- This outstanding Columbia pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) or close to it from first note to last
- Excellent sound courtesy of Arthur Kendy’s and Frank Laico’s engineering at the famed Columbia Studio B in NYC
- Miles here is backed by his classic ’60s All Star crew – Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams
- “…Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion… intriguing music…”
*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, Paraphernalia.
We just finished a big shootout for this superb Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than many. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of Tubey Magic.
Many copies didn’t have the kind of transparency or openness that we heard here, which made it harder to appreciate the contributions of the different players. This one puts plenty of separation between the various instruments, so you can make sense of what each of these heavy-hitters adds to the mix. You will have a very hard time finding a copy out in the bins that sounds as good as this one!
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 pressings of Miles In The Sky 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 1968
- 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 studio space
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 Miles In The Sky
- 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 so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Miles Davis and his quintet playing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.
With the 1968 album Miles in the Sky, Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion. Here, the music is still in its formative stages, and it’s a little more earth-bound than you might expect, especially following on the heels of the shape-shifting, elusive Nefertiti.
On Miles in the Sky, much of the rhythms are straightforward, picking up on the direct 4/4 beats of rock, and these are illuminated by Herbie Hancock’s electric piano — one of the very first sounds on the record, as a matter of fact — and the guest appearance of guitarist George Benson on “Paraphernalia.” All of these additions are tangible and identifiable, and they do result in intriguing music, but the form of the music itself is surprisingly direct, playing as extended grooves.