Sony/Legacy's Record Store Day Monomania!

Last Record Store Day Sony/Legacy released four mono LPs: Miles Davis's Miles Ahead and Porgy and Bess, The Fabulous Johnny Cash (released by IMPEX last year in stereo) and Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.

You may ask why not the mono version of Kind of Blue as long as they were in a mono mood? And the answer is, believe it or not, according to my sources, Columbia Records tossed it! Yes, they tossed it to make room in the vaults. Cry and move on.

These reissues were sourced from the original master tapes and cut by Kevin Gray at his Cohearent mastering facility in California. However, I suspect he cut from 96/24 files provided either by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios or by Sterling Sound.

RTI did the pressing on 180g. The jackets are not "Tip on" paper on cardboard, but the price is $24.95 and the artwork reproduction is very good including using the original "boat" cover with the white girl on Miles Ahead instead of the second cover showing Miles. This was at a time when putting actual black folk on album covers was "insulting" to white people in certain parts of the country (hint: it's where The Voting Rights Act still applies and hopefully will continue to apply after Antonin Scalia writes a minority dissent in the case currently before the Supreme Court.

cashmono.jpegSo how are these mono reissues and is there a reason to own them?

Well of course Miles Ahead (CL1041) recorded in 1957 was originally issued only in mono. With stunning orchestrations by Gil Evans for a large ensemble anchored by Paul Chambers on bass and Art Taylor on drums, Miles on flugelhorn is the only soloist backed by a sixteen woodwind and brass ensemble. It's a must have jazz album that your ears will positively sink into.

I compared the reissue to an original "6 eye" and to a "guaranteed high fidelity" second pressing and this reissue was superior to my original, which was somewhat veiled and billowy sounding. The second pressing was actually closer to the reissue but I thought the brass on the reissue was more true to life and 'brassier' though if you have the second press and it's clean you don't need this. If you like obscure mystery you might prefer the original but honestly, there's greater transparency and spaciousness on the Record Store Day reissue. The only reason to hold back is if Mobile Fidelity plans on reissuing this from tape, in which case it might be better. I say "might" because this version is so good.

112090.jpgIMPEX's The Fabulous Johnny Cash cut from the stereo tape has more of an "organic" feel than this reissue but the early stereo mix is wide-spread and kind of hokey. There's a pleasingly "jelled" quality to the original mono mix made at a time when stereo was a novelty and played that way by the mixers. Cash's early Columbia release is more commercial than his Sun stuff you can be sure so you are warned!

There's less of a reason to buy the mono mix of Porgy and Bess since the stereo mix was so well done but if you are used to that one, you might find the mono mix's perspective interesting. As always, Gil Evans' arrangements are pungent. The 30th Street Studio sound superb.

112087.jpgThe biggest surprise is the very rare mono mix of Cheap Thrills. This was a weird record when first released. Despite the "live" sound only a few tracks ("Combination of the Two", "I Need a Man to Love" and "Ball and Chain" were actually recorded live. The rest just sort of sounds that way.

I've always found the stereo version a sonic mess but never before heard the rare mono mix that sold very few copies and became a collector's item. Now I understand why. This is a much better album in mono! Janis Joplin's voice punches through far better in mono. This one is highly recommended, especially if you like the record and have only heard it in stereo.

I listened to all of these using a Miyajima Labs Zero mono cartridge.

Music Direct Buy It Now

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AnalogJ's picture

 Having heard the Miyajima cartridge, I can say that no one is going to hear those monos the way you do.  I'm not sure if it's colored or not, but, while it's not the last word in detail,  it makes the music meaty and fun to listen to.  Unfortunately,  my JMW-9  was a lousy match.

Michael Fremer's picture

While I thought the Premium BE mono was a bit "fat" on bottom, the new Zero is far more neutral and it's compliance is greater so perhaps it will work on your JMW-9.

I know Harry Weisfeld is a fan of the cartridge.....

suteetat's picture

I use Miyajima Zero with VPI Classic 3 arm with excellent result. Much better than

my stereo cartridge on another table that costs many time over my Classic3/Miyajima Zero playing mono recording.

VPI can make a special armwand for Classic 3 especially for Miyajima. I don't know

the detail but Miyajima US distributer mentioned this to me on another website so I have my local VPI dealer ordered one for me. VPI did not give me any specific detail about what the different is but I assume effective mass of the arm is one of the major change.

Paul Boudreau's picture

I received all three yesterday but haven't listened to any of them yet (system creative destruction ongoning).  I have a clean copy of the US mono version of "Are You Experience" and will be curious to hear whether the reissue has the (dreadful) added reverb that the original does.  The mono UK original is, to me, the one for that LP.  I have a couple of UK Track copies but they were "well loved."  I haven't heard the later French copy with the J.P. Leloir photo cover, which is touted by many as being the best version of the mono original (i.e. least fiddled with).

mrbberry's picture

i  have  2001  track classic  vinal   mono...order  u.k.are you  exp....  on  amozonu.k.  and  got  the  stereo  2010  mix...2  lp  with  singles  on  2  disk....was  hoping  to  hear  the  polydor  1974  or  75  mix  i  had  long  ago...there  was  a  mix  of  axis  on  this  2  lp  gate  fold...   that  is  trying  to  find  it???  is  this  the  french   you  are  talking  about????  my  ole  axis  is  poppy....on  red  polydor.....pleasr  help...

Martin's picture

They trashed it !!!????  /&%&/%(ç%ç%ç)(=//(()/&/()

crying crying crying

One of the greatest jazz records of all time... 

stereo_buff's picture

I have a mint, first pressing of Kind of Blue in mono, given to me by a co-worker's stepfather, an amateur jazz pianist and music lover, who purchased it new. Am I lucky or what?

wgb113's picture

Any word on the MoFi vinyl remaster series?  They've been pumping out the Mono SACDs but it's been about a year since the vinyl versions were announced and still nothing. 

I just got into vinyl about six months ago and have been hunting down mono versions of great jazz albums ever since.  I picked up Sketches Of Spain in addition to Miles Ahead and Porgy & Bess.  The only one of those three I've been able to get an original of for a reasonable price has been P&B.  My copy's even less pristine than yours most likely so the RSD reissue blew me away.


P.S.  Thanks for driving up the price on the KOB Mono originals!!!

Kirby's picture

Man it seems that only a few years ago we all would have turned up our noses at mono records, now I'm searching them out and buying as many as I can afford. I headed out to my favorite little record store ( "The Record Merchant"  in Stevenson British Columbia Canada,shameless plug!) on the weekend to see if they may have any of the albums in this article. All they had on hand was the "Sketches of Spain" Mono so I grabbed that one, but low and behold they also had a used copy of "Miles Ahead" Guaranteed High Fidelity, Lady on the boat cover, mono and in very good shape! BONUS! I as a little unsure about buying it at first as it was $10 more than the new Sketches, but what the hell Michael said it was as good as the reissue. Well glade i did because yes it does sound fantastic and being an older copy makes it that much more fun to own. Yes fun because if it's not fun what are we doing this for anyways. Now I'm on line and ordering the new Miles Ahead,  Porgy & Bess & Cheap Thrills (Thank you Michael) as well as the three Jimi Hendrix lps that gubarenko just wrote about in his response. (thanks gubarenko) Time for that dedicated mono cartridge as my Micro Seiki DDX 1000 has two tone arms and the second only has a older cartridge that I use for my garage sale specials. Michael are there any reasonable mono cartridges for around $500? Don't expect the Zero's performance, but I only have a Blue Point Special as my main cartridge anyways and that would be the place to spend more money for improvements. Also do any of your readers know were I could pick up another tone arm mount for a Micro Seiki DDX1000 as I could mount three tone arms if I could get another.  Thanks again Michael for the great site!

Kirby's picture

Shame that some short minded record executive would give the order to throw out any tapes let alone the mono tapes of Kind of Blue, which in my mind is part of all our cultural heritage! Couldn't they have just ask the Smithsonian if they would like to have these old tapes that they no longer want to take care of.                                  That would have been a great day for dumpster divin' !