Buddy Miles, 1947-2008

Originally posted February 29, 2008

I’ve written at least a little bit about Buddy Miles twice in the past year – once detailing my first reaction to hearing his version of “Down By The River” on a summer night in 1970 and then discussing very briefly Miles’ treatment at the hands of critics when I presented his version of “Midnight Rider” here.

Miles died Tuesday at his Texas home at the age of sixty-one. News reports say that he had congestive heart failure. Probably the best obituary/new story I’ve read about Miles in the past few days was the one by the New York Times, which laid out his career pretty clearly.

I’ve been pondering Miles and his music and his legacy since Tuesday. I’ve enjoyed his work over the years, especially his 1970 solo album, Them Changes, and his earlier work with the Electric Flag. I’m not sure I have anything more to say about him, though, so I guess I’ll let the music speak for itself by sharing an album and a couple of single tracks.

The single tracks are a re-up of Miles’ cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” from Them Changes (at a better bit rate than my earlier upload) and the live version of “Them Changes” from the Jimi Hendrix album, Band of Gypsys, recorded at the Fillmore East in New York on the night 1969 turned into 1970.

As to albums, well, it seems that the three albums I view as the essential Miles albums – the Electric Flag’s Long Time Comin’, his own Them Changes and Band of Gypsys – are all available of CD for reasonable prices. Miles’ later work, especially that with Carlos Santana, was good at times, too, but it never grabbed me as much as did the early work. Beyond those three albums mentioned above, not a lot of Miles’ work seems to be available on CD. (My usual source for that information, All-Music Guide, is having its problems this morning. As I clicked on links to get information about Miles’ work, I was connected to pages about Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, Britney Spears, the Kelly Family – whoever they might be – and numerous other musicians before finally getting to the information I was seeking. Very odd.)

One album not available on CD is the 1969 record by the Buddy Miles Express, Electric Church, about half of which was produced by Hendrix. (News reports this week credit Hendrix with the entire album, but the record jacket credits Anne Tansey with three of the seven tracks.) Recorded after the Electric Flag collapsed and before Miles joined Hendrix, the record is pretty much of a piece with Them Changes, although none of its tracks are as memorable as “Them Changes” or “Down By The River.” (I found this copy online, and it’s almost certainly from vinyl, as I’ve found no indication online of a CD release of Electric Church. It’s a pretty clean rip, and if I could recall where I found it, I’d thank the original uploader.)

Members of the Buddy Miles Express were: Buddy Miles on drums and vocals, Jim McCarty on guitar, Bill Rich on bass, Duane Hitchings on organ, James Tatum and Bobby Rock on tenor saxophone and Pete Carter and Tom Hall on trumpet.

Miss Lady*
69 Freedom Special*
Cigarettes & Coffee
Destructive Love*
My Chant*
Wrap It Up

(*Produced by Jimi Hendrix)

Buddy Miles Express – Electric Church [1969]

Buddy Miles – “Down By The River” [1970]

Band of Gypsys – “Them Changes” [1970]


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