T’was a time when if you wanted to hear music by John Coltrane from his important transitional year of 1958, you had to piece together the bits and pieces of the numerous sessions released in dribs and drabs over the next many years on Prestige Records. Beloved albums such as Lush Life, Soultrane, Bahia — and my personal favorite (which came out in 1975) The Stardust Session — are now all effectively (and lovingly) compiled in a fabulous, quite ultra-super-deluxe package from Concord Music’s Craft Recordings imprint. Called Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings, this set is a doozy! All the albums have been mastered from the original master tapes captured digitally at 24-bits and 192 kHz for use in creation of the new LP.
In Part One of this review (click here to jump to that) I started comparing roughly equivalent versions from my collection to crudely gauge how this set might compare, starting with the mid-70s Stardust Session collection. But how does the music on Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings compare to an original first pressing from 1958, you might wonder?
Well, lets look at the album Standard Coltrane which actually came out in 1962 and contains “Spring Is Here” and “Invitation” in the same running order as this new edtion. Played on my Music Hall MMF 7.1 turntable (with Goldring 2400 cartridge) my original Stereo silver “fireworks” label Prestige copy doesn’t sound as full as the new edition; when I switched the older album over to my workhorse transcription turntable fitted with a Sumiko Pearl cartridge, the fireworks copy sounded pretty wonderful.
I suspect this is due in part to the wider groove phenomenon and a more forgiving stylus on the Pearl than the Goldring presently sports (note: I am thinking of getting a slightly thicker replacement stylus soon for this reason as I have experienced this numerous times when playing older albums, of which I own many). The bottom line reality is that finding fairly clean original pressings like the one I have is pretty difficult these days so a new reissue that has been prepared respectfully is a wonderful thing, indeed.
There are no doubt differences in the new mastering to the originals, tradeoffs which may or may not be of audible significance for you. Since I now found that my copy of Standard Coltrane was faring better via the Sumiko cartridge, I was able to do some crude A-B switching between my two turntables playing essentially the same track — and even though I have two similar Bellari tube preamps powering each turntable, I admit this is akin to comparing apples to oranges in the audiophile world, but it may give you some idea of what to expect.
That said, in doing this sort of comparison I could clearly hear the difference in the mastering approaches (and perhaps the relative age of the master tapes). The new LPs are mastered a bit quieter and the low end is in turn a bit fuller and rounder; the 1962 release, in contrast, has a bit more mid range and top end air. The vinyl on my 1962 LP is considerably noisier however while the new version on Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings is pretty much sonically transparent, invisible.
Both are very enjoyable, but there are differences to expect when playing Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings. Out of curiosity I played a bit of the song “Bahia” from the album of the same name, from one of the mid-1980s “Original Jazz Classics” reissues (which generally have sounded quite good in my experience) and then compared it to the new edition. I prefer the approach on the new edition, which delivers richer bass and mid ranges. And as you turn up the volume on your amplifier more of the room acoustics begin to appear around the instruments, especially the drums and cymbals.
Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings should eventually be up on Tidal. At the time I was writing this review, they were not yet available on the service. However, you can find many of the original albums where these tracks first appeared, many in MQA format streaming at 24-bit, 96 kHz fidelity (unless otherwise noted).
These include his albums (click on the titles for direct links) Bahia, Standard Coltrane, Soultrane, Settin’ The Pace, The Believer, Black Pearls and Stardust. Lush Life can be found streaming at 192 kHz, 24-bits! The sessions which yielded the album Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane is also part of this 1958-centric project. Alas, The Last Trane is only available in standard CD quality at present.
When the album eventually appears on Tidal we’ll try to do a follow up review of that version. But for now, between the new vinyl and all these streaming versions, you probably have a whole lot more Coltrane to explore than you ever imagined at your fingertips!