Light in the Attic’s penchant for incredible finds continues with the release of landmark, unheard sessions by singer Betty Davis with a galaxy of music stars backing her up.
The bulk of The Columbia Years 1968-1969 stems from a session the incomparable singer recorded at Columbia Records’ 52nd Street Studios on May 14 and 20, 1969. Guiding the sessions as producers was Miles Davis, who’d married the former Betty Mabry a year before, along with his longtime collaborator Teo Macero. Her accompanists remain the stuff of legend: drummer Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (which would play its final gig nearly a month later), bassist Billy Cox (who’d replace Noel Redding in Hendrix’s new band), and a host of musicians in Miles’ orbit: guitarist John McLaughlin, keyboardist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter had all played on In a Silent Way, which would be released that July, and bassist Harvey Brooks and electric pianist Larry Young would join Miles, McLaughlin, Hancock and Shorter in the sessions for a new album that August, to be released in 1970 as the landmark Bitches Brew.
These sessions have never been released or bootlegged–their existence a matter of debate for many years, even–and the impact they had on both Davises is stunning, launching Miles into a new era of jazz fusion innovation and Betty (who’d divorce Miles that year) into a prolonged period as a cult figure of sexually-charged funk music on the Just Sunshine label.
A year before that fabled session, Davis also cut a session at Columbia’s Los Angeles studio in October 1968 with producer Jerry Fuller and a band that included trumpeter/arranger Hugh Masekela and members of The Crusaders (then known as “The Jazz Crusaders”). That session resulted in one single, “It’s My Life” backed with “Live, Love, Learn”; this set features an alternate of the A-side, the original B-side (the set’s sole previously released cut) and an unheard original, “My Soul is Tired.”
Taken alongside Light in the Attic’s reissues of Davis’ two Just Sunshine albums (the 1973 self-titled debut and 1974’s They Say I’m Different), the label is, now more than ever, the perfect home for Davis’ challenging, influential, early career, which predicted the likes of Prince, Erykah Badu and even Ice Cube (who sampled her on his debut AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted in 1990).
Reports are coming in that The Columbia Years is available in some stores now, but it’s shipping on CD from Amazon or CD and vinyl from the label, with a 1,000 “Solid Gold Edition” pressed on gold vinyl with an exclusive poster ready to order, as well as CD and LP bundles of The Columbia Years alongside Betty Davis and They Say I’m Different.
Betty Davis, The Columbia Years 1968-1969 (Light in the Attic LITA-135, 2016)
- Hangin’ Out
- Politician Man
- Down Home Girl
- Born on the Bayou
- I’m Ready, Willing & Able (Take 1)
- I’m Ready, Willing & Able (Take 9)
- It’s My Life (Alternate Take)
- Live, Love, Learn (single B-side – Columbia 4-44469, 1968)
- My Soul is Tired
All tracks previously unreleased except Track 8
Tracks 1-6 produced by Miles Davis & Teo Macero
Tracks 7-9 produced by Jerry Fuller