentioned, well there’s the with GIl Evans’ box and the associated albums Miles Ahead, Porgy & Bess, and Quiet Nights in addition to Sketches of Spain. For the hard-bop of Round Midnight you could jump back to his earlier albums like the ones he cut between 1951 to 1954 where he developed his hardbop sound, or his celebrated albums for Prestige with his First Quintet: Relaxin’, Steamin’, Cookin’, and Workin’.

      And of course Seven Steps to Heaven and a few others like My Funny Valentine follow-up Kind of Blue. Then in ’65 he forms his Second great Quintet and they gently disassemble jazz conventions until Miles ends up at In A Silent Way.

  • Willard
    April 2, 2012 - 15:25 | Permalink

    Ooohhhh….. that might be a mistake to start here. There’s not much to grab on to but clattering rhythm. But, you know the rules… no refunds.

  • ~ junko
    April 2, 2012 - 16:36 | Permalink

    ..what really took me over 100% was watching Miles performance at the Isle of Wight 1970 recently. i had always loved ‘Bitches Brew’ -and wanted MORE in THAT direction- and when you mentioned these as ‘Noisy and Obnoxious’ – i was HOPING! .. Thank You Cap’m W. !

  • ~ junko
    April 2, 2012 - 16:41 | Permalink

    .. watching MILES performance at the Isle of Wight 1970 on a youtoobie — just to be clear. thx
    – i really love this here place ya’ got here Cap’m. Really Really.

  • Leon
    April 2, 2012 - 19:27 | Permalink

    Awesome!! Hey – Willard – this is the bomb. Can I be unseeminly greedy and see if perhaps you could also post “Live Evil”? Or does the Cellar Door material count as “Live Evil”?


    • Willard
      April 3, 2012 - 14:23 | Permalink

      Hit me up later Leon, I’m kinda behind the 8-ball at the moment.

  • April 2, 2012 - 19:59 | Permalink

    Crawling outta the woodwork to comment, but I have to thank you for bringing these albums more exposure. This is one of my favorite periods of Miles’ music, much to the annoyance of those around me.

    Back when Black Beauty, Dark Magus, LIVE/EVIL and Miles Davis at Fillmore first hit CD via Columbia Legacy back in ’97, I was working at the Tower Books in Seattle, and we could bring in music to play on our shifts at register. I’d brought in either BB, L/E or DM (it barely matters which one, they all would have gotten the same reaction), and threw it on. A customer stormed up to the counter and asked “what is this noise that’s playing?” I replied, “It’s Miles Davis.” He proceeded to argue with me that it couldn’t be Miles. I had to hand him the disc to physically inspect. “Well, it’s AWFUL,” he said, and walked out.

    That’s pretty typical of the response these get from the folks I know who don’t venture much past Kind of Blue. But then, I’ve always been that one guy who thinks Coltrane’s Live at the Village Vanguard, Again! makes for great listening, so maybe it’s me.

  • Le G Freak
    April 3, 2012 - 01:28 | Permalink

    to Willard and Adam Crocker : yeah, i was mostly joking. i’ll probably give it a go from the electric albums, as Adam suggested. That is, when i’ll get time enough, holidays are in 2 weeks .

    • Willard
      April 3, 2012 - 08:09 | Permalink

      We just didn’t want you to le freak out.

  • r
    April 3, 2012 - 09:15 | Permalink

    Ye gods! Enough Miles for a long time (tho not a lifetime). My life is more than complete, at least for a while. Looking forward to this batch, after all the other batches. BTW, the Cellar Door sessions are going down extremely well. This may be my favorite Miles period, with the driving rhythmic emphasis and flashes of brilliance overlaid. Thanks, for many hours of anticipated pleasure.

  • buzzbabyjesus
    April 3, 2012 - 10:07 | Permalink

    Black Beauty is a lot like “Isle Of Wight”. Dark Magus is pretty cool. The other two sound like the end of a coke binge.

  • buzzbabyjesus
    April 3, 2012 - 11:44 | Permalink

    And they’re all keepers.

  • Kwai Chang
    April 3, 2012 - 12:12 | Permalink

    Dark Magus sounds like Miles liked Hendrix…
    A very interesting direction that nobody could’ve forseen.
    I mean…just guessing
    (kind of kaleidoblue)

  • Winking Tiger
    April 3, 2012 - 23:21 | Permalink

    Imagine Jimi Hendrix on ‘Bitches Brew’ instead of McLaughlin… it might’ve been the end of music as we know it. :)

  • Colonel Panic
    April 5, 2012 - 14:27 | Permalink

    I’m a bit of a Davis neophyte but have long considered my intro to him – Bitches Brew (loved the art work too) probably my favorite album of all time.
    So far I’ve heard Agharta and Dark Magus and love ’em both.
    Miles fell off my radar after I got Brew, On the Corner, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain. I’m very happy to get re-introduced.
    Especially looking for ward to the ’65 – 68 Quintet set.
    This has been a Miles OD – Thanks a bunch!

  • Kwai Chang
    April 5, 2012 - 19:34 | Permalink

    …miles away…
    (my current location)

  • mdm
    April 7, 2012 - 13:43 | Permalink

    Thanks so much for all of these, Willard. You’ve sent me way off the deep end in a Miles frenzy. And I wouldn’t necessarily say that these last few are a bad place to start. I got to Agharta right after Jack Johnson and it didn’t manage to scare me off. Tho’ a punk rock background probably didn’t hurt any. I often dream of a Miles/Fela/JB’s triple bill. If there’s anyone out there who might need more of this stuff (and there are a few of us) there’s a great, mysterious web site out there with lots of this mid-70s stuff:

  • Grant
    July 12, 2014 - 09:41 | Permalink

    Thanks for these, Willard… I’m going back and getting all these great Miles posts of yours, or at least the ones I didn’t already have or that have bonus material. Cheers!

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