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The Original Mono Recordings Box set

4.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

For nearly half a century, Miles Davis (1926-1991) was arguably the preeminent innovator in jazz - rarely staying in the same place twice, experimenting with the most cutting-edge styles and ideas he could imagine. This year, some of Miles' most enduring works for Columbia Records are collected the way they were originally heard: MILES DAVIS: THE ORIGINAL MONO RECORDINGS.

Here, Miles Davis' first nine 12-inch albums for Columbia will be collected in one package - all in impeccable mono mixes for the first time on CD. Seven of these albums - 'Round About Midnight, Miles Ahead (both 1957), Milestones (1958), Porgy And Bess, Kind Of Blue (both 1959), Sketches Of Spain (1960) and Someday My Prince Will Come (1961) - are familiar classics which saw Miles rise to prominence as an architect of the hard bop style of jazz before revolutionizing the genre with ventures into modal jazz. Of these, Milestones and Kind of Blue remain among the most universally recognized jazz recordings in the world.

MILES DAVIS: THE ORIGINAL MONO RECORDINGS also includes two exciting rare albums:

1958's Jazz Track features 10 compositions recorded for a French film, L'Ascenseuer Pour l'Echafaud, and three selections from an acclaimed session recorded shortly after the release of Milestones. (These sessions served as a prelude to Kind Of Blue, starring Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. These are the only other studio sides by Davis sextet before recording what would become the best-selling jazz album of all time.)

Miles & Monk At Newport, released in 1964, features selections from two separate live performances at the Newport Jazz Festival: Davis' leading the same sextet from Jazz Track in 1958, and a 1963 set from pianist Thelonious Monk, just recently signed to Columbia Records from the Riverside label.

Each CD, newly remastered, will be housed in a mini-LP replica jacket, faithfully replicating the original LP sleeves. They will be packed in a casemade slipcase which will also hold a 40-page booklet with a brand-new essay. This is the true genius of Miles Davis as most people first heard it, the way it was intended to be heard: in mono.

Albums-

'Round About Midnight
Miles Ahead
Milestones
Jazz Track
Porgy And Bess
Kind Of Blue
Sketches Of Spain
Someday My Prince Will Come
Miles And Monk At Newport
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 11, 2013)
  • Original Release Date: November 11, 2013
  • Number of Discs: 9
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Sony Legacy
  • Run Time: 400 minutes
  • ASIN: B00ESEYE60
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,387 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Amazon's Miles Davis Store

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on November 11, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
No doubt for many fans, not around in the late 1950's/early 1960's, when stereo was marketed to a relatively small number of "Hi-Fi Buffs" or "stereo enthusiasts", having these albums in their mono versions, available once again, may not seem like much. But to those Davis fans who were around then, this is something special.

"In short, you can purchase this record with no fear of it's becoming obsolete in the future." The "small print" on the back of a 1959 Columbia Records mono edition of a Miles Davis album.

Chances are if you're reading this you're at least familiar with a few (if not all) of these albums--now in wonderful sounding monophonic sound. The best of these albums include some of the finest jazz of the Twentieth Century. And with fans now able to hear them in mono, we have a chance to better hear what the music originally sounded like back when it was recorded. And this box set does the job it was intended to do.

"Mono featured less audio trickery and fewer audio distractions, so you can actually hear the musical conversation between Miles and the other musicians as it occurred in the studio." George Avakian.

The music itself (obviously) hasn't really changed, just the way we hear it. And for fans of monophonic sound (like me) there's no real revelations across these albums (the majority featuring Coltrane alongside Davis), just a smooth, clean mono sound. I keep hearing that the master mono tapes for the album "Kind Of Blue" have been missing for many years or they have deteriorated beyond use, and if so, the engineers have done a fine job with that classic album. Do a comparison of the stereo editions with these mono editions and I think you'll hear the difference is notable.
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This is classic must-have music. If you don't have these albums, or only have a few of them, this is a compact package at a reasonable price (if obtained from a UK seller). Overall I am happy to have it and like having the first two quintet albums in regular running order as an alternative to swapping between discs to reconstruct those albums from the Davis-Coltrane Columbia box of 2000.

Bottom line, this Mono Box excels in its versions of "Round About Midnight" and "Milestones"; while "Miles and Monk at Newport" is a unique item; the other titles sound good enough, but in my opinion their sound is surpassed by various extant stereo versions.

The rest of this review is more specialized for those looking for specific recommendations regarding versions of each album.

Round About Midnight
This has always been in mono, and the Mono master tape was used for this issue with some EQ. The 2000 Coltrane-Davis box version is pretty good, but the version on this mono CD box is better sounding. The Mono box version has more pronounced, realistic sounding bass and a more pleasant reduced treble emphasis than on the 2000 box. The 2000 box tracks are also dynamically compressed (louder).

Miles Ahead
This was issued originally issued in mono. For the present issue the Mono master tape was used with for this issue with some EQ, and it sounds acceptable. However, my favorite version is the stereo version assembled from original elements for the 1996 Davis-Evans Columbia box. "Miles Ahead" was the great triumph of that box set and sounds wonderful.
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These albums are iconic, no need for me to go on about material or performances.

As far as the sound... spectacular. Instruments are much more crisp, clear, and easier to discern than they were in the old stereo mixes. This is the case with both the small group albums and the Gil Evans larger ensemble arrangements. I thought these mono mixes would sound more primitive or dated, but it's actually the exact opposite. Old favorites sound brand new. Even if you have had these (or even several previous versions of these) recordings, this set is more than worth the investment.
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My comments are only on the sound as the music stands as classic.

The mono should not be a reason to skip these recordings. The sound is excellent. I went back through my collections and listened side by side with the stereo versions of Porgy and Bess and Kind of Blue, as well as a MasterSound mono version of Milestones. I came away preferring the mono versions. Compared to the mono, the stereo seemed artificial in the instrument placement. For example, I had never noticed how far off Cannonball Adderley's saxophone was in the stereo version of So What but in the mono it is more front and center.

The MasterSound version was mono and very close to this version of Milestones. I found the MasterSound to be a bit clearer and somewhat preferable. However, I don't know if these are even available any longer.

These will replace my stereo versions for frequent listening.
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I'm addicted to Miles Davis' music, so obviously I purchased this set.
It is a very fine set. But the truth is: differences with the stereo versions are, in most cases, quite subtle.
And this is, because the stereo mixes were done with great care and taste and attention in the first place.
It's not like we're talking of the stereo mix of "Please Please Me" here.

Let's take "Porgy and Bess" for example. In the stereo version, Miles' trumpet is always firmly in the front and center. So (right in the center) are drums and bass. The sections which are slightly moved off center are the saxes, flutes and french horns on one channel, and the remaining brass on the other. But it's never a strained sonic image, and the resulting sound always feels natural.
The stereo image, far from turning out to be an "audio trickery" or "audio distractions", or preventing the listener from "hearing the musical conversation between Miles and the other musicians" (as Mr. Avakian misrepresents the stereo mixes in his liner notes to this mono box), actually allows for a better perception and understanding of the richness and subtlety of the arrangements, without subtracting a thing from Miles' lead.
So if they tell you that mono is the "true" way to listen to these records, or that it's "better" than the stereo... just don't swear by it.
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