Blue Note Records: complete guide to the Blue Note labels

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Last Updated: June 8, 2017

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The Blue Note labels, from the ’50s to the present day –  a guide for the audiophile record collector.

The earliest Blue Note recordings were issued on 78 rpm shellac or 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.

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This Guide commences in 1956, with the 12″  1500 series microgroove vinyl LP, which I consider the beginning of modern “high fidelity”. 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 Inc, United Artists and EMI, through the dj compilation decade,  up to the modern “audiophile” editions of the present day.

Blue Note titles manufactured overseas  are covered in separate pages, primarily for Japan and Europe.

BLUE-NOTE-TIMELINE

LondonJazzCollector Blue Note Cheat Sheet 

blue-note-labels-cheat-sheet-1600-updated-20160428-Jasrac

What to look for in an “original” Blue Note LP

Some Blue Notes in top condition are extremely rare, the most collectable worth upwards of £5,000, while others are worth only a few pounds: scarcity always dictates price, not music quality.  The seller will want the best price, the collector likewise, so provenance matters. The audiophile collector should note that often the same metalwork (mother/stamper) was used to press later editions, sonically little different from originals, at a fraction of the price.

With the help of this guide, you should be able to identify the provenance of any Blue Note record, and set your sights accordingly.

First check labels and etchings

A combination of the record label variety and engravings in the run-out groove (some refer to it as the dead wax or trail off)  – the vinyl land between the end of the music  grooves and the label  – will enable you to decide if a record is a  first pressing, a later pressing though still an “original” Blue Note (pre-1966), or a reissue originating in the subsequent decades of Blue Note ownership by other companies. For some very early releases, corroborating information regarding the record cover is also required, such as printing on the spine, and the method of construction (though you can not assume cover and record inside are of the same origin)

Confounding factors

Among small cost-conscious independent labels like Blue Note  it was common record manufacturing practice to hold stocks of record labels and covers in their 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 are found on newer pressings. Even 767 Lexington labels (1956) are found on Liberty pressings (1966).  Covers were taken from stock, so covers do not necessarily date the record inside. Blue Note inventory passed on to Liberty included corporate inner sleeves, including a stockpile of “27 Years of” last inner sleeve.  Legacy metalwork mothers and stampers were often reused for further pressing, decades later.

All these factors must be taken into account to confirm an original first pressing. The word “original” is used frequently in auction descriptions, often inaccurately.

The Blue Note etchings

Below are the main etchings commonly found in the vinyl run-out of most Blue Note records: Rudy Van Gelder mastering  (initials, later stamp), Plastylite pressing inverted cursive “P”, the custom-client metal “9M”, and van Gelder STEREO master .

Blue-Note-RVG-three-stamps--LJC-1920

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Some etchings, such as Van Gelder’s, were applied to the original master acetate, and therefore continue to be seen on pressings derived from the original master and its subsequent metalwork, 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 “9M” etching appears on around two-thirds of the 1500 series LPs, and disappears early in the 4000 series. The Plastylite “ear” was applied only during pressing and therefore disappeared in 1966 when Liberty moved record pressing  to its own plant, All-Disc NJ.

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 descriptionas the “ear” which it more closely resembles:

The Plastylite “ear” – unmistakable mark of authentic Blue Note.

plastylite invertedOne thing common to all original Blue Note pressings from foundation through to the sale of the company in 1966 is the presence 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 to other plants by Blue Note’s new owners, Liberty Records.

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.

BLP-1595-ABBEY-MGF-pressing-for-BN-2000-ELEX

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.

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 appears 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 one example has been found where it appears on only one side – due to the very restricted size of the vinyl land.

Vinyl weight

The unappreciated forensic indicator is vinyl weight. This evolved with changing industry practice from as much as 220 grams in the mid Fifties to commonly 130-140 grams in the later Sixties, 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, so exceptions are found, but as a rule, weight is a good indicator of age, which my sagging waistline confirms.

Determining 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, Blue Note 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.

Side View

anatomy-of-a-blue-note address

 

Helicopter View

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) , and 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, straight run to 1559, last appearance on 1577.  Certain titles –  1568, 1575 and 1577 – are mixed NY23 one side W63 label the other.

Because print orders and catalogue numbers were not implemented in strict 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 isn’t.

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)

47West63rd---early-and-late-label-1800-LJC

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?

Here 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.

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.

RVG-STEREOEarly 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.

4a. Mono

4b. Stereo

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 Matrix/ mothers.

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 it 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.

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 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. As a general rule, NY first pressings do not bear the deep groove pressing mark on either side, and those older dies were used more often with second and third pressings of earlier releases, though as is always the case with Blue Note, there are exceptions.

6. NEW YORK USA, ORIGINAL STEREO (1962-66)

 

7. DIVISION OF LIBERTY (1966-70)

Catalogue numbers: first appears on 4203 intermittently up to 4248, and in continuous run thereafter, until United Artists takes control around 1970 ending 4435 (this info needs more checking)

The sale of Blue Note to the giant Liberty Records in 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 on the West Coast, and elsewhere.

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 4253 – 4300 were first releases by Liberty, while earlier catalogue numbers were reissues apart from a few deferred pressings, released long after their recording date and allocation of their Blue Note catalogue number. All lack the telltale “ear”, and audio quality is variable. Early reissues from 1966 can be the match of Plastylite, but the quality soon dropped off, as they did across the industry. It is not uncommon to find pressings of this period where the dynamic range is compressed: the top-end subdued (treble rolled off, nominally to reduce tape hiss), and the bottom end muddy and confused.

8. LIBERTY UA. INC. (West Coast pressings) Black/Turquoise label 1970-2

Catalogue numbers 84330-8438# (Cheat Sheet label no.9)

The anomalous black/turquiose 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 generally will have been better-looked after.

9a. DIVISION OF UNITED ARTISTS (EAST COAST) 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, meaning they were not pressed with metalwork pulled from an original van Gelder Master, like 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 underpriced 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. Whatever the reason, these issue 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  ©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 to avoid over-saturation of certain artists .  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.

bn-ua-lt-grant-green-1979-label-1000-ljc[1]

The audio quality of the LT series is entirely unpredictable, varying from fairly 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 realise 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.

THE EMI YEARS *(1980 to the present day)

Capitol Industries-EMI acquired the Blue Note assets through the purchase of United Artists in 1980. They made a big push to monetize these assets in the early to mid-’80s, through Japan (Toshiba-EMI) , Europe (Pathe Marconi)  and the US (Capitol Manhattan)

But before the big push it looks as though selected titles with big demand were repressed in the interim, for Capitol Industries-EMI using a  legacy label design of United Artists,  updated with new corporate boilerplate:

Capitol Industries-EMI prbably around 1981-2 label

The label pre-dates Manhattan Records and the “Best in jazz since 1939″, and refers only to ” Division of Liberty Records Inc” not its predecessor  “Liberty/United”. In any event EMI owned all the United Artists assets, including the Liberty trademark, and Blue Note. The catalogue number prefix “LW” looks like an arbitrary decision.  Discogs entries for this label/issue  are dated “unknown”. I say 1981-2.

12. 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 under EMI France.

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 reasonably pressings, remastered by French engineers from copy tape, and 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.

EMI-PATHE-MARCONI-1986-Label-800

The SACEM logo is the French copyright system for collecting royalties, on Japanese pressings  JASRAC and GEMA in Germany.

13. CAPITOL-EMI (U.S. 1986 +)

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

13.2  Capitol Manhattan “THE FINEST IN JAZZ SINCE 1939”

Mid to late’80s US new release and re-issue label.

US pressings on the classic Blue & White Label “The Finest in Jazz Since 1939” on label. Not the Finest in Audio Quality Since 1939, that’s for certain.! Capitol Manhattan are generally poor vinyl pressing quality, irrespective if the music itself, best avoided, CD will generally offer a more satisfying musical experience

13.2 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 in runs of typically 7,500 units from the mid Eighties onwards .  The vinyl audio quality is often very good,  not always as dynamic as original pressings of the same recordings, despite being mastering from original session tapes. Their main value is bringing together of material that is hard to get any other way. Not uncommon to find them in near mint/played just once or twice 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.

More on the Mosiac Label here

13.3  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.

Blue-Note-Conno1sseur-label-1995-1200-LJC

Connoisseur-sticker-on-shrink-1000The 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, which  turned original tapes into a digital transcription onto vinyl, not analogue.   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

Blue-Note-UK-1997-Audiophile-label.jpg

This 1997UK 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 as good as it should.

 

13.4 “Rare Grooves” Series

Targeting the DJ/dance demographic with funkier selections fro 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:

Byrd-Kofi-Rare-Grooves-series.jpg

Donald-Byrd-KOFI-Rare-Brooves-Label-1200-LJC

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

13.5 (’90s 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)

Capitol-Blue-Note-1996-1000-LJC

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.

13.6 CEMA Special Markets 1993

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).

Xavier-Capitol-CEMA--1000px

Photo courtesy of Xavier

 

14. 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 meant 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.

15. Grey Reissues – Scorpio Records

“304 Park Avenue South” Blue Note address – digital transfer onto vinyl

Included 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.

16. 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.

16.1 Classic Records

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.

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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.

16.2 Analogue Productions

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.

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AcousTech

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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).

16.3 Music Matters Ltd

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.

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Music Matters are renowned for their value-added packaging with art-quality photography of Francis Wolff within the gatefold format

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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.

16.4 Blue Note 75 Editions

75 sticker smCelebrating 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 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 wholly 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.

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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

 

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224 thoughts on “Blue Note Records: complete guide to the Blue Note labels

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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

  6. HI LJC
    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.

              https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/the-blue-note-inner-sleeves/

              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.

  7. 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?

  8. Hello,
    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.
    Best regards,

    Dino

    • 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.

  9. LJC,

    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.

    Thanks much!

    Jeff

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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
    Many thanks
    Vincent

    • 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
            Vincent

        • 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.

  12. 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.

    • 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!

  13. Hi there!
    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.
    Best regards,

    Dino

    • 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.

        • 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

          • 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

  17. 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).

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. Pingback: Vinyl Reissues - From Analog Planet - Page 9

  21. Hi LJC,

    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)?

    Thanks!
    Antoine

  22. 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.

  23. Dear LJC,

    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,
    Chris

    • 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.

      • Dear dottore,
        thank you very much! it’s just too hard to keep all these details in mind when recordshopping…

  24. 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.

      • 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.

  25. 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….
    Thanks again

  26. 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.

    Thanks!

    • 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”.

  27. 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.

  28. 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?

  29. 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.

  30. 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?

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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 😉

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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. 🙂

        • In summary:

          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:
            https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/the-blue-note-labels/#comment-10235

            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:

            http://www.mastercraftrecordplating.com/how.html
            http://www.aardvarkmastering.com/proceed.htm
            http://www.lathetrolls.net/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=3227
            http://www.crimson-ceremony.net/pr3/page.php?id=mf-vinyl
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Production_of_gramophone_records

            Perhaps if someone is feeling audacious, they can pose some of these questions to the aforementioned Lathe Trolls.

            • Felix,

              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.

  37. Pingback: Got Plastilyte?! | No Man's Land

  38. Question:
    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.
    confused.
    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..
        Cheers
        Rufus

  39. 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.
    Cheers Sam

    • 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.

  40. 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!

    Myles

    • Hi Myles
      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.

          • LJC
            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.

          • Myles
            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.

  41. Hey LJC could you email me at samrileymusic@hotmail.com ??
    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.
    Sam

  42. 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

  43. Hey LJC.
    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??
    Cheers sam

    • “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.

  44. Hi LJC,
    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.

      • 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).

          • 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?

              • 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.

  45. hi LJC,
    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
      http://www.high-endaudio.com/softw.html#Intro

      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.

          • @DG Mono,
            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

        • 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.

  46. 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 …
    http://www.acousticsounds.com

  47. 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.

  48. Hi ,
    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.

      • 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

  49. Hi LJC,

    I have a kind suggestion. Maybe have the ability to comment on each label individually instead of at the bottom. Just a thought, I know it must be extremely difficult to run this site and its a labor of love. Anyways, I have a question about a “DAB” in the dead wax of a 70s blue/black label blue note. I have RVG and vangelder pressings but never a “dab”, anyone?

    Cheers,
    Carlos

    • Hi Carlos, I hear you about the comments per label but the design of WordPress – the publishing engine and html code underneath all this stuff – is not sufficiently flexible to allow comment s to be tacked on to items in a page, only at the bottom. The only way around it would be to create many separate Blue Note pages, one per label, so comments would be at the bottom but specific to each label. Its too much. What I might think to do at some point is to break them up in to three or four clusters of labels, if you follow me.

      What I have just done is change the sort order on comments, so now the most recent comments come to the top. I never anticipated generating so much “attention”.
      About “DAB” – some of the UA engineers liked to add their initials to the runout – Ive seen a few but never thought to note them down.

  50. Also, if it has Stereo on its own on the over (i.e. outside the logo) and the logo has no cat. number in it then it is also Liberty era:

    For example, this:

    And this:

    • Actually yes that is the quarter note logo I am talking about. Surprisingly, it seems that the link you just posted to that Japanese site has *all* examples of mono jackets!…

      http://www.birkajazz.com/archive/blueNote4000.htm

      Scroll down to see the Tina Brooks “True Blue” and Kenny Dorham “Una Mas” covers. These records were released in 1960 and 1963 respectively and well before the Liberty sale in 1965. I don’t know what the first release with a Liberty label was but it looks like the first record with the new logo is catalog number 4017, Horace Silver’s “Blowin’ the Blues Away” (probably coinciding with the incorporation of the company), so all the releases from then up until I’m guessing around 4200 (sometime in ’65) employed this new scheme: if it was a stereo version it would prefix the “8” and write “STEREO” in the logo.

      Finally, it looks like the introduction of the “rectangle” logo you’re referring to does coincide with the Liberty sale.

      Sorry about not being more clear before. I know I originally *asked* this question but I took it upon myself to find the answer =)

    • It looks like the rectangular logo become a staple around 4274 (Tyrone Washington’s “Natural Essence”). That record was released in 1968 (LJC also notes that Liberty fell into the hands of outside investors that same year).

      Also, it’s interesting to look at the website you pointed to and to see the variations around the time of the Liberty sale. Sometimes “STEREO” is written alone and away from the logo, and in those instances (including ones with the rectangle logo) it looks like they started using a “mono” sticker if it was a mono press!

  51. Has anyone ever taken a comprehensive listen to the blue note Connoisseur Series vinyl series or the “Top Ten” reissue series? I have Dexter Gordon GO! and I’m extremely content until I get an original at a fair price.

    • Conaseur..connoisewer..coinaseur… thats a hell of a word to spell right. That series launched in 1994 is written up here

      http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=20880#.UHQVNRXA-yU

      I have heard of but dont recall ever seeing one on LP. Perhaps they didnt get distributed in the UK? Correct me otherwise

      Same goes for the Top Ten reissue series, another 1990s initiative I can’t say Ive noticed in any UK second hand stores, though I suspect I would ususally pass on anything “Mastered by Capitol” .

      Interested if anyone has experience of these, opinion and label photos welcome (usual LJC address in ABOUT, 800px flat on)

          • Hard to tell from a web clip but I think the KIng pressing would be preferable if looking at re-issues. The piano and bass above sound veiled and the sax completely disconnected from the rest – as if playing in another room.

            In Response to Richards question above about the Stereo logos – if it says Stereo on the cover and has the different logo then it is a liberty era pressing. Check for the “P” in the deadwax, most likely missing.

          • “if it says Stereo on the cover and has the different logo then it is a liberty era pressing.”

            Sorry Tony but this is simply not true. There are loads of New York USA pressings with RVG and the ear between ’61-’66 that employ the quarter note logo on the cover. It’s not hard to find examples of this on eBay.

  52. Hello, I really enjoyed this article! A few comments:

    1. Regarding your label 4, I am certain there are also stereo releases with this label scheme (which probably warrants a “4a”), and I hypothesize the same is true of label 3.

    2. In 5 and 6, you write, “Mono is the collector format of choice”, and “Early stereo sound engineering can exhibit “kid-with-new-toy” syndrome…”. In my experience, it’s true that monos are more desirable in general, but for many releases, collectors may have this preference in err. Are you aware of this article: http://www.musicmattersjazz.com/sound.html#Mono

    As with Beatles’ recordings, I prefer to listen to the mixes that the mixing engineer took the greatest care in producing. According to this article, that is clearly–from recording sessions after October 1958–the stereo mix (also note that, for recording sessions between March ’57 and October ’58, Van Gelder produced both an original mono *and* stereo mix).

    I don’t like the idea of listening to a mono mix that is no more than a fold down of the stereo one. I would not, however, rule out the possibility that those still sound good; the “glue” of a mono mix does produce a desirably “strong” sound.

    3. And finally, it’s interesting that Van Gelder made different choices while remixing the CD reissues. This supports the “kid with a new toy” argument.

    • Hi Richard and welcome. Thanks for your comments.

      You are absolutely right about the 47 West 63rd (label 4) existing in a stereo variation. I overlooked it, thanks for suggestion. I have just the one genuine 47 West 63rd INC+R Stereo (DG and ear proper), so have run with your idea of a 4a/4b and updated with a picture of the stereo variation, picture 4b.

      There may well be a Stereo in the earlier 47W63rd No INC no R, but if there is, I haven’t got one. This is seriously rare and expensive territory! If you (or anone else out there) has such a beast one I will happily post it up if you can email me a picture (800×800 px to address at the end of the “LJC About” in the banner)

      I have a general preference for mono, but I take whatever comes along, and I gave always been very happy with my stereos from Blue Note. I find the extra information, about the position of the instrument on the soundstage, mostly not particularly helpful in connecting with the music, but I recognise other people feel differently. It’s a “chocolate or vanilla?” thing, neither is “better”.

      I have some pretty strange 60’s Stereo editions – Monk on Columbia, where he is going plink-plonk in the corner while Charlie Rouse takes the centre stage like its his record. Or everyone is either left or right and nothing in the middle, or worse, some Coltranes where you get 39 minutes of him in the left corner and you get up every ten minutes to check the other speaker is working. If that is what the engineer intended, then I have to politely disagree – mono makes up for these “artistic differences”

      But I have yet to find a single Roy DuNann Contemporary Stereo that isn’t a delight.

      • With a response that fast, one can only assume you truly love what you are doing here!

        Yeah if I’m not mistaken those “4a’s” are the ones with the gold “STEREO” sticker on the cover of the jacket (now that I think about it, how did they identify stereo vs mono on the jackets from 62-66?)

        I will keep an eye out for a stereo/no INC/no R =)

        My last comment, which I forgot originally: I understand that early 62-66 New York USA editions can have deep grooves, but, as you write, most are not deep groove. I was thinking it may be better to have that photo *not* be of a deep groove =p it could prove a good reference tool for people who need to look at label photos on eBay…?

        This blog is the kind of thing that I’m really into, I hope you don’t mind my critiques, as again I deeply appreciate what you have done here.

        • Good points Richard, you know your Blue Note. I welcome critique, its how things improve. The BN Labels page gets more views daily than any other page, so its worth the effort to raise the bar. I have many more mono originals, but I recognise the rise of Stereo interests a lot of other people.

          The exhibits and the Cheat Sheet are updated as of today, with mono and stereo versions of W63 and NY, and second and later pressing titles have been replaced with (what I think are) first pressings appropriate to that label series. I have added a couple more missing 70’s UA labels for completeness. Job done. If you have any more ideas, the comments pages here are always open.

          In the future I intend to add some content on Blue Note covers and deep groove vs non-deep groove, but I don’t want to duplicate the excellent reference work of Fred Cohen’s Guide book. I like to exploit the audio and visual side, which lends itself to the multimedia format of the Internet. Next up, Blue Note in 3D…

        • The Stereo stickers were only used on the first pressings of a few “transitional” LPs, and also on later re-issues (supposedly to use the labels and covers up)… But were generally NOT used for BN Stereo Pressings.

          There were no Stereo issues on W63 labels (i.e. without the INC.).

          The presence or not of DGs on one of both ides of BNs after 62 is just indicative of whether it is a first pressing or not.

          • Stereo stickers were just a way of using up surplus old mono covers? Aaargh! This is going from bad to worse Tony. Any more bad news while you are on a roll? The vinyl of Stereo self-destructs after 50 years?

          • Is it possible that the arrival of the New York USA label was in tandem with the arrival of the updated quarter note logo? It seems like this is the point in which stereo pressings began to be identified on the cover with the word “stereo” inside the quarter note logo (mono left it blank) in addition to an “8” being prefixed to the catalog number.

            Also, as is the case with Horace Silver’s “Finger Poppin'” (a record I own both a mono and stereo INC/W63 copy of), the New York USA stereo reissue has an updated cover with the stereo quarter note logo.

  53. Hey thanks mate, quick reply too! Ok yes that explains a lot – I am finding this very interesting, the whole blue note records history and the varying labels, pressing plants. Wow, its a whole different world I have recently discovered. I have hundreds of cd’s and mp3’s which make up the majority of my audio collection and some vinyl, but the variances within the blue note stuff is new to me.
    I am a double bass player, massive Paul Chambers fan, which is why I commented on your Louis Smith ‘Smithville’ post, hadn’t come across that album before!
    Back to that LT-990 Grant Green record for a second, do you think it is a reissue or was it pressed soon after 1979? Surely its a reissue pressed recently…as it was only $20 and sealed?
    Also, I have seen a blue note mono LP with 43 west 61st st label one side, and New York USA the other side. Does this sound a bit sus to you, or could it have been a cross-over period and pressed in NY but using up the left over labels from 43 west address?? It has ear and RVG, and 43 west address on the sleeve.
    Hope you can shed some light on this one!
    Thanks again for the info!
    Cheers,
    Sam

    • The Grant Green – there are two possibilities. Whilst the LT “original” series was pressed between 1979-80, which makes them over 30 years old, I have seen some LTs as modern “clones” by Scorpio, the US digital-to-vinyl anoymous reissuers. Scorpios are often sold sealed/shrinkwrapped and the front and back covers are straight photographic reproduction of the original, on glossy card, usually priced £9/ $15 or thereabouts. They are clones – they do not say they are “reissues” anywhere. Dealers usually price the original LTs around the £20-25 mark -($35-40 USD) Sounds to me you may have a clone. I’ll update my Labelography to include the LTs later today.

      Mixed labels are usually a feature of Blue Note original second or later pressings (as usual with one or two exceptions). As long as they carry the “ear” in the runout, they are still pre-1966 “original Blue Notes” . It was standard practice at the Plastylite plant to use up existing stock of labels from earlier pressings before moving on to more recently printed labels. Nothing was wasted. The variation can be a little as the R mark on one side and not on the other, or more commonly 47West63rd one side NY on the other – sign of a subsequent press after 1962. Nothing suspicious, in fact it can be good news as they are not sought by elite collectors who want only firsts, so cheaper, sonically usually indistinguishable from the earlier press, and a bonus of a few years less vinyl damage.
      One to watch for are the first wave of Liberty reissues in 1966/7 where they too used up old stock labels and covers – but no “ear”. Pressed by RCA who did a great job.

  54. Kind words, thanks. The LT series of “Blue Note Classics” was about fifty records released around 1979 in the final year of United Artists ownership of the Blue Note catalogue and vaults. I believe it was a short-lived management buyout by a couple of UA executives, using the corporate name Liberty United and “Liberty Records” for marketing – the original Liberty Records Inc being long gone. This is the period of the Blue Label/White Note label with the cute dotty inner sleeve. I have seen copies made in the US and others, under the series name “Jazz File” in the UK. The American are on the whole better.
    Michael Cuscuna had acess to the BN vaults, and there he found thousands of old session tapes dating back from 1959-67 that had never been released on record, and barely documented. I guess most were recorded by Van Gelder at Englewood Cliffs, but Cuscuna used other engineers to master the tapes, and the combination of other engineers ability, the equipment used, lightweight vinyl and the work of indifferent pressing plants tells a sorry tale. The music is great but the outcome on vinyl is poor in many cases. I have around a dozen and often they suffer dynamic range compression, loss of top-end and muddy bass.

  55. Hi LJC, very informative site, I am enjoying reading through it, so thanks for the information.
    I am interested to hear your opinion of a recent Blue Note reissue I picked up. The numbers/codes on the lable confuse me a bit after reading through your label info…
    Grant Green – Solid. Blue Note LT-990.
    Its the LT-990 that confuses me, where exactly was this pressed?
    First thing I notice is that the bass is very muddy and lost in this recording…I mean I know Elvin is doing his triplet thing which can sometimes cloud the clarity of the double bass, but It’s just overall very ‘woofy’ sounding. Also the highs seem too unbalanced and un-natural, not just the ride cymbal, the overall recording. It is a great bunch of tunes with a killer lineup, but I am a bit disappointed with the quality. I cannot find any reviews on the net of this reissue either.
    Also the recording was not originally released untill 1979 I believe.
    Anyway, interested to hear what you think..
    Cheers,
    Sam

  56. The first hearing of an original first pressing of Blue Note changed my listening life forever. Still does it every time. But there a lot of other music out there to enjoy on other labels, while you are waiting for that affordable copy of Mobley 1568 to come along.

  57. Yes, I love bluenote jazz. Thats the best of all time. Good rvg recording, good music and artist .. But is a killer in price even when comes to a NY pressing.. Managed to get some of the sonny rollins first pressing . The rest of the album ending up no choice but to get the 45rpm reissue.
    The original confirm sounds better .Imo the original mother tape is still newly recorded just like freshly bake from oven. For the reissue, they are using a at least 50 year old original tape which has gone through many many processing in the pressing plant. That’s why sound quality is confirmed a lose out. The reissue is lacking of the feel of the music. Maybe to many filtering and eq …
    But still I am glad there are reissue at least I can enjoy the bluenote music at a affordable price. Some original cost s arm and leg.
    Lastly enjoy the music… I love BN ….

  58. I came across an interesting record in the mail that I scored for a decent price – $10 – a New York labeled pressing of Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon. It has:

    The original cover with the mono catalog number
    BLP 4011 New York Labels on both sides
    RVG STEREO, BN-ST-4011 on one side
    VAN GELDER stamped, BLP-4011-B-1 on the B side

    (the seller had “turbo listed” the record has having the ear and being in mono, so he gave me $5 back. Woohoo!)
    So..what do you make of this? Liberty issue using the original stereo stamper on side A and a reissue stamper on side B, even though the labels and jacket say that it’s mono? The A side definitely sounds more even than the B, and as I’ve shared before, mono recordings tend to push my system to the brink of distortion at times (definitely Lee Morgan on Flamingo, wailing away). Have you ever seen a mashed up version of a record like this? Also…I wonder why side A doesn’t actually have BNST-84011 since that was the stereo catalog number.

    • The Sermon has a great guest list as I recall, nice price. Must check my own copy. Never seen a mongrel as you describe. We know Liberty canibalised old stock covers and labels, that is not unusual. What is unusual is mixing up a remastered mono stamper on one side with an older RVG stereo stamper on the other. That is, as they say, “RARE!” I would have charged you extra..

      • I have seen situation this on one other record, an Impulse! pressing of “Coltrane” (AS-21). Even some ‘original’ orange label versions have a remaster for side A. Only the very first pressing with the gatefold printed in blue and thick typeface on the label has VAN GELDER masters on both sides.

        My guess is that the side A master was lost or damaged early on. Why ABC-Paramount didn’t have RVG cut a replacement master is a mystery since he would have still been handling all the mastering for Impulse!.

        On the other hand, I do have a few Prestige and Blue Note records which have different RVG stamps indicating that Van Gelder cut a replacement master long after the original release. A couple of examples I can think of are a blue label “Workin'” (VAN GELDER on the A side, the original RVG on side B) and “The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol 2” (Etched RVG on side A, VAN GELDER stamp on side B). This seems to indicate that RVG felt comfortable pairing his early masters with later cuts and that this didn’t not create a disparity in sound quality between the two sides.

        I also have a few examples of RVG cutting completely new masters (both sides) for old titles, but only for Prestige in the 60s. “The Red Garland Piano”, for example with yellow NJ fireworks label (no DG – beware of this, I have two yellow fireworks – no DG pressings and they both exhibit the notorious “Weinstock Hiss”.)

        I think what’s most interesting to me about your copy of the Sermon is that from the matrixes you’ve posted, it appears that one side is mono and the other is stereo, which is bizarre indeed. I have a Prestige pressing of “Workin’ Out!” with Bobby Timmons and Johnny Lytle that has this same issue, although both sides are VAN GELDER masters so presumably there was a mix up at Abbey where the LP was pressed.

        • I have a Prestige reissue of Sonny Rollins Plus 4 (PR 7038) called “3 Giants!” (yes, with the exclamation point), PR 7291. It’s one of those mid-sixties reissues with a new name and a new black-and-white cover photo. It’s a blue label trident pressing that appears to be a mono reissue – nowhere on the jacket or labels does the word “stereo” or the prefix “ST-” appear. Side B’s matrix info is “PRLP-7038-B” with handwritten “RVG” – this is the original stamper (I have an original of PR 7038 and compared). Also added is “PR 7297 B.” Side A, however, is “PRST 7291 A.” No RVG at all.

          I know those later blue label reissues can be all over the place (many of mine have incorrect song titles, incorrect label info, etc) but I had never seen an original mono stamper on one side, and a reissued stereo stamper on the other. I’ve been puzzling over it, and then came across this thread. Interesting.

    • I had forgotten about this question – sorry – checking my Blakey “Free For All” it is DIVISION OF LIBERTY and has “STEREO” and “VAN GELDER” in small machine stamp in the run out. If yours is missing the stamp, I am baffled, as I can’t think it was so popular it required remastering. There is probably a simple explanation, but I can’t think what it might be.

  59. Fooling around today with my Blue note Collection and I came across something interesting. Hey LJC, is that Free for All Liberty pressing yours? If it is, than I’ll bet you anything it doesn’t have a Van Gelder Stamp. Let’s see if my theory is right?

  60. I wish I had the disposable income.. for any of that, including traveling to Tokyo and Moscow. I will probably have to sell a kidney before I can afford a first pressing of a lot of the titles I’d like

  61. Fred Cohen’s Guide is the Blue Note Collectors bible. It is as definitive as it gets, and it is good value. Only problem is the auction price of these originals, the rare heading for four figures. I can easily identify an original first pressing. Unfortunately I can not afford it. The problem is not lack of information, it is lack of money. Tokyo and Moscow rule.

  62. Thanks for the fast response. Looks like I may end up picking up that second copy. I suppose I can always give my extra to one of my friends in Brazil where Blue Note vinyl is as rare as snow.

    By the way are you familiar with the book on this subject published by this NYC record store, here http://www.jazzrecordcenter.com/

    I’ve been curious about it ever since I first heard about it but the price seems kind of steep when I could be spending that money on, say, actual records.

    thanks for the kind words re: the blog too.

  63. Love this post. Those Skorpio pressings are godawful, I fell for some of them on other labels like Curtom as well as some Donald Byrd BN. Just awful but maybe they sound great on the portable Vestax players my pretentious DJ peers seem to like…

    I’m curious about something regarding the Liberty and United Artists years. Your focus seems to be reissues of the earlier BN catalog during this period, but I have a question about albums released for the first time during that period. I just bought a record (via auction) that falls on the ‘cusp’ year of 1970 – Bobby Hutcherson & Harold Land’s “San Francisco.” Seemingly, for this period they would have been pressed at both West Coast and NJ locations simultaneously? Any opinions on which sound better or what stampers were used? I got the blue/black label from the West Coast, which while I agree is fugly won’t necessarily bother me if it sounds good. Same seller has a blue/white of the same record ending next week, but I kind of want to see if the guy is legit first before I start giving him tons of cash. But this album is a personal favorite of mine and I can see myself picking up both anyway…

    • Hi Flabbergast, nice blog. I like posts that have real content, not just ” I like this” but also why. Excellent writing. Huge fan of Harold Land, love Hutcherson, so this record must be a winner.

      1970 – three years before the oil price spike sealed the fate of thick vinyl, and the big labels went down the toilet. With first release 1970 you have to go with what is on offer.

      The best new or reissues I have ever heard after 1970 are the East Coast classic Blue/White “Division of United Artists” label (1970-3) no markings in runout . The West Coast Blue/black Liberty/UA of the same period are definitely second best. By 1973 theUnited Artists solid Blue Black Note was introduced and everything I have is weak, wherever pressed.

      Hope this is helpful, but I am a bit lost after 1970.

  64. 7.DIVISION OF LIBERTY (1966-70) I have pressings that have the “RVG” stamp and the “Van Gelder” Stamp and one’s that have no matrix stamps. The RVG’s sound extraordinary. The Van Gelders are very good and the No Stamps are mixed, some have really good sound and some are awful.

    • Welcome Carlos, to the mysteries of Blue Note! With first pressings just becoming unaffordable, trying to sort the good from the bad in the years that followed is a worthwhile task. All opinions are good here

      • Hi LJC,

        I’m a fairly novice collector and this website is an incredible resource for me as I learn all about the different Blue Note labels so my thanks for providing this fine education! I recently purchased two Jimmy Smith albums. They both have ‘New York, USA’ on the labels – the albums are “The Sound of Jimmy Smith” and “Softly As A Summer Breeze.” One of them has RVG and the ear while the other one has the ‘VAN GELDER’ stamp and says ‘9 M’ but there’s no ear. Are either of these NY pressings? Thanks so much!

        • JSm The Sound of ..BLP 1556 (rec 1957, first release around same time on 47W63rd labels)

          JSm Softly as Summer Breeze BLP4200 (rec 1958, released deferred to probably around 1965, first release on NY labels)

          Bottom line, no ear, is not original Blue Note pre-1966, is an early Liberty Records reissue using old stock NY labels.

          The one on NY labels with ear is undoubtedly an original Blue Note but a second or subsequent pressing.

          Hope that is helpful
          LJC

          • LJC,

            That is definitely super helpful. I think i got those for a decent enough price then and they both sound great. Thanks so much!

            Bob

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