Miles Davis – Water Babies

More Miles Davis


  • This superb compilation album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic – here’s a 30th Street recording from 1967 and 1968 that demonstrates just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • “Time has revealed this band to be as daring and fascinating as any in the long Davis career, and Water Babies contains some of its best music. There is simply so much happening here; hear it.”

This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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, 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 Water Babies 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 1976
  • 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.

What We’re Listening For on Water Babies

  • 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.

The Players


Side One

Water Babies
Sweet Pea

Side Two

Two Faced
Dual Mr. Tillman Anthony

Rolling Stone Review

Subterfuge, thy name is Columbia. The album cover gives no recording dates, but the constant personnel (Davis, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Herbie Hancock, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Tony Williams, drums) is that of the 1964-68 Davis quintet.

Side one contains three Shorter compositions recorded on Wayne’s 1969 Super Nova (Blue Note); comparisons between the performances confirm Hancock’s 1969 comment that “Miles … shapes all the tunes that come into his band.” He shaped his accompanists as well, editing and muting their more extroverted tendencies — at least Shorter, Hancock and Williams sound quite different on their own Blue Note albums of the time. Yet the drummer’s simple cymbal dance behind Davis’ gentle “Water Babies” solo, and his melodic accompaniment for Shorter on the same piece, are still overwhelming. Carter also gets a chance to dance around Hancock’s chorded spot.

The smoking “Capricorn” bears Miles’ mark in the use of piano — Hancock lays out through most of the track and solos only with his right hand. Miles harks back to 1956 in his solo, but Carter and Williams boil and evaporate behind him in more contemporary fashion. The way Shorter’s thoughts unravel, growing denser and more complex yet still referring to the theme, is marvelous. “Sweet Pea” (dedicated to composer and Ellington collaborator Billy Strayhorn) has a mysterious, floating theme statement. The intensely shaped sorrow in Miles’ tone is buoyed by Spanish tinges in the rhythm section, Shorter’s sound offers a beautiful complement, and Hancock offers homage to 1959 Bill Evans.

Both tracks on side two feature Hancock and Chick Corea on subdued electric pianos, with the keyboard on left speaker (probably Hancock) dominating throughout. Shorter’s “Two Faced” sounds like a dry run for the In a Silent Way sessions; I find it more successful. Williams, Carter and the pianists converse with great spirit, and Shorter plays off the rolling keyboards brilliantly. The long Davis solo is a sustained sigh with more acute hurt occasionally cracking through. “Dual Mr. Tillman Anthony” is credited to one “W. Process” (Tillman is the first name of Anthony Williams’ father); it’s a funky, syncopated riff, 14 measures long, repeated for 13 minutes by Corea, Carter and bassist Dave Holland while the others cook. Miles is magnificent here, gliding over the line at his own internal, slower tempo while Hancock and Williams bubble around him. Shorter swaggers, recalling the tenor’s historical lineage, and Williams takes the piece out.

Time has revealed this band to be as daring and fascinating as any in the long Davis career, and Water Babies contains some of its best music. There is simply so much happening here; hear it.

-Bob Blumenthal

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