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Buddy Miles


Miles has come a long way since his first professional gig, when at the age of twelve he began playing drums in his father's jazz combo in Omaha, Nebraska. It was only a matter of time before his inimitable bottom-heavy style attracted the attention of the multitudinous R&B and doo-wop groups who were touring the chitlin' circuit and, eventually, the teenaged Miles landed a seat as part of Wilson Pickett's live revue.

In 1967, while performing with Pickett, he was approached by Michael Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg and asked to join a new psychedelic rock band called The Electric Flag. With Miles on drums, the Flag recorded one high-voltage slab of vinyl before parting ways in 1968. Up from the skies came the freshly-formed Buddy Miles Express and a renewed friendship with Jimi Hendrix, with whom Miles had been running as early as June of 1967, when the two played the Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix's archetypal and apocalyptic Electric Ladyland marked the beginning of their fruitful collaboration in the studio, with Miles laying down a solid backbeat dripping with the blues for "Rainy Day" and "Still Raining." Hendrix would return the favor by writing the beautifully envisioned liner notes for BME's EXPRESSWAY TO YOUR SKULL and producing tracks for the follow-up ELECTRIC CHURCH in 1969.
After the breakup of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in late 1969, Hendrix recruited Miles for what would be one of the lasting musical statements of both their careers.
Over the protests of his management, who feared the repercussions of adopting a so-called "Black Power" stance in his music, Jimi formed the Band of Gypsys with Billy Cox on bass and Miles on drums and backing vocals. Arguably the first true "black rock" band, the Gypsys debuted at Bill Graham's Fillmore East on New Year's Eve 1970 and opened their historic second set with the Hendrix classic "Machine Gun." Writer David Henderson described Miles in action in 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, the definitive Hendrix biography:

"Buddy Miles pauses, eyes closed, like a Buddha within a silver metal bubba flowing outward, his snare shots wide and strong. He beats into the depths of a groove, the snare shots ratatatting stronger and stronger. Miles captures and entrances you with his repetition. The intensity of his shots ring out on par with Jimi's guitar."

The Fillmore set formed the basis of the Band of Gypsys live album, which featured two tracks written by Miles "We Gotta Live Together" and the seminal "Them Changes," which has since become the signature song of the Express. Ironically, although Band Of Gypsys was in many ways a breakthrough for Hendrix, the group dissolved scarcely two months later for reasons that remain mysterious even to this day. Miles-o-philes can dig other Gypsys cuts on the obscure Hendrix collection, "Loose Ends," an invaluable document of rehearsals and outtakes that features the extended funk workout "Burning Desire."

"Twenty years ago, before Living Colour and the Black Rock Coalition, there was Buddy Miles and his visceral Hard Soul....Hell And Back may be an apt description of where he's been, but Buddy uses it all as inspiration for this diverse record of behind the beat fatback funk and hard R&B jamming." -- MODERN DRUMMER

Hard R&B from the veteran drummer/singer/composer/bandleader. With producer Bill Laswell and the Uptown Horns, Buddy Miles pulls together all eras of an amazing career that includes stints with such legendary archetypes as Wilson Pickett, Jimi Hendrix and Funkadelic -- as well as a series of classic Express albums -- into his most powerful recording ever.

Fast-forward to the present day, with the Black Arc release of HELL AND BACK, and the legacy of Hendrix -- as well as the influences of other artist with whom Miles has worked -- still burns brightly, fueled by deeply soulful performances and a rootsy emphasis on the funk. Mixing original compositions with reworkings of some favorite standards, HELL AND BACK recalls the funky exuberance of the string of albums that Miles and the Express recorded in the seventies for the Casablanca label. (Fittingly, George Clinton, the leader of Parliament, another Casablanca act, would hire Miles to play drums on the Funkadelic anthem "Comin' Round the Mountain" for the incredible HARDCORE JOLLIES album, released in 1976.) But for all its seventies funk flavor, HELL AND BACK also boasts a technological edge -- as heard in the impeccable mixing of Miles' drums, the subsonic throb of the low end, and the sprawling warmth of the organ, bass, and guitars -- that hurtles it forward into the 21st century.

Opening with a remake of Albert King's "Born Under A Bad Sign," Buddy seems to make a forceful but ironic statement concerning his whereabouts of the last ten years, and his soul-stirring take on the blues classic serves more than anything to clarify that the return of the Express is no jive. The feedback-laden intro to Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" soars with the angel of Hendrix, complete with a section of the guitar solo recorded backwards with a not to "Are You Experienced." (Those who have never seen Miles shred a guitar might be please to know that, like Hendrix, he's a lefty who plays a right-handed Strat string upside-down.)

A swirling Hammond B-3 organ gives "The Change," a Miles original, its distinctly churchlike feel as Buddy infuses the story of busted romance with a big-bottomed thump and some wailing vocal tracks. As ever, Miles is equally at ease with a ballad, as his powerful and pleading vocals attest in the Everly Brothers classic, "Let It Be Me." Aided and abetted by the spirited brass arrangements of the Uptown Horns, jams like "The Decision" surge ahead with a Santana-like feel that takes flight with a juicy organ solo, while the driving, Stax/Volt-inflected "Be Kind to Your Girlfriend" grooves on in the spirit of Otis Redding. Finally, HELL AND BACK wouldn't be an Express album without the nastily funkified rhythms of "Nothing Left to Lose," where the youngsters from Chicago are turned loose to flex their muscles on scratch guitar and string-popping bass.
Buddy Miles

Buddy Miles' musical career spans over 30 years and includes over 40 albums, six world tours, television specials, and TV commercials. He has performed with many of the biggest names in music during his career as a singer, drummer, and band leader. Buddy got his start in music performing with his father's band, The Bebops, at the age of twelve, and played drums for the jazz-influenced combo for several years. Buddy went on to play in numerous jazz and R&B groups including Ruby & the Romantics, The Delophonics, the Ink Spots, and Wilson Pickett. After a performance with Wilson Pickett at the RKO Theatre in Brooklyn, New York, Buddy was approached by guitarist Mike Bloomfield, and was asked to join the newly-formed blues-rock band, The Electric Flag. Buddy still refers to it as "the best band I ever played in."

Fifteen months later, Buddy formed The Buddy Miles Express, recording several successful albums including Expressway To Your Skull and Electric Church, which was produced by Jimi Hendrix. Buddy toured non-stop, opening for such acts as Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as headlining concert halls all over the world. Buddy was also asked to play on many classic albums such as Hendrix's Electric Ladyland and Muddy Water's Fathers And Sons.

In 1967, Buddy and Jimi Hendrix formed the legendary trio, Band of Gypsys, along with bassist, Billy Cox. They recorded only one album Band Of Gypsys before Hendrix's untimely death.

Buddy reformed the Buddy Miles Express and recorded the very successful album, Them Changes, which lasted an impressive 74 weeks on the Billboard Album Chart. This album spawned several hit singles such as "Them Changes," and "Down By The River," (written by Neil Young). Another huge hit for Buddy came when he recorded a live album with Carlos Santana in 1974. Five years later, in 1979, Buddy began a four year stint as the lead singer for Santana.

In 1986, Buddy recorded "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", for a California Raisins commercial featuring claymation dancing raisins. It became the most successful commercial in television history, and Buddy went on to produce and sing on three albums under the California Raisins name.

Over the years, Buddy has also recorded and performed with many artists including Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and John McLaughlin. He recently was a special guest for Phish at Madison Square Garden in New York, bringing 18,000 people to their feet with his rousing rendition of the classic, "All Along The Watchtower."

In 1992, Buddy collaborated with Pariliament-Funkadelic alumni Bootsy Collins, to record the high-velocity CD, Hardware-Third Eye Open. The following year, Buddy teamed with Billy Cox, Slash and Paul Rodgers to record "I Don't Live Today" for Stone Free: A Tribute To Jimi Hendrix. In 1994, Buddy reformed The Express and recorded Hell And Back for Rykodisc. 1997 saw the release of The Best Of Buddy Miles on Mercury Records. Buddy continues to actively tour, record and produce other artists.

Buddy Miles is rightfully ackowledged and respected as an innovator whose embryonic fusion of Rock and Soul supplanted the advances made by such contemporaries as Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone.

Buddy collaborated with Pariliament-Funkadelic alumni Bootsy Collins, to record the high-velocity CD, Hardware-Third Eye Open. The following year, Buddy teamed with Billy Cox, Slash and Paul Rodgers to record "I Don't Live Today" for Stone Free: A Tribute To Jimi Hendrix. In 1994, Buddy reformed The Express and recorded Hell And Back for Rykodisc. 1997 saw the release of The Best Of Buddy Miles on Mercury Records. Buddy continues to actively tour, record and produce other artists.

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