Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
GA Russell

PD labels

55 posts in this topic

I receive at least one email every day from oldies.com.  Almost all of them promote box sets from European public domain labels.

Presumably the low prices appeal to most of the public, but I am primarily attracted to the collections themselves.  However, I have purchased a couple that sound bad, and I have decided that I want to avoid those labels which don't make the effort to make good discs.

So I would like the recommendations of those of you who have tried some of these labels.

To my knowledge, they can be ranked...

Good Quality

Ace
Bear Family
Charly
JSP
Chronological Classics
Jasmine

*****

Satisfactory

Avid

*****

Poor Quality

Not Now
One Way
Real Gone

Any disagreement with these rankings?  Any labels (with rankings) you would like to add?

Thanks!

Edited by GA Russell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

JSP: unless mastered by John R.T. Davies, Ted Kendall or Chris King the releases I've heard sounded awful to my ears, plus the fact that they have often "borrowed" masterings other labels like Bear Family paid for and did the research for.

Jasmine: lots of noise reduction on at least some of their releases.

Real Gone: there were two labels with that name, Real Gone Music, based in the US, that only reissues licensed material, and the EU public-domain label Real Gone (no "Music" in their name) with cheap, non-licensed reissues taken from existing sources like LPs and CDs.

Ace: I've not always been happy with the sound on their (licensed) reissues, it was sometimes too "pumped-up", too loud and harsh. Others like it that way.

 

Edited by J.A.W.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ace is NOT a "public domain" label, neither is Bear Family. They DO license stuff and Ace, in particular, has ACQUIRED entire label files and archives lock stock and barrel (e.g. the Modern/RPM catalog) and has gone where no others have bothered to tread. If a discussion such as this was to evolve along halfway serious lines this distinction ought to be respected and adhered to. Just because a label is European does not mean it is "Public Domain". And "Public Domain" by European laws and standards is not intrinsically bad.

As for the sound harshness and loudness issue, I have a feeling this is a problem even with totally "legitimate" reissues these days. Seems like many reissue companies are bowing too rapdily to what they perceive to be "today's" listeners' "habits" and expectancies. I seem to remember more than one discussion about some Blue Note RVG rmeasterings under that angle too.

FWIW, I for one am largely satisfied with Fresh Sound (disregarding for now that they did/do have licensing deals for part of their reissues too) and their offshoots such as Blue Moon, partly because they too go where others never bothered to go (because visibly there was not enough money in those areas for them). Generally I find their sound OK, quite acceptable, whatever .... On a different aspect, I have come to be fairly dissatisfied with the "2 LPs on one CD" reissue/pairing policy of Fresh Sound because they very often pair an easily available item with a really obscure item or one that they had reissued earlier with such an obscure one that would be new to the reissue market. So those who've been around a fairly long time and bought their stuff earlier will often be licked. But I have reached the point where I do not really get too worked up about this anymore. You can't have'em all ...

(To put my approach to these PD labels in perspective, when I pay what would be the "full price" it is vinyl I prefer. If I cannot get the vinyl at an affordable price (which these days is often the case, unfortunately) I am much more wary to pay top money for CDs with stuff that is just being reissued in an x-th iteration) ^_^

I had no qualms about picking up a scant few items on LoneHillJazz either - including for the reason of them covering fields nobody else did (obscure Japanese reissues maybe available on the worldwide market for something like 12 minutes and 43 seconds before going OOP don't count :lol:)

As for Real Gone Jazz (the "Classic Albums" 4-CD sets, I've picked up a few of these and can live quite well with the sound too for what they are and how they are priced. I tend to see them as convenience packages and introductory starter sets (this is how I approached some Jimmy Smith and Shirley Scott sets) or gap fillers for items otherwise hard to come by, and they do serve their purpose well in that field. For example, I picked up the Tal Farlow package because though I have spent a fair bit of dough on picking up his individual albums (including some originals and some Japanese reissues) there were three in the field that just eluded me at the prices I was willing to shell out. So given the price of the 4-CD set, this package was well worth picking up even for only 3 LP's worth of  ALL-new stuff.

When I had a fit of stocking up on Soul Jazz 2 years ago I got myself not only a Real Gone Jazz set on Gene Ammons but also his "Prestige Collection 1960-1962" 4-CD set on a label called "Enlightenment" (his vinyls had largely disappeared from the usual outlets here for a long time). I remember I was a bit underwhelmed by the sound but I will have to do a sort of listening comparison between both (they duplicate one LP) and the very few OJC vinyl reissues I have.

JSP im my opinion is a can of worms. I do not have enough of them across the ENTIRE spectrum to judge fairly, but I have several of really early cajun/hillbilly and blues sets with recordings from the 20s that, while I am very tolerant of background noise of reissued 78s really had me wondering "Did all the Paramounts really sound THAT bad across the board?", for example. I can live with it and if in doubt I prefer the noise even of scruffy originals instead of deadened doctorings that lack the high and low ends and just sound flat, but yet I am wondering if any remastering at all was done to these reissues ... The 50s R&B sets I have are OK soundwise, compared to what else is out there in various formats and labels. OTOH the Chet Atkins "Early Years" box (compiled with the assistance of Joe Bussard) sounds eerily clean and "cleaned up" to me.

As for Jasmine, those I have are mostly older CDs with reissues of British jazz from the 50s and I wonder if these really all are P.D. or if some reissue licensing deal (e.g. with the successors of the Tempo label) did go into it.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ace and Bear Family are indeed unjustly included in the list of public-domain labels in the first post. Their releases are all licensed by the rights holders, and some of Fresh Sound's releases were too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve and Hans, I am well aware that Bear Family and Ace (and Charly?) obtain access to the original sources.  Nevertheless, I think that it is appropriate to refer to labels which seem to specialize in pre-1963 music as PD labels, because the music is in the public domain.  But no need to quibble here about that.  I am only concerned about which labels have the reputation of routinely puttying out good quality CDs of '50s music (and which labels to avoid for reason of their poor work product).

Edited by GA Russell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, GA Russell said:

Steve and Hans, I am well aware that Bear Family and Ace (and Charly?) obtain access to the original sources.  Nevertheless, I think that it is appropriate to refer to labels which seem to specialize in pre-1963 music as PD labels, because the music is in the public domain.  But no need to quibble here about that.  I am only concerned about which labels have the reputation of routinely puttying out good quality CDs of '50s music (and which labels to avoid for reason of their poor work product).

I still feel these are two totally different kettles of fish - if only because the way you source your material means you follow a different approach. This skews the discussion. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, GA Russell said:

Steve and Hans, I am well aware that Bear Family and Ace (and Charly?) obtain access to the original sources.  Nevertheless, I think that it is appropriate to refer to labels which seem to specialize in pre-1963 music as PD labels, because the music is in the public domain.  But no need to quibble here about that.  I am only concerned about which labels have the reputation of routinely puttying out good quality CDs of '50s music (and which labels to avoid for reason of their poor work product).

Both Bear Family and Ace have released lots of post-1963 recordings, and I don't think they belong in your list of public-domain labels.

Edited by J.A.W.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Public-domain labels are not necessarily bootleg labels, there is a difference. EU public-domain labels issue non-licensed recordings that are in the public domain in the European Union; those releases are legit in the EU. Bootleg labels release unauthorized recordings and non-licensed recordings that are not in the public domain.

Edited by J.A.W.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
45 minutes ago, Tom 1960 said:

I was curious whether  "Solar" is considered a boot label? I've seen a few Blakey and the Jazz Messenger live recordings and wasn't certain of there legitimacy. Thanks for your thoughts.

Solar is, like, hey, you missed it on Dime? Don't worry, we didn't.

Gotta also say that Ace + Bear Family are full legit in my estimation. They're not just cheap business cranking out products for saps, they know the music and show respect to the potential consumer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You did not mention the whole Proper label of PD boxed sets.  Probably many of us have purchased one or more of their products.  I have generally been satisfied with the sound quality on the various sets I have from them and I have always liked the liner note essays and photos included in each set.   I cannot attest to the accuracy of the discographical information they provide, but at least they do make an effort to provide that info.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bought one Proper set, a Coleman Hawkins thing, and although what was there was fine, it pissed me off to no end that there were not one complete session!s Apart from their seemingly questionable sourcing, that's the main motivator for me to avoid them. I'm just not that kind of "collector", not about stuff like that. That's what I always liked about Chornologicol Clossics, they always did the work to give complete sessions, always.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, duaneiac said:

You did not mention the whole Proper label of PD boxed sets.  Probably many of us have purchased one or more of their products.  I have generally been satisfied with the sound quality on the various sets I have from them and I have always liked the liner note essays and photos included in each set.   I cannot attest to the accuracy of the discographical information they provide, but at least they do make an effort to provide that info.

Yes, I thought about Proper too when i gave my impressions above. I have seen a few discussions here in the past where it really seemed to me like they seem to be held in high esteem by some forumists who sneer at lots of other PD labels (starting with Fresh Sound) but are all for picking up Proper box sets of those artists who they'd like to familiarize themselves with but do not want to go all out and buy the reissues piecemeal in more comprehensive fashion elsewhere, e.g. those who are primarily into hard bop (and subsequent styles) but would like to get a smattering of bebop too but don't care to dig to the same depth there. A bit of double standards but oh well ...

I have a few Proper sets and while I find them OK soundwise I do have my doubts about whether they actually do their own remastering etc. I wonder if the Proper people who did the Bob Wills set did NOT take a "proper" look at the Bear Family set and in the same manner I wonder whether the Milton Brown box set done by the Texas Rose label did NOT serve as a very, very direct inspiration for the Proper box set.

Also, I find the artist listings in their "themed" box sets (e.g. the "Hittin' on All Six" guitar set) just crappy. The track listing on the back of the box set and on the website does not give the name of the band leader under whose name the tune actually was issued but the name of the featured guitarist. So you often will be unable to know exactly which is which (as it is not unknown for artist to record one and the same tune in several settings) unless you are a walking discography. You'd only find the accurate details inside the booklet AFTER you have bought the (sealed) set. Not the way to do it IMO ...

Edited by Big Beat Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

These Proper sets are usually a good place to start.  I've found their sets to be intelligently curated, with accurate discographical information.  I have their Bix Beiderbecke set, for example; even after getting the Mosaic box, I kept the Proper for the Paul Whiteman tracks that aren't on the Mosaic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I found their bebop set to be incredibly useful. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Real Gone greatly improved their sound over time (probably better sources to rip from).  I've heard some horrible mastering on Charly, though they also may have improved.  The One Way I am famliar with is a USA reissue label that is not PD.  They put out some hard-to-find items 25 years ago that I was thankful to get, though I have replaced most of them over time as the same items have come out on other labels with better sound and better packaging.  Enlightenment and Not Now are bottom of the barrel to me, I won't touch Not Now, and rarely will consider Enlightenment only if titles not available from other PD labels.  I will do Real Gone, like Avid quite a bit (though their sound is OK, not fabulous - I like their packaging and concept a lot).  I like Proper for the pre-LP artists where I don't need everything.    And I consider Fresh Sound to be the creme de la creme, often prefer them to the US issues on the original labels.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can we work out a list of all the aliases the LonehillGambitPhonoAmericanJazzClassicsEssentialJazzClassicsSolar crew has used so far?

Does Lonehill still exist? I recently bought that double disc set with four big band albums  of Urbie Green's (you're to blame for giving one of 'em thumbs up when he died) and it's under the Phono moniker now, no longer Lonehill, although the design looks totally like Lonehill.

And I still wonder if Freshsound really has nothing to do with it, although I tend to agree that they're different in what they release and the (relative) amount of care they put into their product. They still offer extremely lousy transfers/sources every once in a while (tape flutter, generally dull sound, records that sound worse and worse the longer they go on ...)

--

JazzBeat was another one ... and Groove Hut

and earlier the Definitive family (they had two more names for sub-series/labels)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, felser said:

I like Proper for the pre-LP artists where I don't need everything. 

I guess your stance is fairly common among other forumists too, as past discussions have shown. But unfortunately those past discussions have also shown that some forumists tend to rage and rant in every way whenever PD releases on Spanish labels (for example) come up. And it is not that hard to fathom why ... They seem to take offense when PD releases are done of artists oh so dear to their hearts in those fields of jazz they prefer (hard bop and onwards) and question the legitimacy of those releases and of the way they make use of European P.D. laws whereas they are rather more tolerant when it is about "introductory" box sets on bebop and possibly even earlier styles of jazz that are not quite as much of a key focus to them and where box sets such as these enable them to cover their essentials in one (budget-priced) swoop.
I call this "double standards", sorry to say ... Not least of all because, like I said, I do have my doubts that Proper in each and every case starts from scratch in their compilations and uses of source material. Another example that comes to mind in that respect is that their accordeon jazz box set has a surprising number of overlaps with a box set done by Fremeaux some 20 years ago. And as it happened this one also extensively featured 50s artists that had been graced with reissues elsewhere not that long before (Mat Mathews IIIRC) whereas I cannot find any trace of other accordeonists who to my knowledge have not been reissued (Johnny Hamlin, to name just one example) but would have expanded the coverage of such a "themed" compilation. I'd have figured a thoughtfully compiled reissue on a specific field also covered by a fellow label would proceed in the interest of the customer and try to fill the gaps left by that other (except for a sampling of total essentials, possibly) and cover their OWN ground. Not all that much here, though. So much for "curating" ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yeah, well, somebody long ago pointed out the, uh, "coincidence" of Proper never releasing anything until somebody else had cleaned it up first. I took note then, and take note now. So put me down as somebody who has more than one reason for not dealing with Proper.

I'll say it again - Ace & Bear Family (and when they were around, Cornholiogical Classics) show(ed) a true, non-cynical, respect for their customers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, it's a pity that Chronological Classics did not last longer. Although, on the other hand they did make you realize that in the end you do NOT always need to be a completist even with some of those artists that really ranked high on your favorite list and where you had been wondering about the tracks overlooked on other, earlier reissues and were sort of hoping for CC to come to the rescue. Sometimes the experience was a mixed bag ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always appreciate the respect shown by giving me the ability to do my own culling, rather than the presumption of somebody doing it for me. Like there was a Coleman Hawkins disc of there's that had some wierdass R&B cut where Hawk lest held this low note, and I mean held it. Not loud either. It was kind of spooky, to be honest. I don't have that disc, somebody played it for me, and I'll be damned if I've found it anywhere else. But Crqnokoligal Classics, they put it out, because that was what they did, hey, it's Coleman Hawkins, it's in the period of this disc, it goes on there, no matter how obscure it is, no matter how deeply we have to dig, because THIS is what we do,.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hm, I kinda learned to like Chronogicals (at around the time it was becoming too late, of course) ... they were ugly, they were expensive (high-prized, in that time in the range of 30-40, depending if DM, US$ or CHF), they often had less than ideal transfers (compared to Masters of Jazz, Mosaic ...), and they omitted too many (alternate) takes to my liking. But this was easy, as I wasn't all that much into early jazz or swing at that time. (I know about Neatwork and have bought one or two, but I guess they became hard to find already towards the end of Classics run.)

Masters of Jazz, on the other hand, I really love. I have about two dozen, including the full Lunceford run (with the missing portions supplied by Chronos, and then there's the Mosaic, too ...) - inclusion of air-checks and other live recordings (which, having grown up in the CD era and far away from UK or IT bootleg labels, were totally unavailable to me at that time), inclusion of alternate takes of course, and good sound on top of that.

Fremeaux is a label I've really grown to appreciate, too - again not exactly nice design (oh those clumsy fonts!), but solid work and excellent documentation. I am collecting their Armstrong series, got the Django, am thinking if I should not get the Bird, too (overlap, overlap, mess ... I'd give the kingdom I don't own in order for a thorough Bird discography, even just for a complete sessionongraphy without all the release info). Some of the Fremeaux "Essentials" and other compilations are excellent value, too. And I have also ended up buying a dozen or so of their Biguine and other compilations (also those two vols. of "Gainsbourg et ses interprètes")

2 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I always appreciate the respect shown by giving me the ability to do my own culling, rather than the presumption of somebody doing it for me. Like there was a Coleman Hawkins disc of there's that had some wierdass R&B cut where Hawk lest held this low note, and I mean held it. Not loud either. It was kind of spooky, to be honest. I don't have that disc, somebody played it for me, and I'll be damned if I've found it anywhere else. But Crqnokoligal Classics, they put it out, because that was what they did, hey, it's Coleman Hawkins, it's in the period of this disc, it goes on there, no matter how obscure it is, no matter how deeply we have to dig, because THIS is what we do,.

Yeah, okay ... but omitting all those wonderful takes he did for Keynote ... I know, including them would have been a violation of PD rules, I assume -- but still, in an ideal world (which I have no reason to expect, I know, right ...)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Point just being - you can tell who's doing it out of love and respect and who's just putting shit out because they can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JSngry said:

Point just being - you can tell who's doing it out of love and respect and who's just putting shit out because they can.

Hm ... but then Lonehill falls in both camps, as some of their series (i.e. John Graas, Hodges/Wild Bill*, Illinois Jacquet, Jazz Lab, Shank/Cooper live in yurp ...) do fall into the good camp.

*) I know that may have nixed a third Mosaic, but I'm having a hard time believing that Cuscuna would have actually done that one!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lonehill bugs me because their packaging builds expectations for a better product than is actually delivered. Still just a bunch of needle-drops.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Way back in the the 1990's, when I was getting deeper into jazz and had some limited expendable income with which I could indulge my interest, Tower Records had an outlet store in the South of Market area of SF.  It made way for the not-Candlestick Park ballpark that was constructed there.  But they had some great deals on cut-outs and a whole lot of these, I think they were of Italian origin, budget CDs on the "Giants of Jazz" label.  Here's a couple of samples:

51bOdGLsdgL._SY355_.jpg

(I actually still have that CD somwhere, I'm sure :))

R-2184202-1433383436-6549.jpeg.jpg

MI0001941300.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

MI0002743025.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

Anybody else remember these or still have some of these?  I think I got rid of the Wes Montgomery discs in this series once I got the Complete Riverside Recordings boxed set, but these "Giants of Jazz" discs were my first real exposure to his music.  I think I had 3 Montgomery CDs at probably $3.99  or $4.99 a pop back then.  I bought a ton of these kind of discs at that Tower Outlet store way back then  . . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.