Top Artists – Miles Davis

Miles Davis – Seven Steps to Heaven

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

This Original Miles Davis record has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND! Columbia jazz records from this period are some of the best sounding jazz records ever made, and this is a perfect example of what is right with their recordings. The sound is rich, full, sweet, tonally right on the money, and lively as can be. 

This is an interesting album because half of it is recorded in Hollywood and half of it in New York, with the songs in each location interpersed on the sides. Victor Feldman handles the piano duties in California; Herbie Hancock in New York. I actually prefer Victor Feldman’s playing on this record. We don’t get to hear his piano work often — he’s really quite good. (Cal Tjader started out on the drums but it’s tough to find records with him drumming.)

Anyway, one of the thoughts that occurred to me when I was playing this record is this: Why is there no audiophile reissue on any label that sounds like this? There’s something about the sound of these old records, these original pressings, that’s impossible to recapture with modern equipment. It may not be impossible, but until somebody manages to do it, it might as well be.

When you drop the needle at the beginning of side one and hear Miles’ muted trumpet come jumping out of your speakers, I guarantee you will be amazed or your money back!

Miles Davis – E.S.P.

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  • This pressing boasts insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, a huge step up from most copies
  • There’s plenty of 1965 Columbia 360 Label Tubey Magic in Stereo – the analog sound is real, tonally correct, and above all, natural
  • Miles fronts his second classic quintet here – saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams
  • “They created a unique sound that came to define the very sound of modern jazz … ESP remains one of their very best albums.” — 4 1/2 stars

This Columbia 360 Label pressing is one of the better copies of E.S.P. we’ve  heard.

It’s richer and fuller, with more ambience, and the trumpet and piano are just amazing sounding. You’re going to have a fairly tough time finding a copy that is anywhere near as impressive as this one. Trust me — we know whereof we speak. We’re always trying and all too often coming up short. Not here though!  (more…)

Miles Davis – Basic Miles

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  • Insanely good Classic Jazz sound for this wonderful Miles Davis collection, with both sides rating Triple Plus (A+++) 
  • The nine minute plus Green Dolphin Street that opens side two has some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price
  • If you want to know what the best copies of Kind of Blue sound like, this pressing will tell you, because it has that sound
  • We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match

Want to know how good our Hot Stamper Kind of Blue pressings sound? Listen to this very record. If you play the tracks that were recorded in 1958, the year before Kind of Blue, you will hear practically the same lineup of musicians. (more…)

Miles Davis and Gil Evans – Porgy and Bess

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – you will have a very hard time finding a better Porgy and Bess
  • This 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s legendary engineers were back then
  • If you’re looking for a stunningly natural, lifelike large group jazz recording, you can’t do much better than this album 
  • 5 stars: “The musical and social impact of Miles Davis, his collaborative efforts with Gil Evans, and in particular their reinvention of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess are indeed profound… It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence… No collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording…” 

The music is a classic example of the partnership between Davis and arranger Gil Evans, and a must-own for serious jazz fans. Those of you who have marveled at the sound of our Hot Stamper copies of Sketches Of Spain are sure to get a lot out of this one. (more…)

Miles Davis – Green Haze (‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’)

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  • A superb sounding Mono pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound or better on all four sides; mostly quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience – talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny
  • This Prestige Two-Fer simply combines two complete Miles Davis titles recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1955 – ‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’
  • “… it is for the excellent rhythm sections and the playing of Miles Davis that this two-fer is highly recommended.” – All Music

This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Sketches Of Spain on Six Eye in Stereo

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1960 – It Was a Very Good Year

When you get a Hot Stamper like this one the sound is truly MAGICAL. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) Tons of ambience, Tubey Magic all over the place; let’s face it, this is one of those famous Columbia recordings that shows just how good the Columbia engineers were back then. The sound is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite just like the real thing. What more can you ask for?

We Was Wrong in the Past About HP and Six Eye Labels

In previous commentary we had written:

Harry Pearson added this record to his TAS List of Super Discs a few years back, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording?

Of course you can be quite sure that he would have been listening exclusively to the earliest pressings on the Six Eye label. Which simply means that he probably never heard a copy with the clarity, transparency and freedom from distortion that these later label pressings offer.

The Six Eyes are full of Tubey Magic, don’t get me wrong; Davis’s trumpet can be and usually is wonderful sounding. It’s everything else that tends to suffer, especially the strings, which are shrill and smeary on most copies, Six Eyes, 360s and Red Labels included.

Over the course of the last few years we’ve come to appreciate just how good the right Six Eye stereo pressing can sound.

In fact, the two copies earning the highest grades were both original stereo pressings. Other pressings did well, but none did as well as the originals. This has never been our experience with Kind of Blue by the way. The later pressings have always done the best job of communicating the music on that album. (more…)

Miles Davis In Person – Friday Night and the Sound of Tubes

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Allow me to transcribe my notes:

Both Sides

The right sound — big, rich, tubey and real. Transparent. Rich, smooth, balanced. Horn gets huge and loud the right way. Piano is full. Solid bass.

No need to pick nits.

The Dog that Didn’t Bark in the Night

Normally our notes for the sound of the records we are shooting out against each other fall into two categories: what the record is doing right and what the record is doing wrong. You’ll note that in this case there was nothing wrong about the sound to write about. (more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’ – Right On the Money Tonality

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To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

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Better than the Originals?

The record combines two Miles Davis albums recorded in 1956: Workin’ and Steamin’. The 1974 remastering here by Brian Gardner is excellent. Since RVG probably would have mastered these tapes himself for the original pressings, I’m going to guess that this album sounds better than any original, for two reasons.
(more…)

Miles Davis – Quiet Nights – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A Shootout Winning copy of this Miles Davis-Gil Evans classic and one of only a handful to hit the site in years
  • Side one earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++), side two was close behind at A++ to A+++
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ on both sides – but obviously one of the best sounding
  • Fred Plaut engineered the sessions, and on this amazing early pressing they sound rich, warm, smooth and clear
  • In the Saturday Review, Quiet Nights received praise for Davis’ “wonderfully songful trumpet in a Latin-American vein”, set against “piercingly lustrous curtains of tone and discreet Caribbean rhythms.”

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We recently shot out a short stack of these — not an easy record to find in clean condition, in stereo, on the earlier labels, at affordable prices these days, so we didn’t have the eight to ten copies we like to have for a full shootout — and found that the music on Quiet Nights was every bit as enchanting as we remember it.

The music is very much in the style of Sketches Of Spain and the sound is comparable to that album as well. This is Davis’ final official collaboration with arranger and conductor Gil Evans. The quintet on this album includes Miles Davis on the trumpet, George Coleman on tenor sax, Victor Feldman on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Frank Butler on drums. (more…)

Avoid Making this Rookie Record Collecting Mistake

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Record Shopping Day Video!

Not sure how much of this video you can stand — nothing could interest me less than a couple of audiophile / vinyl enthusiasts spouting off on what they think about some random records sitting in a local store’s bins — but one or two bits caught my eye. I thought it might possibly be of service to share them with you.

Is there any value to the comments of these two collectors? If you care about what music they like, perhaps.  Anything about what to look for on the label or jacket that might correspond to better sound?  If it’s there I sure didn’t see it, but I admit to speeding through most of it so I can’t say for sure.

The first bit I refer to above is at 18:42.  The album in question is the legendary Kind of Blue. At this point the unseen helmet-cammed audiophile picks up the record, recognizes the original cover, and proceeds to pull the record out to see what era the pressing is from.

Drat! The disappointment in this audiophile’s voice is palpable as he drops the record back in the bin with his dismissive comment that  “it’s a later pressing.”

But we here at Better Records would be falling all over ourselves to get our hands on that later pressing. Those late pressings can and often do win shootouts. We would never look down our noses at a Red Label Columbia jazz LP, and neither should you.

Our intrepid audiophile explorer does much the same thing about 23 minutes in. It seems pretty clear to us that he has no respect for such reissues, another example of one of the most common myths in record collecting land, the myth that the  original pressing is always, or to be fair, usually better. (more…)