Buddy Miles looking BAAAADAAAASSSSSS!
“Listen – Buddy Miles – Dreams – MP3″
“Listen – Buddy Miles – Down By the River – MP3″
“Listen – Ramsey Lewis – Them Changes – MP3″
I come to a little early with my end of the week post as the bearer of sad news. The great drummer/vocalist/songwriter Buddy Miles has passed away at the age of 60.
I don’t know if there was something ominous in the wind, but I just recently digi-ma-tized a couple of tracks by Buddy (as well as a very groovy cover of his signature tune) for inclusion here on the blog, and it saddens me that I now have to post them in memorial.
I first heard the voice – and powerful drums – of Buddy Miles as a teenager, when I grabbed my first copy of the ‘Band of Gypsys’ LP. There, providing the propulsion behind Jimi Hendrix’s post-Experience band was Miles, even taking the lead on the song that would become his trademark, ‘Them Changes’.
Miles, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1947 (also home to none other than Preston Love) started working as a professional musician when he was still a child, eventually doing time (as did so many of his contemporaries) backing touring R&B and soul acts.
It was during one such gig that he was recruited by Mike Bloomfield – then with the Butterfield Blues Band – to be the drummer in his new band, the Electric Flag.
Following the dissolution of that group, Miles formed his own band, The Buddy Miles Express. Their first and second LPs were produced by none other than Jimi Hendrix. When the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up in 1970, Hendrix formed Band of Gypsys with his old Army buddy Billy Cox on bass, and Buddy Miles on drums.
I’ve always dug Hendrix’s work with the Band of Gypsys because it marked a turning point in his sound, bringing forth the soulful underpinnings that were always there. Having a singer like Buddy Miles in the fold had a lot to do with that. Hendrix was notoriously unhappy with his own singing (unjustifiably in my opinion), and having a powerful singer like Buddy Miles at his disposal (mainly as backing, but occasionally in the lead) added a new texture to his sound .
The band only lasted for one album (and a posthumous release) before Miles went back out on his own, to be replaced by Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell.
Miles first recorded ‘Them Changes’ with Band of Gypsys, a full year before making it the title tune of his first post-BOG solo album. The tune was not only a hit for Miles, but went on to a number of excellent cover versions by Big John Hamilton and Doris Allen, Lionel Hampton, Paul Humphrey, King Curtis, and in the version I’m including today, the great Ramsey Lewis.
Miles went on to record in a wide variety of settings with his own groups and in collaboration with artists like Carlos Santana.
Oddly enough, there’s probably an entire generation that knows Miles’ voice, but not his name, as he was the vocalist behind the famed California Raisins TV commercials.
Two of the three cuts I’m posting today originate on Miles’ 1970 ‘Them Changes’ LP, both of them soulful covers of then popular rock tunes.
The first, a version of the Allman Brothers’ ‘Dreams’ is by far my favorite, with a fantastic vocal by Buddy, and a very nice re-arrangement of the song, including a subtle shout out to Otis Redding.
The second is an extended reading of Neil Young’s ‘Down By the River’, also very cool.
The one Buddy Miles cover I’ve included is an epic take on ‘Them Changes’ by Ramsey Lewis, from his own 1970 LP, also titled ‘Them Changes’. Ramsey tears it up on the electric piano, and hold on for an extended break by Morris Jennings Jr. in the second half of the record.
That all said, I hope you dig the sounds, and take the time to raise a glass to Buddy Miles sometime this weekend.
The man had soul.