LJC BREAKING NEWS: Blue Note Records 75th Anniversary Vinyl Initiative
“Two years ago, we decided to begin remastering the jewels of the Blue Note catalog in hi-def resolutions of 96k and 192k. In order to develop a guiding artistic philosophy for this delicate endeavor, we donned our lab coats, ran dozens of sonic experiments and carefully referenced every generation of our reissues. Ultimately, we decided that our goal would be to protect the original intentions of the artists, producers and engineers who made these records and that, in the case of pre-digital-era albums, these intentions were best represented by the sound and feel of their first-edition vinyl releases. Working with a team of dedicated and groovy engineers, we found a sound that both captured the feel of the original records while maintaining the depth and transparency of the master tapes… the new remasters are really cool!
While these new versions will become available in Digital Hi Def, CD and the Mastered for iTunes formats, the allure of vinyl records is WAY too potent to ignore. This year, Blue Note – along with our friends at Universal Music Enterprises – is launching a major 75th Anniversary Vinyl Initiative that is dedicated to the proposition that our catalog should be readily available at a low cost – featuring high quality pressings and authentic reproductions of Blue Note’s iconic packaging. Beginning in March 2014, we’ll start rolling out five remastered vinyl reissues every month. Although this program begins in celebration of Blue Note’s 75th Anniversary, our catalog runs so deep that we will faithfully be reissuing five albums a month for many years to come!
—Don Was, President, Blue Note Records
Modern Vinyl Reissues: readers thoughts
LJC reader Robert has been nagging me to do a feature on modern vinyl reissues. Anything for a quiet life. I am on record as a skeptic when it comes to modern reissues, but hey, it’s not all about LJC: I am inviting your opinions – what have you found that you can recommend to other collectors.
These are the Jazz Vinyl Reissue labels I am aware, there are probably many more below my radar
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Music On Vinyl
Original Jazz Classics
Original Recordings Group (ORG)
I am not thinking of reissues from the major record companies and subsequent owners of those ’60s catalogues, or ’70s and ’80’s “vintage reissues” like King and Toshiba, but the modern specialist vinyl reissue labels (modern in the sense of the last decade or two). Many of these labels claim “audiophile” status, 180 gram (naturally), virgin vinyl ultra quiet pressing sourced from original tapes, some even claim to be “better than the original pressings”.
Mosaic are something of a special case but their unique and often out-of-print box sets deserve consideration on both the audiophile and collector front. There are many semi-vintage reissue labels like Jasmine, which are probably too numerous for me to mention, though you might want to. It’s probably too early to make a judgement on the actual Blue Note 75th Anniversary official reissues at the head of this post, but very intruiguing all the same.
Scorpio I include because they are commonly found, eminently affordable, and some people do like them despite being just a cd transferred onto vinyl. Being “sourced from the original tapes” does not exclude digital encoding and decoding in the transfer. How many reissue producers can replicate an all-analogue production chain including tape decks?
Inevitably people are going to have personal favourite titles, like Kind of Blue or Saxophone Colossus, for which they have a particular reissue like the Classic Records 200 gram edition, but in the first instance let’s get a few facts on the ground – which labels you have, and which you would recommend, in general. I think LJC readers would appreciate recommendations what to look for, irrespective of title. You are very welcome to comment about individual recordings in response to the post.
If I’ve made any glaring errors or omissions, I’m happy to update as we go along, this is not a subject I know a lot about or have much experience with. Not that that has ever stopped me having opinions and sounding off.
First, which vinyl reissue labels listed do you own any titles on?
Second, which of the reissue labels in the list would you recommend to a friend? At least someone you would like to remain friends with after they take your advice. If you haven’t got any friends, pretend. Works for me.
And finally, based on your experience, any labels which you have tried which didn’t live up to your expectations? That’s not to say they are “no good”, but that they were a disappointment. Could be your expectations at fault of course, but this is a “post-modern” site, all opinions are right.
UPDATE: Very fair point made by Adrian, that a reissue can exceed expectations as well as fall below them. Interesting how my own “prejudices” unconsciously led me to overlook that point of view. Additional poll added below in the interest of balance, now open for voting.
(For each poll, remember to cast all your votes in in one session before pressing the “VOTE” button. Poll Daddy won’t allow you back to add more votes or change your mind.)
Comments welcome at LJC, though if you work for any of the labels in question, declare your interest. Gushing industry PR is easy to spot and may be held up to ridicule. And remember, we have an army of lawyers here waiting to take your calls 😉
I’m a cracked record on this subject but thinking about how people are convinced this or that edition is the best, I commend readers to consider the “Village Venus” effect, an ineffective thinking habit described by writer Edward de Bono, (who coined the expression “lateral thinking”). White Belt Blogger describes it well (de Bono original works are unfortunately hidden behind a paywall)
The “Village Venus”:
“Imagine you are living in a remote village — without being exposed to the world outside. In your village, there’s this girl — let’s call her Katarina; she is the daughter of the village chief. Katarina is a beautiful girl — in fact the most beautiful girl in the village. Since you haven’t seen any other girl prettier than her, you assume that she is the most beautiful girl in the world.
Are you right? Yes … until the day comes that you have to venture in the outside world, and during your journey you see girls who are far more beautiful than Katarina.
There are times when we think we have seen it all — when in fact we have only seen the tip of the iceberg….. The next time you think you have seen the prettiest girl in the world, consider, outside your village, there may be girls far prettier than Katarina.
I summarise this in the politely-intended throwaway question: “How’s the wife?” I answer: “Compared with whose?” The problem is the claim that x is “the best” or “really great”. Until you have tried them all, how would you know? The more honest position is that “it sounds great to you”. No one actually knows what you hear, you can’t be called out on that.
On a more serious note, it is a confounding issue that some RVG recordings sound better than others. Even a poor reissue will capture a glimmer of that original quality, and it will sound “great”, though the original will almost certainly sound greater still.
You can’t separate out what a recording sounds like from the system you are playing it on. I have records which have sounded progressively better as my system improved, and others which I remember sounded great in the early days which are revealed now as below par. You change as well, as your cumulative experience expands. I have grown used to how much better things now sound than they used to. They don’t “sound great to me” any more, though they once did.
Where I part company with modern day audiophile re-mastering industry is the involvement of digital processing to enhance and improve sound. It can’t. Just because you can change the characteristics of sound with the latest technology doesn’t mean that you should. The best you can do is not monkey with it. Just my point of view.