Freddie Redd “Shades of Redd” (1960) Part II The cover arrives…

Track selection: Blue Blues Blues


Jackie McLean (as) Tina Brooks (ts) Freddie Redd (p) Paul Chambers (b) Louis Hayes (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 13, 1960

The story so far…

For anyone who has been following the story, last year I managed to get a 1st press of this holy grail record, but without a cover – the seller said it could not be found. Even so it was a fairly aggressive auction, seems a few other collectors took the same view as me – a record to die for, 1st pressing excellent condition, and cost me a big number even without a cover. By way of a clue a Swedish seller had just that week sold an EX copy for nearly £500.

LJC poster Christian, (bless you, Chris!)  kindly passed me a link to a German seller who was selling a G-minus grade copy of 4045, but with an “acceptable” VG original cover. Not many people are going to go for a G minus vinyl : could even put your stylus at risk .

Seemed a simple enough plan. To summarise: 1 original record + 1 original cover = 1 happy Londonjazzcollector

I dithered a long while. At the start it was pretty expensive for a cover, over 100 euro,  but over the space of a few months it failed to sell, was relisted several times, and the asking price had fallen by half from ridiculous to only totally unreasonable.  It’s like a lot of things in the collecting game: finally, it is not about price, it’s about whether you want it or you don’t.  A record needs a cover. A decision had to be made.

I decided to go for it, pushed the buy it now button,  and it was not long after that  an earthquake of 4.9 Richter shook my building.  The gods must have been following the story too. Thor and Odin, both keen Danish jazz collectors as it happens, quaffing tankards of nectar,  wagering what I would do. Their rumbling  tummies must have shaken the very ground. Time to send out for more pizza.  And indeed, the gods went on to have the last laugh. But I already had a pretty clear idea of the best use of my my G-minus record:

What I hadn’t factored in that the G-minus vinyl was a “Review Copy”  I know the theory of Test Pressings and Review Copies. First few copies off the stamper are, in theory, the best possible quality pressing. Each time 100 tons of pressure flattens that warm vinyl biscuit, the stamper grooves begin to wear down, losing precious information. A couple of thousand repetitions latter, last off the stamper, holy grail or not, it sounds dull and flat. I knew it made a difference, I just didn’t know how much of a difference.

I read somewhere Deutchegramaphon prided themselves on pressing no more than 3,000 from a stamper, while American plants thought nothing of pressing 6,000 or may be even 10,000 copies of a pop record, figuring no-one could tell the difference. No idea where Plastylite drew the line.

The moment of truth came when my hi-fi guru (every record collector should have one), who had meticulously washed and cleaned the G-minus for me, urged me compare the review copy of 4045 with my prized coverless 1st press,  and with my King Japan pressing. Which will sound best?

Do we really need to do this, I asked. It’s obvious.

A couple of bottles of Rose were brought into service, to ensure critical listening faculties were suitably fine-tuned.

First impressions, OMG the review copy sounded stunning. Ignoring the minor scuffs and a few tics, the sound was breathtaking. Fresh, lively, articulate, possibly one if not the best sounding Blue Note I own. That’s surprise number one. But surely, the coverless excellent press will wipe the floor with it! Bound to, stands to reason.

Moment of truth, on goes the coverless first press. Oh dear.  We laugh.  It is quieter, more restrained, lacking the rich tonal colour and intensity of the review copy, worthy, but totally lacking excitement. No comparison, the review copy just won it, hands down. Surprise two.

On went the King Japanese press. The same music, but the bottom-end was a little muddy, smudged, and as a result the music is  harder to follow.   Not in any sense bad, if you had never heard anything else, you would be quite happy. But when you can make the comparison, just not as good as the Blue Note originals. Comparison can be a dangerous thing. I once asked a sociable question. “Hows the wife?” I asked. “Compared to who’s?” came the reply.

This was pure sadism: the review copy sounded better. Fact. It wasn’t meant to turn out this way, I just wanted an acceptable cover. It doesn’t matter that it has a few clicks and pops. It delivers the excitement you want, in spades, Tina Brooks and Jackie Mclean in the room, rip-roaring, racing, music brought to life.  Blue Blues Blues just swings!

Some hard lessons to learn

The cover is stamped “not for sale” and the record labels also have “Review copy not for sale” stamped on one side. In the collector world, these marks considerably reduce the value of the record. How wrong can you be?  Very. The most important thing of all about a record is how it sounds, yet no-one can tell you that. It’s something you have to find out for yourself, the hard way.

The fact the review copy is marked, though not really as bad as G minus suggests, is not a deciding factor. Of course a rubbish record can be marked too, but a high quality pressing can overcome a moderate amount of vinyl defects.

Not everything is as described. The G-minus could have been just that. Plenty are. But this was probably graded on how it looked and not how it played.

There are probably more lessons to learn from this experience, but the Chuck Berry song about sums it up for me.  “You Never Can Tell”.

24 thoughts on “Freddie Redd “Shades of Redd” (1960) Part II The cover arrives…

  1. Great story LJC. I love when I listen to a clip of a vintage pressing on here for a title I’m not familiar with and it inspires me to want to hear more. And wow–G MINUS??!! Sounds great (even with your old stereo system 😉 ).

    Any chance I (we) could get you to do a head-to-head-to-head audio comparison with all your copies (in true mono), or have you since sold the other two?

  2. Oooh ha. I guess i should have kept quiet about my wish-list ;-). Seriously, i don’t think i’ll catch the Drew LP for what i think i’ll bid, but i don’t like the thought of competing whith you guys anyway. I was quite an odd-shot at firing pistols while serving duty in the army 😉 i wouldn’t mind another virtual beer though!
    @Jan, why don’t you give me your e-mail-adress, i might have some jazz vinyl on sale you might be interested in, or maybe we can trade. What do you think?

  3. Chris, I am also watching the Kenny Drew you are refering to on ebay.
    I won t bid on this one. Your turn. Good luck !!!! We should not outbid each other.
    If you are lucky we will drink another virtual beer. Cheers .

  4. The first virtual beer i drink in my whole life, cheers! And congratulations to your German, which is close to perfect. If you ever get bored of Freddie and Tina, just pull out an original copy of Kant and start reading away… i myself hope at the moment that i might catch this rare fish for a bargain: “Kenny Drew – Undercurrent”. If i do, i’ll send Rosie over and keep that virtual steins flowing! By the way: My top entry on the BN-wantlist is “Don Wilkerson – Preach Brother!” If you ever spot a cheap one you don’t need, give me a hint.

    • The Don Wilkerson I have only on Toshiba-EMI, Chris, but if I spot an original you get first refusal, promise. Now Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent is a different kettle of fish, as we say. It’s every man for himself I am afraid. This is top of my wants list. Pistols at dawn, last man standing takes it.

  5. Happy that my recommendation led to a score like this.
    It was a chance for me to give something back.
    I enjoy reading your great posts every day.
    Will put my copy on the turntable this evening to celebbrate.

    • Jan, I think it was your suggestion originally, egged on by Chris, so it looks like I owe all of you several large steins. Now, where is Helga the rosy-cheeked virtual barmaid? That’s four large steins for my friends, Helga, and have one yourself …Cheers.

  6. Love the post. Question of course is: what was the buy now price for this Shades Of Redd? 50 euro or less? And isn’t it fun to know that what a seller thinks is G- turns out to be a much better quality once you thoroughly clean your records? Admitted, I always have to use my neighbour’s VPI machine, but it’s unbelievable what the end result is.

    Oh, and about things like ‘promo only’ or ‘review copy not for sale’: I consider every record that I own with those remarks on it as better than the real thing. Simply because it just makes it all sound more important and more real; as if you’re ‘in the know’ of the record collecting world. Catch my drift? 😉

    Anyway, congrats with the Freddie. It’s a killer score.

  7. LJC, this entry reads as if you really made a bargain and i should have pressed that “buy-at-once”-button myself ;-). Heck. Even the cover seems to be in an absolutely gorgeous state compared to which “beauties” i store in my board… i don’t care for review-stamps anyway.
    Still, i’m happy i could do you a favour and that it didn’t turn out badly. It’s definitely a deal, counting in the fun i gain from your blog! Keep writing, Chris

    • Chris, I owe you one. Well two, probably. Don’t get carried away, split the difference, say, I owe you one and a half? I’ll email you a pint and a half of beer, just need to pour it into the keyboard and…ffzzztpzzttt-wookwook-ffzzzzt…press SEND. Cheers!
      Hindsight, hindsight, always twenty-twenty. I believed I was buying a crock, I had no expectation of it turning out different. The listing was all in German, ich spreche kein Deutsch. Darius Grund from Westphalia got it wrong.
      Man kann nie wissen!

  8. Nice story–glad it worked out so well. So what would you grade this review copy? VG? That would give you a VG cover and album for the price of, well, the cover–sounds very good to me……and you still have the other cleaner copy. Guess you still need a cover for that one–it’ll come up eventually!

    • If I were a seller, I would describe it as ” excellent apart from a few scratches Ex/VG- with cover in fairly nice condition considering its age. RARE!”.
      However I think you nailed it, VG.

      You are quite right. To complete the matching pair I still need another cover. Will this never end?

  9. Gripping write up. Like riding on a roller coaster and never being sure what’s round the next bend. So, you now have a wonderful pressing and a geat cover of “Shades of Redd”, although by a tortuous route. Congratulations.

    Love the “Pulp Fiction” link, btw, even if the relevance escapes me!


    • The link is more tenuous than most, I admit. The Great philosopher and Emeritus Professor of R&B, Chuck Berry declared in his “Universal First Law of Probability”, that however hard you think about something, and however much you know, the outcome is always unpredictable. Or as he puts it in song, “You never can tell”
      This enormously significant law of socio-physics is translated into dance steps by Uma Thurman and John Travolta in the cultural 60’s iconic movie “Pulp Fiction”.
      Thus when confronted with the question “What’s likely to happen???” you simply wave fingers in a horizontal V-setting across your face, twist your ankle to and fro, and opine “You never can tell”
      Hope that’s sorted that out.

      • Or perhaps it’s saying just “stay cool”. JT’s deadpan face, plus UT’s smokin’ non expressive “Ooomph” is all about doin’ the stuff and making no bid deal.


  10. Hi LJC,
    I liked your posting. I have a question though, you write “In the collector world, these marks considerably reduce the value of the record.” When you say “marks” do you mean the stamps or the scratches?

    • I mean the stamps. AFAIK grading is generally marked down for any Writing on Label (WOL), and writing on cover (WOC). Ink stamp I guess the same as handwriting. Its all a “blemish” against the baseline of clean unmarked paper..
      If the information the stamp gives you is “good news” I believe it is still bad news.

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