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Teasing the Korean

Jazz's Transition to CDs

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I've been thinking about the early years of CDs and how much of the back catalog - jazz and beyond -  was and was not available.

The first jazz CDs I remember seeing were the Columbia blockbusters repackaged with the hideous blue border.  As if it wasn't enough to shrink the LP covers to CD size, they had to make them even smaller with that needless margin?  These albums would include Kind of Blue, Mingus Ah-Um, and Time Out.

I also remember Polygram's Compact Jazz series for artists on Verve, Mercury, MPS, and related.  I suspect that some of these releases may have predated reissues of many of the actual albums from which the collections were drawn?  Or not?

It seems like OJC had made quite a bit of their back catalog available on CD by 1989 or 1990.  

And there was that early run of Blue Note albums, with no bonus tracks and cheap looking graphics.  

I also remember a time when certain artists were very underrepresented on CD.  And, of course, there are still many jazz albums that never made the transition, at least until the EU public domain thing kicked in. 

Interestingly, I did not get a CD player until around 1992, but I remember browsing the bins for many years to see what I could or could not buy.  

What do you remember about this time?    

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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My big pet peeve was reissues of two LP sets or compilations of two individual LPs with one or more tracks omitted due to the lack of capacity on a single disk. Other things included keeping LP graphics that mentioned side A & B and replacing original covers with inferior or erroneous artwork (the infamous flipped negative on the first CD edition of Kind of Blue). Yet I was thrilled to see many long unavailable LPs reissued intact at an affordable price.

 

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1 hour ago, Ken Dryden said:

My big pet peeve was reissues of two LP sets or compilations of two individual LPs with one or more tracks omitted due to the lack of capacity on a single disk.  

 

RCA  was especially bad at the time.  They did great double Lp reissues with added never before released material but the cd version were missing some of that material.  e.g Tijuana Moods.  

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I remember the first two CD's I ever bought.  One was by Stan Getz and the other, Lyle Lovett.  I still have the Getz.  The Lovett is long gone..  I also recall, as does my bank account, when I first noticed that Tower Records was carrying Japanese CD's.  

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I remember being surprised to see some of those A&M Horizons such as Don Cherry ‘Brown Rice’ fairly early on in the transition. RCA Novus were in the early too.

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I remember getting my first CD player.  It was in November.  1988?  I made the transition then because the stores in Atlanta very suddenly stopped selling LPs.

I was surprised to see LPs in Canadian stores the following year.

Joe, I had the same experience regarding RCA.  A double LP album of Shorty Rogers recordings called Short Stops was released.  Unfortunately, the CD version did not include the tracks from Side B of Disc 2!

Dave, I also remember my first CD purchase - Manfred Mann Chapter Three (volume one) and The Beach Boys' Christmas Album.

I recall there being three price points for CDs - $7.99 for samplers like the Compact Jazz series TTK mentions, $9.99 for back catalogue albums, and $14.99 for current releases.  Anybody want to dispute the $14.99 figure?  I could be wrong about that.

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I was very, very, VERY reluctant to make the transition and held out for a long time well into the 1990s, spurred both by the fact that early CDs often used to be more expensive here than comparable LPs and offering not that much more music to offset the higher cost and that this coincided with secondhand LPs dropping in price (noticed particularly during my trips to London and its record shops in the 90s) as many seemed to unload their vinyl in favor of CDs. I knew I could not hold out forever and did in fact buy the Bear Family box below as one of my very, very first CD buys long before I got a CD player as this was right up my alley and I KNEW I'd never get this music in any other form, originals being rare and pricy and much of the contents never having been released before. So I decided to grab it while it was available, postponing listening until some time later (little did I imagine that this item remained in print for  very long time):

https://www.discogs.com/de/Various-Deutsches-Jazz-Festival-19541955/release/3829499

I got myself a CD player 2 or 3 years later (1993 or so), finally makng the plunge because the LP racks in the shops kept shrinking fast and more and more reissues in niche fields such as R&B, Jump Blues and Western Swing made their FIRST appearances ever on CD. So it was CDs or none at all. (This also was the time when the Chronological Classics CD series were in full bloom and they were very tempting too.) To this day I still prefer vinyl if I have the choice, though.

 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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I, too, waited a few years, watching the medium politics. The sound was important as well - CDs often sounded harsh in the early years, and I remember that being the reason my Mosaic hesitated to make the transition. Also, I was (and still am) annoyed by labels not taking advantage of the expanded playing time - there are still people in the business with a fictitious one hour time limit in their heads. So I became rather choosy, giving away or selling CDs that sounded inferior, avoiding CDs without available bonus material. 

Every new format has its pros and cons, and the business people are more often than not irrational or even irresponsible in handling it. Or lacking discographical knowledge.

Edited by mikeweil

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flim & the bbs, whatever that label was.

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3 hours ago, mikeweil said:

I, too, waited a few years, watching the medium politics. The sound was important as well - CDs often sounded harsh in the early years, and I remember that being the reason my Mosaic hesitated to make the transition. Also, I was (and still am) annoyed by labels not taking advantage of the expanded playing time - there are still people in the business with a fictitious one hour time limit in their heads. So I became rather choosy, giving away or selling CDs that sounded inferior, avoiding CDs without available bonus material. 

Every new format has its pros and cons, and the business people are more often than not irrational or even irresponsible in handling it. Or lacking discographical knowledge.

I thought Mosaic initially had trouble getting the rights to put together CD boxed sets, which is why some of the early ones were LP only. Of course, they launched prior to the CD era, in 1983.

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15 minutes ago, JSngry said:

flim & the bbs, whatever that label was.

Flim & The BBs was my first Jazz CD purchase too. They were on the DMP (Digital Music Products) label. Jim - going by this, I assume you were an early adopter too, because I bought this CD circa 1984-85. I bought quite a few of those DMP CDs back then because they were considered "audiophile" recordings in full DDD. I subscribed to Digital Audio Magazine back then and every month they would rate the latest CDs for sound & and music and Flim & the BBs were often topping that list.

Back in those earliest days, CDs were scarce and very expensive. The first wave of them were almost exclusively Rock & Classical. I seem to remember paying close to $20-22/disc back then.

But I still consider it a magical time, as we were finally able to hear music as it sounded on the master tape with no clicks or pops and without the muted highs of Dolby cassettes.

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I got kick-started into the CD era when I saw a bunch of BN CD's as cut-outs at Tower Records (the big store on South Street in Philly) in 1988.  I bought a bunch of them, fearing I would never see them again, then bought a CD player shortly thereafter.  TTK, you are correct that the "Compact Jazz" CD series came out before many of the album represented on them had come to CD reissue.  Those "Compact Jazz" CD's were taken from the "Walkman Jazz" cassette series.  I remember the wonder of the Blue Note and OJC releases flooding the market in the late 80's to mid 90's, so many titles I had not been able to get on vinyl back in the 70's, and that I  never dreamed of seeing again.  Sound quality took a great leap forward in the mid/late-90's, I guess from the 20-bit remastering, and I remember replacing many of the early rock reissue CD's I  had already purchased.  20-25 years ago, it felt like every worthwhile album that had ever been released would make it onto CD, but then it suddenly stopped, and now we long for the infrequent Japanese series of jazz labels (BN, Mainstream, etc.).

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Looking at the contents of the October 1984 edition of Digital Audio Magazine, I see that they were talking about Clifford Brown's Emarcy stuff coming out. I remember those early West Germany-pressed Emarcy CDs in the plastic blister packs with the booklet in a pocket at the top and the CD case with the CD on the bottom. I cut many fingers trying to get those damn things open. There's also mention of Sonny Rollins' "Way Out West", which would have been the early Japanese CD in the VDJ series.

http://www.afka.net/images/Magazines/1984/1984-10-xx%20Digital%20Audio%20v1n2%2003.jpg

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16 minutes ago, Kevin Bresnahan said:

Flim & The BBs was my first Jazz CD purchase too. They were on the DMP (Digital Music Products) label. Jim - going by this, I assume you were an early adopter too, because I bought this CD circa 1984-85. I bought quite a few of those DMP CDs back then because they were considered "audiophile" recordings in full DDD. I subscribed to Digital Audio Magazine back then and every month they would rate the latest CDs for sound & and music and Flim & the BBs were often topping that list.

Back in those earliest days, CDs were scarce and very expensive. The first wave of them were almost exclusively Rock & Classical. I seem to remember paying close to $20-22/disc back then.

But I still consider it a magical time, as we were finally able to hear music as it sounded on the master tape with no clicks or pops and without the muted highs of Dolby cassettes.

I wasn't an early adopter, actually. I was more than a little turned off by the sound of the early digital product, and only began to adopt when my wife won a Discman at a convention she attended. Hardly an audiophile entry point, but it was an excuse to buy product, right? :g

But I was interested, interested enough  enough to check the stores to see what the product was. In those very early days,, that label - DMP - was getting product out there before the majors.

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The first discounted jazz cds I ever saw were some Impulses at Sam the Record Man in Toronto. I got Quincy Jones and Benny Carter.  Also they I remember that the first cd release of The Koln Concert left off the last movement. 

Edited by medjuck

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I got to college in the fall of 1987 (as I was born in 1969), and the first CD I ever bought (that fall) was Jimi Hendrix - Live at Winterland (1968).  Didn't even own a player for 2-3 more years (though I always had roommates with them).  I don't think I owned more than 50 CD's total by 1989  And I didn't really start getting into Jazz until the spring of 1989 (when I took a jazz history course for fun) - and only really in earnest over my Junior Year ('89-90). Primarily getting into Miles' Columbia 50's thru mid-to-late 60's material -- and 1960's era Blue Note material (and especially anything/everything with and by Joe Henderson).

I think I finally got my own player in about 1989 or 90.  And I pretty much bought every Miles Davis (all eras) and 60's-era Blue Note CD I could find.  I *just* got into Miles early enough that a lot of his back catalog wasn't out on CD yet in the US -- so I remember my first ever CD's of Nefertiti and Sorcerer were both Japanese Sony (which I found used up in Chicago, at Jazz Record Mart iirc).  I grew up in St. Louis, but went to school a couple hundred miles north, a couple hours outside of Chicago - which I tried to get to a couple times a year when I could (hello Rose Records! - and later Tower).

Oddly enough, I really have no memory of what my first jazz CD was (or even first 10 were), but I'm sure 90% of my first 50 jazz CD's were purchased used.

But I do distinctly remember a few things, like getting about 8-10 Blue Note titles on CD ($10 each) that were in a box by the cash register at Jazz Record Mart, especially Herbie Hancock's The Prisoner, which was my very first time hearing it (probably only even vaguely aware of it before).  But I very distinctly remember thinking:  WOW, I didn't even know this was on CD -- and how in the heck is this a cut-out?!!?!!!  I'm sure I'd bought quite a few CD cutouts by that point, but the very idea of something that was THAT interesting to me:  late 60's Herbie on Blue Note, with Joe Henderson no less -- that something like The Prisoner had come out, and was already going or had gone out of print (circa 1991-92), really seemed crazy.  How could something THAT important on BLUE NOTE go out of print in 4-5 years??

Here I am trying to get everything I can from that one little era (1960's jazz through and especially the late 60's, when things started getting weird) -- and stuff that had only just come out on CD in 1987, was already out of print by 1991-92?  Holy shit!!  That means I gotta buy EVERYTHING the second I see it, cuz if it came out 4 years ago, it might be out of print next year.

Little did I know that there would be further CD re-issues of titles (I was young).  But there has always been an urgency I've felt when finding certain sorts of titles, that I couldn't necessarily sleep on anything of the sort of styles that I really like best.

I came to CD buying as my interests were expanding wildly in my teens and early 20's, to the point where those first 10 years of CD's (which I count as being about 1985-1995) -- almost NONE of my CD buying was in replacement of pervious LP copies I'd had before.  Everything was new to me back then, and as jazz took root as my primary interest, I mostly bought everything on CD as I got into my first real job in 1994, and finally had some income -- and then I went crazy I bought way too much stuff over the next 5-10 years after that (half of it used CD's, though).

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Two developments brought me into the CD world. First was the invention of the CD recorder. This allowed me to digitize most of my jazz LP collection, solving the LP storage problem and enabling me to play CDRs in my car. The second was the 80 minute CDR replacing the 74 minute CDR which allowed recording 2 LPs on 1 CDR without losing any tracks.

Tower Records was a god-send to jazz CD collectors. I especially remember the 2-story Tower Records store in Washington DC. The second floor was all jazz and literally had thousands of CDs. OJC and later Mosaic were wonderful providers of CDs in addition to the major labels like Blue Note, etc. I also remember that the industry suffered initially with a shortage of blank CDs as there were only 1 or 2 producers world-wide. This was solved quickly as the popularity od CDs sky-rocketed.

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I made the switch when cds suddenly far outnumbered LPs at my local Tower Records. That told me (duh) that the LP was truly on the way out. Bought a Sony cd player and never looked back.

 

 

gregmo

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On 10/26/2018 at 11:43 AM, Stonewall15 said:

I also remember that the industry suffered initially with a shortage of blank CDs as there were only 1 or 2 producers world-wide. This was solved quickly as the popularity od CDs sky-rocketed.

You're partially right. There wasn't a shortage of blanks... there were only 2 CD *pressing plants* in the beginning. One at Sony in Japan and another at Polygram in West Germany. For a while, every CD was produced at one of these pressing plants. All of the first CDs sold in the US, even if the printed material was printed in the US, was pressed in either Japan or West Germany.

The first US CD pressing plant, Digital Audio Disc Corp (DADC) opened in Terre Haute, IN in 1984.

Check this out: http://www.mh-audio.nl/tips/cdhistory.htm

Fun stuff

Edited by Kevin Bresnahan

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12 minutes ago, gmonahan said:

I made the switch when cds suddenly far outnumbered LPs at my local Tower Records. That told me (duh) that the LP was truly on the way out. Bought a Sony cd player and never looked back.

I never really "made the switch" so much as by the time my tastes moved so strongly towards jazz (circa 1989-1994) -- by that point it became *infinitely* easier to find the music I was into on CD, than it would have been to track down on LP.  And especially when I first was getting into jazz in college, because I was limited to occasional weekend trips to St. Louis (or Chicago) - both 3-4 hours away.  The college town I was in was a population of 30,000, and they only sporadically had even one CD or record store (off and on), maybe 2-3 years out of the total of 7 years I lived in that town -- and almost no jazz (no surprise).  Davenport and Peoria were a little better (45 minutes away each), but not lots.

So I went on big spending binges at Tower in Chicago, and Euclid or Vintage Vinyl (for CD's) in St. Louis.  And even Best Buy(!) back then (early 90's) had a surprisingly decent selection of stuff - even a surprising number of Japanese imports even (for big names like Miles, mostly, but some others too).

I can still see the LONG shelf of CD's I had in college and shortly after (maybe 8 feel long?) -- as it turned into two 8-foot rows of CD's, then 3, then 4 -- all in the space of about a year or two.

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Terre Haute, also the home of the Columbia Record Club?

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5 hours ago, Ken Dryden said:

I thought Mosaic initially had trouble getting the rights to put together CD boxed sets, which is why some of the early ones were LP only. Of course, they launched prior to the CD era, in 1983.

I remember an interview with Cuscuna where he expressed his initial reluctance with the sound of early CD masterings - cannot recall the exact source, though. It may be that he  he said that in connection with Blue Note's entry into the CD market.

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2 hours ago, medjuck said:

The first discounted jazz cds I ever saw were some Impulses at Sam the Record Man in Toronto. I got Quincy Jones and Benny Carter.  Also they I remember that the first cd release of The Koln Concert left off the last movement. 

That was the very store I bought my first CDs - a bunch of Blue Notes (including one of the Elvin Jones ‘Lighthouse’ CDs, when they were released in two volumes - plus a Hilton Ruiz RCA Novus). Hedging my bets, I also bought an Ollie Nelson vinyl that day too - the store still had a vinyl section, sort of like a Custers last stand baracade of racks. :D

Those CDs, even with PST, were at the time around half the price they were fetching in Europe. Those days now long gone but during the 1990s it was ‘fill your boots’ time.

That ‘Sam’ store on Yonge was great. When you had finished you could pop next door too to binge at that other store (A&M Sound?).

Edited by sidewinder

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16 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Terre Haute, also the home of the Columbia Record Club?

12 for a penny!

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8 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

That was the very store I bought my first CDs - a bunch of Blue Notes (including one of the Elvin Jones ‘Lighthouse’ CDs, when they were released in two volumes - plus a Hilton Ruiz RCA Novus). Hedging my bets, I also bought an Ollie Nelson vinyl that day too - the store still had a vinyl section, sort of like a Custers last stand baracade of racks. :D

Those CDs, even with PST, were at the time around half the price they were fetching in Europe. Those days now long gone but during the 1990s it was ‘fill your boots’ time.

That ‘Sam’ store on Yonge was great. When you had finished you could pop next door too to binge at that other store (A&M Sound?).

 

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