Mobile Fidelity Sonically Resurrects Mid-Period Miles

If the iconic Miles Davis album Kind of Blue captured an event—an abrupt musical switch from melody to modal, these three mid-period quintet albums, Sorcerer (1967), Nefertitti (1968) and Filles De Kilimanjaro (1969) represent a period of transition as the quintet moves slowly towards Miles’s amplified instrument embrace.

The mid sixties was obviously a period of rapid social and cultural change that saw rock ascendant and jazz culture (thought not the music) struggling for image and relevancy.

Miles wasn’t recording much in the early 1960’s as he sought group stability. In 1965 after Wayne Shorter replaced George Coleman, this quintet of Miles, Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams recorded E.S.P. In late 1966 came Miles Smiles and the next spring, Sorcerer (which also includes “Nothing Like You” a track from 1962 with vocalist Bob Dorough) and Nefertiti.

May-June sessions in the spring of 1968 resulted in the previously reviewed rock-influenced Miles in the Sky. and some of Filles de Kilimanjaro, soon after which, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter exited, thus ending the now classic Miles Davis Quintet that collectively oversaw one of the greatest shifts in music direction, if not generally, than certainly in jazz.

Listening now with all of this musical movement in perspective clarifies the progression and in many ways makes it even more enjoyable and remarkable.

The rest of Filles de Kilimanjaro was recorded starting in September of 1968 with Chick Corea and Dave Holland in the group. By February of 1969 Miles had produced In A Silent Way without doubt the next great event after this long period of transition.

There was another transition happening at this time, one that was technical, not musical, and that was the changeover from vacuum tubes to solid state in both recording studios and in homes.

In the mastering suite the switch to solid state was often accompanied by a board change where worse-sounding sliders and op-amp electronics replaced the better sounding “old fashioned” rotating potentiometers associated with simpler playback chains.

For that reason or for whatever reason or reasons, many of the records from Columbia during this same transitional period didn’t sound very good, and that includes the original 1A pressings of these three albums, which I bought when new.

There was an unpleasant dryness and starkness to the sound of these originals accompanied by unpleasant grain. That is why it is easy to write that these three reissues from Mobile Fidelity sound far superior to the originals. They are far more transparent, detailed and texturally more supple as well as being harmonically more fully fleshed out.

Like other reissue labels, Mobile Fidelity has its hits and misses. These three double 45rpm releases along with much of the Miles catalog are among Mobile Fidelity’s best work to date. For Miles fans these are not to be missed—even if you have originals of these three. Here’s hoping the just released Kind of Blue lives up to what Mobile Fidelity has achieved here.

Music Direct Buy It Now

Music Direct Buy It Now

Music Direct Buy It Now

wao62's picture

With the improvement of Music Matters' Blue Note 33s & Acoustic Sound's Prestige series sound quality at 33 1/3, what is the point in issuing these at 45. Bitches Brew, Milestones and the other Mobile Fidelity Miles offerings cut at 33 sound on top, and the flow of the music is not broken up! I snatched up those titles right away, but I've been on the fence about purchasing these. I'll probably eventually get them, but I'm 45'd out, as I'm currently repurchasing titles Music Matters originally issued on 45 because of the improved sonics and unbroken flow of the music at 33!

Michael Fremer's picture
Has more to do with what Sony is willing to license than what Mobile Fidelity wishes to release.
wao62's picture

Do you mean that Sony will only license these titles to Mobile Fidelity if Mofi releases them at 45? Ditto with the Dylan releases?

Michael Fremer's picture
Sony sets those terms.
mraudioguru's picture

I got all three of these the day they each became available. I agree with Michael. They are terrific! I have the originals also, but they don't hold a candle to these reissues.

Good job MOFI!!!

daveming3's picture

these records come from an era where the concept of "sides" were obviously still in place. I too bought these LPs when they came out, and while the sonic benefits of 45 rpm reissues are pretty much inarguable, they do tend to disturb that "side" flow. For me, anyway. But I guess if sonic considerations outweigh everything else ...

Also - I have the Mosaic box of the complete studio recordings of the "2nd Great Quintet" which includes these recordings, and I think they did a fabulous job. For those who missed out on that set, I'm sure these MoFi's are just as great as you say they are. By all means, get them and enjoy this fabulous music! But I feel the Mosaic set should have been included in the discussion.

Michael Fremer's picture
I didn't include because it is out of print. Mo-Fi's issuing at 45 has more to do with what Sony is willing got license than anything else.
John G's picture

"There was an unpleasant dryness and starkness to the sound of these originals accompanied by unpleasant grain. That is why it is easy to write that these three reissues from Mobile Fidelity sound far superior to the originals. They are far more transparent, detailed and texturally more supple as well as being harmonically more fully fleshed out." MF

I wonder if the 1977 reissues of Nefertitti and Filles De Kilimanjaro might be better than the originals. I have both and they sound very detailed and transparent.

Like the above poster, I'm not a fan of 45rpm and really like the Music Matters 33rpm reissue of "Midnight Blue" which was highly recommended by Michael.

GeorgesCrochet's picture

Yeah, I agree. I used to buy those dirt cheap, sealed back in 1977 and I've always loved the sound: crisp, detailed, full. I never could understand their bad rep. By the way, Ian MacDonald, author of Beatles Revolution in the Head, wrote an excellent essay about Filles that was included in a collection of his work called The People's Music. He views it as highly underrated, as do I. If I was forced to choose my favorite Miles record, it would be Filles, albeit a close call.

daveming3's picture

Also worth pointing out that the Mosaic set of the complete studio recordings is also a re-mix. As result, there's more intimacy & immediacy and removal of some sonic blankets. They also did a pretty good job of improving on that mid-60's Columbia small, boxy piano sound we all have grown to hate.

mraudioguru's picture

Michael, could you please find out what is going on with the MOFI 45RPM reissue of "Kind Of Blue"? I pre-ordered this many months ago and now the Music Direct website shows it as "Awaiting Repress"?

RobWynn's picture

I think your time and MF's time is better served by you reaching out, if you haven't already, to Music Direct customer service if that or the MoFi site is where you ordered it.

KOB got top billing in their Monday (9/21) e-newsletter with a 'sticker' in the top-left corner of the album cover saying "LAST CHANCE to get a low number pressing" and in the body it said "Very few low-numbered pressings are available of the first run".

I immediately went to the site on Monday and it said "AWAITING REPRESS" but then on Tuesday and Wednesday it said "Shipping Today". I ordered a copy on Tuesday and got it in the mail today. So something is up with your order.

But as to the general situation, I think the first run being sold out days after it hits the market is not unexpected taking into consideration the title, how long it was in pre-order, and pressing plant demands. I quite frequently deal with similar situations when ordering limited edition items from indie labels, which this is akin to… at least KOB isn't going to be limited to a pressing of 500, 1000, or 5000 with you left with the only option of eBay.

mraudioguru's picture

So you actually have it in your possession? I saw exactly the same thing you state above about Music Direct. That's why I was wondering what was going on.

The only two possibilities are that they did indeed sell out the initial run, or there was something wrong with the pressing. Thus, my inquiry.

So it looks like maybe MOFI has sold out the first run.

mraudioguru's picture

...the Music Direct website again and the "awaiting repress" is gone with a ship date of 9/25/2015?

Who knows what's going on...

RobWynn's picture

Yep, opened up the shrink wrap about 3 hrs ago and flipped through the contents. I haven't put it on yet though.

So, if you pre-ordered a month ago you definitely should have received yours if I ordered mine 2 days ago.

If you ordered from MusicDirect or MoFi sites they are good about shipping pre-order items as they become available, as I've ordered more than one pre-order item in a single order and they drip in title by title months apart from each other… unless you noted that you want to hold your full order until all pre-items are available and something else in your order hasn't been released yet.

mraudioguru's picture

...thanks again. I just emailed Music Direct to see what is going on. I have ordered from them well over 200 times. I have to be one of their best customers.

I have everything that Mobile Fidelity has ever done on vinyl. The complete catalog from all (3) incarnations of MOFI, plus most of the test pressings and albums that were never released.

Michael Fremer's picture
They announced a long time ago but just received and shipped all they received so if yours wasn't shipped it didn't "make the cut". So you'll be in the next batch pressed.
wgb113's picture that you've gotten those out of the way...let's get on to the 2 x 45 version of KOB. My copy arrives tomorrow so please hurry!

Thanks for all you do Mike!

Auric G's picture

and then you can report back with your own findings.

wgb113's picture

I have the 50th Anniversary Blue, Classic 33, and the recent Sony/Legacy reissue to compare it to. Like Michael, I've been very happy with the MoFi reissues over the past few years.

john ryan horse's picture

For some of us with mid-priced systems and tight budgets the 45 rpm albums (which happily seem to cost about $45.00 too) are a bit of a stretch. The Doors box is what, $350 for 6 studio albums (12 discs)? I love my Dean Martin set but generally $30 is about the limit I can afford for essential items, and I'm far from acquiring all that I "need" to feel whole, spiritually that is.

762rob's picture

I pre-ordered ordered mine in August 2013, and had truly forgotten about it until I got a ship notice from MoFi this past Monday, arrived Thursday #480 and it is flawless of course...

Nice surprise since I had forgotten .... good thing I wasn't deceased!

Michael Fremer's picture
And not just because you've lived long enough to enjoy KOB!
madfloyd's picture

I can't believe how much they butchered this one. Boomy hyped up bass and rolled off highs. No room ambience. Yuck says me.

Pretzel Logic's picture

....with the KOB comments (the most overhyped jazz album in history). Filles absolutely decimates it, and this double 45 issue is as essential as a vinyl release could possibly get. Buy it.

Kerosene's picture

Dear Michael,
I'm wondering if you will review the next batch of Miles MOFI's on 33,Jack Johnson and On the corner

GruvyWade's picture

I thought they were more limited in length, but side one looks to be:
"Frelon brun" – 5:39
"Tout de suite" – 14:07
that's nearly 20 minutes!
The flip side is a mere 8 minutes.