Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain (arr. & cond. by Gil Evans) – Columbia/ Mobile Fidelity stereo-only SACD UDSACD 2086 *****:
It’s needless to go into the details on these two classic Miles Davis albums. Mobile Fidelity Lab has reissued the leading ones on SACD remasterings, using their proprietary Gain 2 System. Though Sketches of Spain is totally different from most of the more standard Miles Davis albums, it is probably one of the most successful combinations of a solo jazz instrument with an orchestra. The Spanish-flavored arrangements of Gil Evans are unique and much closer to classical music than most such efforts.
There have been many reissues of Sketches of Spain, include a lavish two-CD package with rehearsal and alternate tracks. So how does the additional expense of this remastered-for-SACD version compare with the standard stereo CD? Well, it’s somewhat subtle, but it is definitely richer-sounding, with more clarity on Miles’ trumpet and all the instruments, but especially the castanets which are so prominent in some of the tracks. The spaciality of the instruments is also more pronounced
TrackList: Concierto de Aranjuez, Will O’ the Wisp, The Pan Piper, Saeta, Solea
Miles Davis – Milestones – Columbia/Mobile Fidelity stereo-only SACD UDSACD2084 **:
(Miles Davis, trumpet; Julian Cannonball Adderly & John Coltrane, sax; Red Garland, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums)
None of the various CD versions of this Miles classic state whether they are mono or stereo, but this Mo-Fi remastering clearly labels the SACD as Mono. That’s all Sony Music would give them. The original Columbia reissue is stereo, though not great stereo, being from the early years of that format, so those who prefer the mono mix probably have a point. On the Columbia, Garland’s piano is clearly on the left and Philly Joe’s drums are on the right. My Oppo deck display says “2 channel” if the disc is stereo, whether CD or SACD, and “multichannel” when it is. When the disc is mono, it merely says CD or SACD. So you don’t even need to use your ears.
Perhaps due to the rather poor stereo mix, on my gear (and with my aging hearing) the CD and SACD sound exactly alike. Plus, not only is the CD cheaper and in stereo, but it features three bonus tracks missing on the SACD and vinyl reissues: Alternate takes of “Two Bass Hit, Straight No Chaser” and the album title tune.
TrackList: Dr. Jekyll, Sid’s Ahead, Two Bass Hit, Milestones, Billy Boy, Straight No Chaser