Donald Byrd: Blackjack (1967) Liberty

Post updated January 2, 2018

Track Selection: Eldorado


Donald Byrd (trumpet) Sonny Red (alto saxophone) Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone) Cedar Walton (piano) Walter Booker (bass) Billy Higgins (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 9, 1967


The last of Byrd’s hard bop albums, before being swallowed whole by The Funky Chicken thing. (OK I know there are fans out there of 70s funk, promise, no more dissing. Apparently Byrd’s Black Byrd from 1972 became Blue Note’s highest grossing album. You can’t stand in the way of business)

Notable for the appearance of both Sonny Redd and Hank Mobley

Vinyl: BST 84259  – Blue Note – A Division of Liberty Records Inc., 154gm vinyl 

First release in 1967. A pressing distinguished by a serrated edge – thought to be characteristic of Keel Mfg. Corp, Hauppage, Long Island, N.Y. Despite ownership of pressing facilities in New Jersey and Los Angeles, Liberty also contracted out pressing to other plants on the East Coast, including Keel and Capitol, possibly others.

The printing of Division of Liberty labels , initially by Keystone Printed Specialties, Scranton PA, Blue Note’s long-standing printer,  came to be supplemented by other label printers. The label here is not characteristic of Keystone, but another printer of much poorer quality, witness ink-smearing, and typesetting issues – unable to print a legible registration mark ®. The same characteristics are found on other serrated edge pressings, linking Keel to another (unknown) printer.

However mercifully the pressing is from metal derived from the original Van Gelder master

Vinyl looks fine, but shows a little surface noise from time to time. Listening to the mp3 rip, it would probably benefit from a second clean on the LJC machine.

As an aside, for some time now my Moth Pro record cleaning machine didn’t seem to be performing as well as it should, and close inspection established the vacuum pipe was losing suction due to a poor fit, and possibly always had done. The manufacturers kindly sent me a new pipe, and after only an hour of painstaking cutting drilling and refitting, the vacuum pipe now exerts a vice-like grip on the underside of the record, ensuring that, once the isopropyl alcohol-based cleaner has done its stuff, nothing in the groove escapes. It is now more effective at combatting the clicks and pops which fifty year old records tend to suffer from.



Collector’s Corner

Acquired from a London record shop specialising in soul. The one thing you could rely on was that their record grooves were very dusty, and a good rcm was indispensible..It was during my not infrequent visits I encountered a whole demographic of middle-aged men, lorry drivers and all sorts, whose lives revolve around modern American soul music. They probably outnumbered jazz fans by probably ten to one. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.

13 thoughts on “Donald Byrd: Blackjack (1967) Liberty

  1. I LOVE THIS RECORD!!! Sorry to be shouting. Eldorado is , to me, a classic piece of music, one of my all time favorites!!

      • Well, no alien spacecraft here, but sometimes alien lifeforms as the part of Jupiter I live in, Jupiter Farms, is fairly rural. Lots of good old boys, horses, cows, etc.

  2. Don’t have this Byrd album and have never noticed the raggedy edge – at least I cannot remember it ;.)

    I have one strange BN Liberty of Lou Donaldson Midnight Creeper which looks absolutely fine in every respect but alas is missing the Van Gelder stamp which makes it not original (looked in popsike). Is that common? Who made that pressing??????

    • My Midnight Creeper copy is missing something more serious than the Van Gelder. It’s missing the cover.
      The display of covers for collectible records in second hand stores in London is often just photocopies now, due to the problem of people stealing covers that look nice. It’s a particularly selfish theft, as it knocks down shops that are struggling to keep afloat anyway. . Midnight Creeper was one such casualty and I picked up the vinyl for just a couple of pounds, sans cover. Shame, because its a nice cover.
      Who manufactured Liberty BNs around the time of The Midnight Creeper I haven’t found out yet – I guess whoever took over pressing Liberty Records from RCA in 1968. Given the disasterous track record of subsequent owners Transamerica Corporation, I guess whoever around was cheapest.

      • That’s terrible. Haven’t heard about stealing covers in Stockholm yet.
        The cover is however very nice and stylish and the pressing is NM and sounds good too – only missing that Van Gelder stamp. Bass is full and round and whoever did the mastering did a good job indeed. I just wonder why they could not use his stampers? The Liberty label is on close inspection using a moore green-ish blue than the usual blue-blu. Well the variations make it intereresting right but I guess I’ll never get my money back, but who cares – I have fun playing it 😉

  3. Forget “Deep Groove” gentlemen, that’s for noobs. If you can follow the tortuous nerd-riddled 20-odd pages of the Hoffman thread on codes in the deadwax ( OK I speed read it) at comment #405 you come across the concept of “ring diameters” – the edge to edge size in inches of the indentation left behind by the pressing die in the record label ( sic – the mold)

    “It’s definitely not a Columbia pressing (it doesn’t have the 2.70″ diameter pressing ring) and I don’t think it’s a Capitol/NAMI pressing (as I thought those typically have a pressing ring of about 1.5″ in diameter)…. it wasn’t until later in the decade that the molds on their LP pressings were changed to 1.375″ ring and 2.75″ hump….and a layout from PRC (here is the 2.75″ ring) …and finally, one from Monarch (with 2.875″ ring)”

    Rings and humps, its the way to go.

  4. The Black & Decker ‘double entendre’ made me chuckle for a second: imagine them pressing these slabs of vinyl, leaving the saw tooth edge as a reference just like the “P” from Plastylite. That would be a blast 😉

    I see that Felixstrange also owns a few of those and I am now going to check the rest of what I have to see if I can find more of these saw tooth pressings. I mean, if the “P” and the “RVG” initials are important for 1st pre-Liberty pressings, then maybe the Liberty saw tooth also tells a tale!

  5. On my to-do list Matty.
    I have a couple of Blue Notes, though I think not this one, which have a finely serrated edge – tiny teeth, like on a circular saw blade. Can’t imagine how or why they were made like that, unless they were pressed by “Black and Decca” ( there is a joke in there somewhere struggling to get out),
    Definitely a Liberty press first time around, no P. I know as collectors we tend to turn our noses up at Liberty but still, nearly forty years old. No spring chicken as they say, even though Byrd was shortly to take up the funky chicken…

  6. Ha! Some say coincidence doesn’t exist, right? Well, believe it or not, but today posty dropped by to deliver me the very same record! I took it to my neighbour for cleaning on his VPI and when he carefully handled the record, he noticed something that’s new to me: the edge of the record is jagged!!

    Believe me, it’s not like a badly cut off rim of excess vinyl after the record comes off the press, no: the entire record has an actual jagged edge! So to the list of flat edge and beaded rim, we can now add “the jagged edge”. Compare it to the jagged edge of a plastic party knife, that’s more or less how it feels. Please check your copy and let your finger tips slide down that rim and tell me: is that a jagged edge or not?!

    Last but not least, I reckon your copy has Van Gelder and his serial number etchings in the trail off but no “P”, since it’s a Liberty and my copy came with the original inner sleeve “The First Family Of Recorded Entertainment”. Anyway, curious to see if your copy has a jagged edge as well 😉

    • I have a couple of early Liberty-era Blue Note pressings, e.g. “The Fabulous Fats Navarro Volume 1” that have the jagged edge you are talking about. I’m fairly confident it came with the same paper liner as your Donald Byrd record. I don’t really know very much about where Liberty pressed their records, however.

      Anybody know anything about where pre-UA Liberty pressed their records?

      • According to a Steve Hoffman thread RCA Victor apparently pressed Liberty up to 1968,

        “Liberty Records and its affiliated labels as one of the main custom clients for RCA’s pressing plants during the ’60s. In fact, much of Liberty’s ’60s vinyl output was pressed at RCA….in contrast to the ’50s Liberty output (most of the ’50s Liberty pressings were made by Capitol).

        “Liberty’s pressing relationship with RCA ended in 1968, when Transamerica’s acquisition of the label was made final”

        which would mean Liberty pressed by RCA at their three strategically located plants below:

        R – Rockaway, New Jersey,
        I – Indianapolis, Indiana
        H – Hollywood, California.

        This could go a long way to explaining why Liberty pressings made immediately after aquisition of Blue Note in 1966 up until 1968 still sound very good – close to Plasylite- and why the later ones go down hill fast – after 1968. Daylight for the first time, wooeeee.

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