BLUE NOTE (Japan)
1. King Records, Tokyo (1977-83)
updates in progress
Consisted of a series of thematic releases in addition to various catalogue selections and special celebratory releases, such as the “Special Replica 15″ series.
|1977 “Immortal Masterpiece Selection” Series|
|1977-1980 “Blue Note Masterpiece Selection 150″ Series|
|1978 “Unissued Masters” Series|
|1979 “Jazz Guitar Album” Series|
|1979 “Jazz Piano Trio Masterpiece Collection”|
|1979-1980 “World First Appearance” Series|
|1980-1981 “Unissued Masters Series Part 1″,|
|1980-1981 “Unissued Masters Series, Part 2|
|1981 “Blue Note Collectors’ Item” Series|
|1982 “Blue Note Special”|
|1983 “Blue Note Masterpiece Vol.1, 2, 3 and 4|
|1983 “Blue Note Masterpiece Special Replica 15″ Series|
|Miscellaneous King Special Issues|
1.1 Factory Sample Test Pressing – King Record Company – Rare!
“Factory Sample” is what the three Japanese letter stamp means, I am reliably informed. Japanese is like a foreign language to me. I can see the first letter is a drawing of a factory, with a long approach road leading up to it where the top executives can park their company cars. The middle character represents a set of scales weighted to one side, indicating weighing and critically judging differences. The last character seems to represent a batch production run of boxed products. There, you didn’t know I could read Japanese did you? Or may be it just illustrates the fearsome fallacious power of post-hoc reasoning. Semiology class, dismiss.
For United Artists, owners of Blue Note in the 1970′s. Critically acclaimed as the best pressings that originated from Japan, in most cases already over thirty years old, and much superior to United Artists own US reissues. There is a suggestion these pressings were made from masters created by an engineer flown to the US and given access to the Blue Note vaults and original tapes. King are definitely preferred, and carry a price premium over the later 1980′s Toshiba-EMI pressings.
UPDATE 1.1.1 – King White Label Promo
I think I have just the one – Jackie McLean Capuchin Swing – they are fairly readily available from Ebay sellers in Japan priced mostly between $50 and $100. Unlike the Factory Sample above, they are white label and bear the same Japanese characters for Factory Sample. Because the sellers market many of them as mint those I found were all photographed still inside their mylar antistatic sleeve, hence slightly blurred above.
As promos, they are more desirable because of the probability of being among the first off the stampers in a production run, though there is no evidence to support this that I am aware of.
1.3 King Special Masterpiece 15 Series
To celebrate some important contractual event, in 1983 King released a special limited edition of 15 of Blue Note’s most desirable titles. Though a number of series called “Masterpiece” were issued, Masterpiece 15 was not like any other. They are claimed to be perfect replicas in every respect. The label and cover bear no Japanese markings whatsoever, and they are pressed on ultra heavy vinyl, and claim to be the match of original Blue Note sonically. Collectors know, and they fetch a hefty price premium over regular King pressings. I obtained the one shown below directly from Japan.
Nothing says “Japan” anywhere, even the usual licensing logo JASPAC is missing, but the run-out confirms the usual Japanese provenance..
1.4. King Record Company Blue Label
An oddity? As far as I am aware, by 1983 Blue Note had long fallen into the hands of EMI who did all their pressing in Japan by Toshiba, so this being manufactured by King, and worse, on the United Artists solid blue label, is an anomaly all round for its claimed 1983 production date. (Sometimes this stuff brings out your inner-trainspotter)
For EMI/Capitol Records, owners of Blue Note in the ’80s. Though not as dynamic as pressings by King, the Toshiba EMI are a much preferrable alternative to later US and French reissues, and usually quite enjoyable, though they do not stand up well against original Blue Note. Lowering the record arm, their silent vinyl can itself be a pleasure after listening to hours of clicks and pops on well-used American vinyl. Culturally, the Japanese cared for their records too, a virtue not to be overlooked.
2.2. Toshiba-EMI “Division of Liberty Records” reissue
This is one for the book. When in the 70′s and 80′s King and Toshiba were issuing Blue Notes in Japan, it was natural to create a facsimile label for Blue Note Records. However I had never before seen a facsimile label of a Division of Liberty Blue Note release of a record I am not aware had ever been released by Liberty/Blue Note. Art Pepper was a Contemporary Records artist, not a Blue Note artist. You have to ask what is going on here? None of the catalogue numbers make any sense to me.
6. Modern replicas
Ateliers Sawano, Tokyo, lead a wave of hyper-authentic replicas, complete with heavy cardboard sleeves, artwork printed with antique presses, even manufactured with Deep Groove, and I am told, a Plastylite cursive “P”.
Claims are made that the records are mastered from the original tapes, though I know one Sawano I bought and sent back as the quality was shocking had been cloned from old vinyl with some electronic trickery to remove the defects.
To my mind a copy is still a copy, however good a copy it is. It is not the real deal. However if you want Mobley 1568 you might feel the compromise is worth considering.
Love the 47 West 63rd address and no INC or R, but oh that deep groove looks like its been cut into the vinyl instead of pressed, with the result the label has been pierced and torn by the sharp edge of the groove. Nice try, but way to go boys.
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