Sunday, September 8, 2013

EMI Family Labelography and Pressings, Part 2

Well last time we made it through the major reissues labels and the ASD series.  Now we start off with the other pillar of EMI's golden age, the Columbia Blue and Silver SAX.  Make not mistake, despite having the same parent label, the SAX have a distinct sound, a distinctly better sound.


SAX:


Blue and Silver
aka ES1

Releases:
SAX 2252 - SAX 2525
SAX 2528 - SAX 2538 (select)
SBO (a few 10" releases with this prefix)

Years:
1958 - 1964

Engineering:
All tube recording and mastering chain. Extremely well balanced with very slight boost in midrange.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Silver"


Early Red

aka Magic Notes, ER1

Releases:
SAX 2252 - SAX 2525 (reissues)
SAX 2528 - SAX 2538 (select)
SAX 2539 - SAX 2589
SAX 5251 - SAX 5294

Years:  1964 - 1968

Engineering:
Transistor mastering chain. Some sonic abberations.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Magic" (On this label it says magic notes in the notes logo)


Late Red

aka Second Red, Magic Notes, Rectangle, ER2

Releases:
SAX 2252 - SAX 2589 (reissues)
SAX 5251 - SAX 5294 (reissues)

Years:
1969

Engineering:
Transistor mastering chain. Similar feel to Blue and Silver, but absolutely not tube with some loss of magic.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Notes" (On this label it just shows the notes with no mention of magic)

Teal and Silver

aka Green and Silver


Releases:
SCX 3251 - SCX 3275
(various popular classical releases|)

Years:
1958 - 1964

Engineering:
All tube recording and mastering chain. Extremely well balanced with very slight boost in midrange.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Silver" (note instead of the light blue background these have a light green, or Teal background. Equivalent to Blue and Silver except for recording venues in some cases, but sonically similar so we keep the name "Silver" on this blog.)




Comments So Far:
Columbia\s classical division ceased after the 1960's.  At this point, no further classical was released with the old covers, labels, etc.  Material was reissued on other EMI labels.  At this point we believe there was only one other label that may have had a similar sonic signature to the SAX and that was the UK Angel SAN material (opera and choral works).  The matrix numbers often have the typical Columbia YAX prefix.


SAN:

White Angel
aka White and Gold, White

Releases:
SAN 101 - SAN 209

Years:
1963 - 1969

Engineering:
Similar to the SAX Early Red ("Magic") pressings (i.e. potential for sonic anamolies).

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"White"





Black Angel
aka Black and Gold, Black

Releases:
SAN 210 - SAN 266

Years:
1969 - 1972

Engineering:
Discrete transistor sound similar to color postage stamp.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Black" (here is where the naming gets a little stupid as both the current following labels have a black angel.)




Yellow Angel
aka Yellow and Black, Yellow

Releases:
SAN 267 - SAN 418

Years:
1972 - 1977 (reissues until 1981)

Engineering:
Integrated circuits start appearing in mastering chain.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Yellow" (Dealers love to call this a black angel, but in the lingo this is yellow)




Large Dog
aka Big Dog

Releases:
SAN reissues

Years:
1981 and up (reissues)

Engineering:
Intergrated circuits prevail in mastering chain. Lowest noise floor.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Dog" (same label as ASD at this time)









Comments So Far:
The SAN and SLS issues are quite convoluted.  Early on, both the SAX and ASD choral operatic material was released only under SAX and ASD.  Towards the end of early ASD, some of the ASD started to be released on SLS with the Gold and Cream label.  The Columbia SAX appear to make a jump to the White Angel label before the end of the SAX Blue and Silver.  Some of these early SAN are valuable and may sport the Blue and Silver sound (more on this).  After the earlies releases, the SLS were all ASD box sets with very little operatic material.  With SLS 810 (Der Rosenkavalier), the SAX material started to be reissued under SLS, but not the SAN Angel material as that label was still issuing operatic material.  Then with SLS 901 (Cosi Fan Tute), the SAN material was released under SLS (just to confuse, as they still issued SAN into 1977 well after this).  At this point with SLS we have the black and white postage stamp issues with ASD on the label and the above yellow label for the SAN reissues.  And if that is not confusing enough, much of the SLS boxes of SAN material had the earlier labels as EMI still had a stockpile of these pressings.  So in truth, with SLS you can have the black and white stamp along with all three Angel labels above (which is not the same as US Angel!).  And then, I've also seen on occaision a few other variations in this SLS range (SLS 799 has green ring labels).

With the SLS 5000 series EMI eventually merged their box sets under SLS, but not immediately as SAN continued into 1977.  Well before this the Bohm Cosi Fan Tute got its third release as SLS 5028, supplanting SLS 901 with its angel labels, and the original SAN 103-6.   I'll note that the early SAN are intriguing for the possibility of Blue and Silver sound, but beware as that label was used until 1969 and there may be later inferior pressings with the same label.  (I'd stay away from this Cosi as my Big Dog SXLP highlights has extremely rolled off sound and I doubt even a Blue and Silver pressing would rescue this recording).

It's downhill from here when it comes to complexity.  The following CSD series features light classical material for the masses with a limited number of issues despite the gaps in numbering.


CSD:



Green and Gold
aka Green Gold, GG

Releases:
CSD 1252 - CSD 1499

Years:
1959 - 1964

Engineering:
All tube recording and mastering chain.  Similar to ASD Gold and Cream pressings.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Gold"




Black and Red
aka Black

Releases:
CSD 1252 - CSD 1499 (reissues)
CSD 1502 - CSD 1631
CSD 3500 - CSD 3700

Years:
1963 - 1972

Engineering:
Likely hybrid tube/transistor quickly transitioning to discrete transistor mastering chain.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Mini" (A Miles to Mozart original as Black is taken by the Black Angel, and Red is to confusing with all of the other Red based names.  Mini refers to the small size of the postage stamp.  Also note that though this has a ring on the label, it is not a ring pressing as it is too early.  This label must have been the basis for the design of many of the later postage stamp labels.)




Dark Green
aka DG

Releases:
CSD 1252 - CSD 1631(reissues)
CSD 3700 and up

Years:
1972 - 1980

Engineering:
Integrated circuits start appearing in mastering chain.
circuits start appearing in mastering chain.
Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Green"








Comments So Far:
Later, we'll get into the ESD Greensleeves which is a continuation of the CSD.  Next up is HQS which is a very interesting label basically featuring what appears to be material that EMI wanted to offer at a budget price including, but not restricted to chamber music (some early Beecham reissues).


HQS:



Black and Red
aka Black

Releases:
HQS 1000- HQS 1231

Years:
1965 - 1972

Engineering:
Likely hybrid tube/transistor quickly transitioning to discrete transistor mastering chain.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Mini"




Maroon

Releases:
HQS 1232- HQS 1418

Years:
1972 - 1980

Engineering:
Integrated circuits start appearing in mastering chain.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Maroon"




Maroon Color
(a color stamp just like the image to the left, but with maroon instead of red)

Releases:
HQS reissues

Years:
1980 - 1981 (reissues)

Engineering:
Intergrated circuits prevail in mastering chain.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Color Ring"



Large Dog
aka Big Dog

Releases:
HQS reissues

Years:
1981 and up (reissues)

Engineering:
Intergrated circuits prevail in mastering chain. Lowest noise floor.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Dog"









ESD:

(basically reissues of CSD material)

Greenesleeve

Releases:
ESD 7000 series

Years:
1980 - 1981

Engineering:
Intergrated circuits prevail in mastering chain.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Greenesleeve"





Large Dog
aka Big Dog

Releases:
ESD 1000000 series

Years:
1981 and up

Engineering:
Intergrated circuits prevail in mastering chain. Lowest noise floor.

Miles To Mozart Acronym:
"Dog"









Is it Over?
Well I hope so.  This should serve as a primer for discussions of the sound of various pressings.  In general with most record companies original labels sound better, so here we have a valuable resource to ensure that one gets the most valuable pressing.  With EMI, the reissue pressings are so excellent, that it is not a foregone conclusion that the original pressing will be best.  These two articles will serve as a valuable reference guide when discussing the sound of the various reissues.  Look for more and more on this subject in the upcoming months.  Only on Miles to Mozart will you find such detail.


Not Quite Over:
An erstwhile reader has pointed out the omission of Music for Pleasure (MFP) pressings which preceded Classics for Pleasure.

MFP:

MFP Stereo
(most are mono for the early 1000/2000 series. To determine if stereo, look at the corner of the cover for the box pictured beside this description.  You may not be able to see the word stereo if the picture is not high resolution in a listing, but you will be able to detect the large box in this picture.  If the LP is mono the box is half the height and loses at least the bottom half about stereo with a mono pickup.)

Releases:
MFP 1-2000s (limited stereo)
MFP 57000s* (generally stereo)

Years: 1965 - 1969, *1970 - 1973

Engineering:
Often date from golden age SAX and ASD recording range.  Have a very tube like character.

Miles To Mozart Acronym: "MFP"


More on MFP:
The Wiki on this states "The label was set up in 1965 as a joint venture between EMI, which provided the source material, and the publisher Paul Hamlyn, which handled distribution in so-called non-traditional outlets, such as W.H. Smith, the booksellers." 

Most of the classical material on this label was not recorded by EMI.  Since there are so few of these in stereo that are true ASD or SAX quality recordings I am going to maintain a stereo list right here (comment if you find additions and we can update):

MFP 57020 Mendelssohn/Schubert; Italian/Unfinished Symphony, Kletzki, Wallberg (ASD 296, 
MFP 6037 Russian Orchestral Masterpieces, Pretre (ASD 509)
MFP 6030 Berlioz*, Philharmonic Orchestra* Conducted By André Cluytens - Symphonie Fantastique
MFP 6038 Schumann*, Chopin*, Conducted By*, Robert Irving Philrhamonia ‎– Les Sylphides / Carnaval
MFP 2117 Beethoven Archduke Trio / David Oistrakh Trio`(SAX 2352)
MFP 2095 SAMSON FRANCOIS Liszt Piano Concertos 1 and 2 Philharmonia, Silvestri


World Record Club:
WRC records.  Some reissues of EMI material.  Made in England.
SCHURICHT BRUCKNER SYMPHONY NO.8 STEREO WRC S 4216 4217 AUDIOPHILE (ASD 602 603)
BARBIROLLI MAHLER SYMPHONY NO.9 WRC S-4300/1 1B/4G/3 AUDIOPHILE (HMV ASD 596 597)
JOSEF KRIPS SCHUMANN SYMPHONY 1 & 4 WRC S-4050 1M/1M (DECCA SXL 2223)

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for completing the comprehensive list of EMI labels! This is the first time I've seen some documentation of the engineering methods used for these different pressings. How were you able to distinguish these? This type of information could provide a great deal of insight into the sound nature of these recordings. I seem to recall, however, that semi-circle SAX recordings -- at least some of them -- were still tube.

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    Replies
    1. The Engineering sections are guess work. You can assume that recordings dates from 1963 and back would involve all tube master tapes as is the case with most of the golden age labels. Most of the labels were cranking out material during the early stereo years and had slowed down by 1963 to a trickle of releases in comparison. SAX 2540 Callas was recorded in January 1965 and at best the LP came out within a few months of this. That pretty much means the later Blue and Silver were cut to vinyl in 1964 with the semi-circles appearing in late 1964, well into the transistor age. None of my Magic Notes/semicircle (SAX) or Magics (using are new lingo) sound tubey at all to my ears. Based on dates I suspect the transition started in the earlier SAX 2500s. SAX 2503 Callas Paris was recorded in May 1963 and probably came out the latter half of 1963. Even that record is late enough to have been done with transistor based cutting. I suspect by late 1963 Columbia was recording with transistor after a summer break.

      EMI ASD are a little more interesting to my ears and I suspect the transition was much closer to the label change. ASD 585 Organ Symphony was recorded in 1964 (Discog the CD release) right on the border line. The best way to gates for the ASD is to look at the CD release and Discogs will often have this information. ASD 563 Shostakovich 12 was recorded in 1963. I've got a couple ASD 600s LPs and they sound odd with very extended high frequencies and some tube sound, but more clinical. A less abrupt change in the sound. I've yet to hear sound like that from any of the semi reissues of the earlier gold and cream material. I suspect the recording chain was very hybrid at this point for the ASD's. It seems with Columbia SAX so little was being recorded (mainly Epic releases) that the change may be more abrupt.

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  2. Does MUSIC FOR PLEASURE (MFP) label also belong to the UK reissue of Columbia Blue and Silver SAX ? I'm waiting for a recently bid MFP 2117 to compare with CFP 40006.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, but be careful many are mono! I've not tracked down stereo on MFP, but some exist. If stereo that might be better than the CFP. Probably came out in 1967 so predates concert classics slightly. I've been remiss in investigating these because it is so hard to tell. I've seen multiple listings stating that this one is stereo. Let us know what it sounds like. I need to investigate MFP which I've ignored because many are US recordings and many are mono.

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    Replies
    1. I'll update the end of the list here with MFP. It does appear that they had quite a bit of SAX material unfortunately most of it was mono! That is a nice find.

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  4. Hello, regarding mfp... Is it possible to know if the record is mono or stereo reading the matrix number? No stereo on label or cover, but does Y mean stereo and X mono? Trying to buy the mfp 2012 (kempe brahms 1) but seller is unsure about this. Great post!

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    Replies
    1. Hi -- that's a great question. I'm afraid I'm not as familiar with the MFPs as I am with CFPs, but I did find this link that I think may provide your answer:

      http://cart.classicalvinylrecords.com/index.php?p=product&id=16311&parent=14

      It looks like the MFP is a mono release.

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    2. If you are looking for the Kempe Brahms 1 in stereo, I'd recommend going for the stereo CFP. I can't imagine it sounds any bit inferior to the $1000+ ASD original.

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    3. Thanks. There is also a Regal, the SREG 1017. CFP should be nice as you say.

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    4. the stereo CFP sounds extremely good. If an MFP does not say stereo it is not stereo, so that is mono.

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