Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – Mono Shootout Winner in 2008

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More Sketches of Spain

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Mono Six Eye Columbia original pressing is the WINNER and [not-at-all] CURRENT CHAMPION of our Sketches of Spain shootouts. This record always sounded so thin and aggressive, with Miles’ horn always somewhat pinched and sour, but now it sounds wonderful. Who knew this record could sound so good?

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs.

Let’s talk about this mono copy. It is clearly more transparent, with less distortion, than any other copy we heard (and this means out of more than twenty!) There may be better sounding pressings out there, but I would be surprised to find one that would be more than a marginal improvement over what I’m hearing on this copy — and that goes for both sides.

Mono versus stereo means tradeoffs, which are the ones everybody knows: less soundstage, depth and three-dimensionality than the stereo copies, but more palpable, solid, tonally correct sound to the instruments in mono. The horn has a more “real” sound in mono. The bass is better. There’s more weight to the musical presentation.

Double Plus Sound

We are holding back the full A Triple Plus rating from this hot mono copy though, because one copy of the stereo showed us a better side one, but it was the only stereo side that beat this mono, and it had a side two that couldn’t compete.

The sound of this recording when you get a Hot Stamper like this one is truly MAGICAL. (AMG has that dead right in their review below.) Tons of ambience, tubey magic all over the place, this is one of those famous Columbia recordings that shows just how good the Columbia engineers were back in those days. The sound is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite just like the real thing.

Usually the Six Eye pressings are smeary and thick, but not this one. It has clarity and presence to beat the band, along with all the tubey magic you’ve come to expect from the original ’50s pressings.