Atlantic

Last Updated: January 19, 2020

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 Atlantic Records

Potted Corporate History (adapted from CVinyl.com)

Atlantic Records was founded by  Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun, sons of the first Turkish ambassador to the US. The company was incorporated in October 1947 and was known primarily for its R&B/Soul and Jazz recordings. In October 1967, Atlantic was sold to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, which two years later was then taken over by the Kinney National Company. In 1970 the music group was re-branded as Warner Communications, and, shortly after, the operations of all of its record labels were reorganized under a new holding company, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA), now known as Warner Music Group.

Tom Dowd, Atlantic master recording engineer

The  recording engineer Tom Dowd played a crucial role in Atlantic’s success. Dowd joined Atlantic as a full-time employee in 1954, when the label’s New York office still sometimes doubled as its recording studio. He became the architect of the Atlantic sound, bringing an unparalleled clarity and concision to the recording of r&b and jazz.

Tom pushed those pots [volume controls] like a painter sorting colors,” wrote Jerry Wexler in his 1993 autobiography Rhythm and The Blues,  co-authored with David Ritz. “He turned microphone placement into an art…When it came to sound, he displayed an exquisite sensitivity.”

In an October 1999 interview for MIX magazine, Dowd noted that “in February of ‘58, the first [Atlantic] session on 8-track was Lavern Baker. Within the next 90 days, I went through Bobby Darin, the Coasters, Charlie Mingus, Ray Charles…I would be sitting in the studio doing the Coasters at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with Mike [Stoller] and Jerry [Leiber]. Ahmet would call me up and say, ‘Ten o’clock tonight, we’re going to do Mingus.’You want culture shock? Go from the Coasters to Charlie Mingus in ten hours!”

During his Atlantic years, Tom Dowd engineered landmark Atlantic sessions by John Coltrane (“Giant Steps” and “My Favorite Things”), Modern Jazz Quartet, Ornette Coleman and  Charles Mingus

Stereo Pioneer

Atlantic was one of the first independent labels to make recordings in stereo. Dowd used a portable stereo recorder which ran simultaneously with the studio’s existing mono recorder. In 1953 Atlantic issued the first LPs recorded in the so-called binaural recording system, using two microphones spaced at approximately the distance between the human ears, with the left and right channels cut as two separate, parallel grooves. This required a special tone-arm fitted with dual needles for playback, and it was not until 1958 that the single stylus microgroove system (in which the two stereo channels were cut into either side of a single groove) became the industry standard. (Source: Wiki)

Atlantic Catalogue Numbers and Series

10-inch albums were released between 1951 and 1953, – the 100 Series, mainly instrumental jazz LPs . The album catalog numbers were often denoted by the prefix “LP” on the album cover and “ALS” or “ALR” on the record label. Variations found in colour of ALR and  ALP series, below, with  what looks like a 1300 Series white label promo:

Atlantic-USA-variations.jpg

Nesuhi Ertegun took overall responsibility for the LP series, and commenced releasing 12 inch LP records in 1955 , in the 1200 Series, initially only mono, which focused almost exclusively on jazz releases.  Stereo releases began  in 1958 and by 1960 all releases were available in both mono and stereo – stereo indicated by the prefix SD on the catalog number. The series continued until late 1977 when it concluded with catalogue numbers SD 17## and most of the popular jazz artists moved to the SD 18100 Series. A limited number of titles were released on the 8800 Series. (Abridged from Wiki Atlantic Discography

Atlantic Jazz Labels Cheat Sheet – mono and stereo.

Atlantic-Cheat-Sheet

NEXT: The labels, close up

21 thoughts on “Atlantic

  1. Hello – I just bought a Charles Mingus Pitheanthropus Erectus Atlantic 1237 mono reissue with the plum/orange label. The possibly unusual characteristic is a white fan for side A and black fan for side B. There is a small black dot above the white fan but it is most likely a black dot and not overwritten R. On cover back side is written ©1963 Atlantic Recording Corporation Printed in U.S.A. Matrix says A-11373-C AT W / 11374 (symbol) AT1. Is this some kind of transitional use of black/white fan or some unique case? Anyone know?

  2. Hi LJC: I am listening to the excellent album of the “The Jazz Makers” – Ronnie Ross & Allan Ganley, Atlantic 1333. Although I am not a first pressing fundamentalist, I wanted to consult LJC’s first Atlantic pressings overview of the first hundred or so Atlantics. I know it is there, but I don’t find it. Is it to be found elsewhere? Where? It was a great label collection.
    Btw, mine is a DG orange/purple label with the white fan.
    I am struck by one thing: according to Jepsen this is originally a U.K. Ember session. Atlantic does not mention this. Instead, they give Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle as recording engineers and Supervision: Nesuhi Ertegun. So is it then a US session leased to Ember? Anyone who can shed some light on this?

  3. Hey,

    I just got a pressing of Coltrane’s My Favorite Things with 1361 number, and it has the early black labels… Have you seen this before?

  4. So. What about the registration mark in the colored field above the white fan 60-62? Is it random, or can you see a release that gives us the first? I have the Coltrane, My favorite things (1361) in both versions.

    • Hi
      I don’t have enough Atlantic US pressings to venture an opinion on this. The Registered Trademark “R” appears on many labels as a point of changeover. We need some of our American collectors to give us a line in the “R” trademark chronology. Over to you guys?

  5. Hi, I like your site very much. Yesterday I bought Rahsaan Rahsaan from Rahsaan Roland Kirk & the Vibration Society. The LP is from 1970. To my surprise the label is the mono ring one. This is an american stereo LP. Any thoughts? Thank you

    • Popsike shows a couple of “original” pressing auctions and the photos are all the Orange and Green label in use in 1970, 1841 Broadway address. It is a physical impossibility for it to appear as a 1970 general US release with an earlier label like the ring.

      The explantion must lie elsewhere – it could be a “special edition” reissue by Atlantic, and they made up a special label for it, Altlantic did do some odd things. I have seen Japanese pressings with “fictitious” Blue Note labels – a Japan-only 70’s release on made up pretend “Lexington” address label. And Japanese facsimile copies with no indication of their Japanese origin.

      If its not any of these things, I can only suggest taking a little more water with it next time. Oh and I’ll have a large one, I need it.

  6. Tom Dowd’s greatest records beat RvG’s in terms of punch and clarity. I love the Ornette Coleman and Mingus recordings on Atlantic. They sound amazing. Some of the Coltrane’s dont sound that good, especially My Favorite Things

  7. Hi LJC,
    I suspect the black Atlantic label was still in use into early 1960 because there is a test pressing of Giant Steps dated 12-22-1959 http://img94.imageshack.us/img94/2637/giantstepsmn.jpg and I would be surprised if it made it to release before early January, especially considering the holidays. It is crazy to think that Atlantic used three different label designs for new releases during that 12 month period.

    • I yeild to anyone who has more information or more informed judgement. If the If black label was in use in 1960, I am not precious about exact dates, no investment, fine..

      I have just this evening spent three hours listenng to reissues of Coltrane/Dakar, Booker Ervin, Miles Davis Filles de Killimanjaro that sound absolutely gorgeous, following a vinyl upgrade. Get your system fine tuned and you have some fun at next to no expense

  8. I checked this page the day you added the label cheat sheet…trying to figure out if I had a first pressing of Giant Steps or not (or at least a pressing from the early 60s). I had forgotten all about the white and black fans. Bravo, and thank you!

  9. Can we have a review of the London Atlantic “Change Of The Century”. Marvellous LP and great pressing too. I’d love to read your review of the London Atlantic Brilliant Corners if youn own that mighty pressing.

  10. Probably the first of a number of questions from Manchester…I have a London Atlantic Bues and Roots with a red and Silver label. What’s the difference between this and the blue and silver you show above?

    • Hi Tom, and hello Manchester. Oh good, I love quizzes. The “Crimson / Silver” London Atlantic signifies Mono whilst the Blue with silver letters identifies Stereo. At the time, Atlantic used different colour series to differentiate mono from stereo, until stereo became the “normal” format. As most of my records are mono by preference, I don’t have many stereo, apart from the label I included at 6 above. I have uploaded a Crimson/ Silver next to it for comparison.

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