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The Blue Note label, from the ’50s to the present day – the definitive guide for the audiophile record collector.
The earliest Blue Note recordings were issued on 78 rpm shellac and then 10″ microgroove, largely the domain of the purist collector, as many of these recording (though not all) went on to be republished in various permutations on 12″ LP.
This Guide commences in 1956, with the 12″ 1500 series microgroove vinyl LP, which I consider the beginning of modern “high fidelity” and which coincides with the beginning of use of then new condenser/valve microphones. It covers the period of the original Blue Note Records company in the decade up to 1966, and then through the hands of subsequent owners Liberty Records, United Artists and EMI, through the DJ compilation decade, up to the modern “audiophile” editions of the present day. It concludes with the musical travesty of remixing Blue Note recordings with hip-hop beats, and the spectre of Public Domain reissues.
In the golden era up to 1966, the Blue Note label had no overseas licensing agreements, and US pressings were simply exported. The first titles manufactured overseas were in the Liberty, United Artists and EMI period , which are covered in separate pages, for Japan and Europe.
LondonJazzCollector Blue Note Cheat Sheet
Updated November 7, 2022,
Update to incorporate two early 1980s Capitol-EMI “interim labels”, blue label white note design similar to United Artists, but text now includes manufactured by Liberty Records Inc, and subsequently, by Capitol Records Inc. These labels were used for repressing popular titles, prior to the major Capitol EMI reissue initiative, which was launched in the mid-80s under the banner “The Finest In Jazz Since 1939”
Note: The years in which labels were in use are approximate. A label indicates the Blue Note design and address at the time the label was printed. Labels were printed generally a few months after recording session, part of the process to prepare each album for release. Actual timing of release was dictated by Alfred Lion’s commercial judgement, and vinyl was pressed shortly before the release date, using those labels.
The label on a record is a useful guide to provenance but is by no means definitive. Release was at best three months and in some cases several years after the session date. In periods of change, there was often an overlap between the actual manufacturing date and the labels use. The NY address was in use for new titles between mid-1961 and mid-1966, but new releases with the earlier 47W63rd label stray into that period. Previously printed NY labels spill over on new releases in the Liberty years. It becomes clearer when you follow the business process of a issuing a new title
A record starts with a recording session date, which sounds definitive, though some Blue Note titles draw together tracks from different sessions sometimes years apart. At the end of the process is the record release month, which is documented in Schwan catalogues and music press reviews of new releases, usually Billboard. Between those dates are various stages of manufacture: mixing, mastering, metal production, label printing, cover fabrication, and shortly before release, actual vinyl pressing. These events occur between the recording date and release date, and determine which actual label design was used at pressing, and which design of pressing dies happened to be used in the first pressing.
The inner sleeve, which was added immediately after pressing, is the best guide to the date of manufacture. However study of inner sleeves confirms many popular Blue Note titles were repressed more or less continuously, in small batches, to top up dealer inventory, throughout the first half of the Sixties. The inner sleeve changed constantly. Inner sleeves were often lost, mixed up, or swapped for commercial advantage, but it’s the best you have. Or you can trust the seller: “Original!”
What to look for in an “original” Blue Note LP
Many features are needed to verify an original or a first pressing. With the help of this guide, you should be able to identify the provenance of any Blue Note record, and set your sights accordingly.
Records are the new antiques. Original Blue Notes can be extremely rare, especially sought-after titles. Among collectors there is a great deal of sentiment attached to owning a first “original” pressing, especially one in excellent condition, both vinyl and cover. The first pressing was often just a few thousand copies, of which only a few hundred survive today, fewer still in excellent condition. The most collectible Blue Note titles are worth upwards of £5,000. Reissues in the following fifty or more years – some titles over a hundred editions – are progressively more common, and less valuable, though some still of interest to collectors.
First, check labels and etchings
A combination of the record label variety, and engravings in the spiral run-out groove area will enable you to determine if a record is a first pressing, a later pressing though still an “original” Blue Note (pre-1966), or a reissue in the subsequent decades of Blue Note ownership by other companies. For some very early releases, attention needs to be paid to the vinyl edge (flat edge early, later beaded rim) and corroborating information regarding the cover, such as the method of frame construction, though you can not assume cover and record inside are of the same origin.
Two of the least understood but often the most useful means of dating a pressing are its bare vinyl weight (initially around 220 grams and reducing over time down to 120 grams or less), and for records manufactured after 1962, the “correct” corporate inner sleeve, added at Plastylite immediately after pressing.
Among small cost-conscious independent labels like Blue Note it was common manufacturing practice to hold stocks of record labels and covers in the inventory. If a record sold well, more vinyl would be pressed, and the second pressing run would use up the existing stock of labels and covers before incurring the cost of printing more. As a result, older labels can be found on newer pressings. Even 767 Lexington labels (1956) can be found on Liberty pressings (1966).
Auction sellers want to obtain the best price which attaches to first pressings. Auction descriptions can be a minefield. I have seen records described as having a “deep groove” which clearly do not, the absence of the Plastylite pressing “ear” curiously overlooked in the description, and pressings with an original label on one side, and a later one on the other side, overlooked. Caveat Emptor.
After the incorporation of Blue Note in 1961, a registered trade mark symbol ® was added to the label, under the E of BLUE NOTE. When old surplus labels were available for use but without ®, a new label with ® was paired up with an old label on the other side, ensuring assertion of copyright.
Blue Note changed its operating address several times over the decade. The address found on the bottom of the back cover changed accordingly, which can help date the cover manufacture. However covers were taken from stock, so covers do not necessarily date the record inside.
Blue Note inventory passed on to Liberty including a stockpile of the second inner sleeve, “27 Years of” used for Liberty releases from June 1966 to early 1967. Legacy metalwork mothers and stampers were often brought into use for further pressing, decades later, though under Liberty, West Coast reissue pressings were often remastered locally from copy tape. Lastly, it is not unknown for sellers of Blue Note to add a Blue Note inner sleeve from a different time, to make up for a missing inner sleeve and look “more authentic”
All these factors must be taken into account to confirm an original first pressing. The word “original” is used frequently in auction descriptions, sometimes inaccurately. For some rare early titles it is all but impossible to determine if a record is really ” the first” pressing, hence the premium on the value of “Review Copies” . A radio-station promo is generally the best indicator of the characteristics of the first pressing. With later releases there can be ambiguity, especially between 1961 and 1965, when the pressing dies which left a deep groove were slowly phased out, and the deep groove appeared on one side only or not at all.
The Blue Note etchings
Below are pictured the main etchings commonly found in the vinyl run-out of most Blue Note records: Rudy Van Gelder mastering (hand-written initials, later stamp), Plastylite pressing inverted cursive “P”, the custom-client metal “9M”, and van Gelder STEREO master .
Some etchings, such as Van Gelder’s, were applied to the original master acetate, and therefore continue to be seen on pressings with metal derived from the original master, even into the Liberty and even United Artists years. Before stereo became commonplace, Van Gelder would distinguish his stereo master from his mono master with a “STEREO” or “RVG STEREO” stamp. The form of his mastering stamp evolved from “RVG”, initially hand-etched and later stamped, to “VAN GELDER” from mid-1962.
The “9M” etching appears on around two-thirds of the 1500 series LPs, and disappears early in the 4000 series. 9M is a fairly consistent variable – mostly all copies of a title have the 9M, or all copies do not. Just a handful of titles have been found both with and without 9M, which is evidence a second master was cut.
To the collector, the most important indicator of record origin is the Plastylite stamp. The symbol of Plastylite is the stylised letter P, however it appears on the vinyl inverted left to right and turned upside down, hence the description as the “ear” which it resembles:
The Plastylite “ear” – unmistakable mark of authentic Blue Note.
All original Blue Note pressings, from foundation through to the sale of the company in 1966, have the symbol of the Plastylite pressing plant handwritten cursive letter “P” in the run-out both sides. All original Blue Note records were pressed by Plastylite (just one exception, see below) and have an ear each side. None is found after 1966 when pressing of Blue Note records was transferred by Liberty to other plants.
For a large number of titles, the presence of the “ear” in the run out is the guarantee of an original pre-1966 Blue Note pressing. Just one exception to the Plastylite rule has been found (thanks to Russian collector Alex). In the early ’60s, exceptionally, Blue Note commissioned Abbey Mfg. (preferred plant of Prestige Records) to press additional copies of BLP 1595 Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else. These copies are NY / 47W63rd label, without “ear”, but with all other etchings present. The Abbey copies are identifiable by a small circular depression around the spindle hole on side two only – characteristic of pressing dies used by Abbey Mfg. at that time.
There are also around forty Blue Note titles in the Blue Note catalog, examples are 4193, 4196, 4204, 4206, 4209, and many others approaching the 4250 cut-off, which had been prepared for release prior to the sale of Blue Note, labels and covers printed, but were pressed subsequent to the company sale to Liberty. Hence the original first pressing is without ear.
Some titles were issued by Blue Note in mono only, and the first stereo pressing was by Liberty or in Japan. A small number of titles, confusingly, the 1st mono appears on Division of Liberty labels, whilst the stereo edition appeared later on previously printed NYC labels. Liberty used up Blue Note stock inventory of labels and covers before printing their own, hence a number of titles are found as “NY/Liberty” – Blue Note NY label but no ear.
When the “ear” symbol was added in the Plastylite pressing plant, the position, angle and depth of the ear varied from one pressing run to another. It may be faint or appear part-formed. It should appear on both sides of the record, though rare examples have been found where it appears on only one side – due to the very restricted size of the vinyl land.
The unappreciated forensic indicator of record age is vinyl weight. A kitchen digital scale (for under $10) can be your best friend.
In the early to mid Fifties , vinyl LPs weighed as much as 220 grams. Thicker vinyl gave more protection against surface damage by heavyweight 20gm-tracking weight tonearms. Changing industry practice saw this fall to 160-180 grams, and in the later Sixties to 130-140 or less. Vinylite was an important factor in pressing costs and therefore profits. No pressing plant went out of its way to make a pressing heavier than was current practice in pressing at that time. There are always a few outliers in pressing weight (bell curve appplies), so exceptions are found, but as a rule, weight is a good indicator of age, which my sagging waistline confirms.
Confirming a first pressing
A worked example of the markings required to determine a records provenance is shown below for BLP 1599 Bennie Green’s “Soul Stirring”, last of the 1500 series, released around 1959. To sample a little of what it’s all about – 47 West 63rd St labels, deep groove mono, first pressing shown below, just listen a while to the perfect audio reproduction:
For this particular record to be identified as a first pressing, all the identifiers shown below have to be present, on both sides of the record.
BLP 1599 First Press essentials
Fred Cohen’s excellent Guide to Blue Note First Pressings will give you all the knowledge required to determine the “first” of every release. My intention is not to repeat this, just buy Fred’s book. My intention is to delve deeper into the audio quality of the many releases and reissues right up to the present day – the pressings you are most likely to encounter in the field, unlike those showcased in the fascinating Jazz Collector $1,000 bin.
A Chronology of Blue Note Labels (12″ LP)
1. 767 LEXINGTON AVE NYC (1951-57)
Catalogue numbers: BLP 1501 (released November 1955) – 1543 (released March 1957) in a straight run. 767 Lexington Avenue is sometimes referred to by less experienced sellers as 161 Lexington Avenue
Lexingtons in excellent condition are the holy grail in terms of collectible historical artefact, prices to match. This era of Blue Note has many unique features for the very earliest pressings, such as a ” flat edge” rim rather than the later beaded rim, covers manufactured with a kakubushi frame construction (the paper from the back sleeve folds around the cover and appears in front, under the unlaminated cover art paper, leaving a shadow-line on two edges) , and up until April 1958 (BLP 1586) absence of print on the spine
In addition, the engraving in the runout feature hand-written initials of master-engineer Rudy Van Gelder (replaced in 1957 by machine-stamped initials), and two-thirds in the 1500 series also have a hand-written marking “9M” believed to be a customer code for Blue Note used in the metalwork plating process by Plastylite or one of its suppliers. Other alpha-numeric combinations are found on records of other labels pressed at that time by Plastylite (prior to 1958) such as Prestige (7E), Dial (3R) and Debut (19H). The 9M etching appears intermittently in the early 4000 series, the last appearance being 4067, some titles are found both with and without 9M, explanation unknown (info updated 16/12/15)
Lexingtons can be extraordinary audio quality, though the very earliest recordings made in the nineteen forties lack dynamic range due to microphone limitations, and can sound “boxed-in” or radio-quality (recorded at radio studios). Recordings made immediately after the war also sometimes do not come up to modern audio expectations, some early Blue Note titles are recordings made by other engineers, re-mastered by Van Gelder. However, generally, Lexington label Blue Notes sound magnificent. Playing my Lexington 1st issue of Blakey and the Jazz Messengers at Cafe Bohemia is like physically being there. The Messengers are not “between the hi-fi speakers”, they are in the room with you.
Complete photographic record of labels of every title in the 1500 series, here
2. 47 WEST 63rd St New York 23 (1957-8)
Catalogue numbers: NEW YORK 23 first appears on 1544, on both sides, straight run to 1559, last appearance on 1577. Certain titles – 1568, 1575 and 1577 – are mixed NY23 one side W63 label the other. These include the iconic Coltrane, Blue Train.
Because manufacturing orders and catalogue numbers were not in strictly chronological sequence (why should they be?) the changeover between label addresses is ragged. Label printing runs supplied matching pairs of side 1 and side 2 labels, so using up old stock labels to pattern would have involved judicious distribution of an equal number of unmatched pairs – old S1 new S2, and vice versa. In practice, I suspect the label hopper of the press each day was filled with whatever first came to hand. The quest for certainty as to which combination of those labels is the hallowed “first pressing” strikes me as a fool’s errand, but, big money is at stake, and money will have its say. The best one can say is whatever Cohen’s guide says should be treated as definitive, even if it may not be.
These are gems, and usually priced similarly. As with the Lexingtons, the heavy vinyl ( 180-220 gm) is not only louder than other records, it is often quite resilient to surface damage from skating record arms, and they will often sound much better than they look. Even a few feelable light scratches generally can be tolerated and tend not detract from the music, especially if played on a turntable whose design provides better isolation of groove defects.
The “NEW YORK 23” suffix disappears in 1958, and is the indispensable marking of certain first pressings of that period.
3. 47 WEST 63rd NYC without “23”, no Inc and no R (1957-59).
Catalogue numbers: 47 West 63rd first appears on 1564 (released February 1958), straight run from 1578 until 4061, last seen on 4080 (released February 1962). Last no INC and no® is 4016, always present thereafter.
Beauties in the main, as above. May be second pressings of records originally issued on Lexington labels, but share the same original RVG matrix and sound for all intents and purposes identical, if not better as they have a few years less wear and tear
4. 47 West 63rd NYC with INC and R (1959-62)
The early label predates the incorporation if Blue Note, the later shows the change. Note the early has a slightly smaller font size and fine characters. The later has bold, more heavily inked characters, and slightly larger font. While not of itself musically important it can sometimes help in pinpointing date of manufacture.
Mono or Stereo?
Ay the end of the 50s begins both mono and stereo releases –
Collectors are faced with a choice of both mono and stereo editions. Mono is often more sought-after by collectors than stereo, which became the format of choice for later recordings. Early stereo engineering was constrained by the primitive mixing technology of the day, where instruments could be “positioned” on only the left or right channel, or in the centre, often with the principal soloists panned hard left. Ultimately, mono or stereo is a matter of personal preference and many collectors enjoy having copies of both the mono and stereo edition, which can be a very different experience.
Note: mono editions benefit from listening in mono-switched amplification or the counsel of perfection, a mono cartridge on the tonearm. A stereo cartridge has to negotiate different information on the left and right groove wall. A mono record has the same information on each wall, and the cartridge rides up and down instead of side to side.
Early Blue Notes were simple one-track tape recordings, pressed as monaural/ mono. Around 1958, van Gelder started experimenting with two-track recorders, simultaneously recording sessions in both one track and two track (the future source tape for some stereo editions) However the purpose of two tracks was to improve the quality of mono production. He soon abandoned the single track, recording solely on two track, able to generate the require mono master by “folding down” the two tracks to one.
Early stereo Blue Notes generally carry the “RVG STEREO” stamp in the runout, indicating a van Gelder stereo master. Later, this appears as a “STEREO” machine stamp with “VAN GELDER” stamped elsewhere, and ultimately it is assumed stereo and not stamped at all.
Many of the early Blue Note 1500 series titles were subsequently brought out in “pseudo-stereo”, electronically reprocessed from the mono tape, using various studio tricks. These should be avoided. With 1500 series, always check the authenticity of stereo – electronically reprocessed to simulate stereo, or an authentic stereo master.
Manufactured after 1960 when “Blue Note Records” became an incorporated company and a registered trademark , and predecessor to the New York label. The same fine sound as 47W63rd without the INC and ®, being pressed with stampers originating from the same Master Acetate.
Collectors get very excited about absence of the “®” as proof of authenticity of earlier recordings. By my reckoning, the variability of sound quality within a pressing run (” from first to last-off a pair of stampers”) is as great as the variability between the first and a second pressing a couple of years later. There is no way of second-guessing audio quality. Play the record. If it doesn’t excite you immediately, you probably have a pressing towards the end of the run, whatever the label says.
Whether this matters or not gets back to why you are a collector. Some people collect wines without drinking them, some collect records without playing them, or play them on indifferent equipment without ever really hearing them. Really deep collectors have several copies, one archival investment, another for playing.
Recordings produced by Blue Note during this period, a combination of Van Gelder’s sound engineering and Plastylite pressing, can spoil your willingness to tolerate lesser fare. Once you hear and understand what the “Blue Note pressing” business is all about, it is difficult, if not impossible to go back.
5. NEW YORK USA , ORIGINAL MONO (1962-66)
Catalogue numbers: first NY appears on 4062 (released May 1962) , a continuous run from 4081, last appearance 4247, then replaced by Division of Liberty (possibly some anomalies during transition in 1966.
NY pressings are superb audio quality, which provide a rich satisfying musical experience, even when second or third pressings. They exhibit a wide dynamic range, a bright upper register, lots of punch in the midrange, underpinned by a firm natural bass. In ordinary language, they sound “just right” for the acoustic instruments of modern jazz. Second pressings can be extraordinarily good value compared with earlier “first” pressings sought by the most fastidious collectors. Mono is the collector format of choice.
From May 1961, to mid 1965, including the New York label years, the pressing dies which left behind the “deep groove” indentation in the label area began slowly to be replaced at the Plastylite plant. The replacement dies left a single small step indentation, no deep groove. The old and new dies were used interchangeably, until eventually the last deep groove dies became worn out and were discarded. During these four years, Blue Note records began to appear with no deep groove on either side, a deep groove on only one side or the other, and still some deep groove both sides.
There is some consensus as to the groove-pattern of some new titles in their “original first pressing”. For others the subject remains controversial. There is anecdotal evidence that pressing runs were in small batches, possibly on two or more different machines, or involving a change in stampers, introducing different die permutations. This applied to both first pressing of new titles and repressing of older titles, so collectors need to be aware that there can be some variation in groove pattern found on some titles. Fred Cohen’s book remains the most reliable source for first pressing information.
6. NEW YORK USA, ORIGINAL STEREO (1962-66)
7. DIVISION OF LIBERTY (1966-70)
The audio quality of Liberty reissues can be variable. The best indicator of authentic Blue Note sound is mastering by Van Gelder, as indicated by the Van Gelder stamp. Liberty manufactured Blue Note reissues at several plants, and as a matter of expediency, sent copy tape from New York to LA, where Research Craft re-mastered those titles, breaking the connection with Van Gelder original mastering. Research Craft engineers used their own preferred lathes and cutting heads, setting their own choice of groove width and depth, and unaware of some of Van Gelder’s tweaks applied during mastering and not present on the tape..
All Disc and other East Coast plants (Keel (serrated edge) , Bestway and finally Columbia’s Pitman) usually had access to original Van Gelder metal, are Van Gelder stamped, and the equivalent of Plastylite quality. The labels were printed by Blue Note’s original printer, Keystone, who favoured Intertype line-casting machines, and the album/artist font is Intertype Vogue Bold, with “Side 1” upper and lower case and 1 is without serif.
West Coast reissues can be distinguished by their labels, printed by Bert-Co, Hollywood, whose font library was based on Linotype line-casting machines. They used the font Linotype Spartan Medium all in capitals for the album title and artist above the spindle hole, often in the same point-size, likely because Bert-Co did not stock the cartridge for that font in lower case, or other point sizes..
The sale of Blue Note to the giant Liberty Records in mid-1966 marked the end of an era. The vital task of record pressing moved overnight from Plastylite NJ, who had pressed all Blue Notes to date, initially to Liberty’s newly acquired pressing plant All Disc Records, Roselle NJ, and later to other plants including Research Craft, LA on the West Coast, and elsewhere. Towards the end of the 60’s, when vinyl pressing capacity was overwhelmed by the demands of hit sales, Liberty was using a range of plants.
The trademark “ear” of Plastylite disappeared immediately from the vinyl trail-off, however existing inventory stocks of Blue Note “original” labels and covers were used up first before printing more, and these early pressings for Liberty with older labels are commonly passed off as original Blue Note (note: no ear!). Blue Note Records became a Division of Liberty Records Inc, which name replaced the “New York” address on the record label.
After 1968 the increasingly troubled Liberty Records was acquired by Transamerica, a diversified financial conglomerate who also owned United Artists, into whose record division it ultimately merged Blue Note Records. The label remained officially the “Blue Note Records – a Division of Liberty” until 1970, however pressing quality, studio engineering and cover art became increasingly variable in quality from here on.
Catalogue numbers 4251 – 4435 were first releases by Liberty, many recorded and mastered by Van Gelder, depending on whether the artists were available to record at Englewood Cliffs, as Van Gelder seemingly would not work other than in his own studio.
8. LIBERTY UA. INC., LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (West Coast pressings) Black/Turquoise label 1970-2
Catalogue numbers 84330-8438# or earlier reissues (Cheat Sheet label no.9)
The anomalous black/turquoise label design issued by the west coast arm of United Artists. Corporate design probably indicative of the creative tensions between LA and New York at the time, it smacks of a “we can do whatever we want here in California” attitude. The sound quality is often very good, though not consistently. Almost always stereo, with scarce exceptions.
Sought after by budget collectors in the know, these pressings are much cheaper than Blue Note originals and can be similarly a very forward presentation, a good place-holder until you can get an original Blue Note. Similar price-point to Japanese pressings, which are often more silky and restrained than Liberty/UA, but may have been better-looked after.
One of the quirks of these black/turquoise label pressings was the widespread practice on the 70’s west coast of factory- sealing the jacket in a “shrink” cellophane wrapper. Sealed records promise virgin-status, and are of unknown provenance, a mystery which often adds a price premium, with the hope that they may contain an earlier original pressing. Sealed Blue Notes are most commonly these black/ turquoise editions.
9a. DIVISION OF UNITED ARTISTS 1971-3
Many of these “Division of United Artists” reissues are exceptional quality pressings which, unexpectedly, do not bear an RVG stamp in the run-out, because they were not pressed with metalwork pulled from an original Van Gelder Master like some later United Artists reissues. Most (90%+) are mono only, manufactured at a time when stereo was the format of choice in the US. The origin of these pressings remains unclear, I suspect destined for the Japanese market (hence mono authenticity), but for some reason didn’t travel. They are under-priced by sellers who class them along with later reissues. They appear to be re-mastered from the original tapes by UA house engineers, who did a better than passable job, though there is no certainty as to the use of intermediate copy tape. Whatever the source, these issues are highly recommended
Throughout the Seventies United Artists were preoccupied not with product quality but struggling to make money, and a long-running legal battle over royalty payments and distribution agreements with the Record Club of America.
9b. DIVISION OF UNITED ARTISTS “(P) 1975”
In contrast to the excellent classic pressings of the first wave under Division of United Artists, above, it seems there was a later attempt to revive the classic brand, which isn’t in the same audio league. They bear the legend (P)1975 United Artists Music and Records Group” on the label in place of the artists listing, and one found by contributor Stefano was using an old stock Liberty cover.
9c United Artists Blue label Reissue Series
The Reissue Series, dubbed “two-fers”, with two-LP sets in brown gatefold covers. These reissue some earlier titles and previously unreleased material, recorded in the early ’60s but held back by Blue Note. Many are excellent Van Gelder recordings. The transfer quality by UA is variable, most are very good, a few outstanding, but a few rather unsatisfactory (especially those recordings of non-Van Gelder origin, and those manufactured in France for European release) . The sets are however fantastic value at around $20 for a double LP.
10.DIVISION OF UNITED ARTISTS RECORDS INC. – BLUE LABEL BLACK NOTE (1973-6)
Note the corporate identity printed on the rim of the label refers to United Artists Records Inc. and not the later form, United Artists Music and Record Group Inc.
The all-blue label/black note, often carrying the VAN GELDER machine stamp in the run-out. Usually an assurance of quality mastering, it can also indicate a record pressed from overused Blue Note legacy stampers, resulting in pressings which are dull at the top end and lacking in dynamic range. More commonly available than original Blue Notes, not considered collectable, cheaply priced, not especially recommended other than as a substitute for some expensive sought-after titles.
With the price of originals spiralling out of reach, I have noticed an uptick in the price of these blue label reissues, especially if VAN GELDER stamp in evidence. Still a bargain substitute for hard-to fine originals.
11.UNITED ARTISTS MUSIC AND RECORDS GROUP (1975-80)
11.1 Blue Note BLUE LABEL WHITE B/ NOTE
BN-LA Catalogue number series (which replaced the BST series)
Mainly in use 1977-8 . Note the date of copyright assertion e.g. “(p) 1973” is not date of manufacture. Mainly a reissue label from the twilight years of United Artists ownership, with a few new titles.
The iconic Blue Note 12″ catalogue number series 1500 and 4000, built up since 1956, was casually tossed, little pride in ownership of a piece of history. Some original material is found on a few releases, but mostly reissues.
11.2 Liberty/ United Records, Inc.
Note the corporate identity printed around the rim changes from United Artists Music and Record Group,Inc to Liberty/United Records, Inc.
New company name, new catalogue LT Series created to exploit previously unissued recordings found in the Blue Note vaults. including “previously unreleased” material from 1957-69 in the LT series (LT987 – LT1103) Most are manufactured in 1979 or 1980, and the label disappears following the sale of Blue Note to EMI around 1980.
The audio quality of the LT series is entirely unpredictable, varying from very acceptable to extraordinarily poor. On one of my copies, there is such severe dynamic range compression that there is almost no top end and the percussion is entirely missing. People were making poor decisions in engineering, mastering and pressing, which failed to realize the musical potential of vinyl. However the artistic quality of the material is undeniable, and the original recording engineer was in many cases Van Gelder, though remastered by UA’s Blue Note engineer Tony Sestanovich.
12. THE EMI YEARS (1980 to the present day)
Capitol Industries-EMI acquired the Blue Note assets through their purchase of United Artists in 1980. in the early to mid-’80s, EMI made a big push to monetize these assets through Japan (Toshiba-EMI) , Europe (Pathe Marconi) and the US (Capitol Manhattan)
But before the big push, selected titles in high demand were repressed for Capitol Industries-EMI, using a legacy blue label white note label design of United Artists, updated with new corporate boilerplate.
The First Capitol/EMI Interim Blue Label maintained Blue Note’s Liberty origin: Blue Note – A DIVISION OF LIBERTY RECORDS INC.; and “MFD BY LIBERTY RECORDS INC.” in the black text around the lower circumference. My guess, dated around 1981-2.
This first Interim label adopted an LW prefix catalogue number series.
A Second Interim Capitol-EMI Blue Label – spotted by eagle-eyed collector Mladen K – introduced the Capitol logo into the corporate outer rim black text for the first time, now MFD. BY CAPITOL RECORDS INC. and not Liberty, though the runout stamp credits Mastered by Liberty (which is true). The catalogue number of these reissues combined the previous United Artists LT series prefix with the originating Liberty Blue Note catalogue number, in this example LT 84194. My guess, this label fits in around 1983-4, before the big and the “Best in jazz since 1939” Capitol-Manhattan big Reissue initiative.
(Photos courtesy of Mladen K)
CAPITOL-EMI “THE FINEST IN JAZZ SINCE 1939”
After its acquisition of all Blue Note assets, EMI used a variety of vehicles to reissue and distribute Blue Note recordings around the world. For Japan, first King Records, later Toshiba-EMI, for Europe, Pathe-Marconi and selective releases by EMI UK and other, and for the US, Manhattan Records, a subsidiary of Capitol Records Inc. Mid to late’80s US new release and re-issue label.
US pressings on the classic Blue & White Label design but a new proposition: “The Finest in Jazz Since 1939” on the label.
Not the Finest in Audio Quality Since 1939, that’s for certain! EMI/Capitol lacked an engineering champion at senior level. They discarded all Blue Note inherited Van Gelder metal as of no value, though thankfully preserved the original tapes. Capitol Manhattan reissues are generally poor sonic quality, due probably to the change to solid state equipment, and the industry loss of engineering skills, and a growing focus on the compact disc as the future of home music distribution. Irrespective of the music itself, Capitol Manhattan are best avoided: CD will generally offer a more satisfying musical experience.
EMI FRANCE – PATHE MARCONI (1982-6)
Pathe Marconi became the first pressing vehicle for Blue Note’s new owner, EMI, for European Blue Note reissues, and just a few first releases. Their pressings are not wonderful, average for the standard of their day, but predated the DMM disaster that was to follow.
From 1983 EMI Pathe Marconi released Blue Note titles variously dated “re-edition 1983“, 1984 or 1985. Some of these, especially the earlier years, not DMM, are reasonable pressings, remastered by French engineers from copy tape, not exciting, but can be a very acceptable edition of titles that are impossibly rare and expensive to find as US originals.
However around the mid-eighties EMI France soon began to adopt the German Teldec DMM technology, which are identified by the dreaded Direct Metal Mastering symbol. DMM set out to create superior quality pressings in fewer manufacturing steps, but its implementation delivered often wooden lifeless sound. These records are in my judgement the worst comparative audio quality, though I have had people tell me they are quite happy with them and I actually have one (Leo Parker Rollin’ with Leo) which is really good.
The last working DMM lathe in the US was sold in 2005 to the Church of Scientology to issue the speeches of founder Ron L Hubbard.
The SACEM logo is the French copyright system for collecting royalties, on Japanese pressings JASRAC and GEMA in Germany, and BIEM for Europe generally.
The Japanese reissue program involved a complete reissue of the Blue Note back catalogue through their own subsiduary Toshiba EMI. Massive in scope, this is detailed in its own pages in the LJC label guides.
Mosaic Limited Edition Collections
Founded by Michael Cuscuna, Head of Reissues and Special Projects at Blue Note Records since 1984 to the present day, Mosaic vinyl box sets are limited editions which are frequently out-of-print and found only on the second hand market, often quite expensive. They include some unique material, notably Miles Davis full session tapes of In person at the Blackhawk, Live at the Plugged Nickel and similar, and others bring together the complete collection of Blue Note albums of key artists.
These collections were issued under license from the mid Eighties onwards , in runs of typically 7,500 units . The vinyl audio quality is variable, often not as dynamic as the original pressings of the same recordings, despite being mastering from original session tapes. Engineers commissioned to remaster Mosaic boxsets included Van Gelder, Bernie Grundman, and Ron McMaster. Mosaic’s main value is bringing together of material that is hard to get any other way. It is not uncommon to find them for sale in near mint/unplayed condition, as owners found it too exhausting to sit and listen through up to twenty sides of vinyl: most wear and tear will be found on Disc 1/ Side 1.
The most valuable Mosiac vinyl box sets include the compendium of Hank Mobley titles, and those of Miles Davis, which uniquely included sessions which were drastically edited to fit on the original commercial vinyl release. His scholarship is impeccable, but Michael Cuscuna seems not to have caught up on the audiophile vinyl revival of the last few years, continues to issue material only on compact disc, leaving the vinyl territory the preserve of Blue Note UMG, Music Matters and Tone Poet.
More on the Mosiac Label here
Capitol Blue Note “Connoisseur series”
©1995 180 gram Limited Edition
Released in 1995, ten years after the launch of the compact disc, around thirty titles, the pick of the Blue Note catalogue, were re-mastered from original tapes, on vinyl to appeal to the “audiophile” market.
The Connoisseur series were signposted by a blue/yellow sticker attached to the front of the shrink, ensuring that, when the shrink fell off, nothing remained to distinguish the series from ordinary reissues – to the untutored eye. Fortunately Discogs maintains a discrete entry for Blue Note Connoisseur.
The runout stamp says “MASTERED BY CAPITOL”, similar to that found on some Mosaic issues, and the catalogue number is unique, commencing B1-##### and not the original Blue Note catalogue number. The label address is “Hollywood and Vine Streets“. Though other Blue Note records continued to be reissued in the mid-90s, none match the quality of the Connoisseur series.
As owner of a half dozen Connoisseurs I can attest to their generally excellent sound quality, though they do not stand up to direct comparison with originals. There is a well-founded debate over the use by Capitol of a digital delay line during mastering. Tape playback machines at this time lacking a preview head were used, instead incorporated a digital delay line to facilitate adjustments during mastering. This turned the original analogue tape signal into a digital copy (effectively a CD) and that digital copy was then transcribed by the lathe on to the acetate.
By all accounts, this was the final gasp of vinyl, following which Capitol threw in the towel to concentrate on CD. It was left to independent audiophile manufacturers like Music Matters to pursue the vinyl audio quality of historical Blue Note recordings.
The UK editions of Connoisseur Series are in no way as impressive as the US Series. Another to avoid.
This 1997 UK edition claims to be mastered from original tapes, something the busy run-out suggests otherwise – stamped “Mastered by Capitol” it exhibits various other engineering interventions, and doesn’t sound good.
“Rare Grooves” Series
Targeting the DJ/dance demographic with funkier selections from the late 60’s and ’70s Blue Note catalogue, these are of similar quality to the Connoisseur series launched around the same time, mid-’90s.
Distinguished by a blue circular sticker on the shrink:
Long B1 – #### # ##### # # catalogue number, “Mastered by Capitol” drilled stamp accompanied in many cases by hand-etching “Wally” – Wally Trautgott, sound engineer. Runout includes logo stamp C R in two circles
UK issues – EMI Records Ltd
A few selected titles were issued by EMI’s UK company, fairly undistinguished offerings, of indifferent audio quality not comparable to the great EMI Hayes Middx. pressings of the ’60s. Identifiable only through the very small print, refers to EMI Records Ltd (UK incorporation name)
“See sleeve for details” (we can’t be bothered to type it). Black print instead of matching blue. (Shouldn’t it match? Why? They can still read it. ) Pre-printed label, title and content printed at another time.
21. 1990’s EMI effort to enter the “budget” market with a few popular titles. CEMA was a record label distribution branch and budget label of Capitol-EMI. The name CEMA stood for the four EMI-owned labels it originally distributed: Capitol Records, EMI Records, Manhattan Records and Angel Records . Subsequently renamed EMI Music Distribution (EMD).
Photo courtesy of Xavier
EMI FRANCE – CAPITOL RECORDS MODERN “BLUE NOTE” MUSIC GROUP
Modern pressing and engineering standards. The bass is sometimes over-hyped by DJ/ sound engineers who have spent too much time producing dance and club music, or thinking about the download market for iPod and iTunes and not serious vinyl listeners. Good control of bass is not easy to achieve, but essential to balanced reproduction of the upper register and the full dynamic range. What is it about some middle-aged men and dance music intended for people half their age? Whoops. I think I answered my own question.
Modern Blue Note Artist Roster
I am not a fan of the recent roster of Blue Note artists: “traditionalists” such as Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Jazz Centre team, or the Urban R&B/hip hop potpourri (“the more ingredients the better“). Some people like it, Blue Note have to sell to survive, meets a need, just not mine.
Grey Reissues – Scorpio Records
“304 Park Avenue South” Blue Note address – digital transfer vinylIncluded for completeness, for over a decade Scorpio Records NJ have produced RINOs (Records In Name Only) of Blue Note and other collectible period labels including Prestige, Tempo, Limelight and others. You want a Mobley 1568 for $15? Scorpio make one. Note that the origin and date of manufacturer is never declared, the “Scorpio” name never appear anywhere, and no “Manufactured under license” declaration, so we can assume it isn’t official.
These digital-to-vinyl transfers use the modern Blue Note address 304 Park Avenue S NYC on the classic Blue & White label. Note the absence of the “Inc” and the “R”: (it’s ironic). The jacket is photo-reproduced on modern plastic-finish card, with original liner notes, all the “original” detail, but modern printing technology is an instant giveaway.
Scorpios pop up on eBay to snare the unwary. “Recorded in 1957!! Mint!! Still sealed!!!” Records that are 50 years old are rarely if ever mint and rarely if ever sealed – or more likely resealed. These records have all of the disadvantages of vinyl with none of its advantages.
Scorpios have been pressed in tens of thousands and are sold widely at around $15-$20, often found in record stores like Honest Jons, in London’s Notting Hill. That said, there are worse ways to spend $15 and I bought quite a few when I was starting out. For some people, a Scorpio is as close as they will ever get to owning the legendary Mobley 1568.
BLUE NOTE AUDIOPHILE REISSUES
Proper “audiophile” reissues of Blue Note recordings, including Classic Records, Analog Productions, and Music Matters, are remastered from the original tapes, not “a digital copy plonked on 180 gram vinyl”. The mastering of these Blue Note audiophile re-issues has varied between engineers Bernie Grundman, Steve Hoffman, and Kevin Gray, each of whom have brought their own philosophy and preferences to the task.
Mastering by Bernie Grundman- initials BG pin-etched in the run-out. 200 gram vinyl, facsimile vintage label, some pressings incorporate a “deep groove”, back cover indicates official licensing.
Classic Records (subsequently bought by ???) are generally superior to 80’s Manhattan re-issues, and depending on title, may be preferable to Japanese pressings. (Some collectors have praised Classic Records edition of Kind of Blue, as superior to the Columbia release, though with all such things, claims do not always measure up with the experience). Classic Records are solid performers but from the few I own, tend to my ears to be restrained, and a trifle bland and unexciting in presentation.
Mastering strongly influenced by Steve Hoffman, who brings his own preferences to bear as to how these recordings should sound. Hoffman is quoted elsewhere as saying Blue Note originals are terrible, or words to that effect, and that modern technology can improve on them. Needless to say, I disagree, but it’s for the listener to decide what they like.
2×45 rpm 180gm vinyl, produced by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray, number limited edition.
Analogue Productions find me slightly uneasy with their “botox-finish” engineering and 45rpm double album format, which seems increases weight and cost without discernible improvement in sound quality over 33rpm, and a worn path to and from the turntable with frequent record changes (a particular hassle for those of us with complex record turntable clamping systems).
Music Matters Jazz
Curated by Ron Rambach, mastering by Kevin Gray in his latest RTI studio facilities. Music Matters editions have a particularly strong following among collectors who swear by the “authenticity” of the sound, and issues not to be overlooked, availability and affordability. Some titles are available in 2x45rpm format, and increasingly, 33rpm format with improved audio quality.
Music Matters are renowned for their value-added packaging with art-quality photography of Francis Wolff within the gatefold format
In my opinion, the 33rpm format Music Matters are the best audiophile quality Blue Note reissues available, though thus far primarily only in Stereo format. Lovers of the original mono format will still need to seek out original pressings, or a handful of Japanese 80’s pressings which were issued in original mono format. A note of caution – I have yet to year a modern audiophile edition, by anyone, that sounds better than originals, and I have a good selection of both. People say “they sound great” but very few have an original at hand for comparison, why would they? A few have come close, but not equal and never better. And even within “originals” there is a spectrum of sound quality, between first and last off the stamper.
Blue Note 75 Editions
Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014, Blue Note have reissued many classic titles on vinyl at a budget price intended to appeal to a new generation of listeners.
Everyone asks whether these are any good from the audiophile point of view. I have not found need to buy any titles myself. The quality has had a very mixed reception, example this Amazon buyer review:
But when I got this LP I was seriously disappointed with the vinyl quality. It is a reasonably heavy LP but when you look at it, you see all kinds of clouds in the vinyl pressing, and the first one had a bunch of pits & flaws, and both had a skip…..surface noise is a big annoyance on what I thought might be a good new reissue vinyl LP. I did return the LP and Amazon did do a good job of getting me a replacement copy pretty quickly. The second one was better than the first but not what it should be for what current vinyl buyers expect, especially for jazz….the vinyl (in a generic Blue Note 75th Anniversary sleeve) is nothing but another corporate disappointment…..What is up with EMI/Capitol vinyl these days? Don’t they get it that people care about quality vinyl?
I have read similar elsewhere, and spoken with dealers who report manufacturing defects. The intention is laudible and I wish them every success, though their price-point makes pressing quality an obstacle for the audiophile listener, who is used to better.
UPDATE: it has since come to light that the 75 Series were mastered from digital copies, not original tapes. Blue note retained a well-respected engineer, Bernie Grundman, to create a digital archive of the catalogue, for posterity. Combined with pressing economies to deliver the low price point, sadly the 75 Series are to be avoided.
DBLP EMI Music Japan / Disc Union Premium Vinyl reissue Series (2011-4)
(Included here under Audiophile Reissues)
According to The Wall Street Journal:” The Blue Note Premium Vinyl Reissue Series is the brainchild of Tokyo-based record retailer Disk Union and EMI Music Japan. They have released 60 titles from the Blue Note label’s catalogue in limited editions of 1,000 each. Precise replica artwork, laminated jackets’
MONO , 200g HEAVY WEIGHT VINYL , “From The Original Master Tapes.” which is the usual double-speak intended to imply “Mastered from…” when these are sourced from 96/44 hi-res digital files. Sold only in Japan, changing hands at a premium in the international collector market. Highly regarded, an unusual source of mono reissues of titles often seen only reissued in stereo.
|DBLP-001||Kenny Dorham||Round About Midnight At The Cafe Bohemia|
|DBLP-003||John Coltrane||Blue Train|
|DBLP-004||Hank Mobley||Soul Station|
|DBLP-005||Herbie Hancock||Maiden Voyage|
|DBLP-006||Clifford Brown||Memorial Album|
|DBLP-007||Sonny Clark||Cool Struttin’|
|DBLP-008||The Amazing Bud Powell*||The Scene Changes|
|DBLP-009||Jackie McLean||Swing, Swang, Swingin’|
|DBLP-011||Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims||Jutta Hipp With Zoot Sims|
|DBLP-012||Lou Donaldson||Blues Walk|
|DBLP-013||Sonny Rollins||Newk’s Time|
|DBLP-014||Kenny Drew||Undercurrent |
|DBLP-015||Joe Henderson||In ‘N Out|
|DBLP-016||Thad Jones||Detroit-New York Junction|
|DBLP-017||Hank Mobley||Hank Mobley|
|DBLP-018||Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers*||Moanin’ |
|DBLP-019||Duke Pearson||Profile |
|DBLP-020||Grant Green||Idle Moments|
|DBLP-021||Johnny Griffin||Introducing Johnny Griffin |
|DBLP-022||Cannonball Adderley||Somethin’ Else|
|DBLP-023||Donald Byrd||Off To The Races|
|DBLP-024||Horace Parlan||Movin’ & Groovin’ |
|DBLP-025||Kenny Burrell||Midnight Blue|
|DBLP-027||Lee Morgan||Volume 2 – Sextet|
|DBLP-028||Sonny Clark Trio||Sonny Clark Trio|
|DBLP-029||Sonny Red||Out Of The Blue|
|DBLP-031||Miles Davis||Miles Davis Vol. 1|
|DBLP-032||Miles Davis||Miles Davis Vol. 2|
|DBLP-033||Bud Powell||The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 1|
|DBLP-034||Bud Powell||The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 2 |
|DBLP-035||Art Blakey Quintet||A Night At Birdland, Volume 1|
|DBLP-036||Art Blakey Quintet||A Night At Birdland, Volume 2|
|DBLP-037||Thad Jones||The Magnificent Thad Jones|
|DBLP-038||Sonny Rollins||Sonny Rollins Volume 1|
|DBLP-039||Walter Davis Jr.||Davis Cup|
|DBLP-040||Tina Brooks||True Blue|
|DBLP-041||Joe Henderson||Page One|
|DBLP-042||J.R. Monterose||J.R. Monterose|
|DBLP-043||Lee Morgan||Vol. 3|
|DBLP-044||Hank Mobley – Lee Morgan||Peckin’ Time|
|DBLP-045||Freddie Hubbard||Open Sesame|
|DBLP-046||Eric Dolphy||Out To Lunch!|
|DBLP-047||Sonny Clark||Cool Struttin’ Volume 2|
|DBLP-048||Tina Brooks||Back To The Tracks|
|DBLP-049||Wayne Shorter||Night Dreamer|
|DBLP-050||Wayne Shorter||Speak No Evil|
|DBLP-051||Wayne Shorter||Adam’s Apple|
|DBLP-053||Sonny Rollins||A Night At The “Village Vanguard”|
|DBLP-055||Duke Jordan||Flight To Jordan|
|DBLP-056||Dexter Gordon||Our Man In Paris|
|DBLP-058||Jutta Hipp||At The Hickory House Volume 2 |
|DBLP-059||Horace Silver Quintet*||6 Pieces Of Silver|
|DBLP-060||Paul Chambers Quartet||Bass On Top|
|DBLP-061||Horace Parlan||Us Three|
|DBLP-062||Hank Mobley||Roll Call|
|DBLP-057/58||Jutta Hipp||At The Hickory House Volume 1, 2 |
|DBLP-049/050/051||Wayne Shorter||3 Album Set With Special 7″ EP|
The series ends in 2014, a total of 63 titles re-issued from the 350-strong Blue Note catalogue
Heavenly Sweetness (France/Europe 2009 – still issuing today)
“Quality sound taken from the original tapes” (like every copy) Paris, France DJ enterprise, reissuing thousands of titles, including #6, a collection of Blue Notes. ℗ & © 2009 Blue Note Records courtesy of EMI Music, France. Manufactured in EU, which most likely means digital file remastered by GZ Media, Czech Republic, as usual “limited edition”, labelled “180gm vinyl LP” Music review always a quote from Dusty Groove, you see the formula.
After mistakenly buying an HS Edition, I emailed the Parisian DJs regarding their sources, they never replied. You disrespect LJC you get what you deserve.
The Tone Poet Series (2019 +)
Commencing in 2019 (Blue Note 80th Anniversary) Blue Note tasked Joe Harley—co-founder of Music Matters Jazz – to produce a new series of all-analog, mastered-from-the-original-master-tape 180g audiophile vinyl reissues. The initial tranche of 16 titles includes a number of ’60s recordings first issued in the United Artists years, the LT Series in late 1970s. Mastering of Tone Poet Series is by Kevin Gray (Cohearent Audio) and vinyl manufactured at Record Technology Incorporated (RTI), USA
As record imports from the US to the UK suffer a 20% tariff, the final price of records in this series in the UK is around £30. They are pressed with conventional vinyl, and not the latest SRX formulation used at Music Matters Jazz, but are extremely high quality pressings.
They are mostly stereo recorded after 1962. They enjoy a very wide stereo soundstage, and the remastering has extracted a more information from the tapes than the originals, and can make for very rewarding affordable listening. They avoid any compression, tend to be cut rather conservatively, quiet, low gain, narrow groove width, require increased playback volume, which introduces undesirable side-effects. The tonal delicacy is quite seductive, but if you then mount an original Van Gelder on the turntable, the original sounds immediately more exciting. Sourcing an original is another matter.
De Agostini Partworks, magazine, (Italy, Germany and UK) publishing venture
Licensed to De Agostini by Blue Note. Digital source file, probably an PCM file originally captured in the late 1980’s or early1990s (44.1khz/16bit “Red Book” Audio CD standard), itself likely captured from analogue copy tape, not original master tape, now remastered for vinyl (probably DMM for cheapness) and pressed onto 180gm vinyl.
“Italian jazz vinyl collection started on 2011-08-03 [Two releases per month].
40 releases planned in the beginning, extended to 70 releases and then again to 100. Purchased at newsstands or directly mailed home. Every release comes with a booklet containing story, photos and curiosities about the artist and the record.!”
Absolutely no idea what these sound like
Blue Note Vinyl Classics
Classic Vinyl Series / Blue Note 80
March 12, 2019, “in honour of Blue Note Records’ 80th Anniversary, the legendary Jazz label launched the Blue Note 80 Vinyl Reissue Series. Distinct from the Tone Poet Series , the Classic Vinyl series – curated by Don Was and Cem Kurosman – features mid-priced 180g vinyl releases in standard packaging with albums spanning the many eras of the label’s history presented by themes: Blue Note Debuts, Blue Grooves, Great Reid Miles Covers, Blue Note Live, and Blue Note Drummer Leaders. The series will be all-analog whenever an analog source is available with Kevin Gray mastering directly from the original master tapes. The albums will be pressed on 180g vinyl at Optimal in Germany.”
They sound great.
Blue Note 2021 – contemporary new artist roster
Blue Note continues its search for a new demographic with new artists. A friend bought this Makaya McCraven album on a whim, because it was Blue Note. He was so enamoured by it he gave it to me for nothing. I gave it a brief listen and added it to the pile of records I’m taking to the junk shop. Modernising classic Blue Note tracks, in apparently modern musical style, Goddamnawful.
Before giving it away, I photographed the label. Someone clearly has persuaded someone that black is the new blue. This sort of change has a long history in marketing – take something iconic and timeless, that works, and “modernise it” to justify their job.
See, it’s umm … more modern. Is that important? Of course it is. People won’t buy something if it looks … old fashioned. We Marketing people know these things. And Blue Note is old fashioned? Of course. It’s been going since 1939. I mean, that’s, like, really really old…
Blue Note “Public Domain”
The latest incarnation of Blue Note reissues in the twenty-twenties is “Public Domain reissues, at knockdown prices, or claiming to be Public Domain, the proposition itself may be bogus, with Unofficial Releases, anyone can claim anything.
Mostly these seem to be early Blue Note titles, third-party digital copies cut to vinyl by well-established engineering studios, could be from MP3 download source, who knows, in this market anything goes. No doubt someone somewhere will claim “they sound great to me“.
To Be Continued…
Looking forward to the next Anniversary -100th in whatever format technology brings, probably wireless telepathic broadcast direct from the Cloud, now Rudy Van Gelder is on their team.
Next: | Blue Note Japanese Pressings of the ’70s and ’80s
or skip to: | The Blue Note Addresses
Previous: | Blue Note History provenance matters.
The UMe Classic Vinyl Series reissues are surprise winners sonically and anyone who states otherwise doesn’t know what they are doing. Maybe they are using a $50 Crosley TT with a needle covered in lint, and should buy the CDs instead.
Old used Blue Notes can be a huge disappointment as it is impossible to know what you are getting in case fidelity is what’s most important to you. (They are mostly collectors items.) If so, spend money on decent modern reissues or CDs/SACDs if that’s the case.
This Site is a great resource on the net by the way, I hope it can be preserved for posterity. Thank you.
I’m recently getting into Blue Note collecting and bought a blue label/black note “Somethin’ Else” off Yahoo JP. RVG STEREO(not RVG or VAN GELDER) is present on both sides. I’m wondering if RVG STEREO maybe a proof of being one of the legacy stampers in the past since RVG STEREO wasn’t mention in the blue label/black note section of this post.
And also really appreciate your efforts of establishing such complete and easy-to-understand database for Blue Note collecting! It’s been very helpful to me and steers clear a lot of uncertainty along my journey of Blue Note collecting. Hope to see your replay and have a good one!
Welcome to the wonderful world of Blue Note collecting! There is so much Blue Note material it can be difficult to organise. The variations in Van Gelder stamps are covered here –
The RVG STEREO stamp was in use only briefly, around 1961/2 from memory, when RVG found it necessary to distinguish mono and stereo metal when he was mastering one of each at the same time from the same two-track tape. Before too long they were mostly all stereo, and he found other ways to manage his workflow
Thanks for mentioning the post! Hard to believe my copy has something related to the period of golden Blue Note era even though the stamper might be overused. But to me it sounds wonderful even with my budget setup! Most of my collection before were Classic Vinyl Series reissues. They sound great but compared to this black note one there’re significant differences when it comes to clarity and dynamics. Can’t imagine what kind of differences would it be if compared to the original “P” issues. Thanks again for the help! Cheers!
Hi there, I have a 1966 Liberty stereo pressing of Cannonball Adderley’s “Somethin’ Else” which is, however, housed in a 1964 stereo sleeve with gold “STEREO” sticker. Is it likely the sleeve was swapped by a previous owner, or are there also cases of leftover pre-Liberty sleeves having been used for Liberty pressings? Thanks!
1595 Somethin’ Else was a big seller after its release in mono in1958. The first stereo edition was released in May 1959 – when stereo was just beginning to take off – and Blue Note began to use some of the stock of mono jackets by stickering them “STEREO”. The solution was so effective that a stereo jacket was never produced, and a large number of stereo copies were sold in stickered mono jackets.
In 1966, new owner Liberty began reissuing 1595 in stereo with a Liberty jacket, but will have first canibalised the remaining stock of stickered mono jackets, which is where your copy comes in. The inventory obviously did not have sufficient old stock centre labels, and new Division of Liberty labels printed, and the resulting pressings sleeved in the stickered mono jackets.
Very interesting, thanks a lot for your reply!
i am looking for some blue note vinyls.
i can’t afford to pay a lot money…
i am cosidering 3 options below.
-70’s u/a black b
-80’s~90’s japanese pressing (king or toshiba)
-blue note classic reissue series
which option is best audio quality??
If there is a Vinyl Classics reissue available (2020-23 editions only) I would make that first choice. Number of titles to date is quite limited.
Second choice UA Blue label – white or black note including LT Series late 70s – if there is an RVG VAN GELDER stamp present,, so much the better, but still mostly very good; third choice the King or Toshiba – best the early Toshiba ( LNJ series very late 60s early 70’s); the King 1977-83, lastly Toshiba up to 1987-88, not more modern (digital and solid state influence)
Always the odd title exception
thank you for your reply.
blue note classic reissue series (2020 ~ 23) vs. u/a black or white b with rvg stamper.
do you still think blue note classics reissue series (20~23) is better??
I have bought about five of Kevin Gray’s remasters for the Vinyl Classics Series, where I do not have a good issue already, and I am enjoying them very much. I don’t have any reason to buy the same album over and over again, so I can’t do direct comparisons, but Gray’s remastering from original tapes is excellent, and for the outlay, extraordinary good value. I don’t buy any Vinyl Classics where I have a nice copy of the original (Green’s Idle Moments, Moncur’s Evolution for example) Originals have more punch.
i am looking for buying ‘Donald Byrd – Byrd in Hand’.
and this title is not available for blue note classic reissue series.
so i found 3 options.
1. later liberty west coast pressing, no RVG stamp $50~$60.
2. U/A blue black b, not sure RVG stamp $45~$55
3. Japan king around $40~$50
which one is best option??
thank you for your help for blue note beginner.
Tricky one. I would be inclined to go for the Blue black b. United Artists house engineers had access to original tapes and generally did a good job remastering them, in the mid 70s. I have had quite a few duds from Liberty West Coast engineers, and the King is too many times removed from the original.
I found another interim label for Capitol Industries-EMI, using a legacy label design of United Artists and referring only to ” Division of Liberty Records Inc” and with the catalogue number prefix “LT”. How can I send you the pic?
Regards Mladen kenda
Email picture as a .jpg, as a file attachment to my email address as shown in the CONTACT LJC menu item in the blog front page top banner.
Hi, thanks again for all these infos, really helpfull.
I just found a strange copy of Sonny’s Crib (United Artists Records Inc) with on labels:
– BST 81576 but “Microgroove” instead of “Stereo”
– And a kind of large “double center-ring” (both sides), wich make it different from the 1972 copy visible on Discogs, so not a misprint? What’s this strange center-ring?
Here’s a pic: https://ibb.co/d4Yg3hw
Many thanks by advance for your help!
Matrix from runouts, hand-etched : BST-81576-1 NB / BST-81576-2 NB
Also it seems that all tracks play in Stereo, except for track A3 “Come Rain Or Come Shine” in Mono …..
The two-step pressing ring is quite unusual though I have seen just one other with it in the United Artists “Replica Series”
Pressing farmed out to any number of plants
My research indicates there were 34 mono editions in the series and 9 ill-judged stereo. fashioned out of RVG two-track tapes intended for mono, or inherited re-masters carried out by Liberty. They all have Bert-Co printed labels so originate on the West Coast, United Artists had a pool of house engineers, any one could simply have made a mistake, in manufacture anything is possible.
That is interesting. To me it looks like a west coast Pressing by Waddell company. The microgroove just means it’s the mono pressing instead of stereo. Does it have Van Gelder stamped in the run outs? I have never seen this on a blue note before, but it does look like mini West coast MGM label pressings that used that pressing plant.
Impressive label insights. All the Division of United Artists “Replica Series” as I call it (these editions go without mention in Cuscunna/Ruppli) are remastered by UA engineers, no Van Gelder stamps on any, despite UA holding Van Gelder metal for some titles. For some reason RVG metal didn’t fit in with their workflow.
Thanks for y’all quick answers, really. I confirm that there’s no RVG on runouts.
I didn’t know the Waddell pressing plant, I’ll dig their Discogs catalog to try to recognize that specifical center ring. I can say that I never saw that center-ring on any other records before. But I’m no specialist of US pressings for sure, and even less on Blue Note.
Cool to see the Thad Jones 1546 with same center-ring, that kind of contradict my idea that my copy is a real “weirdo”. We can guess that more of these pressings exist … ?
If that can help I found this record in France (near Germany and Switzerland). Because of that strange center-ring I asked myself if that couldn’t be a strange early french/european/swiss pressing with imported sleeve, . It’s sounds really illogical at least for France, as in this early 70’s period they were already Blue Note records pressed by Pathé-Marconi in France.
The fact that it’s BST not BLP, and “overall a stereo playing” (…) but with “Microgroove” printed bring even more confusion..
If you need better quality labels pics for the blog or even for your own interest, just ask me.
Pressed by Waddell in 1972 .. It really looks like the same center-ring
The labels of the entire series are pictured here, and only two of the forty-odd titles have these Waddell pressing rings
I have never found a source for pressing plants used by United Artists in the 70s, and despite the company size didn’t seem to own their own, unless they picked up the Liberty Assets, and there is no evidence of a lacquer cutting and distribution division like Columbia.
If you sort the Discogs entry for HV Waddell by year, a quick check shows the double ring appear on LPs pressed/released in 1972 and 1973. By 1974 they are gone, and I found none in 1971 and earlier. The pressing dies changed, but at least we have corroborating evidence as to when these UA Blue Notes were pressed
Hoping to get a bit of insight on the date on this one. I recently picked up Clifford Brown’s ‘Memorial Album’. On side 1, there is the Lexington address label, but on side 2 there is the faint 47 W 63rd address. No R on this side of the label. Ear is present, RVG is inscribed in the matrix. Back of the sleeve is 47 W 63rd as well. “Clifford Brown” on the front cover is the blue text with white background. Deep groove on both sides. There is not a discogs entry for this one as far as I can see, though there are some entries with 47 W 63rd on the Side 1 label, and Lexington on side 2. Appreciate any help! – Jason
I picked up a couple of the De Agostini titles for a listen, on the strength of owning some of their 70s and 80s reissues which sounded quite good. One was Somethin’ Else which appears to be mono, despite stereo on the labels. Assuming its a digital facsimile I would guess its sourced from hi-res files. But odd that it’s in mono.
There is probably a simple explanation. The problem is that we don’t know what it is.
The unanswered question is what was the source of the digital file used by De Agostini, it could be any of a thousand versions, but most likely not the original pressing.
My guess is the wrong labels were copied, because that is what came to hand, and no-one involved in production thought it mattered, someone of an age where everything is stereo.
A great many records sound quite good – until you play the original for comparison. The gap is usually quite significant.
Given that 4071, 4076, 4078, 4083, 4087 and 4090 were all released in 1961 and all have first pressings on the NY USA label. I wonder if it makes sense to adjust the cutoff so that W63rd(Inc) is listed as 1959-1961, and NY USA is 1961-1966. Seems like from August 1961 through the end of the year, first pressings could end up on either label. Thoughts?
The later half of 1961 appears a random mix of new releases on the NY label and W63rd label : August 1961 the 1st NY label appears on 4076, the last W63rd appears February 1962 on 4080.
The explanation is that these late W63rd label titles were all sessions recorded before May 1961 They will have been prepared for release in the following few months, before July 1961, while W63rd was still the current BN address. Keystone began printing labels with the NY address in or around July 1961. The release of titles on W63rd labels after July 1961 were all deferred releases, some by up to 9 months, for commercial reasons, hence the W63rd “overhang” into the NY label period.
Its my guess that labels were printed soon after mastering, when the track titles and sequences were definitive. The actual vinyl was pressed only shortly before release, using the labels printed earlier. They had to pay for the vinyl to be pressed , so needed the income return quickly from sales to cover the cost.
Catalogue numbers look like an orderly sequence, but behind the scenes, the record manufacturing business process ran to an entirely different timetable. Blue Note records took a minimum of three months from session date to release (RVG mastering, metal-ware, labels and jackets printed, vinyl pressed, and distribution) but not unusually, up to a year, sometimes even more. The address on the label tells only what the address of Blue Note was at the time the label was printed – in this case W63 before July 1961 and NY after. The release date was was Lion’s judgment to best maximise sales according to the artist.
Given this transition period, would it be more accurate to label “5. NEW YORK USA , ORIGINAL MONO (1962-66)” as 1961-66, since that label came into use in the later part of 1961?
I agree, but you have exposed a “problem” with all annual dates in practice, the first and last of each label overlap due to the variable time-lag between manufacture and release. The last 47W63rd appears in 1962 simply because it was prepared a year before its release. Liberty commenced pressing in July 1966, so the span of the NY label is technically mid 1961 to mid 1966, but labels already printed appear outside those dates. The first Division of Liberty label appears in January 1967, while an NY label release appears as late as October 1967 (4238).
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Here’s a question that I’m hoping you all can help me with. I recently purchased a mono first pressing of McLean’s Capuchin Swing, and noticed that Side 1 has a small Abbey-style inner ring. I’m including a link below to a photo of the Side 1 label. It’s a little difficult to see at first glance, but if you zoom in, you’ll see it. I can feel it as well. Have you ever seen this before with a Blue Note pressing?
Thanks so much, and any help is much appreciated!
I have seen a similar pressing ring but only on some Liberty Blue Notes after 1966, which I think were third-party pressings by Southern Plastics. But Liberty were never deep groove.
. From what I can see this copy is classic deep groove, 47 W63rd label, and I think a glimpse in the runout of the Plastylite ear? Its not the Abbey pressing ring, which is much smaller and on one side only. I’ve not seen this type of die impression before on a Plastylite pressing, If I’m right that it has the ear. It’s possible that for some unknown reason, a batch of records were pressed with a non-standard die to hold the stampers in a press. Just one of those anomalies of manufacture..Helpful if you would confirm the Plastylite ear, or it calls for another explanation.
thank you for this, it is such a great resource! here’s a question: what is the quality of 1970s UK pressings like? I don’t see it mentioned here… Do you know how / where / by whom they were mastered and pressed? Thanks!
UK pressings of United Artists Blue Note reissues in the late 70s are – rubbish.
Figured as much! Thanks, have always avoided them in any case!
Wow, it took quite some time to get down this far to reply. Have you ever done a deep investigation into the differences in Blue Note outer sleeves? I know the address tells it all but in the 70’s, with reusing old stock and leaving the bottom pretty bare on new sleeves it gets hard to tell. Especially when trying to figure out what sealed 70’s press could be. Black 71? White B 75? UA by the grace of God? I recently grabbed a mono first press Sidewinder with a 70’s sleeve in the shrink for $25. Pretty crazy I know but I’m wondering if this is even possible or would have been a collector frankensteining?
Sealed records are a form of gambling. If the seal is original the buyer gets a mint “something or other”. An innocent pleasure perhaps. With Seventies reissues there is no way of knowing from the jacket what’s inside. UA used “Division of Liberty” as the Blue Note identity (and small font catalogue number) on Blue Note reissue jackets for many years, and made no effort to indicate year of manufacture or printing.
In the early 70s, the black/light-blue label Liberty/UA were mostly sold in shrink, judging from the sheer numbers among auction results, so have the highest probability of being inside a sealed copy of a new issue 1970-73.
Beyond that, my advice is always task the seller to open the seal, and declare “guaranteed unplayed, opened only to confirm provenance”. Unfortunately that turns the seller into the gambler, rather than the buyer, so an unpopular solution for them, as sealed records fetch a premium at auction.
LIBERTY UA. INC., LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (West Coast pressings) Black/Turquoise label 1970-2
Hello, do you have a ( complete ? ) list of albums that were issued with the label noted above? Thank you, Paul.
Using session dates as a proxy, all new titles between 1st January 1970 and mid 1972 – Blue Note catalogue numbers 4351 to 4422. will have had a turquoise/black label edition. Probably. As for which titles from back catalogue were repressed on turquoise/black label, anybody’s guess. You would have to go through all auction results for 800 albums to see if a turqoise/ black is found. Nigh impossible task.
Thank you very much for your help. Best, Paul.
Simple question : sealed BNs from the liberty period through early 70s UA have similar covers.Without opening the seal..is there a way to determine pressing
First, the probablities. The majority of sealed BNs from this period are the West Coast black/turquoise Liberty United label. These were sold sealed, judging from the sheer number still in shrink (opened of course) in auction results. True Liberty 1966-70 you see very rarely in shrink, just a few. Blue label UA early ’70s are never seen in shrink (or none that I’ve seen)
The only way to get a better idea without opening the seal is to estimate the weight of the vinyl and compare it with the weights of the three possibilities.
Weigh the sealed record or ask the seller to weigh it. Deduct typical jacket weight 90 gm, inner sleeve 15 gm, what is left is weight of the vinyl inside.
Original Division of Liberty average 145gm
Liberty/United Black Turqoise average 145 gm
Blue label UA average below 140 gm.
The weight will rule in or rule out a blue label.
if its a tie, why not just open the seal, and you will know for sure?
I would like to clarify that blue label UA early ’70s Blue Notes are not rare to find in shrink, I have quite a few that way.
I guess the ones that reached the UK had shed their skins, A quick count of thirty Blue label / white note or black note – no shrinks.among them. But you have, so it happens, thanks.
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Grant Green’s “Green Street” doesn’t fit in here. It is supposedly Sept/Oct 1961, but it is only NYC labels as first press. It had to have come out in mid-1962 if this is the first label or else the dates for the NYC label are wrong
SOS! I just scored two 1st, maybe 2nd pressing Art Blakey & the JM Blue Notes that both have “ED HOEHL MF” in the deadwax. Along with RVG, Ear, etc. Has anyone ever seen this before?
Never seen this, something unusual afoot. Helpful to have photos: labels and run-out etchings. for more clues.
Hi! Thank you so much for your great job!
Ive got a question, I’ve got a copy of ‘Somethin’ Else’ by Cannonball Adderley and apparently it’s this version: https://www.discogs.com/Cannonball-Adderley-Miles-Davis-Hank-Jones-Sam-Jones-Art-Blakey-Somethin-Else/release/2892515
I’m wondering if this is a legal Repress cause the record looks cheap…poor quality cover especially. The record got the Blue Note Label Group writing on the cover so it must be official…
Do you know anything about these repress from 2008? Thanks!!!!
Short answer: no idea. The Blue Note Group seems to have been struggling, over the last decade or so to attract new young audiences for their back catalogue, but at a low market price that does not support quality manufacture around £20. . Not always a successful strategy, no one is happy. The 75 issues seem particularly troubled. At a 50% higher price, the Tone Poets really deliver value.
UPDATE February 2021
I must eat my own words. I have just taken delivery of the latest Blue Note Vinyl Classics series, 1595. Mastered from the original tapes by Kevin Gray, pressed by Optimal in Germany, just £20, astonishing quality and value. You don’t get the gatefold cover and Francis Wolff portraits, but that is the only difference. By manufacturing in Europe, a lot of the cost is cut compared to pressing and importing from the US. London just got brighter.
Thanks for the quick reply! Ok so still not sure about this record…but if it’s an official release I can understand why Blue Note Group is struggling coz the quality is miles away from an original BN!!!
Thanks for this great resource! Just have a question about a copy of 1504 I just found.
Bud Powell – The Amazing Bud Powell volume 2
Everything about it points to it being a first press. Both sides have the 767 Lexington labels, 9M, ear and RVG etched in the runout. But on the back cover it has the 43 West 61st St address on the bottom. Would that place it as a repress rather than an original? (And by original I mean the first 12″, I know the 10″ is the real original)
The 43/61st cover was introduced early 1960 onwards. The 1956 orginal should of course have matching Lexington address, blank spine and frame cover construction. The 1st pressing vinyl is flat edge, deep groove, and probably weighs over 200 grams. There are tell-tale signs like these which give more insight into original status, more than stamps and etchings, which are a constant through its pressing history., which ran over a decade.
Can you measure the bare vinyl weight?
I am new to both jazz vinyl collecting and to LJC (though not to jazz listening), and I have found this blog to be an almost inexhaustibly useful resource. Thank you!
I recently purchased a stereo copy of Hank Mobley, No Room for Squares (1964), BST 81544 via eBay. I paid $10 for a VG+ copy! The first catch: It was sold with no cover (the seller was kind enough to include a plain vanilla outer jacket reminiscent of the Beatles’ White Album). The second catch: It’s far from a first pressing, a 1979 or 1980 reissue with the white lower-case “b” and an attribution to “Liberty/United Records” on the label — hence my estimate of the date range per LJC’s analysis. Still a steal at $10 based on first listen.
So here’s my question, or series of them. Side 1 of the record includes separate “VAN GELDER” and “STEREO” stamps in the runout. Side 2 has neither. Is this common? And what does it signify? Does it mean the record was pressed using a leftover Van Gelder stamper on S1 and a newer stamper on S2? Would the newer stamper necessarily have been made from a non-RVG master?
The obvious question for me, of course, is: do the two sides sound different? Not to my rookie ears, at least not on first listen, using my mid-level hi-fi setup. To me both sides sound great. Of course it’s apples and oranges, as the tracks are different. And again, rookie ears.
Interested to hear from LJC or others whether this stamping mismatch is common and what likely explains it.
Thanks again for the informative resource and the engaging writing!
1544 is “Hank Mobley and his All Stars”, No Room for Squares is 4149 (first issued in 1963). I am guessing you have the latter, because of the presence of VAN GELDER and STEREO stamps.
The Blue Label/white note is, as you surmise, tail end of United Artists era.I have not seen a copy of this edition, but having RVG stamps on just one side would be quite possible if United Artists found one of the stamper pair missing or more likely, damaged.
They had possession of the original tapes, and a good number of UA Blue Label reissues were simply remastered by UA engineers. A lesser proportion used original Van Gelder metal parts, where these had survived in usable condition.
So it is entirely possible, though not common. Great record by the way.
Thank you, this is very helpful. And sorry about the cat# mixup — I also have 1544 (a later reissue as well). But yes, it’s 4149 that has the mismatched runout stamps. And yes, it is a great record. $10 well spent, jacket or no.
I’ve seen a 4-fold round Blue Note poster that was an insert with the 1994 best of album. Is the album still available with this insert?
I have a vague recollection of seeing an A2 size Blue Note poster but have no specific knowledge of it. May be someone else has?
The round poster with the painting of various Jazz greats was available in several releases and earlier than ’94, late eighties by my recollection and in some of the EMI UK distributed, but French released titles, back when they were pushing the label with, posters, catalogues and even t-shirts. My memory fails me as to which titles came with the poster, I’d have to search through the collection and see which if any I still have, I always thought it was a bit silly for a poster design, you couldn’t even frame it.
Dear LJC, I have a copy of BLP 1540 Hank Mobley Lee Morgan Donald Byrd which is a bit strange. Framed cover with 767 Lexington adress on the back, 47 west 63:rd NYC label, RVG, 9M, P and flat edge vinyl. Should be a second pressing but isn’t it odd with a flat edge as late as 58/59?
I put my copy up on discogs cause the version wasn’t listed there:
Fascinating, please upload better images of the “flat” edge vinyl as the one uploaded doesn’t really properly display this feature. Also the matrix needs to be listed under to “matrix/runout”, not “barcode”, see Discogs submission guidelines.
The flat edge is critical, because unlike consumables such as labels, which come and go, physical manufacture characteristics are a fixed point. That picture certainly looks like flat edge, not beaded rim. Look closely at the critical dates.
1540 was released in Jan-57. The first 47W63 label without the NEW YORK 23 suffix was a release in Aug-57 (1567) The last known flat edge was a release in Jul-57 (1557). Manufacture (label printing and pressing) would have taken place maybe 4-8 weeks prior to release.
The proximity of these dates means that continued pressing of batches of 1540 could have taken place at a time when flat edge was still characteristic of manufacture AND the 47W6rd label the design current. It was a physical possibility.
If anything, your copy seemingly confirms that Blue Note manufacture was a continuous process, with small additional batches of records pressed to supplement the initial release quantity, if sales warranted it.
If the initial print order of labels for a title was in excess, we saw left over stocks used many years after release. If it fell short of requirements, fresh labels would need to be printed, I assume, using whatever design was current (skipping over Lexington and NY23 to 47W63rd).
It is a more plausible explanation than Plastylite reverting manufacture to flat edge several years after it introduced the beaded rim, for a one-off “second pressing”. That is more of a stretch.
The weight of the bare vinyl would be useful to know, maybe throw more light on the point of origin.
LJC, Consulting Vinyl Detective.
Thank you for replying. I don’t have the possibility to weigh it cause I have no scale but if I compare it to my Lexington Horace Silver & The Jazz Messengers it feels slightly lighter. Not much but Lexington feels moore solid.
How would a better photo of the flat edge be taken, in profile? It’s a bit tricky getting all the features on pictures I think.
I don’t know what sort of camera you are using. This may be beyond what you have. I use an SLR with a macro lens mounted on a tripod, manually focussing with aperature for greatest depth of field – f16 or f22 , with speed appropriately slow. Not the sort of kit found in the average home. Good light by a window, white paper background, and lift the record on a paperback book to get a slight angle. Take a dozen shots, one should be a winner.
Hi! I have the exact same 1540 BN with the flat edge. It wieghs in at 200g. It actualy had me fooled for an original firstly due to the flat edge. It is a bit strange.but the simplest explanation is probaböy that Plastylite just kept on using the original metal stampers for the reprint. I fI remeber it correctly you have to make new stampers to get a beaded rim.And in this case they just did not./Best Anders
Here’s another oddity for you – BLP 1577, INC USA labels, no ear or DG, NY23 on back cover, RVG STEREO stamped in both runouts! Mis-stamp? Wrong label?
I’d assume wrong labels. The record plays in stereo (not hard to tell on this one with the wide panning) and the matrix number in the deadwax is “BN-ST-1577” not the mono “BN-LP-1577” right?
Correct! I’ve seen mismatched labels before, but never labels that inaccurately describe the record they’re on, especially such a big difference as mono inc & liberty stereo.
I think I found a similar mono label/stereo vinyl pressing. You can see it here: https://twitter.com/AtBestIsKorny/status/1362281649614950404?s=20
A 1966 Liberty/ Frankenstein reissue – manufactured out of spare parts.
By 1966 most homes were equiped for stereo, so repressing 1577 with RVG STEREO stampers rather than mono made sense. RVG STEREO metal is definitive, items like jackets and labels are inventory items which passed into the hands of Liberty. 1577 was one of only five RVG stereo 1500 series issues, issued in stickered mono jackets There was never a stereo cover and probably no stereo stickers left, but lots of surplus mono NY labels and covers for 1577.
It’s not ” a mistake” or miss-labelling, it’s how they operated. Eventually Liberty printed fresh Division of Liberty stereo labels and jackets, but in the interim they used up what they had in the way of old stock items, get the income coming in.
I wanted to let you know that your web site is critical in identifying the evolution of Blue Note as well as other labels. Thank you.
My comment is that I have recently bought a Milt Jackson Blue Note BLP 1509 Mono Thelonious Monk but the kicker is it has the Blue Note New York USA label on it but it has the Stamp RVG on both sides and the Plastylite “Ear” on both sides as well. I am assuming that it may have been a close to the end pressing at Plastylite that got the new generic NY USA Label on it during the transfer of ownership in 1966?
Your thoughts would be appreciated.
I can supply photos if you request.
1509 was issued first on 12″ in March 1956. (possibly there was an earlier 10″, not something I know a lot about) The NY label was seen first on titles released in late 1961, and in a more or less continuous run through to Spring 1966. It’s not a clean cut on dates because there were always titles in production, out of sequence, overlapping changes.
Your 1509 will bear all the hallmarks of original mastering but the NY label identifies it as a later pressing sometime between Autumn 1961 and Spring 1966. The thing that will get you closer to the date of manufacture is the detail of the inner sleeve, if present. There are nine unique designs, which changed two or three times a year, that will tell you roughly when it was bagged at Plastylite.
Consulting Vinyl Detective, at your service.
Thank you LJC,
For some reason I thought that the NY label was a 1966 phenomenon after Liberty acquisition. Thank you for the clarity. Unfortunately the original sleeve appears to be gone. Its a plain white sleeve.
I have a BLP 1521 with New York 23 labels. Does that predate the first run of 1544 listed on this page?
1521 was released in July 1956, at which time the Lexington label was in use. The first appearance of the 47W63 New York 23 label was 1544, released in March 1957. Your copy of 1521 must date from some time after March 1957. How much later is impossible to say, since labels were a lagging indicator of provenance – it was practice hold surplus printed labels in stock for further pressings. Though an NY23 label was printed for this title, exactly when it was applied to this particular pressing batch can’t be stated with any certainty. There may be other indicators such as cover detail that may date it more precisely.
Thanks for the reply! The cover has a printed spine but no address on the back.
1521 and 1522 were anomalies, without an address on the back cover, so the type-setting is a straight continuity of the original issue, however the presence of a printed spine is a more useful clue. Printed spines appears on titles issued after April 1958, so it is a second cover probably from around or shortly after then
Hello, thanks so much for this amazing resource! I have a Blue Train LP with NO deep groove on either side but has ‘Blue Note Records Inc – 47 WEST 63rd – NYC’ on label, RVG stamped, catalogue number, plastylite symbol and 9M on both sides. Also has ®. However, the sleeve has ’43 West 61st St., New York 23’…can you please help me to date this release?
The basic stamps and etchings – RVG, Ear, Catalog Number, 9M – appear on all copies of 1577 pressed through to 1966, so they don’t help dating
The useful pointers are:
Not DG : first BN releases without DG appear in Spring 1961.
47W63 label with INC & ® appears late 1959 to mid 1961, However use of left-over labels may overlap this changeover point
NY address label begins to appear late 1961. Copies of 1577 are seen with mixed 47W63 and NY labels, then NY both sides, pressed some time after 1962.
Your copy was pressed almost certainly earlier than 1962, probably mid to late 1961.
The cover address 43W61 was in use between early 1960 and late 1965, which would be consistent with a 1961 pressing, which is my guess.
Presence of a specific type of inner sleeve would help narrow it with greater certainty.
This record seems to have gone through multiple pressings, and I would call it an early repressing rather than a “second pressing”, which is a term of unjustified specificity, which I have seen used.
I am trying to identify a pressing of BST 84049. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
It has “RVG STEREO” and the Plastylite P in the runout. However the label is like like 6b above: “Blue Note Inc – New York, USA” and has the “R” (registered trademark). I’m a bit confused because the description above states that these labels started with 4063.
Could this pressing be a 1966 “anomaly”?
I think I noticed an error on this page.
On the Cheat Sheet the example for Horace Silver Quintet says that label was used through 58-59.
But if you look at the specific post about that label further down the page you state it was first used in 57. I assume its the cheat sheet that is incorrect here.
Greetings, I stumbled across this amazing resource while trying to research a record for a friend. I am struggling to determine the pressing of the record because it is still sealed and the owner does not want to open it for fear of losing value. I understand that Blue Note used older covers on re-presses making it impossible to date on covers alone. The record appears to be an original Lee Morgan Vol.3 1557 because the address on the back is the original 47 West 63rd St NY 23. However there is a corner cut-out which leads me to believe that it is a re-issue from the 70’s. Is there a resource to determine what the 70’s re-issue cover looks like on the back? Any leads on this would be so helpful. Thank you for such an incredible amount of info!
Is the “1557” catalog number on the back in a large font or small, like rest of the text? If the catalog number is small, and the jacket has a corner cut, it’s a pretty likely a 1970s blue label pressing. Pictures of the front and back would be very helpful.
Disregard my previous post. I was talking in general but with this specific title, it’s probably a 1970s, blue and white UA label pressing like this:
dear LJC and friends, I noticed that this version of song for my father puts the year as 1964 but it has a liberty label. I thought liberty labels only started in 1966? thanks https://www.discogs.com/The-Horace-Silver-Quintet-Song-For-My-Father-Cantiga-Para-Meu-Pai/release/12386517
Correct, the submitter of that just used the original as a draft and never corrected the date.
okay thank you aaron, so the 1st stereo is this one right? https://www.discogs.com/The-Horace-Silver-Quintet-Song-For-My-Father-Cantiga-Para-Meu-Pai/release/2400742
dear LJC if the liberty has The print “SIDE 1” in all capitals, will it still have the van gelder / rvg stamping please? thanks
West Coast Liberty pressings of Blue Note records with Bert-Co labels (SIDE 1 instead of the East Coast Keystone Linotype setting as Side I ) :
Reissues from the Blue Note back catalogue (pre 4250) are generally without Van Gelder stamp, because they were remastered from copy tape sent to Research Craft. There are a handful where original metal was sent but these are very much the exception.
New Liberty titles (post 4250) and a few lower catalogue number first issues where RVG did the recording are VAN GELDER stamp both West Coast and East Coast pressings.
These are not hard and fast rules, as there are occasional title-specific anomalies, but most follow the above pattern
ok thank you very much ljc.
“The all-blue label/black note, often carrying the VAN GELDER machine stamp in the run-out.” bought morgan sidewinder. but sadly no van gelder/rvg stamping in the deadwax. 😦 should have read your precious info earlier.
Hallo Friends of Blue Note ,
I have bought a record from Lou Donaldson BLP 4025 with RVG and 9M and Plastlite ear in Mono ,but without deep groove! Label is inc.nyc.
Hase someone an idea ? I do not see any record without dg for BLP 4025.
Thanks in advance
4025 was recorded 28-Nov-59 and released in Mar-60 on 47W63 labels, with INC and ®, 1st press is DG both sides, RVG, 9M and P.
I have no special knowledge of that title or its pressing history, but the pattern is familiar.
You say your label is “INC.NYC”. You mean an NY label? If NY and all the other indications of the original metal, that is a second pressing dated somewhere between 1962 and 1966. The matrix/mothers and stampers will all have the same markings because they are derived from the same master by Van Gelder.
During 1962-6, DG pressing dies at Plastylite were slowly replaced, and more or less randomly we saw pressings with and without DG, or DG on one side only. A grooveless pressing of 4025 can only be manufactured in or after 1961 when those dies first came into use, which is a couple of years after the first release of 4025.
Thank you for the answer! Yes , the label adress is: Blue Note Records inc, 47 west 63 rd nyc, there is only dg on side 1! I didn’t hear the record yet. Do you think that there is a huge difference from an audiophile point of view? Compared to a first press.
So it has the original 47W63rd labels, and the only difference from the original DG is that it is DG side 1 only. That tells me two things. It is a repressing from 1961 or later, and that they were still using up the stock of old labels. Sonically, it will sound no different from the full DG edition, that is, should sound fantastic.
The Fred Cohen official view is that first edition is DGx2. Personally I am not so fastidious. These records were pressed in small batches, Change of machine, change of stampers, different combination of pressing dies, could be only a matter of months later, it really doesn’t matter, unless you are a “First Pressing Fundamentalist”. However some collectors are.
Thank you very much for these profound informations! I am very happy now and I am no first press collecter😊 btw: it is my first blue note record from this era😊
one last question: I have read that the weight of the original record should be ca 220 gramms. Mine has definitely less weight ! Is this a matter ?
Only the Lexington labels from around 1956 came in at such a heavy weight as over 200grams.. That fell to around 180 grams by the late ’50s, and then fell progressively to around 160 grams by the mid ’60s. It is only a rough indicator, as there is a certain amount of normal variation around those averages, and the very occasional extreme outlier. I would expect somewhere between 160 and 180 grams for a Blue Note pressed in around 1961.
I’ve generally found this to be true, but I once had a trashed NY, non-DG copy of Moanin’ that weighed in at an astounding 230g – perhaps the heaviest Blue Note I’ve ever held! Probably the exception that confirms the rule though.
Below is the result of a stat analysis I did of 150 Blue Notes a while back:
Company, Label, Plant (sample size) AVG WEIGHT (gm)
Blue Note Lex Plastylite (5) 195
Blue Note 47W63 Plastylite (41) 178
Blue Note NY Plastylite (95) 166
Sure, there are always some outliers. Heaviest 225 gm, lightest 109 gm, but these are real anomalies. I’ve forgotten how to do standard deviation, but they cluster around the averages, and get progressively lighter over time.
The corresponding figures for forty-or aboutLiberty Blue Note pressings (’66-’70)
grouped by pressing plant:
Liberty DivLib Capitol (6) 150
Liberty DivLib 3rd Party (unk) (4) 147
Liberty DivLib All-Disc (24) 144
Liberty DivLib Bestway (1) 144
Liberty DivLib Keel (7) 141
Liberty DivLib Research Craft (23) 139
I am wondering if there is a list of the titles that were prepared for release prior to th sale of blue note but not released until the Liberty days.
There are around forty Blue Note titles in the Blue Note catalog, examples are 4193, 4196, 4204, 4206, 4209, and many others approaching the 4250 cut-off, which had been prepared for release prior to the sale of Blue Note, but were pressed subsequent to the company sale to Liberty. The original first pressing is without ear.
I think think is what you are looking for, pre-4226 originals with no “ear”:
4118 – Donald Byrd – Free Form
4171 – George Braith – Extension
4193 – Art Blakey – Indestructible
4196 – Freddie Hubbard – Blue Spirits
4203 – Andrew Hill – Andrew!!
4204 – Dexter Gordon – Gettin’ Around
4206 – Sam Rivers – Contours
4209 – Hank Mobley – Dippin’
84212 – Lee Morgan – The Gigolo
4213 – Bobby Hutcherson – Components
4215 – Jackie McLean – Right Now!
4217 – Andrew Hill – Compulsion!!!!
4218 – Jackie McLean – Action
4219 – Wayne Shorter – The All Seeing Eye
4222 – Lee Morgan – Cornbread
Typo, I think “this”
Both MONO and STEREO first pressed by Liberty; no copies with Plastylite ear exist.
(The year shown in brackets below is the year of recording)
4118: Donald Byrd, Free Form (1961)
4171: George Braith, Extension (1964)
4193: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Indestructible (1964)
4196: Freddie Hubbard, Blue Spirits (1965)
4203: Andrew Hill, Andrew! (1964)
4204: Dexter Gordon, Gettin’ Around (1965)
4206: Sam Rivers, Contours (1965)
4209: Hank Mobley, Dippin’ (1965)
4212: Lee Morgan, The Gigolo (1965)
4213: Bobby Hutcherson, Components (1965)
4215: Jackie McLean, Right Now (1965)
4217: Andrew Hill, Compulsion (1965)
4218: Jackie McLean, Action (1964)
4219: Wayne Shorter, The All-Seeing Eye (1965)
4222: Lee Morgan, Cornbread (1965)
4227: Joe Henderson, Mode for Joe (1966)
4228: Blue Mitchell, Bring it on Home (1966)
4229: John Patton, Got a Good Thing Goin’ (1966)
4230: Hank Mobley, A Caddy for Daddy (1965)
4231: Bobby Hutcherson, Happenings (1966)
4232: Wayne Shorter, Adam’s Apple (1966)
4235: Jimmy Smith, Bucket! (1963)
4237: Cecil Taylor, Unit Structures (1966)
4238: Donald Byrd, Mustang! (1966)
4239: John Patton, Let ‘Em Roll (1965)
4240: Stanley Turrentine, Rough ‘n Tumble (1966)
4242: Larry Young, Of Love and Peace (1966)
4243: Lee Morgan, Delightfulee Morgan (1966)
4244: Bobby Hutcherson, Stick Up! (1966)
4245: Art Blakey, Like Someone in Love (1960)
4246: Ornette Coleman, The Empty Foxhole (1966)
4247: Don Cherry, Symphony for Improvisers (1966)
4248: The Three Sounds, Vibrations (1966)
4249: Sam Rivers, A New Conception (1966)
4250: Horace Silver, The Jody Grind (1966)
Thanks LJC. I will have to keep this list handy.
Just to clarify. When you write they were prepared for release before the sale. That means first pressings of all these titles have the NY label but no P.
And that any liberty label of these catalogue numbers would be a 2nd or later pressing?
actually no, 4203, 4212, 4232, 4243, 4244 are LIBERTY labels. 4245 is the only number with split labels: LIB side 1, NYC side 2. 4245 also with LIB/LIB labels. 4247 is the last NYC.
all this refers to MONO only. 4240 should have P
Are you sure 4240 should have “ear” dott? I can’t find mention of it on any auctions, The session wasn’t recorded until July 1st 1966,so pressing would be pretty well past sale date. Always happy to be corrected.
Since you only mention 4240 in your response does that mean you agree with the rest of Aaron’s reply.
Aarons list and mine are identical, I merely added a further 20 titles above 4226 up to 4250, which was the final end point of titles assigned catalogue numbers by Blue Note prior to the sale to Liberty. As the good doctor has listed, there are a number of titles for which no NY labels had ever been printed, hence the first press has Division of Liberty labels. The rest have NY labels, but of course pressed for Liberty with no Plastylite ear.
Whether the appearance of a Division of Liberty label for those titles with an NY label represents a “second pressing” is debatable. We don’t know the size of Liberty pressing runs, how many NY labels were found in the inventory, and whether Liberty topped up the number with more of their own. We know from the typesetting that Liberty initially used the same printers as Blue Note – Keystone Printed Specialties, Scranton, PA.
I appreciate buyers sellers set great store by the presence of an NY label, but they are all simply pressings for Liberty carried out by All-Disc, Roselle, NJ starting in the latter part of 1966, whether with a previously printed NY label or a new Division of Liberty label.
no, my mistake.
Thank you for your response.
Hi! I just want to say a big ‘THANK YOU’ for your sharing your knowledge. I do especially appreciate the quality of your cover reproductions (if I can find a londonjazzcollector jpeg for my mp3 library I am very happy indeed).
I only wish you would give the Japanese a little more credit for their labours than just recommending their pressings because they are very well taken care of in the 2nd hand market (very true of course).
The folks here kept the bobbing Blue Note boat pretty much afloat I think during the troubled times. Also technology advances. The softer sound of the Toshibas might just be intentional. Record player speakers in the 50s were sort of limited in dynamic range. That may have catapulted Elvis to the top – there is a certain brutality to the original mono mixes of ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ that got sterilized in the cleaned up stereo remasters.
I do wholeheartedly agree though, that the original Blue Notes have a lot more punch … but then again – I am marked for extinction myself. So the ‘kids’ may actually prefer the fabric softener treatment. Who knows.
Anyway – many thanks again and keep on posting
Just checked few records
I have the Night at the Village Vanguard 1581 from Sonny Rollins
Everything is exactly as the original mono first press except for the label on side one which shows the Inc and R supposed to be on the second press from 1959
Could you help me clarified which issue it is ?
I am not a specialist, but I would have thought you have a solid 2nd issue. Still partly the original label on one side and the new label at the other. What inner sleeve for this one?
Re label variation # 14 blue label with white “b”.
Havent seen in your listings those lasbels with a BST- Number.
My Dexter Gordon “Go” with that label design has BST-84112.
Can you pl.- explain that.
United Artists choice of blue label white note design in the later ’70s was primarily for issue of “new titles” – after they abandoned the BST Blue Note numbering system (at 4435 according to my notes) and commenced their own numbering system, BN-LA.
The blue label white note 84112 is a reissue by United Artists of a 1962 title, hence the use of the original catalogue number BST #. This copy is from some time after 1975, as indicated by “United Artists Music and Records Group” designation.
Whilst the white note was associated with later new titles, the choice of white or black note for reissues looks to have been a fairly arbitrary , and even with new titles there is not complete consistency, and it has no particular significance as regards provenance or “original” status.
Fantastic article. Really very informative. What led me here was a recent purchase of The 3 Sounds Vibration album. The copy I purchased was very difficult to identify until I cam upon your article. You see, the album falls into the transition time between the original company and the purchase by Liberty in 1966, you mention above that the last New York and Plastylite pressings ended with 4247. However, my copy, catalog number 4248, has the Plastylite marking in the run out, and the NYC label with the R under the E on NOTE (no mention of Liberty Records on the label). It also has the machine stamp VAN GELDER in the run out along with the catalog number. The album jacket has Libert Records markings so all of this makes me believe that this album, 4248, May be the last NYC Plastylite pressing before Liberty moved all the production to NJ and other locations. The sound is amazing which leads me to believe it is a pre-Liberty pressing. I just found this interesting and thought I’d share. Happy to provide photos if you’d like. Would love feedback, too.
hi Jeff, this is a surprise indeed. 4248 was known with Liberty label, no dg and no P. back cover had NY address. as I’m researching for my guide “blue note illustrated, original mono first pressings” I’ll be very happy to have pictures of your issue: giorgio at studiocappiosarchi dot it
Hi Jeff, very, very interesting, I’ve never seen a 4248 with NYC labels!!….and the P mark, too!
Could you kindly send some pictures to LondonJazzCollector@outlook.com so Andrew can easiy upload them onto the LJC web page. Thanks!
Photos sent. Looking forward to your comments.
Jeff Z has delivered pictures:
Liberty manufactured cover:
Blue Note NY labels – stereo
Matrix and VAN GELDER. No Plastylite “ear” visible in photo. Can this be confirmed visually?
In addition, a Blue Note “27 Years” final inner sleeve
Upon a closer inspection what I thought to be the “P” is actually the handwritten side designation in the runout. Their “A” looks like a “P” in the other photos. So this copy does not seem to be made in NY. Sorry for this confusion. But the labels are older labels even though the cover is clearly printed after Liberty purchased the label. In your opinion, what does this VAN GELDER stamp mean?
Another photo of the runout sent for your inspection.
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Thank you for all this detail!
How come I have a copy of Monk’s “Genius” Vol 2 with the Lexington address on the label and 43 West 61st St address on the back cover? I can’t work out the date.
The first cover manufactured with 43W61 address appears on 4022, released in February 1960. It continued to be the address on the back cover for the following six years until mid 1966. The cover you have could have been manufactured any time in that period. There is no finer granularity with dating covers, but it confirms your copy of Vol 2 was probably manufactured at least after 1960, ruling out mixing up covers.
The presence of a Lexington label simply means Plastylite were still using up old stock labels from inventory at that time. It doesn’t help date the record. I have a Liberty manufactured in 1966 with a Lexington label. The determinant of date is the most modern element in manufacture.
Do you have details of who printed the sleeves in this period?
Also, the inner sleeve is missing from my copy. Do you have any information and photos on what was used at that time?
I don’t think anyone has managed to identify Blue Note’s printers, other than Keynote Printed Specialties doing the labels. The link with inner sleeves is usually the pressing plant, Plastylite, because they bag the freshly pressed records. Not sure it would tell us anything new if we did.
Prior to the 36xcorporate inner sleeves, Blue Note were packed in a plain white inner sleeve, which is what I would expect yours to have had.
Some of the “old timers” here have knowledge of different types of plain inner sleeve that date back to the early 1500 series, because they bought them at the time. I have yet to see one.
last comment on live musicians is a def classic. thanks again. ;-D
as always, comin’up with some mono questions – here about late New York or Liberty.
both BN label say microgroove but what groove indeed? 25 (mono) or 15 (as stereo). for early 1962 series maybe we can aknowledged mono groove – but were later mono series still pressed as microgrooves or with thinner groove?
Groove-width is entirely outside my field of knowledge. Maybe someone else, from the audio-engineering side knows?
i know this is a very peculiar issue but i’m convicted it needs to be adressed to stand this great board’s reputation ;-D
Even our estimate colleague Rich (DG Mono) is in limbo here:
“my guess is that Van Gelder used a mono 1-mil cutting head for all Blue Note mono pressings he mastered, he just cared too much about his work and mono specifically to make a haphazard decision like that to use a stereo cutting head to cut mono records…though I have no evidence.”
I am a pro musician and looking for records that give me the feeling that the musicians are playing in my listening room. I thought Art Blakey’s Buhaina’s Delight on 84104 Blue Note would do, but doesn’t. The piano sounds the worst. This record costed new € 17,50. In information on the backside of the cover: 2015 Blue Note Records, EMI, Music Spain, Capitol Record, Printed in Europe. ERLP 1017. After the last note a terrible sound is coming out of the speakers. My digital playback of a Weiss dac is average far better. Any help is welcome. Regards Wil.
Most modern reissues are mostly a disappointment once you are accustomed to what vintage pressings (1956 – 70) sound like. If ever you have the opportunity to compare new with old you will get that “aha” moment. Not always, not every vintage record is a good recording/pressing, and not every modern pressing is poor, and you learn through experience, the 80:20 rule applies.
The downside of vintage is that price and availability are in the realm of antiques, not mass-market consumer products. And if you truly want “musicians in the room” experience, you need to assemble a very revealing audio system, which doesn’t come cheap, and here you are in the realm of hi-fi equipment snobs.
I figure in the short run, it’s probably cheaper to hire actual musicians to play in your room. However the ones we most want to hear are no longer among us, so it’s a price you have to pay.
Great site, love reading about the Blue Note label history, thank you so much!
I use WordPress but cannot acces this link about the complete photographic record of labels of every title in the 1500 serie :
Can you please help?
kind regards, Ed
Hi Ed, thanks for kind words, instant response. Links sometimes go bad due to updates and changes, or because I’ve copied them while in edit mode, but two below should work for what you want:
Shortlink generated by WordPress:
Hello, Great site. I have a lot of reading to do!
I figured I throw something your way to look at. I have come across the following two Blue Note Records with the noted charateristics:
1) Bud Powell’s Modernists – 52nd St. Theme/Dance Of The Infidels – 1568-A/1568-B
– yellow & blue label with 767 address
– both sides have the appropriate catalogue # inscribed as well as an A-1
– one side has an G inscribed; the other has what appears to be “JJ” with the arms connected
– there isn’t a groove, but there is a ridge
2) Vic Dickenson – In A Mellotone/I’m Getting’ Sentimental Over You – 1601
– yellow & blue label with 767 address
– one side label is printed BN 435-1, yet the inscription is BN 445-1X; there is also a 9M on this side
– the other side is printed BN 437-3, yet the inscription is BN 437-3 with the first 3 X’d out and a 4 inscribed above; there is also a 4N on this side
– there is a groove
Ultimately, I’m curious to find out about the cross out and possible misprints, as well as the colored labels. I have some pictures that I will send to your email noted above. So, there you go! I hope it’s interesting to you and I hope to hear from you. Thank you!
apparently the ones you describe are 78 rpm discs, which complicates the matter since all criteria mentioned hereinabove are for 33 rpm albums.
This is a great resource. Thanks for all the hardwork you’ve put into it.
I’m interested in a few Blue Note releases I have from the early 2000s. They are both modern releases (modern in 2002 anyway) from the band Medeski Martin and Wood.
They share almost everything in common with the Connoisseur labels. They are definitely made in the USA. And one has the following run out:
Matrix / Runout (Side A): SPRO-14645-A G1 RM S-48900 MASTERED BY CAPITOL
If you have any guesses or information on the mastering of this I’d love to hear it. Thanks!
Hi. a photo speaks better than a description if you can, I will happily publish, send to email address under LJC banner.
Very informative. I have newly discovered Blue Note and I am trying to differentiate between Microgroove and Stereo on the label and I am not finding a super clear answer. Is Microgroove referring to Mono or the actual groove imprint?
When the 12″ (and 10″) LP was first introduced, a lot of the words used to describe it mark the transition from its predecessor, 78rpm shellac. “Unbreakable” is one of them, and “microgroove” is another.
The shellac disc had a wide groove, and fast rotation, which packed all of five minutes per side. The 33 1/3rpm long playing vinyl was able to hold around 20 minutes per side, as a result of having fine, closely packed grooves, which required a similarly fine tipped stylus to read them. This new engineering standard was referred to as “microgroove” to differentiate it from standard groove shellac.
Stereo came along around ten years later, commercially around 1958/9. In order to differentiate stereo LPs from mono LPs, the word “stereo” replaced “microgroove” on the label. In practice, both mono and stereo LPs are “microgroove”. The designation “microgroove” remained on the label of mono editions, by default.
Hi! Incredible info on this site! Doing Jazz Research as a Rutgers Student and trained as an organist under Big John Patton.
Quick question: Is there any way to find out the number of copies of an album were pressed upon release of a given album or series and when the second pressing occurred?
Interesting question, so I’ve pulled thoughts together in a longer reply than is usual at LJC!
Blue Note sales figures were a closely guarded secret, much wanted, never disclosed publicly, but there are a few sources which allow us piece together some rough orders of magnitude.
There would be an initial pressing run for the first release. If a record sold well there would be a second pressing, which might be a week later, or several years later, and some titles enjoyed only a single pressing in the Blue Note years. Others – like Cannonball Adderley’s Something Else – went on to many repressings, to judge by the number of label variations, and there is evidence that title even went out to rival plant Abbey Mfg to press more copies, in addition to its Plastylite runs.
At the outset of vinyl in the mid ’50s, the initial pressing of a typical 10″ release or early 12″ was as little as a thousand copies, two thousand at most. By the mid-60s record sales had grown and the initial pressing run of a typical Blue Note new release was likely around 4,000. I conclude this from Michael Cuscuna’s throw-away comment that the initial pressing run for Sidewinder (July 1964) was 4,000, which sold out within three to four days. Some titles may have been a little more or less, I don’t think anyone knows.
My other benchmark is Mosaic box-sets, whose limited editions ran typically between 3,500 and 7,500 units, going OOP within a couple of years. You get a sense that the market for a jazz titles in first and subsequent pressings total was in the low tens of thousands.
Only a handful of Blue Note records achieved exceptional sales volume like John Coltrane’s Blue Train (over a half million units lifetime sales including CD), or made it into the Billboard charts like Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder. Total sales of Sidewinder over its first three or more months uniquely crossed into six figures.
The other thing to bear in mind is that dealers reckon maybe 70-80% of records manufactured in those days are not in collectible condition today, and most of those that are currently reside in Japan. Who’d be a jazzcollector, eh?
please help me
i have a copy of gracham moncur III some other stuff.
in the label is BN 84177 (blue note records a division of liberty records, inc.
but in the runouts is BNST 84177
in label there is also BIEM print (that is an italian mark to define as imported) and the print not returnable.
but what i can’t understand is the label BN 84177 and the runouts BNST 84177
there is not the (j) for japan
BIEM is as far as I know an International Rights organisation representing many countries. The Italian rights group is SIAE. Japan is JASRAC.
I’m a little confused so a picture of the label and back cover would be really helpful, even the runout etchings if you can.
thank you very much for your quick answer. Where can i upload pictures?
Email as attachments to my address as given under “Contact LJC” in the site banner. I can upload from there
Thank you. Sent.
hello i sent you pics at your email adress but i don’t recive any answer.
Any problems? Aren’t they arrived?
BIEM is the German Rights organisation and pressing.
Their characteristics was also to “keeping” the BST prefix for their BN-LA series
pressings ( BST-844XX ). I can send you more information about this numbering,
when being at home later.
sorry, the German rights organisation is GEMA, not BIEM, which is an international one, as explained by LJC. I have never seen a copy with BIEM
print, so no idea where it comes from ( maybee Spain? ).
BIEM is for : Bureau International des Editions Mecaniques : International Board for Mechanical Rights
Hi Mladen, could you please identify the year of pressing of BST 81501 Miles Davis Vol. 1, with a BIEM print on the Liberty label?
Here the German pressings of the BN-LA series with the BST prefix I know:
BN-LA 006 = BST 84424
BN-LA 015 = BST 84428
BN-LA 024 = BST 84429
BN-LA 054 = BST 84433
BN-LA 110 = BST 84438
BN-LA 223 = BST 84445
BN-LA 249 = BST 84456
BN-LA 257 = BST 84460
BN-LA 406 = BST 84472
BN-LA 464 = BST 84480
BN-LA 551 = BST 84522
The reissue twoofer series:
BN-LA 458 = BST 84487/88
there are more but I lost the details unfortunately
I have the following: SONNY ROLLINS ‘Newk’s Time’ BLP 4001, which I cannot match up with any listed in your excellent BLUE NOTE section.
Details are: The Run-Out has RVG stamped, 9M, on both sides;BN.LP 4001-A & BN.LP 4001-B on appropriate sides; The ‘ear’ on side 1 and a partial ‘ear’ on Side 2. The vinyl weighs approx. 176 grms.
The label has a deep groove on both sides.
SIDE 1: the label is BLUE NOTE RECORDS INC . NEW YORK USA with the Regd. Trade Mark at the bottom and 33 1/3 microgroove LONG PLAYING.
SIDE 2: BLUE NOTE RECORDS . 47 WEST 63rd . NYC with NO Regd. Trade Mark at the bottom and 33 1/3 microgroove LONG PLAYING.
Other than BLUE NOTE, which is white print on blue, all the other print is blue on white. The blue on the label appears lighter than most of the labels on the site – more like the colour on the United Artists ‘(P) 1975’.
The cover has “For a complete Catalog Write to BLUE NOTE RECORDS INC., 43 West 61st St., New York 23” at the bottom of the back. There are also two paper stamps – one states “Chappell Group Control” and has 5 7/8d hand written on it – the other states “MECOLICO” and has 2/- hand written on it.
Any information on the issue date etc of the recording would be gratefully appreciated.
Congratulations on the great site.
A repressing from 1962-66 since the “NEW YORK USA” label was introduced in 1962 and Plastylite pressed Blue Notes ended in 1966. If you have the original inner sleeve could help narrow the window.
Thank you Aaron for that info. The inner sleeve that is with the record has the “The Finest in Jazz since 1939” logo on it. It shows 36 Blue Note covers in black and white on both sides. Any reason why there are different labels on the two sides?
Printed batches of Blue Note labels were held in stock for use for further repressings. I have a post ’66 Liberty pressing with Lexington label on one side, 47W63rd on other, no ear either side. The printed label was a consumable inventory stock item. Much to the chagrin of collectors in search of certainty, you have to see the label as only loosely connected with the date of manufacture.
Many thanks for all the info. Can I assume with a fair degree of certainty that despite the labels, my copy dates from 1962 – 1966?
NY label, with ear in the run out? Then definitely 1962-6.
The exact detail of the inner sleeve will date it more precisely within that period.
The promotional inner sleeve has 9 distinct variations. Since the record would have been bagged immediately after manufacture, and bagged in whatever was the current inner sleeve, that inner sleeve is a better means of dating manufacture than all the stuff about labels. The only flaw is that people sometimes mixed up inner sleeves after play. Beyond that, used the inner sleeve to date it.
Many thanks LJC. I have checked the info on the inner sleeves and the one I have – which I am certain is the original with the record – and it appears to be SLEEVE NO. 5 (1963 – 1964). Brilliant just the information I was after.
Many thanks for all your help and keep up the good work with such a brilliant site.
Perhaps here is an answer or at least a direction of inquiry regarding the Blue Note Liberty UA West Coast pressings. I have acquired similar but differt labels of several BN reprintings on the Sunset (Liberty label) as well as Pacific Jazz (Liberty) circa 1969. My Mobley, Hi Vintage blue black west coast Liberty is liberty UA. (With a Van Gelder Stamp by the Way). All 3, even the budget Sunset pressings of which I have several, are good pressings and seem equal, in quality to the. BN West Coast and the Van Gelder sound comes through loud and clear! Can I send you Photographs?
Sorry, I wrote twice 😦
I’m writing to let you know that I’ve got a promotional copy (white promo sticker on front cover) of Blue Note BST 84380 that’s on 8. LIBERTY/UA (WEST COAST) 1970-1 labels, so this kind of labels has been used at least up to 4380 and 1972, too.
Thanks Dino (that dupe post sorted) It’s helpful to get a fix on the upper catalogue number and final year of the Black/Turquoise label, one known to be promo.That particular Don Byrd title is also found on the Division of United Artists classic white/blue label (same year, 1972) and the United Artists solid blue label ( following year, 1973) So we know it was was right on the cusp transition to the next label. Updated, cheers.
In the case of mixed labels (e.g., NY23/W63), what is the “conventional wisdom” about this label configuration denoting a distinct pressing? If the 1st pressing of a particular title used NY23/NY23, how would a prospective buyer differentiate a pressing that was (a) near/at the end of the 1st pressing run (where new W63 labels were used to finish up the run, thus mixing NY23 and W63), or (b) the beginning of the 2nd pressing run (where W63/W63 labels were supposed to be used, but where NY23 labels were used to finish up the old label stock)?
This example before incorporation of Blue Note, hence no registration symbol.
Prompted by your question I have rewritten the paragraphs about mixed NY23 and W63rd labels, above Section 2, hopefully with greater clarity, though I am not sure I can answer your specific question.
The missing piece of information, perhaps someone knows, is the capacity of the label hopper of a Plastylite press. If a pressing run was say 500 copies a day per press (1 record each minute over 8 hours a day, I’m guessing) and a typical order of a title was say 1500 copies in the “first run” (again I’m guessing) , and the label hopper maybe needed refilling every day after 500 copies, then there are three chances for different label permutations to occur when refilling the label hopper during in the “first pressing run”, assuming the label batches of 500 and one dedicated press and stamper pair.
If the first pressing run was spread over three days, the start and finish of the run could be just the difference between Monday and Wednesday. Perhaps this isn’t the way vinyl production was organised in those times, those numbers are simple guesswork, delighted if someone can come up with a better story.
Does anyone know what’s up with the ones labled ERLP says blue not collection pure virgin vinyl 180 gram audiophile grade. Blue Note Records Inc New York USA.. bought joe henderson in n’ out, and so far it sounds terrible… says distributed by elemental music… spain.. i think i got screwed… any info would be helpful as i didn’t see it in the list above…
Spain has form on Blue Note reissues. I have come across a good number of Fresh Sounds Productions reissues recently (Barcelona based, I believe). I don’t know Elemental, but I have seen a few others of Spanish provenance. No idea what their credentials are, seems unlikely they would have access to original tapes, so I put them in the Grey Reissues box, avoid. If anyone has personal experience with them, perhaps they would like to share an opinion.
Hi LJC, Firstly, thank you for such an educational site. As a newbie to jazz, you site has been extremely helpful and very informative.
I recently came across an Art Blakey – A Night At Birdland, Volume 2 BLP 1522, with the following information:
This pressing has deep grooved blue/white Blue Note Records labels with 767 Lexington Ave N.Y.C. address on the A side and Blue Note Records Inc – 47 West 63rd – NYC on the B side. RVG etched and “ear”
Is there any significance that the album has two different labels? Popsike has one listed with the labels reversed, i.e 47 West 63rd – NYC on the A side and 767 Lexington Ave N.Y.C.on side B.
Is this an original, or a reissues?
Any further info would be appreciated
I am not a Blue Note specialist, far from that, but the first question to be answered is whether you have the first cover or the later one. I bet that yours is the greenish one with the two stylized birds. That is the first cover design. I suppose it is not a frame cover, which makes it a second edition. This would correspond with the adresses you give..
Thanks for the reply…
The cover of this album is the pink and white one. About a third of the cover is pink at the top and the white part has a series of 7 photographs with BLUE NOTE 1552 VOLUME 2 written to the right of the cover.
Art Blakey is written in white and the title in a yellow.
From what you have written, is it possible that this cover is the incorrect one for the album?
It was common practice to use up old stock of printed labels from inventory before using freshly printed stocks. Eking out old stock labels was often done by mixing side one or side two with the more recently printed labels, so mismatched labels are a quite common occurrence with vintage Blue Note.
Why not use up both old A and old B labels together? There are examples of this but there seemed to be a legalese motive in mixing old and new, when the newer label carried registered trademark assertion ® below NOTE. The 47W63rd label initially had no ®, prior to 1960-1.
What you seem to have is a subsequent “repressing” with 2nd cover, and not a first pressing with 1st cover.
I tend not to like the term “re-issue” myself, as your is same generation metal and mastering as the original. Reissue is a better description of re-release by new owners of the catalogue, or overseas licensed issues, which usually involved re-mastering from copy tape and broke the lineage with the original Van Gelder master. I guess people like to use whichever term best suits their purpose.
Just to put this to rest… or soon on a turntable 🙂
side A label has the address Blue Note Records 767 Lexington Ave N.Y.C. (Same as your No 1 blue note labels cheat sheet) On the run-off it has RVG etched, “ear” and etched 9m. It also has an etched BN-LP. 1522-A
Side B label has Blue Note Records – 47 West 63rd – NYC(Same as your No 3 blue note labels cheat sheet) . Sorry, in my original post I said it had “Inc” . I was quoting the seller. The photo he sent doesn’t have Inc on the address.
However, taking all this into account and what was written earlier, I must suspect that the album is a reissue.
Looking at popsike and discogs, the seller is selling the album for R500 (+/- £25) which puts it in the ballpark of what was sold.
thanks for all the input and help
yours is the second sleeve design. Like LJC said, they may have grabbed in their label box and put on whatever they found. I have had this one with just NYC labels, no adresses.
I’m trying to figure out an LP I have. It is blue note 1540 – hank mobley sextet featuring donald byrd and lee morgan. The label is consistent with a 1956 or 1957 release (although supposedly it came out in 58?) – it has no INC, no R, no 23, and does have west 63rd on it. But the etching is a problem? It has RVG, BN-LP-1540-(A on side 1, B on side 2), and 9M, all definitely hand etched, but does not have the ear on either side. I have pictures if you are curious. You say without the ear, it is not an original plastylite pressing, but every other indicator says it is an original… and do not match up to any of your other mentioned pressings/repressings, really? thus, my confusion? Any assistance would be appreciated.
pictures very welcome: Interesting case.
I sent pics to LJC. I can send to you as well if I have a contact method, or maybe LJC can forward them?
many thanks Justin. They have been forwarded to me.
Please send pictures, as good as you can do, to the address under “Contact LJC” on the blog banner.
Where Liberty used original Blue Note stampers, these carry all the engravings you refer to, including 9M and RVG stamp or etching. Their presence is not definitive of original status, it is the ear, which you say is absent.
The 1st edition of 1540 is Lexington, and deep groove, released January 1957. A 2nd issue on early 47 W63rd label, might possibly also be deep groove. Your mystery record is deep groove or not?
Helpful if are you able to weigh the naked vinyl on a set of kitchen scales?
Around the time 1540 was first released, original Blue notes weigh typically 180 – 190 grams, (with the odd outlier, 170 up to 210)
By 1966 Liberty (some old stock labels and cover) without ear, typically weigh 130 grams, none over 150 grams.
The size of vinyl biscuit and weight reduced over the years, and can help narrow down the likely year of manufacture.
pictures sent. I looked up what “deep groove” is, and this one does not seem to have it. The entire center area is depressed/indented, but not with a single groove. I cannot weigh it simply because I do not have a kitchen scale – although I could very much use one for other things, so need one soon lol.
Basically, without an ear OR the groove, I am giving up on it being an original pressing lol. The previous owner claimed it was original and worth around $500, when I accepted it as part of a large trade of miscellaneous items for a large lot of comics, but it looks like I’ve been had, now that I’ve done some research 😛
I’d really like to know exactly when it was pressed, though, if possible.
Thanks for the time and assistance!
Hi, got the photos Justin, first impressions confirmed. No ear and not deep groove, it is a Liberty reissue from 1966-7,
It is manufactured with original RVG stampers, using old stock labels cannibalised from a second press around 1957-9 (47W63rd labels no inc or R both sides) but the cover is Blue Note Records Inc, hence cover manufactured somewhere between end-59 to 1961.
It is very cute and quite desirable because of its metal heritage and vintage features, but not an original pressing (Lexington) nor indeed a Blue Note repress (47W63rd) but a Liberty manufactured reissue, my guess 1967.
Cool, thank you. One final question, then – do you happen to know, or have an opinion, on a general ballpark value range for this? Since the person who responded below this has expressed interest, and I’m not really a collector myself.
Very subjective, a lump of plastic doesn’t have any value of itself, it all depends how much someone wants it. Even though it is a mid-period reissue it is still nevertheless quite rare, and rare is what drives the price. An open auction on Ebay is the only way to realise its true worth, the whole world can have a shot at it.
In the light of some recent Liberty auctions anywhere between £100 and £200 would be my guess, but those were auctions, not private sales, speculation on what an auction would realise (less commission, hassle, all the grief) .
I should throw a note of caution, LJC is not a record trading site, House Rules apply.
I understand fully 🙂 I was not LOOKING to sell here, just stumbled across someone interested. And I appreciate all your help, certainly! I would NEVER have figured this out without you! If you ever need help identifying or evaluating any items in my particular spheres of knowledge – video games, comics, rare/antique books, TCGs, or coins – PLEASE get in touch so I can return the favor 🙂
There are a handful of variations of this title all with original Van Gelder mastering. I’m familiar with your pressing of this album, and I’m pretty sure the copy you have would have been pressed ca. 1966-1969 so no, not an ‘original’, as LJC is saying here.
I’m very fond of this record. If interested in selling and in good shape please let me know, thanks.
Hi Rich 🙂 I might be interested in selling, once I’ve nailed down the exact info on it. Thanks for the interest, and I’ll get back to you soon!
I’m a jazz collector from Milano, Italy and I own a strange Blue Note copy, so I’ve decided to write you to know your opinion about that.
I’m waiting an answer by Frederick Cohen, too.
I’ve got a Blue Note 1502 – Miles Davis Vol. 2 – that’s on blue/white deep groove Blue Note Records Inc. – 47 West 63rd – NYC address.
This kind of labels, according to your web site and to Frederick Cohen’s Blue Note guide, has only been used between 1959 until to the end 1961…….but……….
it also has RVG and 9M etched in the dead wax, both sides……and these etchings were used only up to 1957…….strange, isn’t it?
There is obviously the P symbol in the trail off, too.
What do you think about that? Which kind of pressing is it?
Is it a 1st pressing with labels and cover used 3 years later? How is it possible?
Many thanks for your attention.
Not strange at all, Blue Note used metal stampers from the original lacquers for years. You can find this record with Division Of Liberty labels with the same handwritten RVG & 9M in the deadwax found on 767 Lexington copies.
Many thanks for your answer.
So, is it a repressing not a reissue?
I’m sure Aaron can answer for himself, but that is a very useful distinction, original metal heritage = a repress (whatever the labels, jackets, and record company name says)
As opposed to a recording that is re-mastered from the original tapes, or more likely re-mastered from an unknown xth generation copy tape, for reissue.
There is this guff about things being “from the original master tapes”. Everything is from the original master tapes, including i-tunes downloads. After digital conversion, limiting, whatever.
The biggest problem I find in some “re-issues” is the obsession decades ago with supressing tape-hiss. Remember all that Dolby stuff? Chop off the top end and no tape hiss, or music come to that. Nowadays they think the market desires more bass, so it sounds better through earphones.
The original is as was intended, which will do for me. Repress is doubly good, as usually same sound with years less wear and tear.
I have the Thelonious Monk The complete Genius two lp reissue set released in 1976. All his Blue Note recordings. Would you happen to know who did the mastering for this reissue? It sound very good to me. Thanks
Thank you for a superb and informative site! I have a Fats Navarro (The Fabulous FN Vol. 2, BLP 1532). Lexington on cover, cvr frame K. Vinyl: both record labels Lexington etc, RVG hand etched on both sides wax, BN-LP-1532 – A and BN-LP-1532 – B also hand etched, flat edge, DG both sides, but… no Ear!… Seems like they forgot to etch it, but is this possible? Thanks for any possible answer, Nicholas.
I found this list of “Blue Notes” that are missing the ear (“P”) on a jazz site called “Organissimo.” I don’t know anything about its accuracy but the information may be in Fred Cohen’s book:
Don Cherry’s Complete Communion – 4226 – was the last title with the ear. So from 4227 (Mode for Joe) on the ear was no longer present.
The first pressings of the following titles do not have ears because they were released (sometimes much) later than planned:
– 4118 Free Form – Donald Byrd;
– 4171 Extension – George Braith;
– 4193 Indestructible – Art Blakey;
– 4196 Blue Sprits – Freddie Hubbard;
– 4203 Andrew! – Andrew Hill;
– 4204 Gettin’ Around – Dexter Gordon;
– 4206 Contours – Sam Rivers;
– 4209 Dippin’ – Hank Mobley;
– 4212 The Gigolo – Lee Morgan;
– 4213 Components – Bobby Hutcherson;
– 4215 Right Now! – Jackie McLean;
– 4217 Compusion! – Andrew Hill;
– 4218 Action! – Jackie McLean;
– 4219 The All Seeing Eye – Wayne Shorter;
– 4222 Cornbread – Lee Morgan.
Hi Seth, that list is correct, and twenty titles that followed, between 4227 and 4250, are similarly on Blue Note NY labels, but without the ear. They were all Van Gelder recordings, and Van Gelder mastered. I figure you can’t hear the missing ear, as Liberty matched pressing quality, for a while anyway.
Correct. I have “non-ear” first-pressings of many of these LPs and they are fantastic; the equal of their surrounding brothers with ears.
Thank you for the extra information. I have been wondering about some of my Blue Notes that lack ears. I suspected that they might be real “Blue Notes” because they are on heavy vinyl, have “Van Gelder” in the dead wax, but most importantly, have the superb “Blue Note” sound quality. I saw them as a way to pay less for the Blue Note sound. I, frankly, can’t afford some of the high prices, even for the stereo versions. And I’m out of running for the $1,000 plus club.
I’ve also noticed that some ears are stamped so lightly, that they’re barely visible. For a long time, I wondered if some of the ear markings were rubbed off over time or just stamped too lightly. During the transition period, I’ve purchased some “Liberty” pressings on thick vinyl that sound just like authentic “Blue Notes.” They may not be accepted by purest collectors but are a good way to hear the the Blue note sound for much less money.
I had to come to terms with the fact that even if I had enough money for a desirable Blue Note title, I would rather spend it on upgrading my equipment. I’m not the type of person who just collects and doesn’t play.
Unlike the etchings and stamps which were applied to the master/ acetate, the “ear” was applied by Plastylite: it has no consistency in appearance, but it confirms that record was pressed by Plastylite, and in some situations that is important to establish provenance.
The Blue Note sound is a result of Van Gelder’s recording and mastering, and that lives on in the metalwork, more or less whoever pressed it. The absence of ear on these forty or so Blue Note titles doesn’t mean they “lack the Blue Note sound”.
In my recent radio interview in a “Collectors Corner” spot, you could almost hear the bulb light up – ahhh, you actually play the things you collect…not just to look at them, like so many other things people collect. Darn right!
Well said all around, and I cannot speak highly enough of Liberty-era pressings, I continue to have great success with them!
My 4016 (47W63, R) has an ear on one side only. The seller had not mentioned it, so I was in the position to negotiate a substantial rebate. It is without surprise that the sound quality is excellent, either side
How often do misprints come up? I have a copy of Sonny Clark’s Cool Struttin with RVG in the deadwax but Liberty label (no ear). The interesting thing is that the second side’s label is not BLP 1588 (Cool Struttin) but instead BLP 1588 (Sonny Rollins Vol. 2).
Hi Andy. The lack of replies to your question seems to indicate misprints are rare, but nevertheless, Cool Struttin’ tends to attract wrong labels:
In this context, I can’t forbear to mention that slight “misprint” of yours (1588 instead of 1558)…
Cool post, cool blog. Thanks for posting all this helpful info.
I’m curious about a copy of “Takin’ Off” I’ve bought, but I’m also confused about the numbering of your examples. #8 on your “cheat sheet” seems to be the same as the one numbered 7 in the article. Sorry if this has already been discussed.
Anyhow, my Herbie Hancock record most closely resembles the Grant Green “Final Comedown” label in the “cheat sheet”, which is not discussed in your article, except that where that one shows publishing info, this “Takin’ Off” lists the musicians (names, no instruments).
you could also say it looks just like #9a, except there’s no BNST catalog number in parenthesis under the SIDE info, and everything is printed in black.
Hi LJC, thanks for such a wondeful guide which made me started collecting original bluenote records. I found one today which was DG, RVG and EAR on both sides, no R. The question is it had many marks and scratches. As a classical record collector, I definitely won’t buy it. I rated it as G and VG on two sides. And its asking price was $30. Should I buy it as my first original bluenote record? I’ve never buy any record in condition under EX so this is full of doubts.
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I have a pressing of Leo Parker’s album “Rollin’ with Leo” recorded at Van Gelder’s Studio, Englewood Cliffs…, October 12 (A3, A4) & 20 (A1, A2, B1 – B4), 1961. It’s part of the LT serie: LT-1076. This is details but the label is different from the one you are showing for the LT serie. “A DIVISION OF LIBERTY RECORDS, INC.” below “b” and “Blue Note” is in black ink, and not white, and it says “BLUE NOTE RECORDS MFD BY LIBERTY RECORDS. INC. A SUBSIDIARY OF CAPITOL INDUSTRIES • EMI USA • ALL RIGHTS RESERVED • UNAUTHORIZED DUPLICATION IS A VIOLATION OF APPLICABLE LAWS”. Do you know if they partly changed the label for the later release of the LT serie (’cause I also have Jimmy Smith’s “Cool Blues” LT-1054 but the label looks just like yours)?
This is definitely off topic buy I’m now listening to what appears to be a Mal Waldron bootleg called “Up Popped The Devil” on Enja. What’s shocking is the superb sound quality, comparable to the best European classical labels. The music is very out but also excellent. Reggie Workman is on bass, Billy Higgins on Drums and Carla Poole on Flute. The Enja number is 2034, in stereo, recorded in 1973. It looks like the cover has a sheet that was glued on. The record has a white label. I bought it on a whim because I liked the personnel. I never heard a boot (If it’s a boot) with such clarity and fullness. The compositions are all superb, in my humble opinion. The first song on side 2, called “Snake Out,” is spectacular.
Thanks LJC- your invaluable research just saved me from buying an inferior pressing of an Art Blakey set.
thanks for all the wonderful detailed information and the marvelous photo work. My question is about the date of the introduction of the NY, USA Label. I have just received a copy of Grant Green’s Green Street (4071) with all the correct details for a first pressing apart from the fact that it sports the NY, USA Label instead of the 63rd Street, which according to your timetable would mean it was a second pressing. But i remembered that i had read somewhere that NY Labels where introduced at least as early as 4076 (Horace Silver – doin’ the thing), and a quick popsike research did not reveal a single Green Street with 63rd Street Label and even a promotional copy with NY Adress. Probably NY Labels were introduced earlier as on BN 4101?
Thanks for helping out,
hi Chris, easy answer.
first New York issue: 4062
4063 to 4070, 47 West 63
4071, New York
4072 to 4074, 47 West 63
4075 and 4076, New York
4077, 47 West 63
4078 and 4079, New York
4080. last 47 West 63, side 1 only, side 2 NY
4081 on, New York
your Green Street IS strictly original with New York labels.
thank you very much! it’s just too hard to keep all these details in mind when recordshopping…
QUESTION regarding that stylings of silver album i was so proud of. your chronology says that the lexington address goes from 1500-1543 but “stylings” is number 1562. both sides are lexington, dg, no inc, no r, flat edge, ear, rvg, and all the appropriate hoopla, so i imagine this catalog number might have been issued earlier than some of the smaller numbers…? it certainly makes no sense to have reused labels in such a callous manner on both sides… does it? seems to me there’s no way around this being a first pressing, but if i am wrong, i suppose life will go on. what are your thoughts?
My Blue Note Guide to 1st Pressings was produced over a year before Fred Cohen published his “definitive” work. I was trying to fill the information vacuum and for what it’s worth, my guide is free, Fred’s is $45. There is a certain amount of guesswork in it, as I haven’t attempted to update it since I regard Fred’s knowledge as superior.
It does look like BN 1562 Stylings is an anomaly I wasn’t aware of. All the lower number titles I just Popsiked like 1558, 1559, and 1560 are all 47 West 63rd originals. I haven’t time to check every title but 1562 being Lexington (corroborated by other auctions) stands out like a sore thumb as not like those releases around that number, which are all 47 West 63rd.
What I think happened is that a number of Horace recordings were allocated catalogue numbers. Labels were printed by Keystone Printed Specialties Scranton PA in anticipation of a pressing run. Other titles came up and got the later address, this for some reason was set up with the earlier address, just out of sync. I also don’t rule out the possibility of someone somewhere making a mistake, typesetting the wrong address. I class this alike other mysteries: we can guess, but we will never know.
hi Gregory, is the cover laminated?
yep! the cover is also of the “kakabushi” variety, and the vinyl weighs approximately 212g. the address on the back escapes me. i believe it is 47 west 63rd, which would jive with LJC’s hypothesis about the labels being printed too early. either way, i am satisfied that is definitely an original. i am just curiously trying to understand as much as i can.
that is, i can check the address when i get home this evening.
yep, the address is 47 west 63rd, new york 23.
Hi there thanks for all your time and effort, this blog is excellent. I have about 30 or so BN titles and only one ‘RVG Ear’ they are quite rare in the UK and most of the ones i like seem to be the same price as a second hand car!
I would like to say a word in defence of the ‘South Parks’ the ones I have sound pretty good, Jutta Hipp 1530 and Hank Mobley 1588 are just a couple that I couldn’t have on vinyl otherwise and I’ll probably never will own originals (i’d rather pay off the mortgage). The pressings (of at least the one I have) are very good when compared to DMM or Capitols much more dynamic with quiet surfaces sleeve quality is also OK.
At the moment looking for a Monk 1510 I wish Scorpio did one of those, I’ll probably end up with a £25 DMM version or if I’m lucky a Japanese….
Great and fantastic job,LJC! Very useful, teaching and informative way of approaching to this label and a good help for japanese vinyl lovers like me.
I own many japanese reissues (in fact I love them because all the things written here, especially their copies are found easily in NM to M condition), by King and Toshiba-EMI. I had heard that some pressings sound better than others, but I never did any test. I think I wouldn’t be able to hear the difference between King’s and Toshiba’s, sure!
Anyway, I always buy records from japanese reliable sellers and generally speaking I’m very happy with the results.
But I realised that some of my recent purchases play with some distortion, for example “The incredible Jimmy Smith, Back at the chicken shack” by Toshiba-EMI. I’ve checked my settings and all is OK. Is it something natural? Of course, the records are in MINT condition.
Assuming this issue is isolated to certain records (and not your equipment at fault), it sometimes happens that a record may look mint but have been damaged at some point by play with a faulty stylus. King were made between 1977-83, which still allows a number of decades where tracking weights were heavier, styluses sometimes went unchanged, or were damaged. I’ve got one particular UA pressing with the same characteristics. I know the studio recording was good as I have another copy, which is fine. The same owner may have damaged a number of records in his collection, coming from the same source.
The other thought is that RVG did have a rare bad day and pushed the needle too far into the red on a particular recording, or the remastering engineer in Japan was having a bad day, but not very likely.
These things happen.
I had similar experiences with Toshiba pressings. In the first instance, the record did not have the clarity of my other Toshibas. For example, a drum roll would sound fuzzy and indistinct, not unlike the sound of clipping. When I had a similar experience with another Toshiba, I was perplexed. I have many that sound excellent, and I rarely play anything loud. I did notice, however, that the Toshibas with poor sound quality were pressed after 1989. I have since been staying away from the later Toshibas. I know it’s ludicrous to form a general conclusion from my limited experiences. But I’ve read that sound engineers, who use too much compression to make music louder for the portable MP3 crowd, can actually build clipping right into the recording. While this phenomenon is more often found in digital media, I imagine that a record, engineered with digital equipment, can also suffer from the same defect.
I do have a vague memory of reading something about avoiding 90s Toshiba records, but my memory, which has always been my weak point, has not been getting better with age.
There is definitely a cut-off point with Toshiba in the late eighties, after which pressings begin to lose their vintage qualities. I suspect that like everywhere else, digital processing started to contaminate their output. However they are still producing records today off the back of their previous reputation.
You need to be quite careful when a Toshiba was manufactured. I have around fifty Toshiba pressings. Based on these, the issues between 1983 and 85 are in many cases top notch, those between 1989-92 are variable, and those after 1992 are to be avoided.
Did you ever compare your Toshiba pressings with other versions of the same music, including CD? I know it sounds ridiculously self-evident, but it would be the only way to assess the sound quality of a particular pressing. As far as I can tell, RVG certainly didn’t have a bad day with “Back At The Chicken Shack”.
Seth, I actually wanted this to be a reply to L.Sanchez above, but it works in your case too.
Thanks for your replies. I never did a comparison between the vinyl and the RVG CD, so I am not able to tell anything interesting about this.
I suspect that some of my vinyls could have damaged grooves in parts. Fortunately there’re only 2 or 3 of them.
On the other hand, where could I get a a complete list of Toshiba’s and King’s pressing with dates and son on? I’ve tried discogs but there’s no info about some japanese pressings.
Blue Note I have three summary translation tables for Blue Note to King and Toshiba
I’ve been listening’ to Music the last 50 years and have always been curious about new way of expression. I could have lived worse without knowing Jazz. I’m pretty sure I’ll get on livin’ nice without Mr. Glasper’s music, which I know. And without Madonna or Lady Gaga. Everybody is free to listen to what he thinks is good music, until he’ll understand what is good and what isn’t. But this takes a long time and the ability to change one’s mind.
Very interesting and useful information…has anyone had a chance to listen to the new 75th anniversary pressings? How to they compare in sound and quality?
Hi, we are still waiting for a definitive response from purchasers, which I will not be one of. Opinions are beginning to emerge elsewhere. More here on this:
This is fascinating stuff! Does anybody have an idea of how long it took Liberty to run out of the ‘New York USA’ labels, months? years? I have recently acquired what I thought was an original BST 1577 because of the label, however there is no ‘ear’. Thanks.
It depends on the title and the sales volume of its original pressing, and we know more about the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 than we do about that.
You have “stereo” Blue Train there. It may not have the ear, but does it have RVG STEREO stamp in the run-off? The provenance of the metalwork seems more important than All Disc Roselle pressing for Liberty, which was generally fine.
another oddity discovered on my BLP 1555 – Art Blakey Orgy in Rythm- volume2.
side one is BLUE NOTE RECORDS – 47 WEST 63rd – NYC address with no “R”. side two is BLUE NOTE RECORDS INC – 47 WEST 63rd – NYC with “R” under the E!
Both sides have deep groove, handwritten RVG but Ear placed differently and only side 2 has the 9M! how about that?
Oddly enough, I have the same exact thing on my copy of “Orgy in Rhythm Vol 2” too!
so we’re officially “brothers in rythm” 😉
Sounds good, so long as we leave it at that with no mentions of ‘Orgies’ ;*p
hi again, diggin’ it back, these singularities shows evidence of a first or second pressing?
According to our Bible (Cohen’s book), original 1555’s have the NY23 address on both sides…looks like you have a second, maybe third pressing (that I can only guess sounds quote comparable to an “original original” 🙂
ok, thanks rich. i had quite figured it out, too.
I’ve had a nice little run on Liberty pressings:an immaculate original mono pressing of Don Cherry’s Symphony for Improvisers – obviously which is RVG stamped and which you would expect to sound good.
A lovely Newk’s Time in stereo for which I believe for there was a stereo tape – no RVG stamp on that.
Then Sonny Rollins Vol 2 in mono with an RVG stamp which is remarkably good – it makes mincemeat of my RVG CD version despite being a bit noisy. The two French pressing I have of this album, Pathe Marconi and DMM, are poor.
My copy of The Jody Grind with Rudy stamp NY labels but no P is one of the best sounding records I have.
But it all came crashing down yesterday when I picked up a Liberty copy of A date with Jimmy Smith Vol in ‘stereo’ which is terrible – all out of balance with a barely discernible organ bass. It seems to have the Keystone printing but I suspect that it must be electronically rechanneled stereo although it doesn’t say that on cover – whether there is an original stereo tape I’m not sure.
Liberty seems hit and miss to me but so far more of a hit.
Sympathies Andy, it’s a numbers game, some you win, some you lose, there is no safe harbour. I still remember that buyer from the east that spent $5,000 on Mobley 1568 but sent it back in tears, because it wasn’t perfect. You just take it in your stride.
Andy, the February 1957 sessions were not recorded in stereo – so, yes, what you have is a rechanneled version. If what you want is sound quality, then the Mosaic set is the one to go for.
LJC, so by virtue of these being early Liberty pressings (using up old stock NY labels), they should still be of pretty high sound quality, even if not Plastylite pressings right?
That is my experience, yes. To be clear:
Earless NY and early Division of Liberty are one and the same thing. Mostly, Van Gelder recording and mastering, and All Disc pressing. Sonically equal, allowing for individual variation within any particular pressing run- first to last off the stamper.
Later Division of Liberty it’s not so clear cut. More than a few are not Van Gelder and many are pressed by a range of other plants, operating under the economic pressures of the industry. Variable experiences from one title to another
Do they sound as good as proper original Plastyite Blue Note NY 1962-6? Well, who’s going to buy both just to find out? I’ve listened to a half dozen A:B and they are often close enough, such that both will offer an exciting and very satisfying listening experience. If you have both one will be better than the other, but if you don’t, you will be none the the worse off. I’m not as dogmatic on these things as I was at first.
Pragmatically, there are a range of alternatives to first original pressings which are more affordable and available, and offer a terrific listening experience. I am still talking vintage pressings, such as earless NY/ early Division of Liberty, Impulse RVG on black/red ring labels, Prestige Blue/ silver trident. I am categorically not talking modern180 gram reissues.
If you are selective, there are some near-first that are easily good enough. Right now I am listening to some early seventies US United Artists Records Inc second pressings and they sparkle compared with the dodgy UA early sxties originals I have.
Given it is impossible to get those coveted First Pressings nowadays because of less well-informed but more-wealthy collectors, this is indeed very good news.
Many of the early Liberty pressings (I think of them as “1966 Liberty” because they often come in the original 27 Years inner sleeve) use the original metalwork, my 66 Liberty copy of BNLP 1521, for example. It sounds fantastic (comparable to my other original Lexs) and cost about 3% the price of an original. Original metalwork = the same record, as far as I’m concerned.
I have done an A/B with a NY USA copy with “P” and without, and both sound stunning. All non-“P” NY USA labe pressings I have heard sound great 🙂
well, these BN Lps are a continuous source of joy and headache… about ORIGINAL STEREO, NEW YORK labels, i just got a Sam Rivers – A New Conception – BST 84249 in very good shape. it’s a 1967 session, hence no Plastylite nor RVG but a stamped VAN GELDER. it then falls into the bin of “leftover stock of New York USA labels” category, whereas it truly belongs to the Liberty rack. however, very nice pressing and musicality.
Great record, 4249, recorded October 11, 1966. Virtually every title from 4227 and up, and quite a few before, are earless and blessed with NY labels.
The answer lies in the sequence of printing the labels and which plant they were then supplied to for the actual pressing. Liberty continued to use the same print supplier as Blue Note – Keystone Printed Specialties of Scranton Pa. They must have had artwork all set up for printing Blue Note labels, and carried on as before until Liberty got their act together. However the actual pressing moved straight to the plant Liberty had just bought, All Disc, Roselle NJ .bye bye Plastylite. That’s my understanding, but if anyone knows better happy to be corrected, as always..
another oddity: jackie mclean/destination – 4165/side A with new york label, side 2 with liberty… van gelder stamped. maybe with an ear? i took my chances here…
great lp anyway!
That is very unusual, the mixing NY and Division of Liberty, but an ear? That is the triumph of hope over experience. Nevertheless, should sound great.
well, no ear of course but yeah, great sound AND MUSIC!
same anomaly with a fresh Ornette Coleman Trio in Stockholm vol.1: one NY adress side, one Liberty… Lp sounds amazingly astounding! live and direct in da club… came with a 27 years blue note inside sleeve that evokes “early” 1966 Liberty, if i agree with Joe L’s theory 😉
Based on the strength of the Open Sesame post, I’m over here reading up on 70’s reissues! So none of those classic label UAs use RVG lacquers, interesting…but for the blue labels with a black “b” circa 73-76, I would love to hear an A-B of one of those RVGs with an original stereo RVG–that would be interesting. I’m not sold on the idea that these are inherently “duller” just because they probably come from the same lacquer as the originals. If the stampers for these reissues were made from old mothers, that would make sense. But if they had the master metal and could make a new mother, I would think they would sound pretty good. I have a couple of these blue label with a black “b” made from RVG masters and they sound ok to me. But if we take into account how little everyone cared about fidelity in the 70s in comparison to the 50s and 60s, they probably just used worn mothers to make these stampers
Alas, the copies I’ve had over the years have always sounded very thin, regardless of RVG. Always disappointing, as they are readily available. I tried many times to “listen with new ears,” but was always let down. Have sold them all.
My French copy of BLP 1522 (pm251) (Art Blakey – A night at birdland) has a similar label to the french one above, but sports the italicized microgroove instead of the bold stereo. It is a 1982 reedition.
I don’t really think it’s fair to put the New York USA labels a notch below West 63rd and Lexington. Although I find the popular opinion to be that Hackensack recordings are preferred to those done at Englewood (I personally have no preference), at the very least a line might be drawn between titles that were recorded at the two locations. I understand that you’re simply trying to give people a general idea of sound quality with respect to labels, but I don’t think the difference in quality are as black-and-white as these divisions when it comes to the Plastylite stuff.
Fair comment DG Mono.
At the time it was my honest take, based on my experience at the time. With several more years experience of bigger selection of Blue Notes and other records under my belt, on a much improved hifi system compared with when I first wrote it, I think I would write it differently.
I am reminded that all opinion, however honestly formed, is based only on what we know at the time.
Experience shows much of what we believe is subsequently found to be erroneous.
Everyone’s experience is merely a sample of what is on offer. That applies equally to everyone else’s experience.
I’m going to go out on a limb and perhaps introduce a bit of controversy: I think that while Plastylite pressings are exceptionally good, some of the best sounding records I have heard are UA-era stereo Blue Notes made from the original master. There are several releases where I have the benefit of both Plastylite and non-Plastylite copies to compare (having sought out a pre-Liberty copy after owning a UA or Liberty era pressing) and many of them sound just a good as their NYC label counterpart (specifically referring to 60s stereo releases).
As LJC has pointed out, in the end the manufacturing/pressing process can’t add anything to sound quality, only detract. Plastylite certainly was historically one of the highest quality pressing plants, perhaps even in the same league as Decca’s New Malden plant. However, there are plenty of well-pressed late 60s and 70s Blue Notes free from any kind of defect or significant manufacturing degradation which impact sound quality. In the end, good pressing simply comes down to good quality control which Plastylite certainly had no monopoly on.
For me, the critical aspect of any LP, beyond the sleeve, the label, deep groove, etc. is the information in the runout. In almost every case, if a record was pressed from the original master, it’s going to have comparable sound quality to any ‘1st pressing’. In my mind the original mastering is what unwittingly fuels collectors obsessions with all of these other details (labels, sleeves, etc.).
The only other true advantage I see to earlier pressings is that they are less likely to suffer from issues related to degraded metal parts, although I’m not sure any of us really understand how the breakdown of these parts directly impacts sound quality. There seems to be a consensus that stamper wear caused from the pressing action contributes to a ‘deadness’, which presumably corresponds to a rolling off of high frequencies. Perhaps someone who understands more about the LP manufacturing process, such as Dean R., can enlighten us on this matter.
As far as solid blue label-era Blue Note records, I am convinced that new mothers were at least occasionally made from the original matrixes even in the 70s. I think this is supported by the etchings LJC has noted scratched in the runout on some of these pressings, since readers have reported that their pressings feature these same etchings (as we discovered with the Plastylite ‘P’, recessed marks must either be introduced on the master or the mother; marks on the stamper, like the Plastylite ‘P’, will show up in relief). If new mothers were in fact created, there was essentially a fresh sequence of stampers introduced long after the original release.
The one risk I have encountered with Liberty/UA-era pressings is various defects in the metal parts which result in brief passages of noise or distortion. I have several mint condition 70s pressings that sound great except for these very brief defects. I also have other LPs pressed which are pressed from the same master and have this same type of defect in the same exact spot. Because of this, it’s my guess that these issues were introduced during the either the cleaning or separation phase of the plating process and are also the ultimate causes for discarding mothers.
In summary, while I agree the safest bet for top sound quality is a Plastylite pressing, I think a high quality post-Liberty pressing made from the original master can sound just as good.
Well…I don’t have any UA pressings–yet…so the only comparison I know of is LJC’s comparison of an original West 63rd no R copy of Curtis Fuller’s “The Opener” with a UA pressing, and the original did sound “bolder” to me…more “up front” and “immediate”…which probably had a lot to do with the fact that Van Gelder limited harder when he mastered. To be clear LJC’s UA pressing was not made from a Van Gelder lacquer…but I did prefer the West 63rd copy. I know that some of those UA pressings did use Van Gelder laquers though so they most definitely are collectible!
I would like to comment on your second paragraph, Felix:
In the instance that two pressings of the same title were both mastered from the original master tape, there are a number of things related to the mastering process that could impact two different pressings of a title besides the pressing plant. Even if the non-RVG UA pressings were well manufactured, I’m positive that the UA mastering engineers did not limit as much as Van Gelder (practically no one did), so the signal-to-noise ratio of the UAs will be lower. HOWEVER, the non-RVG UAs would then be less likely to incur distortion from groove wear over time…there’s always a trade-off. Van Gelder Plastylites that made it through the heavy tonearm/worn sapphire stylus era of the fifties and sixties without incurring much groove wear are masterpieces of analog mastering engineering and manufacturing.
Regarding your fourth paragraph about worn parts:
The chain of command is lacquer > master > mother > stamper. I am positive that Van Gelder would have cut more than one lacquer when he was mastering (though I’m positive that for most titles all Plastylite pressings of that title utilized the same lacquer). For each lacquer, 2-3 master disks would be made, each master would then make a handful of mothers, then each mother would make several stampers. It makes perfect sense to me that getting a fresh stamper is the most important thing affecting high frequency response and the onset of distortion from groove wear with a particular copy of a record (fresh mothers, masters, and lacquers aren’t as important because they didn’t get “used” nearly as much as the stampers). If you get a fresh stamper, the high frequencies will be cut tighter and cleaner and will last longer. If you get a dull stamper, the highs will already be a bit worn and groove wear will set in more quickly.
This is why it makes no sense for someone to want a more original pressing simply because they think the metal used for the pressing is dogmatically fresher. If you get a copy that was pressed by a fresh stamper five years after the original release that also came from the same mother as the original pressing, it’s going to sound better than every original pressing that came near the end of the stamper’s life that was used for the original pressing.
How does this info relate to the Plastylite/UA discussion? If a UA Blue Note has a Van Gelder stamp in the dead wax, the master/mother/stamper were all made from an original Van Gelder master lacquer. Who knows if the metal would have been inherited by UA from Plastylite, or if UA would have created a fresh master from a lacquer already used by Plastylite, or maybe they used a fresh Van Gelder lacquer that Plastylite never used. The proof would be in the dead wax of the Van Gelder UAs. I believe Van Gelder annexed -#’s for each lacquer…I also know he did this when he screwed up a lacquer too…I would love to know the details of this stuff. If there’s no Van Gelder in the dead wax of a UA copy, the only thing that would be the same between the UA pressing and the Plastylite would be that both came from the original master tapes. But the bottom line is that the whole thing is such a crap shoot regarding how used the lacquer, master, mother, and stamper are for any given copy, the only way to judge fidelity is by listening. While it’s true that original pressings are always made when the tape is fresher, original pressings have zero definitive advantages fidelity-wise over subsequent pressings, mainly because of the inevitable wear of stampers.
I would love to hear a non-Van Gelder UA pressing that I thought rivaled Van Gelder’s mastering work or even surpassed it. As much as I am an RVG fan-boy, I would be totally open to the idea. 🙂
1. Van Gelder Plastylites and Van Gelder UAs have identical mastering but different manufacturing and most likely to some degree different metal including stampers.
2. Van Gelder Plastylites and non-RVG UAs have different mastering, different manufacturing and most likely to some degree different metal including stampers.
But IMO the only way one could make an objective assessment about some sort of preference for a Plastylite or UA pressing of the same title would be to be sure that both pressings were made from fresh stampers and had no onset of groove wear. If both copies sounded really clean and vibrant, I’d love to compare!
So just to clarify: my original thoughts were specific to Liberty/UA pressings made from the original Van Gelder cut masters of NYC-era stereo titles . Personally, remasters are of no particular interest to me (which isn’t to say some of them might not have their own merits).
I learned the importance of mastering the hard way.
Early on, I thought the key to good sound was as simple as getting record made from the original master tapes. My first Blue Note was an NYC-era stereo copy of “Somethin’ Else” I stumbled across in a bin for $20 and I was immediately hooked. I started buying any Blue Note pressing I came across. I remember excitedly bringing home a solid blue label copy of “Maiden Voyage”, but when I threw it on, it sounded so tame and I wondered why. I was just beginning to learn about how records were made and it began to dawn on me that that VAN GELDER stamp in the runout really meant something.
After similar experiences comparing Philips-remastered Mercury Living Presence recording with the original George Piros-cut masters, it began to dawn on me that there was a reason people were seeking out and paying a premium for early editions of these important recordings, and that reason was mastering.
I think Dean R. spells it out it quite nicely in this post above:
I couldn’t agree more. After years of comparing various pressings, remasters, SACDs, the Classic Records DVD-As, etc. I have come to firmly believe that the truest representation of the original vision of the artists, engineer and producer is almost always the original master cut by Van Gelder and approved by Alfred Lion.
“The chain of command is lacquer > master > mother > stamper. I am positive that Van Gelder would have cut more than one lacquer when he was mastering (though I’m positive that for most titles all Plastylite pressings of that title utilized the same lacquer).”
I was using the term ‘matrix’ in place of ‘master’ (occasionally, the silvered lacquer is also referred to as the ‘master’). From what I have seen, all but the most popular Blue Note titles (BLP 1501, 1518, etc.) were pressed from a single master all the way into the 1970s at which point they either went out of production or were replaced with remasters. The only Van Gelder-cut remasters I have seen were cut before Lion sold out to Liberty.
Van Gelder used the sequence “A”,”A-1″,”A-2″, etc. when cutting new masters (“A” being side 1, “B” for side 2). The approximate date of these remasters can be gauged by Van Gelder’s mark (etched RVG, RVG stamp, VAN GELDER, etc.). There is some debate about when and why Van Gelder cut new masters. As far as Van Gelder cutting more than one production lacquer at a time, I have not ever run across and information about that (obviously there may have been safeties, test pressings, etc. but nothing that was intended for public consumption)
For me, the two questions at this point are:
1. The lineage of RVG-sourced metal parts used by Liberty and UA
2. The audible impact of the breakdown of metal parts during the manufacturing process.
With regards to the first question, I’m fairly confident for the reasons I stated above that Liberty and UA made new mothers. Of course, it’s not impossible that they continued to utilize Plastylite-era stampers as well. But remember, any stampers plated by Plastylite would have the telltale ‘P’.
Unfortunately, it seems that there is not a lot of hard information available to answer the second question. Some of us have speculated based on our limit knowledge of LP manufacturing, but the actual facts are few and far between. I think the best hope is some first hand information from someone who has worked in the industry.
In the meantime, here are some links that give a small amount of detailed information about the manufacturing process:
Perhaps if someone is feeling audacious, they can pose some of these questions to the aforementioned Lathe Trolls.
Thanks for all the links! I found the Aardvark article a bit confusing…I preferred the Pennyroyal 3 article, that was very clear. It was interesting to see the significant difference in numbers that both articles came up with as the number of copies a plant could get from a single lacquer (36k with Pennyroyal 3 vs 100k with Aardvark…yikes!). In theory, if 36k was the more practical of the estimates and a plant made 100,000 copies from a single lacquer, would you want one of those copies made near the end of a run using the tenth stamper from the tenth mother??
“Unfortunately, it seems that there is not a lot of hard information available to answer the second question [the audible impact of the breakdown of metal parts during the manufacturing process]. Some of us have speculated based on our limit knowledge of LP manufacturing, but the actual facts are few and far between. I think the best hope is some first hand information from someone who has worked in the industry.”
Every one of these articles addresses the fact that stampers wear out, no? I can’t tell if you’re just curious as to how this happens or if you’re simply reluctant to believe it…? I’m wondering if you were thinking that the pressing plant would undoubtedly pull the stamper before there was any kind of audible loss in fidelity. But according to the large difference in the numbers above, it looks like pressing plants could have very different ideas of when a stamper is done–and I’m willing to bet it has a lot to do how much a plant is looking to save on production costs. (Hopefully Lion and RVG chose Plastylite because they didn’t mess around with this stuff!)
I guess you didn’t like my explanation of how stampers wear out in my last comment. 😉 Again, I think it makes sense that the more these metal plates are heated and pressure is put on them, the more likely it is that those extra-fine high-frequency squiggles will to turn to mush.
PS – I have kindly replied to Dean’s post here: https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/the-blue-note-labels/#comment-16476
Afterthought: Depending on the title, I don’t think we have any idea whatsoever how many copies of these Blue Note records were made…10K? 50k? 100k? 500k? It makes sense that the less copies that were made, the less likely it was that the pressing plant would overuse metal because they didn’t have to press a lot of records in the first place.
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I am seeing some Mono liberty “microgroove” italicized script labels with, underneath, Blue Note Records a Division of Liberty Records,Inc.. LP code numbers begin BLP40– etc etc-
RVG stamper present.
When do these date from?
Hi Rufus, interesting question. Whereas 90%-odd of Division of Liberty label reissues or Liberty 1st issues are Stereo, there are some mono (Microgroove) among them. I have 4 mono among 52 Division of Liberty label titles, though there are many more mono’s hidden among the “NY label/Liberty pressings” (no ear), which are quite commonly mono.
Among the Div of Lib mono my Rollins 1581 has a RVG stamp, the other three are 4231, 4252 and 4253, all mono and bearing the later VAN GELDER stamp, which you would expect being recorded 1964-66. They originate from Van Gelder masters.
I tend to date Liberty according to the precise colour characteristics of the label print.
The classic Keystone labels mostly seem to tie in with the lower catalogue numbers therefore probably earlier – 1966/7 – while the change in colour fidelity and font that went with the Transatlantic period west-coast pressing probably 1968/9. This is inference, as I have no means of proof.
None of us have all the titles, nor would want to, so there may be exceptions and anomalies I wouldn’t be aware of.
Thanks for the fast and excellent response – I guess the italicized microgroove text threw me.. Anyway I scored a mono RVG Jimmy Smith The Sermon which I hope will be great..
Love the new timeline my man!
It needed to be done
Hi Again LJC,
I’ve noticed a few blue note LPs being sold which have the United Artists address on the label, except the album name and artist is written in a different black font instead of blue and the album name is in quotation marks. Are these genuine united artists labels? If so from which year?I don’t see this in the pic above.
Definitely Vinyl Detective material, Sam. The differences you describe look to me down to who printed the labels – this is a specialist field of study. We know Keynote Printed Specialties Scranton PA to be the printers of classic Blue Note original and first wave Liberty labels, and we can identify some of the West Coast printed Libertys. But who printed for giant labels like UA in the Seventies God alone knows (God in this case being W.B. of the Steve Hoffman Forum – the man who knows absolutely everything about everything) The printers are not necessarily an indicator as to who mastered or pressed the records, which is the bit that sometimes matters. If you have a picture of the variation fire it across.
OK, I’m going to disagree with your characterization of the AP/MM 45 rpm reissues.
1. You’re comparing the Analogue Productions/Music Matters releases to the UK issues that were probably at least a gen down the line from the US issues. Apples and oranges and if they sounded the same, you know something is wrong.
2. You really don’t know what tape generation was sent to the UK for pressing eg. was the tape pre-EQ’d for what they [Blue Note] thought the UK market wanted sonically? Or was the UK mastering engineer allowed freedom when cutting? You know for a fact that Blue Note didn’t send the original master tape and most likely a safety generation. That was quite common coming in both directions across the Atlantic. So certainly the fidelity of the UK reissues, to the original master is in question.
3. OTOH, you know that Chad, Joe and Ron used the “original” tapes.” In fact, even in some cases with the Contemporary tapes, Chad’s reissues were a gen earlier than ANY other release ever done. And it’s an incontrovertible fact that the earlier the tape, the better the sound. Which tape used, the care in mastering and pressing, digitization along with tape aging are probably responsible for the dismal sound of later Blue Note reissues. So the bottom line is unless one knows what tape was used for mastering each issue/reissue, these sort of comparison are really invalid.
4. The gold standard for comparison is still against the master tape. I’ve several early gen 15 ips/2 track copies (2-3) of Blue Note releases (played back on what might be considered a SOTA deck equipped with modern electronics, either tube or ss) and done those comparisons. Outside of the original Blue Notes, the 45 rpms come the closest sonically to the tape. If you’re ever in the US, I’d be glad to do that demo for you and you can make your own decision 🙂 PS. The Tape Project has already released Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon (and Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder is slated for Series 3 release) on 15 ips tape. Certainly these types of comparisons are invaluable for comparing and assessing the LP reissues/issues since one might be surprised that even the best LPs pale against the tape 😦
5. Another item that is rarely mentioned is the condition of the disc. Jazz lovers, bless their heart, compared to classical lovers who played their albums once and put it on a shelf, played their albums to death. So good luck in finding a clean copy of early BN releases 😦 While I love the music, if it’s buried in sea of muck and mire and pops and tics (and that’s cleaning using the amazing Audio Deske RCM), you might as well listen to the digital transfer ;(
BTW, I enjoy reading your musical critique/history of the recordings!
Other people have said to me something similar – that the gold standard is tape – I was offered a copy of Bill Evans Waltz for Debby on tape last year, but the cost didn’t include buying a machine to play it on! I’ll believe you.
Re Music Matters, I have just ordered a couple of MMs directly from Ron in the States. We will hear what we hear and no doubt will want to update the commentary, soon.
House motto: Nullius in Verba rough translation – “Take no-ones word for it”
The trouble with listening on tape is two-fold.
1/ The recordings were made to be listened to on record. On Blue Note recordings for instance Rudy was putting things onto the tape knowing how they would sound on record. The tape’s greater fidelity would not be the issue, but how that sound could be turned into a record. Meaning that what you get on tape is not necessarily closer to what the producers were trying to create. Records would not be able to reproduce what would be on the tape, so the tape would be recorded in a way to make the records sound better. That’s why mastering is such a skill and makes such a difference to how a record sounds.
This is significantly more important on Blue Note as the recording engineer was also the mastering engineer, who knew what compression he was likely to use on the cut as he was recording the music.
2/ At a distance of forty years, the analogue tape source will not be pristine. It’s often a good starting point if it had been well looked after, but it will be nothing like mastering from the tape at the time the music was recorded. That’s why de-noising happens on so many reissues, because there is a whole lot of sound on the tapes that isn’t supposed to be there. As such making a tape to tape copy just gives you a very good copy of something that it isn’t perfect in the first place. On the minus side tapes are far harder to look after well than records and they deteriorate even when they are not being played, on the plus side they are far less likely to get played than a record.
From the mid 1950s to the late 60s Blue Note never pressed anywhere but America. Alfred LIon decided against licensing out his product. British journalist Roy Carr told me the reason for this and I’m pretty sure he said it was to do with quality control – Roy worked for Alfred for a short time. So the only time the record was ever mastered was by Rudy Van Gelder from the pristine tape. No second generation copy tapes unless something had gone badly wrong.
I’m not trying to say that the tape project isn’t interesting, just that the idea that it is the ultimate way to hear the sound is to ignore many of the factors that go into making a record, and how the tapes would then be looked after.
Very interesting Dean, not heard the issue of what’s on the tape vs what’s on the record put that way before. It certainly explains why reissues “mastered from the original tapes” does not tell the whole story, as per AP/MM. I won’t be investing in a tape machine.
Perhaps Lion should have taken a leaf out of Prestige’s book and sent metalwork abroad instead of copy tape, as with those to Prestige – Esquire/ Metronomes. etc. Van Gelder must have been aware of that alternative solution. Perhaps they just cared less about business side.
I don’t think Lion did after a few licenses in the early to mid 50s. I think he sold finished albums and that was it. No one was allowed to remaster a Blue Note record in those days.
That’s one way to look at it but not the way that I look at it.
First of all, Blue Note was far from unique in their approach eg. having the recording/mastering engineer involved. Pretty much every small label was a mom and pop show back then.
Two, reread your first paragraph because I found it very confusing and really a set of contradictions.
Third, RVG and others were above all mastering their recordings with both the limitations of the cutting lathes back and THE playback equipment in mind. It was a rare person like George Piros of Mercury who could get a dynamic cut in those days from the cutting lathe. That’s why so many labels went to him for mastering their recordings in the day.
Lastly, I disagree about the reason for “de-noising.” It was about removing tape hiss such as on some early tape formulations that used large magnetic particles. And the de-noising is de-stroying the music and sound.
As far as the tapes being recorded to make the LPs sound better: that’s not been the opinion of those in the know who have listened to the Blue Note master tapes. Have you ever listened to the master tapes (or even a copy) to draw your conclusion or is this second hand info? I would profer that the newer releases are closer to what was put down on original tape than the originals–even with tape aging effects.
my day job is listening to old master tape. I have listened to master tapes from Blue Note, Prestige and scores of soul and R&B labels. The only people who say that there is no loss of fidelity down the years from master tapes, are those who are selling new releases mastered directly from them. Some are good, some are bloody awful.
It’s rare for a recording engineer to also be the mastering engineer, I can’t think of anyone who did it as regularly as Rudy Van Gelder for LPs. Please share who else was doing so in such vast numbers.
Of course you can fetish the original tapes, but the engineers job was to make records not tapes for audiophiles, and they knew what they often knew what would have to be done after the recording to make these viable records – within the views of the day.
Tapes are of course a raw way of looking at the music recorded at a session, however I think a pristine original record would trump it most times.
“The recordings were made to be listened to on record. On Blue Note recordings for instance Rudy was putting things onto the tape knowing how they would sound on record. The tape’s greater fidelity would not be the issue, but how that sound could be turned into a record. Meaning that what you get on tape is not necessarily closer to what the producers were trying to create. Records would not be able to reproduce what would be on the tape, so the tape would be recorded in a way to make the records sound better. That’s why mastering is such a skill and makes such a difference to how a record sounds.
This is significantly more important on Blue Note as the recording engineer was also the mastering engineer, who knew what compression he was likely to use on the cut as he was recording the music.”
Felix pointed out your post to me. I see that you have some engineering chops, myself as well–I can’t say that I’ve ever heard an original Blue Note master tape in person though!
I must say, however, that I firmly disagree with the statement I quoted above. What could a recording engineer possibly do differently when mixing on the fly in order to better prepare a recording to be released on vinyl? Everything I can imagine one wanting to do–compressing, limiting, EQ’ing–can be done at the mastering step…? Regarding compression, are you saying that Van Gelder may have compressed various individual signals going to tape a certain way based on how he knew he was going to apply compression to the entire mix in the mastering process?? I suppose that makes sense, but I guarantee you he would rather listen to the master tape than a record every time…that’s just a feeling I get from hearing him talk about how much he despises generation loss, and if we’re talking about strict, high standards regarding fidelity, a transfer to vinyl is a *major* generation loss. I’m positive that many audiophiles would prefer the original master tape *in theory* because it avoids all kinds of artifacts from the transfer to vinyl such as limiting the dynamic range, “artificial” or “unnecessary” EQ’ing (audiophile speak, not mine), surface noise, and harmonic distortion. This ties into why a lot of digital heads argue that digital remasters sound closer to the original tape, and if the tape was well cared for over the years, I would probably agree with that. But I would still prefer to listen to the recording on a vintage pressing.
Analogue Productions/Music Matters Have UK issues?
No idea, but I can’t imagine its worth anyone’s while to press locally. I think my AP was just an import.
Hey LJC could you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ??
I want to send you a eBay link to an album (without making it public on here) because I can’t work out which of Liberty this album is.
It’s got the liberty jacket, so the back is different. Can’t tell from pics if it has the plastylite symbol. It doesn’t say that it does, which I suppose indicates its not the earlier Liberty.
Thanks mate hope you can help.
Hi no sorry I mean the number 11, blue label white note. Would there be any benefit compared to CD or should I wait til a king or toshiba shows up? I have been outbid on a few originals of this album, it’s quite frustrating! 🙂
I have had around a half dozen of the Blue label/white note, and pretty disappointing for the most part. Case in point, Sam Fisher, Inventions &Dimensions (CD) vs “Involutions” (LP) – the evil silver disk is a much more satisfying performer than the vinyl. Your mileage may vary but I can’t recommend those late Seventies United Artists white note fellas – the wrong side of 1975.
A better option on a budget is a Toshiba or a King, or – if you can find one – an early Division of Liberty(1966-7) emphasise early – not the Transamerica years 1968-70, which in my experience don’t compare
Would you recommend I go for a blue/w white note label 70’s pressing if I cannot afford the original?? I’ve been waiting for a jap issue of a particular album but can’t find one. Should I take the blue/white note label LP chance?? Or is it a waste of money? Roughly what would you say a hardbop album with this label might be worth??
“70’s Blue and white label” – to be clear – the “classic” blue and white Blue Note label” appeared in the Seventies only 1970-3 as “Division of United Artists” Example 9a above. If that’s what you mean, these are highly recommended and usually cost anything between £20 and £45, depending on the rarity of the title.
Be helpful to confirm which of the labels in the labelography above you had in mind if not that one.
I just received a new copy of Blue Train this morning (ordered before I came across your blog, nobody’s perfect) and the label is different from the usual Scorpio reissues. I’m pretty sure it’s one of them, but the label is the same as the Capitol/EMI reissues of the late 80s, with a CEMA copyright. And on the back cover, the DMM sign… Very confusing.
I’ll listen to it this evening. Let you know.
BTW, great blog and thank you for the music selections.
Welcome Xavier – Interesting – shoot me a copy of the labels if you like – 800x800px min, bigger is better. Oh, and what it sounds like, almost forgot! That’s important too…
The blue train copy has two serial number, the standard blue note one (81577) and another one that is found in the dead wax (56987). The copyright is 1993 CEMA special markets. I email you a picture of the label.
The sound is fine but I think my new copy of something else (real Scorpio) sounds better. But I can just compare with others reissues by French label Heavenly Sweetness (there are from analogue tapes, copies made by Capitol I think). Still waiting for my first original pressings (due next week).
Xavier and LJC – it’s this one: http://www.discogs.com/John-Coltrane-Blue-Train/release/3913058 CEMA was a budget reissue label for Capitol-EMI. Widely available in US record stores. UGLY label! I am not aware of any other Blue Note reissue on that label. I had one for a time, but did not enjoy the sound – extremely thin, crappy vinyl.
Joe, this is the one. I’ll give it a second try this evening, before looking for an other copy, may be at my local record store this time.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps the ear. The Capitol “Finest in Jazz Since 1939” editions – and this one says the dreaded Direct Metal Master DMM I think – I have found fairly unpleasant, but hey, I’ve been wrong before, this one may be one of the exceptions. If it sounds good to you, that’s what matters.
I bought Blue Train Blue Note BLP 1577 in the late sixties.
It’s in NM state, cover and record.
There’s a deep groove on both sides and a “R” after “NOTE”.
The address is: “47 West 63rd – NYC”
There’s an ear.
On the back of the cover, the address is : “BLUE NOTE RECORDS INC., 43 West 61st ST., New York 23”.
Would it possible to have some information on the origin and approximate sale value of this record in NM state?
You can do your own search. The presence of the “INC” and “R” on the label means later pressing after 1960/1 – drops its value into the $200-$300 mark, but at the end of the day it depends who’s watching, who’s buying, who else is selling.
If I had to guess, your copy in NM condition is worth 500 at least.
FWIW, I recently learned that the DMM process used a 16-bit digital delay for the one revolution look ahead used for automatic margin control and as a result, most (all?) DMM titles are de facto digital.
been loving reading your blog. just discovered last week and been having a blast!
at present i am listening to a mid 70s blue label repress of lee morgan’s ‘in search of…’ and i must admit that it sounds absolutely identical to an orig 60s stereo pressing i have. this orig stereo press has the ear in run-out + all the usual signifiers of quality. the reissue has the van gelder + stereo stamp. and i should also note the sound overall is quite nice, not muddy, resonant low end, punchy, a worthwhile sonic experience (in my humble though admittedly non audiophile opinion)
perhaps this is an anomaly? perhaps my ‘orig’ suffered from a last run mother? find any others that have slipped through cracks like this one?
Hi BFBN and welcome (no photos please, see my agent)
The trouble with rules is exceptions. Most of the Blue label UA issues are in my experience ( I reckon based on around thirty or forty at one time) are what I consider sonically poor, and also the Blue labels are mostly Stereo, and I prefer a (good) mono. But I too have the odd Blue label which sounds great, but a note of caution – if you eventually pick up an original, you may well find the original is better still. Its all relative.
LJC’s 1st Law of Audio Quality is “closest to source is (generally) best”: Test pressings, review copies, 1st press, second pressings, reissues. And somewhere near the end there, The Evil Silver Disc
It holds good most of the time but its still no guarantee. I have to odd original which is worthy but dull, and a few unexpected superb “reissues”. With later reissues, I avoid DMM like the plague, but I had one turn up which is a joy to listen to. Same goes with Fantasy reissues. Old hands tell me its all about who happened to be the engineer that day.
On that depressing note – LJC’s 2nd Law : Uncertainty is about as certain as it gets… Cheers!
To take this debate to its ultimate obssesive level, try this
Hard-line Original Pressing-Fundamentalist: one who believes it is essentially “impossible” for any reissue to ever sound as good as any original.
i hear you about the dmm’s. i made the sad mistake of buying 2 at once and it was a sonic tragedy! and that’s no understatement – they sounded worse then the lowest bitrate mp3.
On another note, im doing a presentation about vinyl record collecting to a class of art school kids in a few days and because you’re site has gotten me so hyped about blue notes again, i’ve decided to share some of them with the class.
the hard thing now is deciding exactly which ones to showcase. think for me horace silver 6 piece has to be up there. senor blues was a nice step forward in jazz at that time and after 55+ years it still sounds fresh. thnx again and keep up the tip top work mate!
What a coincidence: I don’t think I’ve told him yet, but LJC inspired me to start my own record collecting blog (which should be launched within the month)! Also, that’s so cool that you’re going to share your experience with kids at school! I’ve been in education for a while now and someday I intend to create a one-day sort of lesson for music students at inner-city schools focused on pointing out the many similarities and connections between jazz (bop) and hip hop culture.
Yeah, i had the good fortune of being asked by an educator friend of mine who works for OCAD (one of Canada’s finest education institutions for the arts). if all goes well might be able to pitch it to other schools so fingers croxxed about that.
im gonna run the gamut of what i’m into so the jazz is but a piece of the puzzle but as i said above, after reading this blog extensively over the past few days, that ‘piece’ is going to be significant, especially considering half the experience for these students is going to be in the actual listening of the songs. well recorded first pressing blue notes (and other jazz) just sounds so nice that i;m sure the kids won’t know what him em! it’s either that or they’ll wonder why the heck there’s no digital artifact trailing each note in the song! haha
Looking forward to the blog!
The DMMs were probably sourced from a crappy digital copy; even if not, the DMM preview for the cutter head digitizes everything anyway 😦 I’m a fan of the stereos and if you believe Music Matters, the BN monos were stereo foldowns. One must also be careful about rushing to judgement about the sound of the mono vs. stereo unless you’ve heard the tape (which I have and have a few well done 15 ips transfers that I playback through a totally rebuilt R2R machine.). I guarantee you would think you died and went to heaven if you heard the stereo tape!
(@ LJC: oh brother…here I go again… 😉
BN monos are stereo fold-downs but Van Gelder was mixing and monitoring in mono so when he folded down he was getting what he heard when he was mixing. The MM team do not acknowledge this but there’s plenty of evidence of it out there in RVG interviews. They “can’t believe” he didn’t take care to prepare those stereo mixes because they sound so good to them, but he didn’t. It’s on record straight from the horse’s mouth. If they sound good it’s purely coincidental; his focus was mono.
The problem I have with the MM literature (http://www.musicmattersjazz.com/sound.html) is that it has been misleading everyone for quite some time now that 1. the stereo tapes are one generation better than the mono (not true and doesn’t even make sense since mono tapes don’t even exist), and 2. Van Gelder’s artistic intention was stereo; it’s not even as if he gave both stereo and mono equal care and consideration, it’s the exact opposite: his focus was mono through the mid-sixties. It would be one thing if they simply left it at, “we think the stereo mixes sound better so we’re going to reissue those”. But they took it a step further (a big step short albeit) while acknowledging that the mono master LACQUERS were fold-downs of the two-track session tapes (there were no mono master TAPES) but failing to acknowledge that he wasn’t mixing or monitoring in stereo.
My first exposure to this topic a few years ago was the MM literature and it had me in the stereo camp for a while too, but then I started doing some research and found their information to be incomplete.
BTW, my preference for mono is part in theory but it’s also partly based on experience: I’ve heard both stereo and mono original RVG masters of the same title on vinyl. TBPH I like hearing the nuances of the drums in isolation (I’m a rhythm guy) but overall I like the punch and balance of the mono.
I’m a man on a mission, LJC =P
Another reason why I’m not crazy about stereo from this time period is I’m not the kind of guy to sit down at the sweet spot and listen: I do all my critical listening with headphones (shame on me…I know, there’s no way in hell I’m getting into audiophile heaven).
The choice of playbck systems clearly may affect our reaction to the two sources plus having heard the tapes (and yes I’m an audiophile as you might guess from having R2R setup).. To my ears, the monos have a hollow sound to them that I don’t care for–though that might be mititaged if one uses a mono cartridge for playback of the mono LPs.
I’ve had a couple R2R’s in my time! Tape can be damn near close to dead quiet when you push the headroom and run at a high IPS.
I love to absorb the contrasting opinions of music lovers who don’t get a hot head about the differences in taste people might have. I could see “narrow”, but “hollow”? If anything, early stereo mixes with everything hard left and right and no phantom image center should be called hollow.
I have owned a Grado MC+ mono cart and it sounded identical to a Shure M44G and M44-7 with the mono button pushed in on my amp. But yeah, summing the channels one way or another makes a significant difference.
I totally respect people’s preference for RVG stereo! I just like to set the record straight regarding what his intention was.
For those who did not like the Idle Moments Analogue Productions, really no big deal, I recommend listening to Blue Train 45RPM Stereo, Saxophone Colossus, Way Out West / Sonny Rollins / 33 RPM, all Analogue productions.
The latter is impressive. Despite the old stereo, the trio sax, bass and drums are inside our room …
1. I am very curious what audio system and turntable/arm/cartridge you used to compare the Acoustic Sounds 45 rpm reissues with the original BNs?
2. Did you take into account the difference in record thicknesses?
3. I am puzzled why you came down on the AP reissues yet said nothing about the sound of the Mosaics. The Mosaics definitely have a sound and it’s not the original.
Hi Myles – The LJC audio system is illustrated here (plumbing and all) https://londonjazzcollector.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/wholesystem-parts.jpg
The bits you cant see are as per your question, Cartridge: Dynavector DV20X high output moving coil, the arm is the Origin Live Encounter, both mounted on the Avid Volvere Sequel illustrated here
Its a fairly revealing system, though not quite as revealing as a friend’s Roksan system on which I have also auditioned all the vinyl written about, with the same conclusions from both our ears.
The VTA on my tonearm is optimised on a 180 gram original Blue Note, which is coincidentally about the same weight as most audiophile productions. If the thickness differs significantly I would be surprised. The VTA should be slightly off with say a thin Japanese 120gm press, but it still sounds “pretty good” which means of course not very good, but you have to settle for a compromise – there are people who say you should adjust the VTA for every record individually, ho ho ho!
The Mosaics have a quite different sound to Blue Note originals, you are quite right, I haven’t commented on them. The Tina Brooks box set is hard to A:B against originals as my budget has never run to Tina Brooks original pressings – Japan only.I have some Bud Powell on both – I should get a clear outcome, but I anticipate the Mosaic will come out sounding like Japanese pressings rather than original Blue Note. Nice, but without fire in the belly.However it can be a close call on older recordings where the limitations are the more primitive microphones and recording equipment of the early 50’s, not the final pressing.
I just bought 2 pcs of early blue notes ( sonny Clark 1579 and lee Morgan 1578 ). These 2 pcs a bit unique. Both are W63rd , no inc , no register R mark and have the 9M mark on the dead wax. But both are non deep groove. Can anyone help to identify this pressing. Was told it is a 2nd press. I am quite interested to know as I never see this before. Non deep groove suppose to be a new York pressed I thought. Most of the W63rd were with deep groove .thanks
1578 & 9 date from 1957, at which time the press was DG both sides.. No doubt it was pressed by stampers with direct lineage to the original master,hence all the etchings you describe. It has the ears doesn’t it? You don’t mention it. No ear and its a Liberty 1966+. Assuming they have the ear, they are Plastylite, the non-DG dies were introduced by Plastylite in 1961(though DG appears from time to time, mostly on subsequent pressings) Your records being no-DG dates them as a repressing some time after 1961. My guess earlier rather than later as they were still using up old stock labels.
If you have access to digital scale, the weight of the vinyl can help date it. Original 47 West 63rds weigh an average 180gm, By 1966 this had fallen to around 160gm. Can’t be more precise as individual records have variation in weight around those averages, but it will give you an indication.
Both these records should sound pretty amazing from what you describe, you are very fortunate.
Yes it has ear mark on it . It seems to be lighter than the normal 63rd with deep groove . Will weight it later
If it weighs lighter than 180gm , say like 160gm. Is it as good as a New York pressing but with a 63rd sticker and a 9M mark on the dead wax
Being pressed from the original Van Gelder master in the early Sixties, there is every possibility these will sound every bit as good as the first pressing. In my experience you can not escape the issue of sound degrading between the first and last off the stamper in a pressing run, due to progressive groove wear in the stamper with each pressing iteration. Yours may well sound better or worse than a sample of a first press, it’s the great unknown.
I bought it from a locally dealer friend who claims them to be the 2nd pressed. I just keen to know when it is being pressed especially both of them are so different from the normal DG 63rd . They ain’t cheap compare to a new York pressed.
Ha ha ha u are right . They weight the same as the new York pressed. So can say these 2 are NY pressed with early sticker. No ear but only RVG .