March 5th, 2010
Title: Chapter VII
Artist: Buddy Miles
Label: Wounded Bird
Catalog No.: WOU-51
Release date: November 10, 2009
Although primarily known in the collective rock consciousness as the drummer on Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys’ live album, Buddy Miles amassed an impressive body of work during his career. His first major exposure was as part of Wilson Pickett’s touring review, which undoubtedly influenced his singing style, amongst other things. During the mid-‘60s he was part of the band Electric Flag with Paul Butterfield, serving as both drummer and lead vocalist for a time. In 1970 Miles played on the aforementioned Band Of Gypsy album, and while this was of course Hendrix’s showcase, Miles contributed a couple of tracks that showed the Band of Gypsys was a wholly different beast than The Jimi Hendrix Experience (one can’t help but wonder what might have become of the band had Hendrix lived).
Post Band of Gypsys, Miles formed his own band, the Buddy Miles Expressway, and recorded two albums produced by Hendrix. He then began a run of solo and collaborative albums (some with Carlos Santana) that lasted until his death in 2008. The major theme running through Buddy Miles’ body of work is his effortless fusing of rock, rhythm & blues, and funk musical styles. Since his death there have been sporadic reissues of his work here and there, and now Chapter VII (his 9th album, released in 1973) has finally been reissued for the first time on CD.
Chapter VII begins with the instrumental track “L.A. Resurrection,” which basically serves as a quick and easy work out for Miles and his band. However, they really get down to business on the following track, “Life Is What You Make It Part 1.” The band lets loose some high energy funk with Miles keeping the rhythm section popping. While the lyrics to this jam may come off trite in retrospect, the star is Miles’ vocal performance. He may not have as strong a voice as the aforementioned Wilson Pickett, but he definitely uses the voice he has to the best of his ability. From the wailing and screaming on “Elvira” to the more subdued vocals on “There Was A Time,” Miles is fully committed to what he’s singing, yet never oversteps his bounds, all the while making good of use of his admittedly limited vocal range. “Visions” is a great track that sounds like early Funkadelic (in their pre Uncle Jam days), while “Crossfire” rounds out the album and reasserts the strength of the group’s very funky organ and horn section.
The reissue of Chapter VII includes as a bonus track the single version of “Hear No Evil,” which ironically edits out the best part of the song, in my opinion. Also included is a live (edited) version of “Them Changes,” by this point Miles’ signature song from his album with Carlos Santana. I’ve heard several versions of this from Miles, but the one included here is probably my favorite. Miles goes all out vocally and the combination of his drumming with Santana’s Afro-Cuban rhythm section really makes this version stand out.
While I would not point listeners to Chapter VII as an introduction to Buddy Miles (his 1970 album Them Changes is better for that), any established fans will be interested in adding this CD to their collection.
Reviewed by Levon Williams
Review Genre(s): Popular, Rock, and Misc.