Note: this post contains 100% vinyl-oriented content, unsuitable for followers of The Evil Silver Disk. Mobile phone down-loaders visiting this site should be accompanied by a responsible adult at all times.
Prestige not up your street? Elsewhere on LJC, new additions (reading skills required):
Reviews of jazz books of Whitney Balliett
The inside story of ’70s vinyl manufacture
Work in progress…. corrections as we go. I know for some this must be like watching paint dry, but its God’s Work. Last Updated: April 21, 2015 17:30 GMT
Prestige Yellow Fireworks Label, 446 W. 50th St., N.Y.C, (1955-8)
Rival to Blue Note, Prestige Records was one of the main specialist modern jazz labels in the 50’6s and ’60s. The quality of recording and pressing found on its 12″ first NYC label (1955 -1958) is outstanding – vibrant and exciting, many the work of van Gelder, and the artist roster includes many of the most important musicians of the genre: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and um… Moondog…
For the most part, Prestige is highly collectable, especially the early titles, with the most coveted 1st pressings fetching up to thousands of dollars. Prestige recordings were frequently reissued during the life of the company, hence the proliferation of early titles on later labels, often incorrectly described as “original” merely due to the fireworks design, without regard to label address and catalogue number. Prestige is perhaps not as well-documented as Blue Note, hence the need for a definitive guide to the label.
This label-guide to original Prestige Records, starts with the all-important N.Y.C label of the 7000 series in use between 1955 and 1958. Almost every Prestige title issued is accounted for here, but there may be issues over second and subsequent pressings within the tenure of the N.Y.C label.
The final Guide, subject to anomalies and corrections, will be put to permanent archive on LJC.
Prestige transition from 10″ to 12″ LPs (circa 1956)
The legend “Non-breakable High Fidelity” was proudly carried on Prestige 10″ LPs, marking the consumer advantage from the transition from 78 rpm shellac to 33 rpm vinyl. Thus it was perhaps natural that in the first faltering steps to the 12″ LP the very first title should also continue the non-breakable legend..
In the early days Plastylite were involved in some early titles, evidenced by the “Custom Molded by Plastylite” reference on some labels (7026, 7030, 7041, 7042 and 7050). Other plants pressed for Prestige, including the excellent Abbey Manufacturing NJ (“AB” stamp, right)
Transition from N.Y.C label to Bergenfield, N.J.
Many early Prestige recordings were first issued on the N.Y.C. label and subsequently reissued on the latter Bergenfield NJ labels (1958/9 onwards), the latter sometimes mistakenly described by sellers as “original”. The breakpoint is PRLP 7142, after which Bergenfield NJ is the original label. 7141 is actually found in both variations (below).
I have not found any reference from sellers or discographies regarding font-style, label-colour, and text variation: that is uncharted waters, in which we are currently swimming. There are differences within the main N.Y.C label that affect “original” status, yet these are unrecognised except by a few wise owls. . This is the age of the Internet. Knowledge is a freely available commodity, no longer the provenance of “experts”
Note: Regarding colour fidelity:
this is highly variable due to different light label-shots were taken under by hundreds of individual contributors to Ebay, Discogs, VinylRootsGuide and other online sources. We know there are two specific label colour tints variations, possibly three including egg-yolk. Example below, ochre (red bias) and lemon yellow (blue bias).
Warning! Vinyl sleuths venture here
Several unexplained variations in some early 7000 series labels have come to light, courtesy of our resident First Pressing Fundamentalist Dottorjazz, super-sleuth Aaron, and Rudolph, Master of More. between them, they are the brains behind many LJC discoveries (I just try to take the credit). Some variations are presented here, using the LJC Compare-the-Label frame ™l. See what you make of them: which if any is the first pressing? The finest minds in record collecting are active.
UPDATED: Slowly, it’s beginning to make sense, the variation within the N.Y.C. label itself: narrow and regular fonts, colour tints, typesetting and layout styles, the “Non-Breakable” legacy, “HI FI” Re-mastered by VAN GELDER, custom Plastylite press.
The first 30-40 Prestige LPs enjoyed a settling in process, repeat label print orders required to keep pace with sales orders. “Original” may not mean much with 1st, 2nd, 3rd or more pressings in quick succession. But “original” remains the “Holy Grail”, if only to the most purist collector.
What we think we know: (with the guiding hand of Rudolf, the Master of More)
- “Non-breakable” has direct lineage from earlier 10″ Prestige LPs, so it’s potentially an early indicator, but a passing anomaly on just a few titles, replaced by HI FI
- “HI FI” is the main early text. It competes with the Van Gelder reference: which is earlier? On the evidence of 9 &10 comparison above, Van Gelder reference could be later than HI FI, or possibly not. A known unknown.
- The Plastylite connection – “custom molded” – was an early Prestige relationship that didn’t last. So they are early.
- The more-delicate regular font is early. The typesetting layout of the earliest labels has a more balanced, rounded form. The use of narrow fonts to squeeze information onto the label looks like a later characteristic.
- With manual typesetting in cast metal, variations in spacing and positioning of text are to be expected, and may not mean much of itself.
- The presence of full artist listings below the title, all on the upper half of the label – seems characteristic of early pressings
- Song-writer credits including royalty collection organisation (e.g. BMI). In the ’50s , record companies were notorious for assigning publishing to their themselves. It wasn’t until much later artists got wise to their publishing rights, early ’60s, though some artists were quicker on the uptake than others. Useful potential indicator.
The first forty label pictures in the guide are being updated to reflect these considerations.
If you find any significant variation in your collection from those published here, email these in if you wish. If you have been injured in an accident at work that was not your fault, or even sold a record claiming to be original that wasn’t, you may be entitled to compensation. You can report variations to LJC, I promise to look into them. Briefly.
Technical note on label photo colour variation
The aggregation here of label shots from different internet sources to into small multiple sets is the most efficient means of design comparison but not a reliable guide to colour variation of Prestige’s different label print suppliers.
Hell is other people’s photography. Some seller photos have an appearance of yellow-ochre which, if you neutralise their red colour-cast, reveals they are in fact lemon-yellow. Or they are underexposed and look green, which when corrected, shifts the colour to bright yellow. Those taken by window light often have a blue cast. Consumer camera auto white balance is not suited to this kind of product photography. These are some examples encountered on the way.
I hereby place a curse on record sellers who show you the whole vinyl disk, and think it’s cool to photograph it at a 45° angle so you can’t read the label. Where colour is badly adrift, I have corrected toward egg-yolk, by default. How sweet the birdie sings…
On to The Guide (updated continuously as existing pictures of second or later pressing are replaced with a first edition label )
Last updated: April 21, 2015 17:30
To be continued, the Bergenfield releases, but I am becoming allergic to the colour yellow for some reason, it might be a while…
If you spot any errors or omissions, I’d be amazed of there aren’t some in a project this scale, comment or email. If you have 1st press correction or better picture email me.
7001 large scale uploaded to illustrate main post, with ear!
Correct 7056 replaced previous re-issue of same title…
Comparison pairs 9 & 10, and 11 & 12 added
Labels originally posted replaced: 7001, 7002, 7003, 7011, 7012,