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