(Upcoming Release) Miles Davis – Bitches Brew Mobile Fidelity One-Step – A Deeper Dive

Cover for the MoFi Ultradisc One-Step for Bitches Brew

This month Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab announced their next titles to be released as part of their Ultradisc One-Step program. In this list were two Miles Davis titles, Sketches of Spain as a 2 LP 45 RPM release and a 33 RPM 2 LP release of his 1970 jazz fusion masterwork Bitches Brew.

I’ve covered Bitches Brew quite a bit in these pages, so I won’t cover the complete history of the album’s creation here. I recommend reading my coverage of the Bitches Brew sessions in my article about the RSD Double Image release of outtakes. The interesting thing about this release is that MoFi says that this release is mastered from the original tapes (I’ll get into this later). This is pretty much the M.O. for Mobile Fidelity: get the best versions of the original analog tapes for a release and then create the best possible high fidelity audiophile release. Often this involves restoring these original tapes, thus preserving them for future reissues. In the case of the One-Step releases, they get a custom box set treatment and are pressed on vinyl that is a proprietary formula known as “Super Vinyl.” From a post on their Facebook page:

“MoFi SuperVinyl is a new proprietary compound developed by NEOTECH and RTI to address two specific areas of improvement: noise floor reduction and enhanced groove definition. The vinyl composition features a new carbonless dye (hold the disc up to the light and see) and produces the world’s quietest surfaces. This high-definition formula also allows for the creation of cleaner grooves that are indistinguishable from the original lacquer. Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab feels SuperVinyl provides the closest approximation of what we hear in the mastering lab.”

September 28, 2021 Post to Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Facebook page
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs SuperVinyl

Beyond the vinyl composition, there is the One-Step process itself, which is an attempt to create a record as close as possible to the original master by removing the typical three steps involved in creating additional copies to provide a way to create additional stampers as they wear out over the lifetime of the plates. The creation of the additional copies adds a small bit of loss in fidelity. Here is what MoFi says about this:

Instead of utilizing the industry-standard three-step lacquer process, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s new UltraDisc One-Step (UD1S) uses only one step, bypassing two processes of generational loss. While three-step processing is designed for optimum yield and efficiency, UD1S is created for the ultimate in sound quality. Just as Mobile Fidelity pioneered the UHQR (Ultra High-Quality Record) with JVC in the 1980s, UD1S again represents another state-of-the-art advance in the record-manufacturing process. MFSL engineers begin with the original master tapes and meticulously cut a set of lacquers. These lacquers are used to create a very fragile, pristine UD1S stamper called a “convert.” Delicate “converts” are then formed into the actual record stampers, producing a final product that literally and figuratively brings you closer to the music. By skipping the additional steps of pulling another positive and an additional negative, as done in the three-step process used in standard pressings, UD1S produces a final LP with the lowest noise floor possible today. The removal of the additional two steps of generational loss in the plating process reveals tremendous amounts of extra musical detail and dynamics, which are otherwise lost due to the standard copying process. The exclusive nature of these very limited pressings guarantees that every UD1S pressing serves as an immaculate replica of the lacquer sourced directly from the original master tape. Every conceivable aspect of vinyl production is optimized to produce the most perfect record album available today.

What Master Was Used?

The 4 CD boxset titled The Complete Bitches Brew was released in 1998. In addition to taking some creative liberties by including music from sessions that were not part of the Bitches Brew proper, the decision was made to remix the original Bitches Brew album, which required the recreation of Teo Macero’s original edits of the album. In an interview with Davis biographer Paul Tingen, Producer Bob Belden said the reason for this was twofold. First, they wanted to have a consistent sound across all of the music so all of the recordings needed to be addressed. There were disparities in the LP mixes of the material that had been released on albums like Big Fun, Circle in the Round and Live-Evil, and the a lot of the outtakes had never been mixed before. Secondly, the two-track masters had not aged well. Session engineer Mark Wilder elaborated, “So, we could either work with inferior tape copies from other countries, or go back to the original eight tracks and re-mix them, and so save ourselves a generation. The decision was made to re-mix from the original multitracks, just like with the Miles & Gil and Quintet boxed sets.”

The information available about the Mobile Fidelity Original Master Recording One-Step of Bitches Brew says only that it was mastered from the original master tapes, so we know that it won’t be based on the 1998 remix upon which all of the subsequent Sony releases have been made. The likely master that this will be based on is the 2014 Mobile Fidelity Original Master Recording, which according to discogs.com pricing is selling for around $200. The 2014 release was created by MoFi in-house engineers Kreig Wunderlich and Shawn Britton.

Since this uses a new process to create the records, it stands to reason that there will need to be new mechanicals created from the master tapes– lacquers, stampers and converts. None of the parts used for the 2014 release would be used for this. Which brings us to the tape used to make these parts. I couldn’t find any direct reference to what Wunderlich and Britton did to create a useable master tape for the 2014 release.

Reading about the work that Acoustic Sounds did for the recent UHQR Kind of Blue we know that Bernie Grundman created a copy of the vault masters for Kind of Blue in the 1990’s for Classic Recordings (which Acoustic Sounds bought) and this was used for the UHQR rather than go back to the vault. Considering that Mobile Fidelity was in a similar situation, they presumably acquired master tapes for the 2014 release and created their own copy after fixing issues due to age as well as maybe fine-tuning it for the equipment they use. Many reviews online say that the Original Master Recording releases (both the 2 LP and the SACD versions) are superior to the original releases of Bitches Brew, so my hopes are high for this release sounding fantastic. I would love to hear more about the tape used for the master. Was it, to quote Wilder, an “inferior tape copy from another country” or was it another source?

MoFi In-House Engineer Kreig Wunderlich talks about mastering for vinyl

Even over 50 years after the release of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew its importance to the history of recorded jazz is undisputed, though certainly not universally loved. It’s place in the pantheon of jazz contributes to the interest in preserving it and creating new editions of it. It’s interesting to contrast what Sony did for their reissue in 1998 versus what Mobile Fidelity did in 2014. One could argue that the 1998 remix is a different album than the original 1970 album created by Davis and Macero. Nevertheless, I’m interested to hear and see this new reissue done by one of the premiere reissue labels.

You can pre-order the Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs One-Step for Bitches Brew either from Mobile Fidelity (the pre-order link is not live yet) or any number of other places online like Music Direct. The MSRP on it is $125.

Note: I’ll update this article if there is any additional information about the source tapes for this release.

New Jayhawks Legacy Releases Planned, Anthology on the Horizon

Some great news for Jayhawks fans– Sony Legacy/Columbia are working on preparing Legacy releases of the Jayhawks American/Sony catalog. This would be Hollywood Town Hall (1993) and  Tomorrow the Green Grass (1995) with Mark Olson in the band; and the post-Olson-departure releases Sound of Lies (1997),  Smile (2000),  and Rainy Day Music (2002). According to information shared on the jayhawksfanpage board (THE source for all things Jayhawks-related) as well as some interviews recently Gary and Mark (mostly Gary) have been combing through their personal archives to come up with the bonus material to be included in these releases.

Additionally, there will be an anthology to be titled Music From the North Country – The Jayhawks Anthology, which will be a two-disc set with one disc of tracks from their albums including their bigger hits, and the second disc will be full of demos, compilation-only tracks, soundtrack-only tracks and b-sides. This will be released on July 7th– just in time for their reunion gig at the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis on July 10th.

Tracklisting for Music from the North Country – The Jayhawks Anthology:

DISC ONE: Two Angels / Ain’t No End / Waiting for the Sun / Martin’s Song / Clouds / Settled Down Like Rain / Blue / I’d Run Away / Over My Shoulder / Miss Williams’ Guitar / Trouble / Big Star / The Man Who Loved Life / Smile / I’m Gonna Make You Love Me / What Led Me To This Town / Tailspin / All the Right Reasons / Save It For a Rainy Day / Angelyne

DISC TWO: Falling Star (from Bunkhouse Album, 1986) / Old Woman From the Red Clay (alt version) / That’s the Bag I’m In (KFAI recording) / Won’t Be Coming Home (early demo) / Stone Cold Mess (HTH outtake) / Mission on 2nd (demo) / Lights (from Sweet Relief album, a classic!) / Darling Today (Blown Away soundtrack) / Break My Mind / Get the Load Out (both “Bad Time” B-sides) / Poor Little Fish (alt version) / Someone Will (Live from Woman’s Club) / Cure for This (this and all the rest are from the band’s rehearsal studio, 1999-2001)/ I Can Make It on My Own / Rotterdam / Follow Me / In the Canyon / Tailspin (alt version) / I Think I’ve Had Enough (Louris home tape) / Help Me Forget

As far as the Legacy releases of the albums are concerned, according to this thead on the fanboard in a reply by “Sacred Roots” who was involved in the archive research for the releases, including the Anthology release, the plans have been to add around six songs to each of the releases, except for Tomorrow the Green Grass which should get a second disc that includes 18 tracks from “The Mystery Demos.” Here is a great post on the blog Sixty-to-Zero about the Mystery Demos resulting from what must have been be the work done for these releases.

In this time of record labels trying to figure out how to stay viable it is clear that they at least feel that the future sustainability lies in re-releasing and re-packaging product. In the case of Sony/Columbia we see in the Legacy releases the interest in providing fans with new material that hasn’t seen the light of day before commercially. As a collector, I’m overjoyed that they can do this, but as a past consumer, I can’t help but feel like I’m being taken advantage of. I know, “gift horse” and all that, but I only have so much money to invest in material I already have.

Aside from that, I’m hoping that the relationship momentum that Gary Louris and Mark Olson have established resulting in the fantastic Ready For The Flood and the renewed interest in their back catalog may precipitate a future Jayhawks release of new material.

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition Out 5/26/09

One of my all time favorite jazz records is the 1959 Columbia release Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. I have this release on compact disc (not the remaster) and a couple copies on vinyl. Frankly, it is a lot of people’s favorite jazz release– it is one of the best selling jazz albums ever (next to Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue also produced by Teo Macero). It has the distinction of having a single that reached the Top 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart– “Take Five” composed by band member Paul Desmond.

2009 is the 50th Anniversary of Time Out, and to celebrate the occasion Sony Legacy is re-releasing it’s 1997 compact disc remaster of the album on May 26th. According to this posting on the Down Beat website, the second disc is made up of previously unreleased performances from The Newport Jazz festival from 1961-1964. So, sadly, no unreleased session outtakes for this release. The unreleased Newport recordings are a nice touch, I suppose but makes the release not worth much more than the 1997 remaster except for the third disc in the release which is a DVD with an interview with Dave Brubeck on Time Out as well as some photographs and an “interactive piano demonstration” (who knows what this is?).

I spent time today trying to find any information on this release other than the paltry little bit that the online retailers have and was not successful. No press release, no mention of the release at the Sony Legacy website (at least at the time of this writing)! So, while it might be nice that they are doing a new packaging of the release, they don’t bother to promote it.

At first glance this really looks like a way for Sony to cash in on the 50th Anniversary of this release.  Unfortunately this is nothing like the Kind of Blue
50th anniversary box with the 180g blue vinyl, the CD, DVD and book that they did last year. I will pick this up because I’m interested to see the interview with Brubeck (who turned 88 last December) and I don’t have the remastered version of Time Out.

Here is the track listing with some session information I found at the excelent jazzdisco.org I haven’t found any place that indicates which Newport Jazz Festival shows the songs are from. I’ll update if I get any details.:

Dave Brubeck Quartet Time Out 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition Track Listing

Disc 1:
1. Blue Rondo A La Turk (Album Version) (NYC, August 18, 1959)
2. Strange Meadow Lark (Album Version) (NYC, July 1, 1959)
3. Take Five (Album Version) (NYC, July 1, 1959)
4. Three To Get Ready (Album Version) (NYC, June 25, 1959)
5. Kathy’s Waltz (Album Version) (NYC, June 25, 1959)
6. Everybody’s Jumpin’ (Album Version) (NYC, June 25, 1959)
7. Pick Up Sticks (Album Version) (NYC, August 18, 1959)

Disc 2 (Live at Newport Jazz Festival 1961-1964):
1. St. Louis Blues – (previously unreleased)
2. Waltz Limp – (previously unreleased)
3. Since Love Had Its Way – (previously unreleased)
4. Koto Song – (previously unreleased)
5. Pennies From Heaven – (previously unreleased)
6. You Go To My Head – (previously unreleased)
7. Blue Rondo a La Turk – (previously unreleased)
8. Take Five – (previously unreleased)

Disc 3 (DVD):
1. Dave Brubeck on Time Out
2. Photo Gallery
3. Interactive Piano Demonstration

Wikipedia article on Time Out

B-Sides in the Bins #30 – Chicago – 9/12/08

Jazz Record Mart, Chicago

My wife and a friend of hers wanted to go to Chicago for a Gluten-Free Cooking Conference. This left her friend Sharon’s husband Bob and I with lots of time on our hands. Bob Najouks is one of the Sunday morning jocks on Kirkwood College’s Jazz and Blues station KCCK, so I thought a trip to the infamous Jazz Record Mart was in order. I hadn’t been to JRM in over two years so it was time for me to come back and Bob had never been there!

This weekend was wet. Lots of rain dumping on Chicagoland from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ike pulled out of the Gulf of Mexico. Friday was blessed with small spots of light-to-no rain so hoofing it around downtown was an okay proposition. Our plans after breakfast was to hit Jazz Record Mart, lunch, and then to hit the Art Institute of Chicago then call it a day.

Bob teaches sketching classes at Kirkwood currently, but– in addition to his radio gig– also is a freelance artist. In the early 60’s he did some cover art for Franz Jackson who passed away in May. JRM had a number of still-sealed copies of Good Old Days by Franz Jackson and the Original Jass All-Stars (Pinnacle Recordings: PLP 109) that Bob did the cover art for, which was a neat dose of kismet. Bob picked up a copy to play– he still had the original 1965 pressing of the album at home.

Gorilla – Deal With It (CD, Thrill Jockey, Thrill 003-2, 1993)($5.99) Interesting find. Not Jazz-related at all. The third release on Thrill Jockey from back in the day. The mailing address was New York, so this is before Bettina moved to her current Chicago digs. Seattle Grunge band, I guess. Sounds very early-Nineties. Kind of punk, kind of retro 60’s sound with organ. Not great, but not horrible, really. Mostly a collector piece for me. It would appear that while the CD for this is very much out-of-print, the LP is still available?

George Freeman – Birth Sign (CD, Delmark, DD-424, 1993)($13.99) My first non-Thrill Jockey related Delmark purchase. This was playing on the stereo in the store while I was checking out and I impulse-purchased. George Freeman is the guitar-playing brother of tenor sax player Von Freeman (apparently the more famous of the two). Birth Sign is his debut album. Great album of Hammond-B3 fueled jazz typical of the late 60’s.

John Coltrane – Blue Train (LP, Blue Note, BST-91577, 1993)($11.99) This is the CEMA/Capitol Special Products pressing of the seminal Blue Note release. I own this on CD as well. In fact, my CD pressing of this is on 24-karat gold UltraDisc II from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. This is the album that broke open the gates of jazz for me.

Jeff Parker – The Relatives (LP, Thrill Jockey, Thrill 129, 2005) ($12.99) Wow, a really cool and rare find! The vinyl for this release has been out-of-print for a while, as is usually the case from Thrill Jockey vinyl. According to the price sticker, this has been in the bin since its release. Jazz Record Mart carries most of the Thrill Jockey releases, but it seems that a lot of the clientèle there don’t follow this label, which accounts for the fact that this release is still in the bins. I saw a couple of other rare TJ releases as well. Maybe I’ll come for them later.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Jazz: Red Hot and Cool (LP, Columbia, CL 699, 1954) ($3.99) This is an upgrade for me. My first copy was in pretty good shape, but this one is in much better shape and comes with the original Columbia paper inner-sleeve! The record is in immaculate shape and the cover is also very beautiful. I had never noticed before today that the vivid photograph of a young Brubeck entertaining a young, smoking (literally) woman leaning on his piano was taken by none other than Richard Avedon! Avedon, who died in 2004, took some famous shots of the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe as well as the well-known picture of Nastassja Kinski with a python.

All-in-all a good trip and it was cool to be there with a jazz afficianado. Bob and I will be back, I think.

B-Sides in the Bins #26 – Cedar Rapids Half-Price Books

Wanting to take advantage of one of the coupons I got in the mail for 40% off one item, I stopped off at Half-Price Books in Cedar Rapids last night. Half-Price Books has a deal a couple of times a year where they send out one week of coupons where you start out with 40% off and it decreases 10% every two days through the course of the week, but then ends up with a 50% coupon on Sunday. There wasn’t much in the CD bins this trip, but there was a lot in the vinyl area and I had to make some judicious selections. I’ll be back on Sunday with some stuff to sell to take advantage of the 50%.

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (LP, Columbia CS 9639, 1968) ($2.99) This was the one I got the 40% off on since it was a $4.98 one. Is anyone else noticing that the prices are going up at Half-Price? The record is in very good condition with only a slight bit of surface scratches. The sleeve has some edge wear and some face wear, but no ring wear which is incredible considering this record turned 40 this year! This record was a popular one around the house growing up. Dad was a big Johnny Cash fan in the 50’s and 60’s. I love this cover with Johnny big as life on the cover looking askance and sweat running down his face. On the back are hand-written liner notes describing the day-to-day of a prison inmate in the 60’s as well as explaining how he had to convince Columbia to release a live recording made in a prison. In retrospect it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but I guess it must have been kind of shocking at the time. The movie “Ring of Fire” uses this show as its point of departure for the flashback that makes up the movie of Johnny’s life. This record is pretty interesting from the standpoint that it doesn’t have all of the “big” hits on it. In includes classics like “Folsom Prison,” “Jackson,” and “Orange Blossom Special” but doesn’t include “Walk the Line” or “Ring of Fire.” When this was remastered and re-released on CD in 1999 they added the missing songs “Busted,” “Joe Bean,” and “The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer.” A brilliant, landmark record that really transcends time and the genre of Country music.

Neil Young – Harvest (LP, Reprise MSK 2277, 1972) ($3.98) Wow! This was a big find. This copy is pristine! In a dust jacket, NO sleeve damage, includes the lyric sheet. The paper sleeve is torn, but there isn’t any printing on the sleeve so no art loss. What is there really to say about this record that hasn’t been said before? Brilliant record, regarded by most to be the pinnacle of Neil’s career and certainly his commerical high-point with the #1 single “Heart of Gold.” The story goes that Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor were appearing on the Johnny Cash TV show in 1971 and Neil coaxed them to come over and put vocals on “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man.” The country/folk-ish formula that created Harvest was so successful that Neil was able to base his 1992 album Harvest Moon from it and in my opinion repeated the commercial and critical success.