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What better recording to start with than what is perhaps the greatest jazz recording of all time? Sony has recently released their 50th Anniversary Kind of Blue boxset. This set features two cds, a dvd, a blue vinyl disc, a hardbound book as well as replica photos and notes.
First of all, the overall packaging and presentation of this set is very, very nice--easily equaling or surpassing what is found in Classic Records boxsets. The hardbound album-sized book alone would have been nice, but additional photos, replica hand-written liner notes and other promotional material are included for what adds up to a really nice package.
Now, on to the sound. The blue vinyl was cut from an analog source, and there is nothing that detracts from that impression. The music flows nicely and definitely does not leave the listener with the disjointed, detatched experience that digital sometimes imparts--in other words, it has that thing sometimes called PRAT. Everything is there--the bass is solid, the piano and horns sound realistic. The presentation of Miles Davis/Paul Chambers in the center, Cannonball Adderley and Wynton Kelly/Bill Evans on the left, John Coltrane and Jimmy Cobb on the right is well represented as with all of the good pressings of this record that I have heard. The only one quibble I have that makes this a very good to excellent pressing rather than outstanding pressing is that the Cobb's cymbals sound a bit too bright and tizzy and lack that last degree of realism found on the very best pressings of this record. All in all, Sony should be commended for hiring the excellent mastering duo of Greg Calbi and Ray Janos and for doing a true analog pressing for this set rather than merely "mailing in" a digital clone on colored vinyl.
The cd mastered by Mark Wilder included with this set also sounds excellent, surpassing the 1997 remaster and holding its own with the single-layer sacd. I suspect that a good deal of the variation heard is system dependent and that this 50th Anniversary cd will continue to sound better as one's digital rig improves.
While the Classic Records 45 RPM and original 6-eye vinyl remain the definitive versions of the vinyl, this new definitive redbook digital mastering as well as sumptuous packaging make this a very attractive package for any longtime fan of this record or newcomer wanting to delve into one of the greatest recordings of all time.
On January 20, 2009, Sony released the 2-cd Legacy Edition of Kind of Blue.
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