Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fusion Pipe Dreams: Part Two

Miles Davis delved into the David Crosby songbook with his 1970 recording of "Guinnevere," originally heard on the C,S,N debut album of the previous year. If only he had taken the plunge with this earlier Crosby classic as well -- Its minor key moodiness and arresting changes would have suited Davis and the rest of the "Second Great Quintet" perfectly. Davis on muted horn, Shorter on tenor, Hancock insinuating the harmony, Carter and Williams stirring up a suggestive rhythmic pulse...ah, pipe dreams.
The Byrd's 1967 performance is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. Crosby inhabits the misty poetry at the core of his song, while bassist Chris Hillman is simply outrageous, careening off into space yet somehow anchoring the piece. Unfortunately guitarist McGuinn doesn't seem to have a handle on the song's fragile mood -- his solo turn meanders where it should sing -- and the group remains grounded. Nonetheless this classic album cut is an unacknowledged high point of proto-fusion; a promising, if tentative, blend of folk-rock, Indian exoticism and jazz.

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