Harold Land: “The Fox” (1959) Contemporary

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Selection: The Fox

Critically acclaimed as Harold Land’s best album, “The Fox” was initially released in 1960 on the label Hifi jazz, and later re-mastered by Contemporary for this pressing.

Music:

Title track “The Fox” was apparently chosen for its resemblance to the darting movement of that feral predator (or cute bushy-tailed Disney character, if you prefer). A helter-skelter rollercoaster duet with unknown young trumpeter Dupree Bolton leads onto a fine tenor solo from Land, via some nice piano from Elmo Hope.

Hope wrote four of the six the songs and awards himself a good amount airtime on the album, naturally, which stands both as a Harold Land album and an Elmo Hope album. Named after St Elmo’s fire, Hope was a leading light of the Bud Powell school, played with all New Yorks finest in the Fifties before moving West. His narcotics habit resulted in frequent periods of incarceration in Rikers Island and no doubt contributed to his untimely death at the age of 43. Another jazz player who missed out on his share of birthday cards, whilst Land went on to enjoy four more decades.

Land’s playing here offers late ’50s upbeat bop, a contrast to the restless self-expressionist angst found increasingly elsewhere in the course of the ’60s.

Vinyl: Contemporary S7619

The liner notes indicate ©1969,  though with Contemporary, copyright assertion dates are not necessarily dates of manufacture or issue. Possibly the mono reissue may date from this period, but this copy has indications of much later manufacture.

Vinyl run-out detectives will note: Contemporary original  machine stamp matrix codes, Lester Koenig Stereo (LKS) and a pair of D2 mother/stamper codes, meaning it is pressed from plates originating from Contemporary’s re-mastering from the original Hi Fi Jazz recording.

The “H” stamp is not present, meaning it was not pressed by RCA Hollywood, who were Contemporary’s main pressing plant in the ’50s and ’60s up until 1976.  Nor does it carry the later etchings of Monarch, who took over pressing of Contemporary Records following the closure of RCA Hollywood in 1976. So the pressing plant is undetermined, a jobbing-plant, contracted to press for a price.

The cover address is the later PO Box 2628/ 90028 non-residential address first seen in 1979 and the five years following, until the sale of the company to Fantasy 1n 1984. If it had been manufactured in 1969, it would bear the 90069 zip code of Contemporary’s Melrose Place address. The cover is certainly manufactured any time between late ’70s or early ’80s, and not 1969.

Taking cover and vinyl into account, a genuine Contemporary but end-of-label-life reissue, at best late ’70s  probably early ’80s. Flawless near-silent vinyl, stereo production and great music.

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Collector’s Corner

Original text, album and vinyl pictures (2011) updated in May 2016. Five years on, and we have learnt a few tricks – colour fidelity, paper-white picture frames, more readable sharpened hi-contrast text, and a lot more knowledge about the Contemporary label.

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8 thoughts on “Harold Land: “The Fox” (1959) Contemporary

  1. I have an original Hifi jazz copy of this LP. My copy is an original STEREO on that label. Your review states that it was reissued on Contemporary for the stereo release? Is it not known that a stereo version was available on its original 1960 release.

    • You are quite right – Contemporary stereo was released originally in 1960 on the HiFi label (SJ-612) the same time as the mono on Contemporary (M3619) . The Contemporary label itself released a stereo version five years later under its own impress (S7619)
      I had never seen a HiFi Jazz pressing here in the UK I had’nt picked up this strange way of using a separate label for stereo releases, and it still seems odd, but that is what they did. Because Goldmine list artists by label, you would not easily notice the two separate entries for the same record, Mono and Stereo, under different labels.

      Thanks for pointing it out.
      As an aside, what is the stereo production like on HiFi? I find some very strange ideas on instrument placement around this time, like all the soloists on right speaker, bass in centre and drums on left. Every now and then you have to walk up to the speakers and tap them to check they are still working!

  2. Another good one–kind of a sleeper! Was just listening to another Contemporary LP today, “You Get More Bounce With” Curtis Counce, and Harold sounds great on it.

  3. Indeed and thanks for the photos. We’re spoiled jazz fans here and lazily expect to see the usual snapshot whenever we log on to LJC. After the initial absence of label- and back cover pics I had to lay down for a sec 😉

    • So picky! Doing some editing on the post when our Broadband ISP had an outage- haven’t been able to finish the edits. Now done with album cover back as the main photo. The audioplayer sample play button is now below the picture of the cover. Seemed more logical to see the cover, and say, fine, but what does it sound like?

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