Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Miles Davis: Bitches Brew [Columbia, 1970]
If this historic set is about any one thing it's electric-meets-acoustic: the theme of the twenty-seven-minute title side, in which Miles's horn combines with an electric instrument for a two-note motif that's suddenly resolved after a dozen repetitions in a single echoed trumpet blat, says it all. But it's not about any one thing--it's a brilliant wash of ideas, so many ideas that it leaves an unfocused impression. That's probably why I don't return to it as I do to the quieter electric-meets-acoustic of In a Silent Way, although maybe it's just that this one rocks less--three different percussionists replace Tony Williams, whose steady pulse is put aside for the subtle shades of Latin and funk polyrhythm that never gather the requisite fervor. Enormously suggestive, and never less than enjoyable, but not quite compelling. Which is what rock is supposed to be. A-