Saturday, April 18, 2015

The 50th Anniversary Super-Biffy™ Spectacular!

Welcome to the Lynn Auditorium! As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the First Annual Biffy® Special I present to you the Super-Biffys™! The greatest album from every ten-year span since 1964. Why 1964? Because shut up!

Here are the nominees under consideration by the Lower Galactic Biffy Council. Within each category, a special inter-net contributor will champion one of three albums, amounting to the best three of ten, advancing to "stage two." Council Strongman Jarrod P. Biffington (Jr.), DDS, DCM, will then declare five Super-Biffy™ Honorees and incinerate everyone within a (symbolic) five-mile radius.

Spared from said incineration will be the forty-five "losing" bands. Their humiliation is punishment enough, you say? Incorrect! Of these, thirty-five "stage one" nominees not advancing will perish due to unforeseen cannibalism by an audience held captive and unfed for days. What clothing remains will be examined for fashion cues and donated to charity for tax purposes. The remaining ten, having achieved "stage two" and believing themselves spared, will instead receive unnecessary dental surgery and nearly succumb to their wounds—badly—before drowning out back in the vomit of their biggest fans. The wretched remains of their teeth will serve as reminders that the Council does not tolerate weakness, no matter how exceptional.

"Good evening. I am your host and Council Strongman. You know why you are here. When necessary, I will communicate via cosmic mind waves and Powerpoint. Will the first three presenters stop cowering in fear and approach the dais. Slide number one, please!"

1964 — 1973
Beatles – A Hard Day's Night
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
Monks – Black Monk Time
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced
Pretty Things – SF Sorrow
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
Stooges – Fun House
Groundhogs – Split
Curtis Mayfield – Superfly
Hawkwind – Space Ritual

Super-Biffy candidates: Phase 1

"Presenter the first, step forward to a chorus of boos. Floss regularly!"

"Judas! Haha, yeah! Now I know what it's like. I am here to nominate… whoa, what? A Love Supreme? No way, man. I like my albums as far from the edge as possible. Why not Sugar Lips or Cotton Candy? You people will be listening to Al Hirt in elevators for years. Just the other day my mom and I–"

"You neglect your duties and will pay dearly. Nico!"

"Allo. Eet ist mee. Eet ist Neeko. Und I nominatink Eegy und hees Foon Hoost. I do not care for ze udder men in ze band. I do not care for dirty Stooches. But since zey do not roon my art with awful flute maybe I vill make sex wit Ron und Scott und– Oh, allo Jeemee! Eet ist jor lover! Eet ist Neeko!"

"Yes, hello Nico. You are looking… well. Um? Security? Thank you. I am Jimmy Page. This entire affair is for naught since compilations are ignored. Nonetheless I present the wonderful Groundhogs album Split. How did I not steal every single guitar lick included herein? The Complete Studio Albums is now available on iTun–"

"Silence! The winner is: A Love Supreme. I recently heard 'Acknowledgement' on Sirius's Real Jazz station and it made my morning, even though the DJ's decision to follow it with some cocktail crooner's cover of 'Resolution' was the worst idea since the hand-burger. Next. Now!"

1974 — 1983
Kiss – Hotter Than Hell
George Brigman – Jungle Rot
Fela Kuti & Afrika 70 – Zombie
The Damned – Damned Damned Damned
AC/DC – Powerage
Chrome – Half Machine Lip Moves
Motörhead – Ace of Spades
Black Flag – Damaged
Dead Kennedys – Plastic Surgery Disasters
Bad Brains – Rock for Light

Super-Biffy candidates: Phase 2

"An interesting stretch of albums. Great choices, of course, but is one worthy of my grace? May the entire city of Cambridge please join me on stage. I am surprised to find you this far north."

"We, the People's Republic, crave Red Line accessibility and nominate an under-represented minority class with Bad Brains' second album. Angie over here even grew out her giant, horrifying dreadlock in honor of an international conspiracy to repress. Remember that our property taxes rank among the lowest in Massachusetts so please spare what you can. Also, recycle. Or else."

"I make the threats around here! Now shove over so these last two homeless men can join you."

"Um, no, I'm Theodore Deutschmann and this is my brother Milton. We co-founded RadioShack and have been losing money ever since. What's your zip code? Would you like to buy batteries?"

"I am powered by your tears."

"Ted, I think it all went downhill when Chrome broke up. They were always buying extension cords and old radios and we were getting too much pussy to count. And the cocaine! Man, the cocaine. Now we keep each other warm in a ditch. Every night I pray for the next Half Machine Lip Moves and then I pray for death."

"Feel free to join me in my watery grave. Just look for the topographic design and red lens ring that made the Droid Incredible so distinct. Unlike me, George Brigman is still kicking around and making good music. Nothing, though, can touch his Jungle Rot debut. The cover image is one even I could have shot before my camera went kaput. Glug glug."

"My old phone! We Jungle Rot-ters are convinced. May your demise inspire more genius poetry. Decisions only become difficult beginning with our third grouping. Slide!"

1984 — 1993
Metallica – Ride the Lightning
The Fall – This Nation's Saving Grace
Big Black – Atomizer
Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded
Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet
Black Sheep – A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
The Jesus Lizard – Liar
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Super-Biffy candidates: Phase 3

"Let's get some of these hack writers and critics up here to discuss mustard typography. You first, skunk-head."

"This is for all of you. I was waiting for a plane at LAX the other night and heard 'That Smell' by Lynyrd Skynyrd. One of the worst songs ever created. Why did it become popular?"

"Stop inserting yourself into the story."

"Thanks for the invitation—maybe I should get into Game of Thrones. From the Peet's barista in the JFK Airport Terminal 4 coffee shop, after I'd ordered a medium latte with an extra shot of espresso, paid and was waiting for my drink: 'What is it like to know that young girls all over the country are going to know who you are?' Important facet of a personality for a bronzed, well-coiffed Liar and enemy of dignity."

"I, David Wallace-Wells-Coulee-O'Hanrahan-Marlbarger VI, BSocSc, MLitt, nominate It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back because its wonderfully long title steers me, with pleasure, toward an opening—however narrow and/or imperceptible, lacking both a clear locking mechanism and a window through which to see whom or what might be waiting for me on the other side—to discuss the overrated nature of popular artists. Warhol's best paintings—the sloppy, silk-screen memento mori of screen stars, singers and other American celebrities and grotesques—illustrate powerfully the distinction between secular images, which underlie the artwork and express the terrible absence of the depicted, and true icons, the painted figurations that express their immanent and intoxicating presence. It is a compelling account of the paintings' beguiling effect, but the fact that Warhol applied this same technique to commissioned society portraits—portraits that dominated his output after 1968—suggests that he was, at best, indifferent to, and perhaps even ignorant of, the source of its power."

"I understand a lucky handful of audience members have chewed through their own wrists. Into the lava pit, windbag."


"Now who are these old AmeriGlide-riding biddies?"

"We, the Marblehead Festival of Arts Logo Contest Committee, reject Wu-Tang Clan's candidacy due to their aesthetically pleasing, non-seafaring-oriented W symbol. So much archaic fluff was left on the floor—in the name of King Neptune, Staten Island is an island!"

"I appreciate the economy of your language even if your lot could not critique yourselves out of an imploded Starbucks. Ignorance is at an all-time high and so, too, is Nation of Millions. Now bring forth the era of independent rock and hip-hop that cost me thousands of dollars at Newbury Comics."

1994 — 2003
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Orange
Six Finger Satellite – Severe Exposure
DJ Shadow – Endtroducing.....
Yo La Tengo – I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
Six Finger Satellite – Law of Ruins
Make-Up – Save Yourself
Deltron 3030
Fugazi – The Argument
Mr. Lif – I Phantom
White Stripes – Elephant

Super-Biffy candidates: Phase 4

"Can a man choose from among the stars of the sky? Help me out, all-pro reality-television host Jeff Probst."

"Are you sure you don't want me to jump Nahant Bay on a kiteboard or something before we roll the credits?"

"Do not make me replace you with Dathan."

"A golden calf!"

"Alright, welcome back to the Lynn Auditorium! Tickets still available for Pat Benatar, Paul Anka and Air Supply in the coming months. What a lineup! Only on CBS. DJ Shadow came out of nowhere and served as the Strongman's basement-level bedroom soundtrack for months after hearing 'The Number Song' on WZBC. Remember that time you saw a mouse on your pillow? One! Survivor!"

"Jeff, no! That is not prop lava!"

"Rock & Roll Jeopardy forever! FWEEEEEEE!!!"

"Drag. What's to happen to Survivor now? My Wednesday evenings will be empty, as it will for the show's three other fans. Eagle Claw Fist, are you qualified to host?"

"I teach yoga on Wednesdays. Race-baiters, I give you the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion."

"That was Eagle Claw Fist with 'Controversial Negro.' I'm John Laurenti and you're listening to WZLX, Boston's classic rock. It's five past the hour and we're looking at some rain overnight. Highs in the upper forties. Speaking of the forties, up next is Sex Finger Appetite and Raw Loom, recorded on the Greek island of Rhodes in 1948."

"Hey Wikipedia, can you fact-check this clown?"

"Your three-year-old could fact-check this clown."

"Enjoy the lava bath, Laurenti. Just tuck in your goddamn shirt first. As we await John's immolation–"


"As we celebrate John's immolation I remind all presenters that your arguments are meaningless, though the 'race-baiter' line was pretty good. Orange, of course, is the greatest album of all time and, among all prospects on this list, the only one that could check more boxes than both Endtroducing and Law of Ruins. Truly a monumental achievement. Don't feel too discouraged, group four. I will always love you, even after your horrible d– erm, honorable discharge tonight. Slide!"

2004 — 2013
Comets on Fire – Blue Cathedral
Sleater-Kinney – The Woods
Black Keys – Magic Potion
Dungen – Tio Bitar
Black Mountain – In the Future
Flaming Lips – Embryonic
Dead Meadow – Three Kings
Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/The Dream
Ty Segall – Sleeper

Super-Biffy candidates: Phase 5

"In a special ceremony recorded earlier at Revere Beach Pavilion No. 3, the Council awarded its latest Biffy® to… do we have a slide?"

2014: Dude Incredible

"En pointe! Shellac has since been cannibalized so I will read the now archived remarks from Steve Albini's Evernote app.

'Long live Keith Morris and, you know, sixteen-minute albums. I can grab my crotch from behind without bending.'

"Whatever your take on Albini and his music, the shiny bastard knew the business. Have I killed off any remaining presenters? No? Then get your fat ass up here, Boomer."

"How's the weather out there? I think it might be… slEEEting. Or, rather, Sleater-ing. Sleater-Kinney-ing!!1 What are we talkin' about here, Tommy? Doin' the shuffle with Ickey…"

"The Woods!"

"Correct-a-mundo! Corin 'USS' Tucker, 'Harry' Carrie Brownstein and Janet 'The Guy from The Running Man' Weiss, together again! You saw them just last week, Suzy, isn't that right? What? We're not– Mel Kiper, who ya got?"

"Mariota still on the board. He goes first overall in today's mock draft. Ten versions to go. Twelve? At least I only have five players in my top five, unlike that pussy Mike Mayock with his bullshit ties."

"Whoa! You can't say that in front of an audience! Suzy? Su– Can we say that?! Any… riots… down there, grrrl?!"

"Fuck you, Chris! I think I'm dying!"

"I can't believe it took me so long to cancel ESPN. To present our final nominee is a very special guest who needs no introduction. Hear him well!"

"How are you? Wonderful! An arduous journey of which I will detail presently has left me as near my namesake actor—how he is missed!—as I wish to be this fine evening! Surely, Rothberg is consumed by guilt after believing me in the clear, blameless—naively so—as he may be. But Embryonic first, of course. For that is why we gather!"

"Please do not impede your fine yarn-spinning with tonight's agenda. How I've missed you, Charles Napier."

"Indeed! And I you. Amusing, regardless, that I should speak of 'flaming lips' in relation to my earlier adventures! As indicated, Rothberg secured my… release… in time to partake in an epicure's tour of the fine red wines of Somerville but—alas!—upon my supposed safe passage to River Works Station, courtesy of Rothberg's traitorous manservent Gideon, where I could gaze upon the late afternoon sun as it illuminated the lush marshes of Pines River, my drunken haste had me board the northward train instead of the south! Seconds later my error turned irreversible without leaping to certain injury. Curses! I knew Central Square to be the next stop and steeled myself against vertigo upon my planned disembarkation, for the station platform is several exposed storeys above traffic! The man in black, though… how he escaped my aisle-seat vantage—beg pardon, but Hustler does engross—will forever haunt me!

"By god, it was Jones! He of a peculiar single-minded vengeance. How the man came to be one, like us, who breathes a free man's air remains a mystery, lo, these hours later. Between waves of shock I came to understand that he had, to all appearances, shadowed my position—with Gideon's cruel assistance!—for weeks in absolute stealth and, only today, seized the opportunity to strike. And strike he did! After walking a most crooked line from my seat to the car door, my grip tightened on the handrail as, not a minute from our arrival at stated depot, a cry of 'Ad mortem nebulonum, and may the devil guide my poker!' was heard by all aboard. Aye, a fire poker! No doubt secured from an unsuspecting home hardware establishment! If only repeated price reductions could be directed away from such a weapon. Affordability is no match for sinister violence!

"His proclamation was the remedy my withered reflexes and poise required, for I was immediately shaken as by an earthquake and dodged, by hairs, Jones's haphazard thrust. Surely his foul emotions bested him, otherwise I would not be standing before you! Said momentum carried him straight past me, through the open car door, off the vestibule and into the darkening wilderness that betrays the outskirts of the City of Sin. His savage instrument foretold his own doom once it struck the track, causing a spark to ignite a slick of oil sitting atop the marsh and—FWEEEEEEE!!!—into the flames went my one-time comrade. His screams, so gruesome, were broken only by an explosion from what was once his bristled face—despite the speeding car I will never unsee it. An awful death! Or was it? With luck, the circling gulls have witnessed Jones's final resting place, though I fear his rage too resolute to extinguish. In death will I cease peering over my shoulder at each dark corner—and then, only if my spirit settles outside the gates of hell!"

"Ladies and gentlemen, Charles Napier! Not the actor! We are in your debt, old boy. Now flee before I annihilate this rabble. Mind your path!"

"Cheers, good sir!"

"Despite the chasm between Charles's unparalleled tale and Boomer's wild-eyed buffoonery, Embryonic is simply not The Woods. Reason and chance weep tonight.

"The five Honorees will now join me. Advance, you fool of an assistant!"


"Idiot. Orange, for your still-relevant spin on rock, soul and blues music, you shall sit at my right hand. You're welcome. Next to you, appropriately, is It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back for an overall importance and ass-kickery that will never be matched. Third comes A Love Supreme for, yes, making me a better man. Penultimate is The Woods, which rocks as hard as anything since ninety percent of Love Gun. Lastly, in relative terms, is Jungle Rot for its purity of heart. Brigman's distortion shall defend my flank against all comers.

"Are these the five greatest albums of all time? Of course not. Foon Hoost isn't even up here."

"Eegy! I luff you!"

"But the five greatest of a series of random subsets of subsets?"


"Bless you, Charles! Onward in triumph! Now, those of you seated in the upper riser, please douse each other with the seasoned barbecue sauce at stage left and then hurl yourselves into the orchestra pit. Your frenzied end will be neither swift nor enlightened but it will be. You other ten, in front, are free to exit… through that curtain. That curtain. A line of… limousines?… awaits. The whirring and wailing you hear is only the sea. Yes, wave to the feasting crowd! See you in 2065! Right.

"As for the rest of you, return to your seats once satiated. Under each cushion are two sets of cast-iron manacles, individually fitted for your wrists and ankles. 'Convenience fees' well spent! Your partner may assist in securing them and you, in turn, his or hers. Once in place, masses of lava from the Jeff Probst Memorial Flow will consume you while I head far north. In anticipation, notice how the cuffs are lined with fine virgin denim for maximum comfort and style. So tasteful!

"Sauce caterers, earth scientists and multimedia technicians, take this as your fifteen-minute warning to vacate the blast radius. I recommend Gulu-Gulu Café, for beer and hearty fare are encouraged after what you've endured. Come, Orange. Nation of Millions. A Love Supreme. The Woods. Jungle Rot. Let us walk together into a glorious Lynn evening and then beyond as it burns. The soundtrack will be wonderful."

Friday, April 17, 2015

My dear Chlo-Chlo

We lost our beloved little flopper Chloe last month and will be mourning a long time. Approaching fifteen "human years" (eighty in "cat years") she wasn't, and hadn't been, getting around as easily as she used to. She weighed next to nothing and slept twenty-two hours a day. From time to time she would surprise us by making the diagonal leap from the far corner of the couch to the ottoman and it would make me so proud I wanted to cry. To hold her was to be comforted and heartbroken.

A month or two after Steve passed away (no doubt they're lying by the heater together in cat heaven, which is much cleaner and snootier than regular pet heaven), A. and I were visiting with some (now former) friends who were planning to—it still amazes me—get rid of Chloe so they could bring in another half-retarded siamese. Chloe wouldn't have "gotten along with" it and their current siamese so them's the breaks, I guess. The… heartlessness. We weren't yet considering another cat but, while the hosts were polishing their guns or something after dinner, Chloe strolled over and flopped right onto her side, purring a purr that even Steve couldn't match in his usurper-sneak-attack moments. Not a care in the world… flop, upright, flop, upright, etc. Caring of nothing except to rub her face on the carpet. It was love.

Within seconds of leaving, before even turning off their street, we looked at each other and agreed that ours would be Chloe's new home. Whether or not I (for Steve was really my cat) was ready was immaterial: we couldn't bear the thought of her ending up in a shelter or elsewhere. The next day we reached out to those monsters and made our case, and the weekend after we hosted them and her on a trial visit. From that evening, Chloe, you were all-the-way ours. We will hear your silent meows and your rumbling purrs, marvel at your sweet tooth (!) and suffer your disregard for our thighs as you and your nails settled into our laps. We will cherish how much our daughter loved you—she always saw your spirit, even as you struggled to sit comfortably—and how much patience you had with her hugs. And we will laugh with your flopping because we know you had a sense of humor about it. Flop after flop when you were young! I will never forget.

Things changed the past few years with G. in the picture but I still included you upon entering a room and asking "How are my ladies?" I hope you felt so welcomed from when you saved me (for you did) until the end. The carrot cake was the least I could do. We miss you, Chlo-Chlo. We love you.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Beer and football V — playoffs, week five
Super Bowl XLIX
Part 1: Full-on electric

The game: Patriots vs. Seahawks
The beer: Dogfish Head Miles Davis's Bitches Brew Ale
The result: (To be continued)
The commentary: The most expensive beer of the year cost about fourteen dollars. It's been so long now, with Dr. Jones finally standing in for Major Toht, that the details are fuzzy—a lot has happened in the weeks since Malcolm Butler learned to leave his wallet at home before heading to any New England watering hole. Our family has moved farther along the North Shore and away from the Big City, which the commonwealth requires by law—and enforces with shocking violence—when a head (or co-head) of household enters a fifth decade. If luck holds it will be the last move of my life.

I have put our ex-town behind us and I could not miss it less. I've never named it, or if so I've since gone back and redacted due to overwhelming internet paranoia (from the guy who only just started using his real name on Facebook) (and who still doesn't use his full name on his blog), but the clues are there in the archives. The taxes were too high, the beaches too smelly and the populace too enamored with a century-old middle school they attended as children. Ellie Miller: your lily-white, numb-fuck lot is the enemy of progress. May you achieve all you despise and reap all you deserve.

I won't say to where I've moved but my readers (!) aren't idiots. There's a large independent brewery in town with good distribution whose fine offerings have accompanied several beer-and-football afternoons and evenings since before the town was on our residential radar—the facility even leases space to at least two other brewers I've written about. I'll probably drink a selection during the draft when I pay for a single day's access to ESPN or the NFL Network. Oh, Moses.

And this expensive beer? Its name doesn't formally include the apostrophe S on the label—it's just an apostrophe—but I'm vetoing that shit. People think if a name ends in S then its possessive should automatically exclude a second S and that is goddamn wrong! (Thanks, Larry. Anonymous commenter number one single-handedly demonstrates everything wrong with this country: "George Jones's guitar just looks wrong, pretentious and ostentatious." Because that's valid. Everyone OK trusting someone who defends his ignorance with "…but here in the good old USA"?) It poured a rich, dark color (likely due to "a fusion of three threads imperial stout") nearly as black as Kearse's heart when he caught that ball on his back. Not my favorite beer of the season but it's a close second to the bootleg-scored turning point that was week four's pecan porter.

Bitches Brew. Bitches Brew. Is that a sentence? Bitches probably can brew once they get past their own vanity, loathing and/or inability to have children—I just wouldn't touch the stuff. Or maybe Miles didn't know his apostrophes either. Bitch's Brew? Bitches' Brew? No matter. Let's use our fine ale, "brewed with honey and gesho," as an excuse to discuss the album after which it is named… and then some. Continuing adventures in "I don't really know what I'm talking about when it comes to jazz." Related to ignorance, I had to look it up: "gesho" is an anglicized "gešo," or rhamnus prinoides, which Ethiopia uses "in a manner similar to hops." (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

Years ago, Ivan and I spent an afternoon/evening playing pool and getting hammered in the middle of Allston. Shocker. At the time my jazz collection was probably a bare-bones version of what it is today: heavy on Coltrane (though nothing yet from Ascension on) and a handful of "safe" discs from Charles Mingus and Miles Davis (maybe Miles Smiles by then). I was aware of Bitches Brew like I was aware of vegetarian chili—it exists, but why? And for whom?

In between the blocks of machismo Ivan and I blasted from the jukebox (Sabbath, Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Foghat) someone slipped in and got the most out of their fifty cents by playing "Bitches Brew," the twenty-seven-minute, side-spanning title track that was used to annoying affect in some movie I can't remember. Probably by Spike Lee.

Daylight remained and we were several beers and appetizers deep. The Sox were on television playing one of their one hundred sixty-two games of the season, which is a ridiculous amount of baseball over the course of thirty months, never mind seven. I do not remember the score. It was neither the place nor the time for someone to choose to enlighten a crowd, as I suspect a spoiled BU egghead was attempting, with JAZZ MUSIC. "For Those About to Rock"? Fire! "Deeez Nuuuts"? Deeeeeez nuuuttzz! "Fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der fer-der… FWEEEEEEE"? Um! I appreciate the value he got for his money despite a period of time when I would recreate the closing five minutes of the Abbey Road medley by dumping quarters into individual tracks "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End" at Sligo Pub. (Yes, the mechanical hesitation between tracks bothered the hell out of me.) But I'm pretty sure Ivan and I would have murdered the guy if we'd known who in there played it. Ivan, who can't even tolerate the second half of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," might still be looking for him.

I hope someone did it as a gag on his way out. Who, then, is to blame? How about the staff at the fucking White Horse Tavern for providing the option in the first place? "Zeppelin, check. Clash, check. Sublime, check. Mountain, ch– hey, where's the provocative electric jazz/funk double album with only one song out of six that isn't of epic length? Everyone loves dense, unclassifiable niche music from the late sixties and early seventies. Let's move some pitchers of Redhook!"

Years later it remains an unforgivable act all over. But the music? I'm coming around. Indeed, "I had nowhere to go but full-on electric," and so here is my complete-album Miles Davis discography, chronologically, from sold CDs to fresh Amazon downloads. Those with missing pieces like Sketches of Spain are excluded.

Birth of the Cool (1956; recorded 1949–1950)
'Round About Midnight (1956)
Milestones (1958)
Kind of Blue (1959)
Seven Steps to Heaven (1963)
ESP (1965)
Miles Smiles (1966)
Nefertiti (1967)
Miles in the Sky (1968)
Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968)
In a Silent Way (1969)
Bitches Brew (1970)
Jack Johnson (1971)
On the Corner (1972)
Big Fun (1974; recorded 1969–1972)

I imagine 'Round About Midnight and Milestones were progressive at the time and you can hear that he was making major strides, they just sound a little too be-bop for my Coltrane-favoring ears (I parted with the Birth of the Cool compilation of A- and B-sides pretty quickly for the same reason, times twelve). Everyone owns Kind of Blue. Everyone. And they should. Seven Steps introduces the "second great quintet" era and I settled in nicely (though out of order) with the subsequent ESP, Miles Smiles and Nefertiti (guess I should give 1967's Sorcerer another listen). And then?

And then! A nimble file-sharing leap later I experienced Jack Johnson. (If you need to satisfy an urge to drive a roomful of drunks out of their minds then go with the super-tight stone funk of "Right Off"—it's shorter than "Bitches Brew" by five seconds, which is enough time for you to flush a public toilet with your shoe.) A lot happened in between and I wasn't interested, or at least wasn't required to be interested, because I picked up what the man was laying down in 1971. Skipped years of trial and error and landed at its logical, cohesive two-song conclusion. Maybe I could do this "electric jazz" thing after all… nah. Ascension opened different doors for me anyway. And this Mingus fellow was doing (had done) interesting things.

I'd been a Mingus fan since after college, scooping up and loving the organic energy of the live Mingus at Antibes. 1964's Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus was my first studio strike and as much as I revel in its confident swing, I only realized later while exploring his back catalog that the album was simply remaking, and mainly improving, original songs from his past. I felt Mingus offered more adventure than Davis so I headed west: Mingus Ah Um, Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, Blues and Roots, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Oh Yeah, The Clown. Still more to hear but it's of the early or in-between vein: Pithecanthropus Erectus, Mingus Dynasty, Reincarnation of a Lovebird. Electric Miles Davis? "Now's the time." Be cool, Johnny Boy.

If step one was 1968's Filles de Kilimanjaro then step zero was the previous year's Nefertiti. The title track hinted at an "anti-jazz" to come with a riff-driven arrangement but otherwise doesn't sound radical today when considering all that came before and all that was happening around it. Kilimanjaro followed (for me) and eased the transition from acoustic to electric. Until recently it was the last Davis album I owned and I understand why—three of its five songs feature an electric rhythm section that doesn't sound much different. The horns all get their solos and only the second half of "Petits Machins" keeps the progression to In a Silent Way from hitting out of nowhere (the sudden fade anticipates Teo Macero's scissors). It's the natural follow-up to "Stuff" from Miles in the Sky, which I picked up in Northampton a few months ago before crushing my daughter's Christmas-lit dreams, which never were fulfilled. There's always 2015.

With Miles in the Sky nestled between Nefertiti and Kilimanjaro on the shelf in water-tight inventory storage, Christmas invited the final push. A generous Amazon gift card (since the nearly-as-generous iTunes card was applied toward an iTunes Match account that allowed me to replace all my annoying DRM M4P files that only played on Apple devices with higher-quality, unlocked M4A ones that can play nice with my Android phone) (also, to hell with Jony Ive for thinking I can't design a better phone than his giant golden turd) (oh, but feel free to officially license its dimensions so your tween/cougar audience can bedazzle—and fully obscure—your entire vision with cases that would embarrass my three-year-old) was first applied toward G-ready classics like Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops" and Ya Ho Wa 13's "I'm Gonna Take You Home (Part 1)" Dusty Springfield's "He's Got Something" and then, in order, In a Silent Way, Jack Johnson (for the white guilt), Bitches Brew, the era-spanning Big Fun and On the Corner. (On the Corner is a whole other bag that will take awhile for me to digest. In that way I compare it to Ascension. Give me time, though I doubt it will leave as heavy a mark.) Impressions?

In a Silent Way
It's 1969 alright! Marvelous. I love how these songs breathe—Davis and Macero hadn't yet gone so edit-happy that I can notice. Barely in the same area code as anything Davis had produced through '68.

Bitches Brew
The title beer! Overlong but it's really grown on me since Allston's fury. Track by track…

A1. "Pharaoh's Dance"
The first half wouldn't have been out of place on Nefertiti. Pleasantly… expansive? I mean it's a nice use of stereo technology that feels like it took a month to mix just right. Can and Neu! likely listened to a lot of this while touring Europe in their efficient Nazi-designed vans.

B1. "Bitches Brew"
The opening and concluding three minutes test my patience and resemble A's worst nightmare. The meat of the song compensates with what could work as an operetta—possibly the best twenty minutes on the album.

C1. "Spanish Key"
No, "Spanish Key" is the highlight. Its live feel is absent on the rest of the album and as a result it's the only one that doesn't come off feeling assembled: guys taking cues from each other, passing it around the room, single take. Just donating for beers and jamming some Kansas City after-hours shit. It's even got a live fade. Hazy memories coming back to me.

C2. "John McLaughlin"
In the grand tradition of "Pablo Picasso," "Max Ernst" and "Gerard." Deep breaths as we regroup. I hear no edits but then again I'm breaking this album down without requisite Stockhausen familiarity. The internet backlash will be terrific.

D1. "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down"
A frenzied, crude precursor to "Right Off." Loose! It works but I get a sense the band (or the tape operators) were running out of steam. I am too.

D2. "Sanctuary"
The ups and downs balance the free fall of "Voodoo" and close the album nicely. That sustained last note does its job by making you want to hear more—quite an accomplishment after an hour and a half.

Jack Johnson
As far out as Bitches Brew gets I'd still call it jazz. Jack Johnson is not—can you call Hugh Masekela's "Grazing in the Grass" jazz because he plays trumpet?—and that's OK. "Right Off" wouldn't have sounded out of place on a contemporary he-managed-to-vomit-out-his-vomit-and-survive Hendrix jam accompanied by Davis and featuring, I don't know, Levon Helm, Mike Bloomfield, Billy Preston, Country Joe McDonald and Isaac Hayes. For my money, the best "electric Miles." And it is my money because I paid for all of this shit.

Big Fun
Sitar! Skipping On the Corner for a minute since most of Big Fun came first. That one's a stronger concluding paragraph anyway. This collection of outtakes was an impulse purchase I'm surprised to like as much as I do. The Jesus Lizard must also have been killing time on Amazon, pausing between refreshes of Book's availability status to listen to samples before heading to the studio around, oh, September 1990. (It's a space/time thing.) "Go Ahead John" and Get Up With It's "Honky Tonk" convince me that Jack Johnson should have been favored with the double-album treatment over our Super Bowl namesake.

On the Corner
In turn, Davis must have been listening to Can's "Mother Sky" by '72. Right from go. He more or less shut down after this and (presumably) green-lit a bunch of concert recordings and outtake collections so On the Corner formally closed his studio legacy until the eighties. I'm inferring a period of desire to connect with his audience and, maybe, of determining who that audience ought to be—the caricature of black youth on the covers of On the Corner and In Concert offer clues, however desperate or tongue-in-cheek. My man Steve Forceman, who I sincerely hope is still with us, described On the Corner's tension eloquently in few words, which is an admirable skill: "When I listen to the queasy harmonies of the horns, the menacing thud of the bass and those brittle handclaps, I can't help but feel that there's something fevered going on—maybe feverish—and fever means sickness." Sickness. That's what I hear, too, in the start-stop-smash percussion from "Black Satin" through to the end. Sickness of paranoid chaos but also, like, malaria, floating down jungle rivers in untamed parts of the world, pursued by savagery, smothered by unease. Eyeballing all directions at all moments, anticipating danger, the drums, the air, the madness, bouncing from the left channel to the right. Dizziness. Fear. "Mistah Kurtz, he dead." And then six minutes into "Helen Butte" that horn comes clean through the center like a lighted highway: get me the fuck out of here. I want to live. On the Corner is growing on me even as I write this.

There. I have noted my embrace of Davis's late sixties/early seventies electric period without using the word "fusion" except when quoting an unsubtle beer label. Are At Fillmore and Live Evil next? See you at the White Horse in an hour—those twenty-somethings won't know what to think.

Up next: You say there was a game? Cheers!