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Impulse Records – Overview
(Heavily abridged from Wiki. Those Coltrane fans do like to write!)
Impulse! Records was established in 1960 by producer Creed Taylor as a subsidiary of ABC-Paramount Records, part of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Taylor had previously worked with the New York-based Bethlehem Records label, as its inaugural house producer and A&R manager. He set the scene for the label’s most successful period with his far-sighted signing of John Coltrane. He left Impulse in the summer of 1961 to take over the running of Verve Records.
Taylor’s successor, Bob Thiele, produced nearly all the albums released during Impulse’s ‘classic’ period in the 1960s, and his towering achievement was the signing of John Coltrane. to the label.. Although not initially familiar with the ‘new jazz’ movement, he proved to be an open-minded producer who backed the creative choices of his artists, affording them unprecedented freedom in the studio. During the period that Taylor and Thiele led the label, many Impulse! albums were recorded at the Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey studio owned and operated by engineer Rudy Van Gelder, and this association lasted from the label’s inception until around the time of Thiele’s departure in the late 1960s (starting his own “Flying Dutchman” label)
New recordings from the label ceased in the late 1970s, with ABC re-issuing classic titles until the company was sold to MCA Records in 1979. The label name has since been revived for new recordings only for short periods and is now part of Universal Music Group’s jazz holdings, The Verve Music Group, and relegated to a reissue-only label. Coltrane is no longer among us, and neither is the huge talent factory that was New York in the Fifties.
Vinyl Collector Tips
Impulse started off well, and maintained a steady course though the Sixties, but by the Seventies, along with a lot of the record industry, an output of poorly manufactured reissues not worthy of the vinyl they were pressed on.
1. Always look out for the US originals – orange/ black ring and, later, black/ red ring, with laminated thick card gatefold covers. US pressings will often have a Van Gelder stamp in the trail-off. Stereo is excellent and preferable, though the mono are no slouch. Don’t dismiss second pressings on black.red ring as a cheaper alternative, as mostly these are pressed from same metal as originals.
2. Always check the record label – later Impulse reissues are often found in jackets that look like the older originals. Avoid anything in flimsy jacket with ABC prominent in the branding.
3. UK collectors should head straight for HMV pressings, which were the UK licensed 1st release. Most of the first wave of Impulse releases 1960-64 were remastered for UK release by EMI on behalf of HMV and they are heavy vinyl (160-180 gm) and sound great. Most titles were UK-issued in only mono, select titles also in stereo. Impulse UK reissues in their own name are a significant drop in quality.
Impulse: merchandising jazz 1961 style
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Postscript: Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label “Contact”
(King Pressing, Japan, facsimile label)