Prestige “original”!? What’s one number difference in an address? Into the vaults, LJC returns clutching what he thought was his most prized “original” Prestige LP, purchased a few years back from the now-disappeared Intoxica Records, Portobello Road, Notting Hill. The man said he “thought” it was a first pressing, NYC label as it should be, though he wasn’t entirely sure that everything was alright, “certainly a very early pressing”. We’ll see, let’s boldly go…. deep dive into the murky world of Prestige covers. Selection: Round About Midnight
Miles Davis (trumpet) Charlie Parker as Charlie Chan, Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone) Walter Bishop Jr. (piano) Percy Heath (bass) Philly Joe Jones (drums)WOR Studios, NYC, January 30, 1953, (remastered by Van Gelder) Note the presence of Charlie Parker (“Charlie Chan” for contractual reasons) on tenor instead of his usual alto, sure-footed but without the hyper-fluidity and faster-pace more normally associated.
Selection 2 : Your Own Sweet Way
Miles Davis (trumpet) Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone) Tommy Flanagan (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Art Taylor (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, March 16, 1956
There are many recordings of ‘Round About Midnight, but this 1953 version with Miles and Parker is interesting for its melancholy restraint. Rather than seize the opportunity for flowing legato and celebratory flourishes, it is deliberately downbeat, wringing out in every note the weary pain of musician’s life “around midnight” (despite being recorded in the early evening). Miles tone is limp and turns sour, Parker is downbeat. Whilst his later version with Coltrane’s exultatory solo still stands head and shoulders above many others, this has a poignancy and legitimacy that is something special. Did Parker not know how to speak?
Three years later, the rhythm section here updates to Flanagan/Chambers/Taylor. Miles joins a more mature Sonny Rollins in a wistful Brubeck ballad Your Own Sweet Way, which signals the way bop was progressing.
All the tracks here repay thoughtful listening, as though they were indeed a treasure trove of “Collectors’ Items”. Just take care to place the title’s possessive apostrophe in the correct position, after the “s”. Correct punctuation was the ’60’s mark of education and social refinement. Perhaps it’s due for a comeback.
Vinyl: Prestige LP 4044
N.Y.C. yellow/black fireworks label, RVG (by hand) , AB (Abbey Manufacturing), mono, looking good…
This is here it all goes potentially wrong: a GEM cover with a 447 West 50th St. address. Apparently not a cover belonging to the original 1st pressing, but evidence of a later second cover and therefore likely a later pressing.
GEM: There is not a lot of information from collector resources about GEM covers to confirm or raise doubt over provenance. I’ve never seen a single reference to GEM covers online, on Discogs or Popsike, bnspubs, though possibly reams on Hoffman threads. A lot of money has changed hands on Ebay with “original Prestige” on the strength of the label, which is the usual sign of provenance for collectors. I’ve been doing some heavy lifting to see if we can nail down the business of Prestige covers.
If there is one thing worse than Ebay seller photos of record labels, it’s seller shonky unreadable photos of record back covers. No matter, all you have to read here is the blurred address for Prestige at the foot of the cover – is it 446 or 447 West 50th St., N.Y.C.. and the presence of the GEM Albums Inc. imprint at the bottom corner of the cover – it’s either there or it’s not. 446 or 447?
GEM imprint: Printed and Packaged by G E M Albums, Inc., N.Y. In addition, at 7070, the words “Printed in USA” start to appear at the bottom left corner of GEM covers. Looks like any cover below 7070 with “Printed in USA” is a later cover. The GEM and 446/447 change occurs on titles between 7055 and 7065 (pictured below). There are a couple of anomalies – 7057 Django and 7061 Mobley’s Message – where I could find only GEM covers. According to nearby titles, the original cover should be without GEM. Perhaps they are rare, or perhaps they don’t exist, or were printed out of catalogue number sequence.
7065 starts the long run of GEM covers. GEM covers on titles below 7065 are later manufactured covers, and the associated vinyl is an early but probably not a first pressing, despite having a 446W N.Y.C. label. My copy of 7044 Collectors’ Items should be a non-GEM cover, though every copy of 7044 I have seen online has had a GEM cover. GEM or not GEM? Do I care? Should I? Good question.
The transition in covers is captured below, the best pictures I could find online (view at full screen) These are the “best”? Now none of this is 100% bullet-proof. It only takes one person to come up with a cover that questions this interpretation.. Like all theories, it’s the best we know at this time, subject to change if more information comes to light. Always read the label. And with Prestige, now you have to read the small print too. Damn, where did I put my reading glasses?
“446 W 50 St is a rental building located at 446 W 50th St, New York, NY 10019, in the area is commonly known as Hell’s Kitchen.”
Prestige, on the other hand, is a record label that is Collector’s Hell.