Don't I know it. Great yard-sale find was a box of original issue jazz albums, Blue Notes, Prestige,
Riverside, Emarcy, the works. Paid 10 cents a record. Took them home, framed and hung the sleeves I
wanted, cleaned up a few platters, quickly realized they had been "loved" too much, sold them for
$10 each at a record exchange, to people who mainly wanted them for the covers or the labels or to
hold "the authentic original." Used the proceeds to buy good-sounding reissues or CDs.
For those seeking good sound as opposed to hipster-cred artifacts, my experiences from a few decades
of collecting jazz LPs:
1. original Impulse stereo records in good condition are always worth having. Impulse reissues on LP
were not good, CDs weren't much better and then, by all indications, many of the master tapes burned
up on the Universal film lot. The only Impulse reissues I've heard that are better than the original
LPs were Chad Kassem's LP reissues. Alas, some of those master tapes were returned to storage on
that film lot that burned up.
2. original Blue Note have cult value. Blue Note has been the best-marketed small jazz label, bar
none. It had a distinct look and feel about it when it was new, and the artifact cult is even
stronger than the music cult surrounding the label. That said, it's worth noting that there have
been many good-sounding reissues of Blue Note material, and some of the original material doesn't
sound very good (unless you like super-bright, somewhat distorted in-yo-face sound with your jazz).
My personal favorites are the recent 192/24 reissues sold by HDTracks. which mitigate some of the
brightness and harshness of the CD reissues. Classic Records' LP reissues are of varying quality,
and in that case it's worth noting that no mono-only recording was being done after late 1958, as
was carefully studied and documented by the folks at Music Matters:
Blue Note mono versions from when there was a separate mono version tend to be favored by me because
I like small-group jazz presented as an ensemble rather than had-panned on one side or another of a
wide stereo field.
3. original Riverside and Prestige sometimes are well pressed and sound good, sometimes not.
Original sleeves, especially Riverside, are really nice. I think Riverside did the best and most
consistent-sounding recording of any of the small jazz labels, especially their albums made at
Reeves during the mono era. Their album art was more interesting than Blue Note, in my opinion.
Also, now forgotten because Fantasy Group de-emphasized it, Riverside's catalog was wider than jazz.
For instance, find a copy of Cannonball Adderley's record for children, about the history of jazz -
Riverside also made folk records and co-owner Bill Grauer was a race-car nut, so Riverside pioneered
the "you are there are the race track" genre. And then it put out a classic album mocking the whole
4. original Emarcy are pressed on some of the noisiest vinyl ever found. This was out of Mercury's
terrible company-owned plants, the ones that their own classical division wouldn't use. Emarcy
original covers tend to peel the cellophane layer off the front and go yellow on the back. But, most
subsequent reissues didn't use original artwork. The Japan Polygram reissues from the early 80s
always sound superior and include original cover art and liner notes (in black ink rather than the
original blue ink). Mercury phased out the Emarcy name and started doing better pressing right as
the stereo era dawned.
5. I own a lot of Capitol LPs from the 60s, because a lot of popular and lasting-value titles were
on Capitol, some of them jazz (Howard Roberts, for instance). Capitol seemed to goose the midrange
to annoying levels, cut really loud but bass-deficient records and used somewhat noisy vinyl. In
almost all cases, modern reissues sound better (CDs, also some of the LPs from Sundazed).
6. Pablo Records started out with thicker platters pressed by RCA and ended up with thin platters
pressed by Fantasy Group. The earlier records tend to sound better than Fantasy-produced CD
reissues. The later records sound better in CD format, to my ears.
7. Verve is a mixed bag. If you must have a thick platter with a somewhat boring black label,
guaranteed to be noisy vinyl and probably over-played by a cheap 50's phonograph, then get an
original. Otherwise, reissues -- Japan Polygram LP, Polygram or UMG CD -- tend to sound better
unless the master tape is gone or shot to hell. 60s MGM-owned Verve is different. The Creed
Taylor-produced stuff in gatefold covers were high quality records. If you find originals in good
shape, get them. The HDTracks reissues of "Getz-Gilberto" and Getz-Byrd "Jazz Samba" are the best
sounding versions I've ever heard, but the original LPs are damn good, too.
8. People get cultish and nuts about Argo/Chess originals. I think they are cheaply made and often
sound much worse than modern CD reissues. It's too bad the original were not always well mastered
and often pressed on cheap vinyl, because many of those records were well-recorded by Mal Chisholm
at Chess/Ter-Mar and the folks at Universal Recording post-Bill Putnam. Unfortunately, indications
are that many Argo/Chess jazz master tapes burned up on the Universal film lot.
9. CTI is a strange animal. Sony owns the label now, but apparently doesn't own first-generation
master tapes. Even with the most recent round of Sony reissues, I give an edge to every original LP
that I own vs CD reissues. CTI fostered the birth of "smooth jazz", so there aren't that many great
titles, but stuff like Freddie Hubbard "Red Clay," George Benson "White Rabbit" and parts of Don
Sebesky "Giant Box" do not get old. These are also some of Rudy Van Gelder's finest recordings and
I didn't address Columbia jazz because many of the titles have so many versions. I won't say that
original LPs are always the best versions, it really depends on the title and what issue was made
from what source. Recent high-resolution digital remasters of Columbia material have tended to be
excellent, except where the master tapes or session tapes no longer exist. In almost every case, my
ears do not favor early-era Columbia CD reissues. Going back to the 78 era, the best Columbia/ARC
reissues I've heard have come from Mosaic, especially those done by Doug Pomeroy.
Pre-LP jazz is a whole other kettle of fish. There is no fighting the collector desire to have
original shellacs, whether they sound good or not. Reissues have been so varied over time, there are
plenty of cases of famous songs having 10 different issues from original to newest, all of which
sound different and none of which sound perfect. The primative, flawed recording methods and media
are the root of the problem, and every subsequent issue is a balance between limited-quality
original sound, limitations of newest reissue method and medium, etc.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Steven Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 2:19 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Vinyl weight and reissues
> This market is collector rather than dealer driven.
> Some buyers look on early jazz lps as culturally significan artifacts. Some
> like the mastering of Rudy van Gelder, one of the few engineers who recorded
> and cut his own masters regularly. There are those to whom the original
> graphics in their original fabrication is significant. Etc, etc., etc.
> Steve Smolian
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
> Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 1:09 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Vinyl weight and reissues
> Hi Steve:
> Not trying to undermine your used record business, so relax! Yes, some
> people prefer the "original artifact," and some of those old platters
> definitely play well (as long as they didn't spend too much time on a
> record-wrecker groove-grinder). Some are also quiet, and some early cuts are
> very dynamic and undistorted. However, cutting technology improved and quiet
> vinyl is better whether it's thick or thin. If one desires scratchy,
> distorted sound as part of the "authentic" experience, please do go out and
> buy worn out original pressings that lived their youth spinning on the likes
> of Garrard console "record players."
> As you say, there are "many factors."
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Steven Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 12:50 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Vinyl weight and reissues
>> Preferred for what reason?
>> With jazz, orifinals always bring whatever premoum there is to the record.
>> An implication of lighter vinyl for early records is that the later ones
>> were processed using trasistorized equipment and the earlier ones used
>> equipment. There are those who consider the later an important value
>> Condition of the tapes was surely better on the earlier masters made from
>> Many later jazz LP issues look like their earlier counterparts but may be
>> Japanese reisues, some from Japan, some from Japan and marketed by
>> You'd have to read reviews of these to figure out if the later processing
>> was better (to the reviewer's ear or psyche) than the original.
>> Many factors. Folks on this and other lists will probably chime in.
>> Steve Smolian
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Bewley, John
>> Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 9:28 AM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Vinyl weight and reissues
>> We are currently processing a gift of LPs. In comparing some of the LPs to
>> what we already hold in our collection we have noticed how some recordings
>> were reissued in lighter weight vinyl.
>> Some examples:
>> Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard again. Impulse AS-9124 Issue with
>> rainbow Impulse label is heavier than the issue with Impulse written in
>> script-type font
>> Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard Impulse As-10 Impulse red, black,
>> white label issue heavier than ABC/Impulse green label issue
>> John Coltrane Kulu se mama. Impulse As-9106 Issue with rainbow Impulse
>> is heavier than ABC/Impulse green label issue
>> John Coltrane's Soultrane. Prestige PRLP 7142 and OJC-021 (distributed by
>> Fantasy) PRLP 7142 heavier than OJC-021
>> I was aware of more drastic cases with things like the RCA Vintage series
>> but didn't ever have side by side comparisons of Impulse and Prestige in
>> hand before.
>> Is it always true that the heavier weight issue is the preferred copy
>> surfaces that are in equally good condition? Doesn't seem we're talking
>> of the stereo-enhanced type of reissue here.
>> We're trying to decide if any of the heavier weight copies should be
>> retained for the collection based on their merit as being superior
>> if that is indeed true.
>> John Bewley
>> Associate Librarian/Archivist
>> Music Library
>> University at Buffalo
>> 716 645 0614