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David Royko Psy.D

Complete Miles Davis Bitches Brew: Sound Quality

Dec 10 1998

I've made my way through the set, and the first thing that I noticed is what others have said as well--the sound is so much more clear than the early US CD incarnation (from a dozen years ago) that it is a very different listening experience. I am not one who upgrades CDs very often (hey, I'm still perfectly happy with those "horrendous" early MCA Impulses), and CDs sound great to me even though I've collected LPs for years and have 8 or 9,000 of them. Bottom line is that even when I can hear that one version is "better" than another, it does not necessarily translate into a big leap in how much I enjoy listening to the music, unless the difference is extreme. IMO, w/ BB, it is.

In fact, I can't help but wonder if some listeners might dislike the "new improved" sound, since it does change the impression a bit of the music emanating from a murky, bubbling cauldron into something a bit more biting and aggressive. I for one find that the new mixes translate into a much more powerful musical experience. The drums and cymbals are so much more clear, bass lines are more defined, the sense of space and separation of instruments is much more pronounced, and the whole thing is simply more thrilling to listen to.

That said, I'm still not all that great a fan of this period of Davis' or what came after, but this set has certainly made me like BB more than before. Also worth mentioning is that I haven't heard the LPs in many years, bought used and cheap and already pretty beat-up in the mid'70s, so I honestly can not say if the LPs sounded anything like the early CD transfers. My comments are based solely on those old muddy CDs.

As for the previously unissued material, I really like "Corrado," as sloppy as it is. And man, Billy Cobham (whom I often do like) couldn't keep a steady beat on that one to save his life. He speeds up like mad on every fill! But it is a fun track, with some intense Miles.

Dave Royko