September 21st, 2014
Collecting early CD pressings for some 12 years now, I have learned a lot. Particularly interesting was learning about first issues of popular albums I had no idea existed due to their rarity. At the start, I, like many people I have come across, believed that the first U.S. CD issue of Miles Davis’s 1959 classic Kind of Blue was the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD bearing catalog number CK 40579. I only knew of two U.S. issues — that Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD and the 1997 remastered CD. So, the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD was the first. It was released in 1986, so it was the first. Right? Wrong.
Kind of Blue is considered by many to be the best jazz album of all-time, if not the best album of all-time, period. It is a stellar album, regardless of where it ranks. Five tracks that are so engaging and sound just right. The legendary group joining Miles’ trumpet of Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on piano, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Paul Chambers on bass is incredibly tight. Everything aligned just right for this album. The right personnel with the right music at the right time.
Given the positive reception that the album received early on and that grew intensely over the years, it would seem strange that CBS/Sony would have waited until 1986 to release it on CD. As it turns out, CBS/Sony originally released the album on CD in Japan and the U.S. in 1984. The first Japanese CD, from 1984, was released under catalog number 35DP 62 on the CBS/Sony label. The first U.S. CD, from 1984, was released under catalog number CK 08163 on the CBS label.
The aforementioned Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD from ’86 is an odd one in a few respects. Most obviously, the album cover photo is not the original one. The picture is from Miles’ fusion/electric era of the late ’60s or early ’70s, not from 1959. Also, the negative of the photo is reversed, so Miles appears to be playing left-handed. Additionally, from an audiophile’s perspective, the mastering leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately for collectors, the first U.S. issue is presented correctly.
The CK 08163 issue of Kind of Blue uses the original 1959 album cover photo. The mastering is also “pure” compared to the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD. In short, the CK 08163 CD sounds much better. (What Sony was thinking for the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces release from the standpoint of sound and artwork we may never know.) The CK 08163 issue exists both as Japanese CBS/Sony and U.S. DADC pressings. Both are rare. In my experience, the U.S. DADC is a bit more difficult to track down. It could be that this issue of Kind of Blue went out of print shortly after pressing at the DADC plant commenced.
These early Japanese and U.S. pressings of Kind of Blue are found with identical inserts. The two discs also are similar in appearance. The Japanese pressing shows the Japanese catalog number 35DP 62 in the matrix code and is typically found with “CSR COMPACT DISC” repeating in the clear plastic ring at the center. The U.S. pressing shows “DIDP 50062” in the matrix code, and it has “Made in USA – Digital Audio Disc Corp.” stamped on the plastic ring. 50062 is obviously derived from the Japanese catalog number 35DP 62. This correlation between Japanese CBS/Sony pressings and U.S. DADC pressings is found for many early U.S. CBS titles.
As a result of the overwhelming popularity of Kind of Blue, many well-mastered CDs and Super Audio CDs (SACDs) have been released over the years. There are better-sounding versions than the CK 08163 CD of Kind of Blue that are easier to find today. However, from the standpoint of the collector, this first U.S. issue, whether the Japanese or U.S. pressing is considered, is both rare and well-mastered. It is well worth seeking out.
Shown below are the front and back inserts and a spine label for the CK 08163 Kind of Blue CD, as well as the U.S. DADC pressing.
The cover for the original U.S. issue of Miles Davis Kind of Blue (CBS, catalog number CK 08163). The original 1959 album cover photo was used for this CD release.
The back insert for the original U.S. issue of Miles Davis Kind of Blue (CBS, catalog number CK 08163). Note the statement “Record manufactured in Japan…” at the bottom. This back insert is found with both the Japanese CBS/Sony and U.S. DADC pressings. Thus, the “Record manufactured in Japan…” statement remains for the U.S. pressing.
A spine label for the original U.S. issue of Miles Davis Kind of Blue (CBS, catalog number CK 08163).
The original U.S. issue of Miles Davis Kind of Blue (CBS, catalog number CK 08163). This disc was pressed in the U.S. at the DADC plant. It has “Made in USA – Digital Audio Disc Corp.” stamped on the plastic ring, and the matrix code is “DIDP 50062 11A2”. “DIDP-50062” is printed beneath the catalog number at 3 o’clock. “MADE IN U.S.A” is printed along the perimeter at 6 o’clock. Note the “triangle-in-circle” symbol beneath the CD format logo at 3 o’clock, which is a symbol of the U.S. DADC plant. The original Japanese CBS/Sony pressing is similar in appearance to this U.S. pressing, though it lacks the triangle-in-circle symbol.