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Vinyl Review: Miles Davis – Jack Johnson (Mobile Fidelity 180g)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sound: 9.6
Pressing/packaging: 9.7
Value: 9.8

Original released by Columbia Records in 1971. Catalog Number: S 30455. Producer: Teo Macero.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissue released in 2015. 180g, 33RPM. Catalog Number: MFSL1-440. Numbered, Limited Edition. UPC: 821797144018. MSRP: $35. Buy on Amazon.com

Introduction

This is another essential electric-era Miles Davis reissue by Mobile Fidelity. Along with In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson represents another angle on the fusion sound as it was emerging, and as Miles was experimenting in and around it. This time it’s a more straightforward rock-based structure, at least as straightforward as Miles and producer Teo Macero could get at this time. It’s driving, backbeat drumming and repetitive bass lines give it a smoldering energy that is more direct than it’s two predecessors. It’s less produced than In a Silent Way, although it’s clearly assembled in a similar way (it even contains a sample of “Shhh/Peaceful” halfway though “Yesternow”). It’s also less textured and dimensional than Bitches Brew, although “Yesternow” has some insane texture courtesy of an Echoplex rumored to have been played by uncredited guitarist, Sonny Sharrock.

The most impressive and appealing aspect of these two songs (four, really) has to be the unhinged guitar playing of John McLaughlin. He is really on fire during “Right Off,” and his playing is superbly showcased. Herbie Hancock’s screaming, demented electronic organ also makes me smile.

But, Lord do I hate the soprano saxophone. Oh, it hurts. Even here, on the best jazz-rock record ever made, it makes my skin crawl. No matter what the context, it just sounds corny. I love, LOVE music, but I can honestly say, I wish the soprano sax had never been invented. Thankfully, it doesn’t feature too prominently here. ANYWAY…

Sound: 9.6

Pretty sure this is as good as this recording can sound. Everything sounds like it should in terms of tone, range, soundstage, etc. And it sounds fresh–unlike In a Silent Way, which sounds amazing, but has a slight veil.

MoFi didn’t give this one the 45RPM treatment presumably because they would have had to split both of the side-long tracks in order to do it. Same goes for their 33RPM reissue of In a Silent Way, while Bitches Brew was already a double album, so the possibility of 45RPM probably never came up. I, for one, appreciate this. ORG Music decided to split the 18-minute title song on their 45RPM reissue of Olé Coltrane, and the effect on the listening experience is pretty strange. It’s like unexpectedly hearing a radio edit of a familiar song–the music fades out and it takes your brain a second or two to figure out why.

(See reference system for context on sound evaluation.)

Pressing/packaging: 9.7

Nice, heavy gatefold cover housing a near-perfectly centered record that is flat and noiseless. MoFi is probably the most consistent of all the audiophile reissue labels these days, although I have yet to check out the Music Matters series, and I have only one title from The Electric Recording Co. (a review of which is forthcoming).

Value: 9.8

Do you like Miles Davis from this era? Do you have $35 in your pocket? I think you know what to do!

Mobile Fidelity reissue LP on Amazon.com:

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