Post image for Vinyl Review: Miles Davis – Filles De Kilimanjaro (Mobile Fidelity 180g, 45RPM)

Vinyl Review: Miles Davis – Filles De Kilimanjaro (Mobile Fidelity 180g, 45RPM)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sound: 8.8
Pressing/packaging: 9.4
Value: 9.5

Original released by Columbia Records in 1969. Catalog Number: CS 9750. Engineers: Arthur Kendy, Frank Laico. Producer: Teo Macero.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissue released in 2015. 180g, 45RPM, 2LP. Catalog Number: MFSL2-438. Numbered, Limited Edition. UPC: 821797243810. MSRP: $50. Buy on Amazon.com

Introduction

Here’s another impressive MoFi reissue of an essential early fusion Miles Davis record. Cut at 45RPM and meticulously pressed, this record sounds phenomenal and is an easy recommendation, but there is one fly in the ointment (unrelated to the music, which I won’t attempt to cover here). Thankfully, it only affects the first and last tracks–tracks recorded later and with a slightly different lineup. According to Wikipedia:

The June sessions featured Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Herbie Hancock on the electric Rhodes piano, Ron Carter on electric bass, and Tony Williams on drums. The September sessions replaced Hancock with Chick Corea, and Carter with Dave Holland, making Filles de Kilimanjaro the last Miles album to feature his Second Great Quintet, although all except Carter would play on his next album, In A Silent Way. During the September sessions, Holland played acoustic bass and Corea played an RMI Electra-piano in addition to acoustic piano.

Sound: 8.8

So what’s the problem? On the first and last tracks, there is a slight, mysterious, intermittent distortion which is in the recording, sadly, since it even appears on the earlier CD issue, so is no fault of the MoFi team. The distortion often corresponds to the low bass, as far as I can tell, but is also heard on the drumkit–especially the tom-toms. At around 6:45 on the last track, Mademoiselle Mabry, Williams hits a tom repeatedly and it distorts badly. A similar distortion (or vibration?) causes the bass on these two tracks to occasionally sound, for a lack of a better term, “Burpy.” I honestly don’t know how else to describe it!

Maybe it was a mic problem, or perhaps something vibrating in the studio. I actually think it may have something to do with the lower registers of Corea’s RMI Electra-Piano, as it is often doubling the bass, and it really sounds like a toy compared to Hancock’s Rhodes. Perhaps the tom and bass distortions are unrelated. Perhaps the tom distortion is from a loose drum head. Perhaps I have a loose drumhead… In any case, I find it irritating. Not enough to skip these tracks, but almost!

Luckily, the middle three tracks are exceptional in every way. “Tout de suite” (Right Away) is stellar, and is, significantly, as far as the Second Quintet would go into fusion while still 100% intact. “Petits machins” (Little Stuff) has beautiful, golden-toned horns, and the title track is equally brilliant.

(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)

Pressing/packaging: 9.4

Just like the 45RPM Mobile Fidelity reissue of Miles in the Sky we previously reviewed, the quality of this vinyl and its packaging are as good as you are likely to find anywhere. Ruler flat discs with all four sides pressed within a couple millimeters of bulls eye centered. And the heavy gatefold jacket is a pleasure as well.

Value: 9.5

You may not hear the baked-in distortion I mention above (weirder things have happened when it comes to me hearing things others don’t!), so, by all means, if you have $50 to spend, go out and buy this record right now–especially if you like the music as much as I do and you want what is sure to be the best LP version of it out there. You can try your luck on an original pressing on eBay, but you’re going to pay just as much for it (or more), and I doubt the sonics will be as impressive.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissue LP on Amazon.com:

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Banville January 2, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Thanks for the review. I pulled out my copy (#274) and played track 1 & 6 and I didn’t hear the issues you did. Maybe your Avantgards are more revealing than my Sonus Fabers. I can say I was completely immersed in the music.

Reply

Mark Wieman January 2, 2017 at 7:01 pm

Hi Carl, Thanks for the note! Very interesting. Are you certain you don’t hear any distortion on the last track around 6:45 when Williams quickly hits the tom a few times? I heard it on the LP as well as on an older CD issue (on a completely different system), which is why I figured it was baked in. Good to know the burpy bass isn’t showing up for you though! I agree, the music is so good it almost doesn’t matter. BTW, I had a pair of Sonus Faber Signums a while back and loved them dearly.

Reply

Carl Banville January 4, 2017 at 8:16 am

Sorry Mark, I replayed the last track and using a stop watch I didn’t hear any distortion at 6:45 or +/- 10 seconds. I did hear a bit of surface noise but nothing unacceptable. I’m using a Delos Lyra cartridge in an SME309 arm going through a Project Phono Box RS w/battery power to a REF6. I agree with your assessment that the piano on this piece sounds like a toy. If I were you I wouldn’t worry about it as you like the music so much.

Reply

Mark Wieman January 5, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Ha! I checked again, just to make sure I wasn’t losing my marbles altogether, and I definitely hear it on both the LP and the CD. The drum resonance is really pronounced at 6:52, when Williams hits the tom 10 times, and again at 7:20 when he hits it five times, and at 8:17 when he hits it three times. Great point about not worrying about it though. If anything, this discussion and analysis has made me love the music even more than I used to!

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