Black/Silver Fireworks Stereo Label Guide (1959-71)

Last Updated: May 8, 2021

Prestige Goes Stereo, Welcome To 1959

.1959 found the record business in the grip of Stereo-mania. The jazz record buyer began to be faced with new releases in stereo from every leading jazz label. The Billboard Summer 1959 listing of new releases picks out Blue Note’s ST1595 Cannonball Aderley’s Somethin’ Else and ST 4003 Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (Moanin’). Prestige, Riverside, Contemporary, World Pacific, Mercury and United Artists titles list stereo formats (S) alongside mono (M). Stereo issues of earlier mono releases begin to join the release schedules. Two Blue Notes – Jackie McLean’s New Soil 4012 and The Three Sounds Bottoms Up 4013 – listed only mono.

In the Summer of 1959, Prestige joined the crowd and announced their first tranche of stereo titles: 7139, 7147, 7151, 7153, 7154 and 7156, a new PRST catalogue number, and a new label design, the black/silver fireworks, carrying the Bergenfield NJ. address.

The first Prestige stereo title is PRST 7139 Red Garland Trio, Manteca, recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, April 11, 1958

7139 comes in both the mono red/brown cover with Prestige Stereo banner on top, and a blue cover exclusive to the stereo.

The jackets have the Prestige house style: black and white artist portrait with a single colour tint, but with a “peek-a-boo” overlapped PRESTIGE STEREO banner. The titles mostly set in a simple typeface – Bodoni  or similar serif font

The second of these stereo titles, PRST 7147, Paul Quinichette, Basie Reunion, was recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey, on September 5 or October 18, 1957 (date depending on source) an older recording than Garland’s Manteca recorded in April 1958. A few more titles joined the list in the course of the year, but stereo was still a fracton of sales, until sales of the stereo record player caught up. Most (all?) of these titles are Van Gelder recordings, whose recording method at this time adopted two-track tape, enabling a stereo master lacquer to be cut:

Prior to March 7, 1957: mono single track tape only, grey area immediately follows

May 8 1957 – Oct 31, 1958, both single and two track simultaneously

After October 31, 1958 , all recordings on two track tape only

1959-1960 Prestige stereo release list  is  few select titles amidst a sea of mono issues.  Van Gelder selectively cut an additional stereo lacquer for a small number of titles. Sales of stereowere very small initially, judging from the few found among auction results among these titles, no more than 5%.

It was not until 1961 that Prestige began issuing all new titles in stereo, starting with PRST 7227 Sizzlin’ , Arnett Cobb,a grittybluesy saxophonist. Market pressure ensured all new releases would now have a stereo choice, as the stereo bandwagon gained momentum. As with Blue Note, it is likely that initially the stereo issue was some time later than the mono, and later they were both issued simultaneously. About 125 titles in total were issued in stereo on the black/silver fireworks label, before the transtion to the trident labels in late 1964. By around 1967, mono was discontinued (apart for some radio station promos) and records issued in only stereo.

Re-mastered for Stereo

“Through the marvel’s of electronics, this historic jazz recording has been remastered from the mono original into stereo.”

Most Prestige stereo issues are bona fide two-track recordings. Some of the oldest classic recordings are scrupulously reissued only in their original format. However in 1963-4, PRST 7245 – 7256, consists of a run of twelve reissues of Prestige’s “cream of the crop” historical recording sessions – Rollins, Monk,Davis, Coltrane, Getz, Mulligan, Konitz, JJ – made between 1949 and 1956, long before the watershed date of March 7, 1957, when Van Gelder began recording to two track tape. Eleven of the twelve had been issued previously in mono on the NY label, and a second mono issue on the yellow black Bergenfield label.

The continuous run of the catalogue numbers indicates a planned and carefully executed single programme, and the covers of each proudly proclaim “REMASTERED FOR STEREO” (apart from three)

PRESTIGE REISSUES RE-MASTERED FOR STEREO (1963-4) Original Prestige Issue Original Recording Dates
7245 Thelonious Monk Wee See 7053 11/13/53, 5/11/54
7246 Sonny Rollins Work Time 7020 02/12/1955
7247 John Coltrane, Tadd Dameron Mating Call 7070 30/11/1956
7248 Sonny Stitt All God’s Children Got Rhythm 7024 [10/17/49, 12/11/49, 1/26/50]
7249 John Coltrane Tenor Conclave 7074 07/09/1956
7250 Lee Konitz, Lennie Tristano Subconscious-Lee 7004 1/11/49, 6/28/49, 9/27/49, 3/7/50
7251 Gerry Mulligan Historically Speaking 7006 27/08/1951
7252 Stan Getz The Brothers 7022 4/8/49, 9/8/52
7253 J.J. Johnson Looking Back 7023 and 7030 5/26/49, 8/23/49, 10/5/51
7254 Miles Davis The Original Quintet 7014 16/11/1955
7255 Stan Getz Early Stan 3/14/49, 4/23/53
7256 Stan Getz Stan Getz Greatest Hits 7002 6/21/49, 1/6/50, 4/14/50

Prestige Curiosities

Label change always causes problems co-ordinating recording, printing and pressing.

Mose Alison’s Creek Bank 7152 was mistakenly assigned a stereo catalogue number, PRST 7152 – copies exist with the correct PRLP number, a label printing error.

PRST 7253 JJ Johnson’s Looking Back was given a stereo catalogue number and the label says stereo, but a mono fireworks label was borrowed, and bodged, without the yellow, resulting in the only silver and/black fireworks stereo hybrid.

Miles Davis Original Quintet 7254 is ostensibly a mono recording text says “HIGH FIDELITY” but on the black/silver fireworks stereo label,

Yusef Lateef Plays for Lovers 7447 had been remastered for stereo. The mono edition was put in Stereo jacket and stickered “mono”, reads “Remastered for MONO”.

Prestige Stereo label changes

The long six year run of the black/ silver fireworks Bergenfield NJ. label would make it difficult to distinguish an original from a repressing, but for the helpful manner through which Prestige gave reissues a new higher catalogue number,Van Gelder scratched out the original catalogue number code on the original metal, or derived metalware. I haven’t quite figured out how this worked.

Prestige used the stereo black/silver fireworks design with Bergenfield address from August 1958 through to September 1964. In late 1964, Prestige label owner Robert Weinstock decided it was time to give Prestige a more modern look, and a new logo: the trident.  

The stereo label changed briefly to a black/silver trident label , PR 7310 up to around 7336), in parallel to a gold/black trident label for mono, and then both mono and stereo standardised on a blue/3 o’clock trident label. A series of further label changes followed before the sale to Fantasy in 1971, moving the trident from 3 o’clock to 12 o’clock, and placing a circle around it, and finally a colour change to a garish purple-pink.

STEREO LABEL REFERENCE – BLACK/SILVER FIREWORKS LABEL 1958-64 (UPDATED APRIL 21, 2021)

Most labels are Discogs uploads, but supplemented by other sources. I found eventually a black/silver label for all but two titles in the Prestige catalogue. In several cases the only source was a specialist Japanese record selling site.The large gaps between selected stereo pressings in 1960 are indicated. Some may eventually turn up, and be added later.

Thereafter at some point (not determined in this research) the short-lived black /silver trident stops and the blue/3 oclock trident continues, though it looks not a clean break, titles possibly issued out of catalogue number order, or exist on both labels..

Prestige Catalogue Numbers and recording dates

All series include reissues of earlier titles. New recordings approximate dates:

7000 series: 1955-1957

7100 series: 1957-1960

7200 series: 1961-1963

7300 series: 1963-1964

7400 series: 1965-1966

7500 series: 1966-1967

7600 series: 1968-1969

7700 series: 1969-1970

7800 series: mostly reissues of earlier titles

LJC, April 21, 2021.