Wikipedia: “George Allen “Buddy” Miles Jr. (September 5, 1947 – February 26, 2008), was an American rock drummer, vocalist, composer, and producer. He was a founding member of The Electric Flag (1967), a member of Jimi Hendrix‘s Band of Gypsys (1969–1970), founder and leader of the Buddy Miles Express and later, the Buddy Miles Band.
In addition to Jimi Hendrix, Miles played and recorded with Carlos Santana, Mike Bloomfield, and others. In a lighter vein, he sang lead vocals on the popular “California Raisins” claymation TV commercials and recorded two California Raisins R&B albums.”
Now that right there is quite the pedigree. Even Frank Zappa – to the best of my knowledge – never made it into a California Raisins commercial. But in and around the time Miles was playing with Hendrix and those other guys he was also recording his own band’s stuff.
I won’t kid you by saying that Them Changes is some sort of masterpiece that you Must Hear Before You Die. And in some places, it’s kinda dated. (Miles had a bit of the hippie about him.) But it is if not a lost classic, it is a pretty good album that is at least to some extent. overlooked and forgotten.
Buddy had first met Hendrix earlier in the Sixties when both were sidemen for other bands. When Hendrix’ Experience kicked in, Buddy was otherwise engaged and Mitch Mitchell became Jimi’s drummer. Buddy played on Electric Ladyland on “Rainy Day Dream Away” and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming.” He teamed up later with Hendrix and Jimi’s army buddy Billy Cox* to form Band of Gypsys which cranked out one eponymous live album. That album turned out to be the last full-length Hendrix album released before his death.
I mention this in part because there is a song called “Changes” on the Gypsys album, written and sung by Buddy Miles. Not sure why it’s labeled that way as Hendrix fairly clearly enunciates the title. But nevertheless, to my knowledge, this was the first recording of that tune. Gypsys was released in March of 1970 and in June of that year, Buddy released the album Them Changes.
While this purports to be a “solo” album, there are more session players on this thing than your average Steely Dan album and that’s saying something. In addition to the aforementioned Billy Cox, a few of the more recognizable names include Phil Woods (sax on the Dan’s “Doctor Wu,”) fellow saxman Lee Allen (later to record with the Blasters), and the ubiquitous Steve Cropper who produced it. Anyway, let’s check this bad boy out.
I don’t know who the fuck Paul B. Allen of Omaha, Nebraska is or was but he got himself a nice, tasty Stax-like instrumental. There is a groove and a half going on here and it just cooks. Check out the organ on this thing. There’s like, three organ players on this album and I don’t know who this is, so, pick one:
The song “Them Changes” was somewhat of an underground “hit” if FM radio in those days could even be considered to have hits. This song came out smack-dab in the middle of the Vietnam War and I know some people took the lyrics to be about the general uneasiness in the country. But really it’s just another “she done me wrong” song. But one that I’ve always dug. Unlike the Hendrix version, this one has horns. Some funky shit here:
When this album was released in June of 1970, the Allman Brothers had only released their debut album some six or seven months prior whereupon it sold, like, two copies. Outside of the South, pretty much nobody knew who they were.
But somehow Buddy made his way to Gregg Allman’s tune “Dreams” and the band does a nice job with it. (I don’t know if Duane ever heard it but he loved horn sections so who knows.) There’s some psychedelic shit in here but come on, it’s nineteen-fucking-seventy!
Writing for Allmusic, critic Steve Kurutz called the album “quite simply, one of the great lost treasures of soul inspired rock music… definitely worth the extra effort to try to locate.” Conversely, Robert Christgau wrote “His singing is too thin to carry two consecutive cuts, his drumming has to be exploited by subtler musicians, and the title cut is the only decent song he ever wrote.” (At least he wrote one decent thing, Christgau, which is one more than you. How does this fuckstick manage to have his head up his ass so consistently?)
*At 79, Cox is the only surviving member of either of Hendrix’ major bands. The last I read about him he had a production company going.