Press Play: Amy Ray and Miles Davis

Amy Ray is all strength but no stamina, and Miles Davis’ legacy turns 50.

Amy Ray
Didn’t it Feel Kinder
Reviewer rating: 2/5 stars

The singer-songwriter as a genre unto itself is sort of a tired beast, and for that reason alone it’s hard to get too worked up about something that rushes in begging to fly under its banner. Amy Ray‘s seeming disinterest in pushing boundaries doesn’t help her case much either.

Didn’t it Feel Kinder shows Ray firing strong on all fronts (helped along by a more than capable backing band) but her songs lack the sort of momentum that would push them into earning such adjective descriptions as “immediate” or “gripping.”

Through the 10 tracks of Kinder, Ray flirts with the edges of country and psychedelia without really taking the plunge into either. The fuzzy guitar solos aren’t bizarre or straightforward enough to stand out, and the album’s mid-tempo hooks have their feet planted so firmly in safe territory that they sometimes scarcely exist at all.

When moments such as the outro of “She’s Got to Be” come crawling around, it’s a grand moment of anti-climax. As Ray sings “I will love” over the top of “I will protect this love” it’s a disappointing instance of a fizzle in a spot that calls for an explosion.

What makes this really regrettable is that songs such as “Bus Bus” showcase Ray and her band as a group capable of conjuring some real reverb-y grit, but for the most part the album sidesteps these possibilities to remain planted resolutely in the middle of the road.

Miles Davis
Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary Edition
Reviewer rating: 4/5 stars

As one of the great cantankerous bastards of the 20th century (not to mention one of its most pioneering musical minds) Miles Davis could have done a whole lot worse.

Though Kind of Blue was the centerpiece of his career, the man would claim at least two more opuses before he checked out, all of which showcased his stunning innovation and—seemingly out of character—restraint. Arriving somewhat short of the actual 50-year mark, this retrospective at least makes up for it in well-worthwhile bonus offerings.

Extended takes liberally populate the 26 track collection and offer a fascinating glimpse at the nascent rumbling of Davis’ later experimentation. Brief instances of found sound and spoken word show a glimpse of the Miles Davis that was to come, and they’re fascinating when juxtaposed atop the minimalist harmonic structures that made Kind of Blue a legend in the first place.

With its place in jazz history already firmly ironed out, Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary Edition adds to a legacy that maybe didn’t demand revisiting but is certainly worthy of attention in any case.