Lee Morgan Sextet (1956 ) Liberty, fake van Gelder

LJC Hitchhiker’s Guide to Early Stereo continues, with further insight into the murky world of 60’s fake stereo

This time, an example of a genuine fake.


SelectionSlightly Hep  pseudo stereo


The-Kenny-Rogers-Story[1]Lee Morgan (trumpet) Kenny Rodgers (alto saxophone) Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone) Horace Silver (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Charlie Persip (drums), Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, December 2, 1956

Remarkable, Kenny Rodgers on alto! Oh, Rodgers, not Rogers.

Investor talk

Extraordinary music, and Mobley! 1541 commands trophy status, price to match – up to $2,600 . Lee Morgan 1500 series albums are among the most collectible and expensive Blue Notes, and command high prices due to scarcity. Musical quality does not affect price, only scarcity, condition, and sometimes, a Warhol cover.

Lee Morgan 1541 Popsike

An original was never going to be on my turntable so looking for alternatives was obligatory. I innocently bought a stereo Liberty. Here’s the full story, as it unravelled.

At the time I bought this I was only dimly aware of the cut-off point between  full track mono and van Gelder’s transition to two-track recording. I was not wise to Ebay seller’s misleading description of “stereo”, not pseudo stereo, a trap for the unwary. My head was full of preferences between mono and stereo, not “stereo did not exist” at the time of this recording.   I didn’t do my homework, Cohen hadn’t published his Guide. My fault, caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware.” You’ve never made that mistake, have you?

The Japanese reissues are all mono – King Records GXK 8134(M) 1977-80 Blue Note Masterpiece Selection 150 series , and two Toshiba-EMI reissues: Feb-1984 and Dec-1990, and no doubt more than a few modern reissues. Still, making mistakes is ok, mistakes can be a stepping stone to more informed decisions later, they are a great teacher.

Reflecting on the high cost of the original Morgan, there are other ways to think about price.  Some time ago I encountered the concept of cost-per-play. Actually, it wasn’t about records at all, it was about clothing and cost-per-wear, but it applies just as well. A tie worn once a week is much worse value than a belt at the same price worn every day. The cost-per-wear is sevenfold different. I confess I have some records I hardly ever play, others I play a lot. If I had this record I would play it a lot. Just saying.

Music talk

An above-average hard bop set“, according to  All Music. That’s it? Above average?

Morgan at the age of 18, his second outing as leader, this album’s strength is its good helping of Benny Golson compositions and arranging. Golson penned strong melodic themes, many quickly becoming classics, typified by Slightly Hep and  Whisper Not. As a tenor player Golson is probably my favourite of Art Blakey Jazz Messengers players after Mobley, who was the best above average.

The ensemble work offers a three brass line-up full of textures, that give your speakers and your ears a good work out. The tunes have lasting quality, and this is a recording you will want to play again and again (much to the chagrin of Ebay sellers that love the “seems barely played” motif). That’s only for records which are below average.

Morgan here is credited with just coming out of the shadows of his hero Clifford Brown, though I don’t have enough Brownie to offer any insight. Morgan had incredible fluidity, darting melodic explorations of the theme with a peppery turn of phrase, triplets and finer filigree mixed on an exuberant melodic canvas. It is one of history’s great moments of regret, you wish that night his partner Helen had not been such a good shot .

Engineering talk

The big question: is it acceptable listening? Well, yes, sort of. Effectively its a mono recording, with mono presentation, except the lead instrumentalist is pumped up a bit on the left channel in the left speaker, a bit like RVG primitive stereo. Engineering buffs with bigger ears can probably detect more jiggery-pokery. It would better have been left alone, but it’s not so awful.

Of the modern reissues, Classic Records seems to hit the right spot:

Classic’s “ALL TUBE PURE MONO” pressed onto 200 gram QUIEX Super Vinyl Profile. Jackets are authentic “tip-on” and laminated (front only) as were the originals – and the labels have the desirable “deep groove”.

A modern reissue with ” desirable deep groove” (looks away in embarrassment). Still, I would be prepared to give it a go, though I have never seen one. I would guess the modern reissue buffs have a few things to say about this title, but I hazard a guess no-one has tried to produce a modern fake stereo.


It is Liberty fake stereo, and like other stereo conversion projects, the run-out is anonymous. No one wants to own up, nothing “personal”, just the catalogue number. The royal blue/paper-white label looks like the handiwork of original Blue Note  printers, Keystone Printed Specialties. I’d say, in the absence of any flared trousers, 1967



Collectors Corner

A careless purchase a few years back, Cohen’s Guide didn’t exist at that time. 1541 is a dozen titles before van Gelders first  stereo release, 1554. Recorded in full track mono, no two-track tape exists – the “stereo” comes only from Liberty engineer’s trickery.You can not rely on sellers to warn you: stereo or pseudo stereo, Ebay sellers will choose to describe it to their own advantage.

Cohen’s Blue Note guide spells out which titles were released in mono, stereo, or pseudo stereo, here. However, be warned, some very early van Gelder may be true stereo, but the mix is just horrible. More on that in a future post, car-crash stereo, I picked up one recently that’s a hummer, err, humdinger,  stereo from hell. Some records you should want in mono, not because you prefer mono, but because the stereo is just plain awful (though not fake).

44 thoughts on “Lee Morgan Sextet (1956 ) Liberty, fake van Gelder

  1. Sorry to question you, LJC, but are you sure there is a United Artists mono pressing of this? There is one of Vol. 3 (I have it), but all of my sniffing about for Vol. 2 has found nothing.

    • Checking my database I confirm the Toshiba pressing of 1541 is faithful mono. I am sure I recall seeing a Division of United Artists (White/Blue label circa 1971/2) of this title at some time, but it could be my imagination, as I don’t have a note of it.

      This mysterious Div UA reissue series are almost always mono, but don’t exist in the official Blue Note discography (Cuscuna and Ruppli) or Cohen’s Guide, so remain undocumented. Count it as speculation on my part rather than fact.

  2. Hi LJC,

    I just came across and picked up the Classic Records Reissue of this LP on the weekend coincidentally.

    They reproduced it beautifully with the Deep Groove and Lexington label. I have only had the change to spin it once but look forward to giving it a proper listen soon.

    Above Average? It’s just a little better than that I would say. HA.


  3. Just wanted to touch on this:

    “…Golson is probably my favourite of Art Blakey Jazz Messengers players after Mobley, who was the best above average.”

    Would you take Mobley over Wayne Shorter, as Jazz Messengers?

    I know Shorter isn’t consider the greatest technical tenorman ever but for straight composition, the Wayne Shorter-Jazz Messengers are pretty tough to beat in my book.

    Ugetsu often gets over looked bc it’s not on Blue Note, but that opening cut, “One By One,” is as good as anything in the vast Blakey canon, IMHO.

    • Sorry I must have missed this comment at the time, but I’ll answer it in good faith. I’ll just say there is no accounting for personal taste. You prefer chocolate or vanilla, its personal preference, no right or wrong.
      My taste in Messengers tenor is Mobley first, no one engages me more. He uses the full tonal range of the tenor, and the timing and turns of phrase always keep me awake, they never land where you expect. He is chocolate-rich and I love his tone. Hank is No 1.

      Golson is my number two, he is full of melodic invention, his solos are tune in their own right, and he reaches into the upper register proportionally just right (unlike some players who keep faffing around in the upper register all the time, a fault of alto players of the David Sanborn variety)

      My third is Shorter. Very downbeat, contrapuntal, bombastic, sour, he seems to swing only reluctantly. He belongs to post-bop. As a Messenger, he was before his time.

      There, that’s put my opinion on the line. All welcome to disagree.

  4. To be serious, though, if you think eBay record deception is bad, don’t consider buying authentic film posters. One has to spend months, if not years, of research before being able to spot certain counterfeits. Of course, organized crime became involved. They were able to print counterfeits so well that they are impossible to spot without precise measurements and extreme photographic closeups.

  5. No, I’ve never made a record buying mistake. I only have 5 “Scorpios,” and I bought every one intentionally!

  6. here’s a modest tip to save money – don’t buy mono records – just redo the wiring of your speakers – mix ‘m back to mono! even better mono is using only one speaker and split the wire to left and right (or buy a old amplifier with a stereo/mono button).

  7. I’ve got a Lexington ‘ear’ pressing of this title and also have it on the Mosaic set in CD format. The price/value of the Lexington (flat edge or non-flat edge) has gone up enormously in recent years. Mosaic vinyl offers the best value and decent sonics, if you can find one.

  8. What, pray tell, is “Cohen’s Guide”?? Is it something to do w/ Fred Cohen of Jazz Record Center?? Pls advise.

  9. I know what you mean about the financial outlay that would be required for original Morgan 1500 series records. That’s beyond my budget so I had to look for an good alternative. My solution was to get lucky and acquire a copy of the Mosaic box set of Morgan’s 1950s Blue Note sessions: everything from all six LPs plus some bonus alternate takes. Moreover, being a later Mosaic vinyl set, it’s pressed on 180g vinyl and, to my ears, sounds lovely. Mono for those tracks where only mono master tapes exist, stereo for the rest IIRC.

    So much good music that I’m having to ration myself to listen to it one record at a time in chronological order to ensure I savour it properly like it deserves.

  10. One of my favorite dates. There’s a couple variations between the original 1956 pressing and yours that I know of IIRC, one of which has Lexington labels and the P but not the flat edge, the other with Lexington labels but no P. I hope to migrate to one of those someday on a pit stop between my Classic reissue (which sounds great) and an original…wishful thinking. I also wouldn’t mind trying a King or Toshiba.

    As for the sound of this copy, to me it sound like they put the low frequencies on the right and the mids and highs on the left and added some reverb and put it on the right with the lows. If it weren’t for the added reverb it would probably sound pretty good summed to mono but that extra reverb is the nail in the coffin for me both aesthetically and on principle. To each his/her own but this presentation of the original recording is way off from the original mono and a remastering crime in my book.

    • Yes I have a Classic records copy of this album which I think sounds great. I think it’s funny how they say ‘desirable deep groove’ too, but I do admire their attention to such details. And the album covers are thicker too which is another nice detail.

    • a) you just described most fake stereo LPs
      b) I have to laugh at purism about reverb given how reverb-laden Van Gelder’s recordings are in the first place.

      Glad to have given you a laugh. Condescending.

      • Theres a BIG difference between using reverb on separate instruments when mixing & just slapping it over the whole mix to make it “stereo”. No comparison at all !

  11. I have the blue/black West Coast copy of this, and I can confirm it is the same fake stereo. Pulled it out of a dollar bin, so not the end of the world, but not worth much more than that. I even hate the bad-font “STEREO” at the center top of the cover. It adds a very unwelcome ’70s crappy design vibe to an otherwise spectacular cover.

  12. I had intended to rip Whisper Not, but its entirely possible I put the wrong side on the TT, anything is possible in a long ripping session, it’s probably my own mistake. Attribution corrected, thanks.

  13. Beautiful cover – never seen this one but Lee & Hank at the helm and Horace at the keys; can’t be bad. Nice work.

  14. What a wonderful album…love the King pressing, true mono & sounds great !
    (isn’t it about time for some fake mono…?)

  15. While I understand that the odds are against you by living in the UK and all, keep the faith that you may one day stumble upon a lucky find! I recently uncovered the following at a local shop. Though they are in VG condition, they are very listenable and first pressings to boot.

    BLP 1540
    BLP 1550
    BLP 1566
    BLP 1576
    BLP 4041
    As well as some Red Garland Prestiges and a nice copy of Cracklin’.

    Yes, this really happened. Proof can be found on Instagram: @pgiampi1. The records were stored in a garage and some ended up severely wet and damaged…the shop owners said they were so bad they had to throw some away, including some Blue Note! I’m dying to know what was lost but I’m also thrilled to have some gems in my collection now, particularly Sonny’s Crib and True Blue!

  16. But that’s “Slightly Hep”, isn’t it? If it’s not your mistake, LJC, then the labels must be on the wrong side. Which would add to its slightly weird character.

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