- A STUNNING copy of Davis’ superb 1971 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all four sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied sound that blew away every other copy we played
- A wonderful double album of both live and studio-recorded music, featuring numerous jazz greats, including Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette
- Pitchfork’s Ryan Schreiber believed it was “easily the most accessible of Miles Davis’ late-’70s electric releases,” describing its music as “at once both sexually steamy and unsettling.” He said the live recordings “run the gamut from barroom brawl action-funk to sensual bedroom jazz magic, creating two hours of charged eccentricity you’ll never forget.”
*NOTE: On side three, a noisy intro to track 1, Selim, clears up.
These vintage Columbia stereo pressings have the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band or listening live in the audience, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Live-Evil have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio or venue
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.
What We’re Listening For on Live-Evil
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
What I Say
Nem Um Talvez
Inamorata and Narration by Conrad Roberts
Live-Evil was released by Columbia Records in 1971 to critical acclaim. In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Robert Palmer said “this sounds like what Miles had in mind when he first got into electric music and freer structures and rock rhythms”. He called the shorter, ballad-like recordings “things of great beauty”, devoid of solos but full of “stunning, bittersweet lines”, while also praising each band member’s soloing on the live jams: “Everybody is just playing away, there aren’t any weak links, and there isn’t any congestion to speak of. Miles reacts to this happy situation by playing his ass off, too”. Black World critic Red Scott remarked that all of Live-Evil’s songs “fuse into a perfect complement of musicians passing moods to each other”. Pete Welding from Down Beat was less enthusiastic in a two-and-a-half star review, finding the live recordings characterized by “long dull stretches of water-treading alternating with moments of strength and inspiration”.
The magazine’s John Corbett later called Live-Evil “an outstandingly creative electric collage”, while Erik Davis from Spin found the music “kinetic” and described McLaughlin’s playing as “Hindu heavy-metal fretwork”. Pitchfork’s Ryan Schreiber believed it was “easily the most accessible of Miles Davis’ late-’70s electric releases”, describing its music as “at once both sexually steamy and unsettling”. He said the live recordings “run the gamut from barroom brawl action-funk to sensual bedroom jazz magic, creating two hours of charged eccentricity you’ll never forget”. Robert Christgau said that apart from the meandering “Inamorata”, the “long pieces are usually fascinating and often exciting”, including “Funky Tonk”, which he called Davis’s “most compelling rhythmic exploration to date”. He believed the shorter pieces sounded like “impressionistic experiments”, while “Selim” and “Nem Um Talvez” appropriately “hark back to the late ’50s”. Edwin C. Faust from Stylus Magazine called Live-Evil “one of the funkiest albums ever recorded” while deeming the “somber” short pieces to be “haunting examples of musical purity—Miles enriching our ears with evocative melodies (his work on Sketches of Spain comes to mind) while the bass creeps cautiously, an organ hums tensly, and human whistles/vocals float about forebodingly like wistful phantoms”.