Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Buddy Miles
One thing I’ve noticed, my big sister is a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix. Now while Hendrix was only in the spotlight between his breakthrough performance at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and his death in 1970, and he released only four albums in his lifetime, he was apparently working all the time. Hendrix’s own material has been accumulated in 11 posthumously released albums (and more are promised) however what’s not so widely known is that apparently Hendrix worked on a number of other artists’ albums, not only as a performer but as a producer.
Today’s album by the Buddy Miles Express is Electric Church, from 1969. Miles is of course the drummer and singer who worked with Hendrix in the Band of Gypsys along with bassist Billy Cox, who’s been covered here also. Electric Church is of interest because of the involvement of Hendrix, who produces four of the album’s seven cuts and plays guitar on a few as well.
One of those is the opener “Miss Lady,” an R&B shouter with some stinging psychedelic lead guitar presumably by Hendrix. Miles is a convincing R&B singer, and he pushes “Miss Lady” into the red with some hair-raising soul screamin’ over the raucous guitar and backing horns. You can tell these boys liked to jam in the studio – “Miss Lady” has an electrifying “live” feel as does most of the other tunes here.
“69 Freedom Special,” with Hendrix stomping the wah-wah pedal is another uptempo jumper arranged in the style that was no doubt considered “funky” at the time – real brassy horns with some truly psychedelic guitar leads. The saxophone playing on this cut, by either James Tatum or Bobby Rock, is excellent. Even when Buddy slows it down with a lush soul ballad like “Cigarettes and Coffee,” he can’t help but sound psychedelic … with a little help from the odd echo on his vocals.
On “Texas,” a slow blues co-written by Miles and Mike Bloomfield, has some nice guitar work by Jim McCarty, who previously worked in Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels. Electric Church convenes with a version of Sam and Dave’s “Wrap It Up,” which was also covered on Miles’ debut Expressway To Your Skull from the previous year. Nevertheless, the song ends the short (about 38 minutes) album on a sweaty, feverish note.
Buddy Miles would go on to play with Hendrix in the Band of Gypsys – on the album of the same name Miles debuted a song he wrote, “Them Changes.” He would go on to re-record that tune and it would become a hit and a blues-rock standard. During his career Miles appeared on more than 70 albums and worked with musicians including Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Barry White and George Clinton. He died in 2008 at his home in Austin.
McCarty, by the way, went on to play with the so-called supergroup Cactus, with former Vanilla Fudge members Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice, and later in the 1970s he would form the Rockets with former Wheels drummer John Badanjek. Les Paul covered “69 Freedom Express,” which was written by McCarty, and won a Grammy Award for that version. McCarty is still considered one of the grandfathers of Detroit rock, influencing younger whippersnappers like Ted Nugent and late Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton.