They're Bo-o-o-xed!

The virtues and vices of completeness

For audiophiles, the outstanding boxed vinyl was issued with a nearly obsessive perfectionism and a high ticket by Acoustic Sounds (800-716-3553). The Great Prestige Recordings by the Miles Davis Quintet reshapes the marathon session albums with ambience and imaging to rival the original issues. The somewhat mistitled Riverside Tenor Sessions by Thelonious Monk (the European concerts with Rouse are missing, as is a Coltrane selection) is even more impressive—''Jackieing'' sucks the air out of the room, as it should, and ''Brilliant Corners'' is so unequivocal you can practically hear the fabled splices. The point here is to recreate original albums as finished and sequenced by the artists, without newfound scraps of studiospeak, flawed takes, and other desiderata of the anally compulsive. Not to say that digitization hasn't also made strides. I have no idea whether 20-bit or gold plate improves sound, but there is no question that sensitivity and care in mastering does—and the most-impressive examples I've heard this year are two Nat King Cole Capitol ballad albums engineered for DCC (818-993-8822), Love Is the Thing and the just-released The Very Thought of You. The Gordon Jenkins arrangements may cause toothache, but when the singer emerges from the strings on ''When I Fall in Love,'' you get the eerie feeling that Nat hasn't left the building. Soundman Steve Hoffman has found a way to set the strings back and bring the voice closer to the mike, almost shockingly so. If his voice ever sounded that intimate live, the audience would have been roaring as it did for his piano playing back at JATP.

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