Van Gelder fakes fake stereo: it’s all good!
Selection: Kerplunk (Byrd)
. . .
Selection chosen for the scarce recording presence of Elmo Hope, and the young Byrd and McLean strutting their stuff backwards and forwards running the changes double quick time in a delightfully simple mainstream bop piece. Early Prestige recordings are often labelled mere “jam sessions”, but jam goes with bread and butter, and scones, don’t knock it.
The selection is also intended for a less worthy purpose: to enable you to check out what “electronically re-recorded for Stereo” sometimes actually means.
Donald Byrd, trumpet; Jackie McLean, alto saxophone; Elmo Hope, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Arthur Taylor, drums, recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 27, 1956
Bop with no signs of dark clouds outside gathering on the horizon, happy swinging foot-tapping cheerful music in what I imagine was possibly still a hard time for many.
The LJC Rule of Opposites: poor people dress up, wealthy people dress down; in times of hardship people want happy music to cheer them up, when all their needs are met, they prefer to wallow in existential angst. Not everything is as it seems, sometimes it’s the opposite that provides the insight.
Story was apparently they turned the Hackensack studio lights down during recording, to foster a club ambience. I rarely listen in the dark myself, for fear of spilling my drink on the sofa. It’s not the sofa I worry about, it’s the waste of a good glass of Cotes du Rhone.
Vinyl: PR 7757 1970 reissue – re-mastered by Van Gelder
The original recording must have been single track mono – our mutual friend will know – and by 1970, Stereo was de rigueur the essential commercial format.
Weinstock: Rudy, were going to reissue Jackie’s Lights Out!
RVG: What, again?
Weinstock: Money Rudy, Money. This time, make it Stereo. I’ve no idea how you do it, just do it.
“ELECTRONICALLY REMASTERED for STEREO”
Ye of little faith. Do you really think Van Gelder would butcher one of his own recordings, just because Weinstock demanded Stereo?
With many Blue Label/ Silver Trident Prestige reissues, the original RVG stereo or mono master metal was wheeled out, the original matrix code (catalogue number) scratched out, and the new catalogue number scratched in, and then repressed. Effectively, the blue label reissue and the original have the same parent.
However this time here is an early mono recording and no previous stereo master to renumber. Weinstock wanted a stereo product, and Rudy was going to have to create one from scratch.
So, Van Gelder took the mono recording, and re-mastered it “electronically”, (how else, wood-burning stove? Scully Aga?) He cut the same signal on the left and right channels, no filtering, no differential instrument separation, no jiggery-pokery, “stereo” in name only, delivering two matched mono images. That’s still a stereo record isn’t it?
Here are the two channels as seen in Audacity during the rip of Kerplunk, everything played and ripped in stereo. There are very tiny differences between left and right channel waveforms, which maybe due to slight asymmetry in channel amplification/ processing, one valve is not quite perfectly matched with another, who knows, but they are basically the same histogram all the way through. It is mono stereo.
A new acetate was cut, now with VAN GELDER stamped in the run-out, Prestige Stereo Edition, and voila, fake fake stereo. Bless you Rudy.
An interesting extra twist for the observant dead-wax watchers: etching LW – Long Wear Plating Company, as found on all Impulse masters. Come 1970, Prestige needed metal parts, Rudy would know of Long Wear as a previous customer.
Here is the original, dramatic black and red cover that sends collector pulses racing, and their bank manager hyperventilating.
Popsike tells the story, a lot of money for the original Prestige RVG mono, but ahh, that cover.
There are alternatives in mono. If you get the urge to hear the Gershwin track A Foggy Day (in London Town) actually in London town, the 1957 British Esquire might fit the bill, complete with naff alternative cover: it’s got a cartoon light bulb, it is on, and out, in case you missed it. They were never profound with alternative covers at Esquire, not even graphically strong.
Weinstock clearly saw the opportunity to cash in on McLean’s rising star, and brought New Jazz repress into service (1961), most likely reusing Rudy’s original master, but with the hazard of recycled vinyl added to the mix, something which dogs a good few New Jazz issues.
The cover photo is great, the light bulb positioned out of kilter, off-balance, creating dynamic tension between light and Jackie. The 70s cover reuses the same photo but mucks up the dynamics by inserting the cast list in huge letters, destroying the way the picture works. Bloody Philistines.
Finally we have today’s post, Prestige 7757, cheapest of the heap, with “stereo” ingeniously not “faked”, depending on what you mean by fake.
Not everything is as it appears.
The minute I picked up the vinyl and, instead of original hand-etched RVG, or nothing, I saw the VAN GELDER stamp in the dead-wax. I put my faith in Rudy, he would do the right thing. If you are up there following this, Rudy, I hope it’s put on an extra smile on your face!
Anyone has any other sort of encounters with “fake stereo”, please tell your story, expand the knowledge.