Welcome to my web site! Here you will find information related to early pressings on compact disc. Included is an up-to-date list of my collection of these and other collectable CDs, along with pictures of some of my rare discs. I hope you find this site to be a useful resource!

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March 31st, 2020

In today’s post, we add some reggae to keithhirsch.com as a change from the usual rock, pop, and jazz. When most people think reggae, they immediately think of Bob Marley. Understandable. Marley was instrumental in helping to bring reggae to the mainstream in the 1970s. However, to keep things interesting, we will not look at an early CD of a standard Bob Marley album. Instead, let’s consider something a bit unusual or even obscure.

Sadly, Bob Marley passed away in 1981 at just 36 years old. In 1985, a Bob Marley & The Wailers album of previously unreleased recordings (nine tracks) was released under the title Bob, Peter, Bunny & Rita. Bob, of course, refers to Bob Marley. The other titled personnel are Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingston, and Rita Marley. Rita is Bob’s widow.

Bob, Peter, Bunny & Rita is an uncommon album from Bob Marley’s catalog and has been out of print for many years. It is typically found used on vinyl, but there is a rare CD issue. The CD was issued in Europe under the German Metronome label (Metronome Musik GmbH). Original copies were pressed in West Germany by PolyGram.

Metronome released Bob, Peter, Bunny & Rita on CD under catalog number 827 007-2. As an early PolyGram pressing, the disc lacks a clear plastic ring at the center. Thus, it has the familiar West German aluminum hub. The matrix code is “827 007-2 01 *”. The label design lacks a paint coating but is unique by virtue of a bright red Metronome logo as well as a bright red CD format logo and bright red legal text printed in German around the perimeter of the disc.

While Bob, Peter, Bunny, & Rita may not be essential for the Bob Marley fan, it does provide the unique Bob Marley influence and is a worthy listen. As stated above, the Metronome CD is quite rare, so this disc is also worth the hunt for the collector. Shown below is the cover and back insert for Bob, Peter, Bunny & Rita, along with the original West German pressing.

 

The cover for the West German CD of Bob Marley & The Wailers Bob, Peter, Bunny & Rita (Metronome, catalog number 827 007-2). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the West German CD of Bob Marley & The Wailers Bob, Peter, Bunny & Rita (Metronome, catalog number 827 007-2). The CD contains the album’s original nine tracks (i.e., no bonus tracks).

 

The West German CD of Bob Marley & The Wailers Bob, Peter, Bunny & Rita (Metronome, catalog number 827 007-2). Note the text “Made in W.-Germany by PolyGram” printed beneath the catalog number at 3 o’clock. The matrix code stamped in the aluminum hub is “827 007-2 01 *”.

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With CDs doing their part to signify the start of the digital age in the early ’80s, it is appropriate to look at early CDs of music from the era. Of course, music usually represents the culture and beliefs of the period in which it was written. When the CD went commercial and began to gain steam as a convenient replacement for records and tapes, many pop groups were gaining popularity on the airwaves and on MTV. They had the style, the sound, and in some cases, the optimism that has been associated with the 1980s. One such group was the all-female Go-Go’s hailing from Los Angeles. Led by Belinda Carlisle, Go-Go’s burst on the scene in 1981 with a pop sound augmented by elements of punk and new wave.

That 1981 debut by Go-Go’s was titled Beauty and the Beat and contains the smash hits “Our Lips are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat” among its 11 tracks. Beauty and the Beat was released in ’81 by I.R.S. Records (International Record Syndicate), a pop label under the A&M banner. The album first appeared on CD in the U.S. under catalog number CD70021. The catalog number follows the standard format utilized by A&M with the CD prefix followed by a four- or five-digit number.

The original copies of Beauty of the Beat were pressed in Japan by Denon (also known as Nippon Columbia). The earliest pressings were produced in the 1982-83 time frame and have the matrix code stamped directly onto the plastic ring. This was Denon’s original matrix code format, which was later replaced by the more common dot-matrix font stamped on the aluminum mirror band. (We’ve looked at other early Denon pressings with the matrix code stamped on the plastic ring. Have a look around the site!)

For the copy considered here, the matrix code is “CD70021 1-12”. The two character groups are separated in the plastic ring by 180 degrees. Also, the second character group is proposed to be 1-12, but the first character may not be correct. Often, Denon had a letter ‘A’ in this place, so this second grouping could be “A-12” with the ‘A’ being incomplete.

Being an early issue, the inserts were printed in Japan, and there is no barcode on the back insert. This release is quite rare, having been produced in small quantities as an early issue. In the mid-’80s, Beauty and the Beat was reissued under I.R.S. catalog number CD75021. Japanese Denon pressings bearing the second catalog number have the typical dot-matrix matrix code. This second issue is considerably more common than the original one shown here.

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the original issue of Beauty and the Beat, along with the early Japanese Denon pressing.

 

The cover for the original Japan-for-U.S. issue of Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat (I.R.S. (A&M), catalog number CD70021). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the original Japan-for-U.S. issue of Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat (I.R.S. (A&M), catalog number CD70021). There is no barcode. As noted in the bottom center above the I.R.S. logo, this insert was printed in Japan.

 

The early Japanese Denon pressing of Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat (I.R.S. (A&M), catalog number CD70021). The matrix code is stamped on the plastic ring and is “CD70021 1-12”. The disc states “Made by NIPPON COLUMBIA Co., Ltd. (DENON) JAPAN” at 6 o’clock.

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Happy New Year! A new year and a new post. To start 2020, we consider a rare, early U.S. issue of the Cat Stevens compilation Footsteps In The Dark: Greatest Hits Volume Two. Footsteps was released in the U.S. on the A&M, and the earliest CDs were pressed in Japan by Denon. There are two Japan-for-U.S. issues of Footsteps, both on A&M, that differ by the catalog number. The first issue was released under catalog number CD-3736. In the mid-’80s, Footsteps was reissued with catalog number CD-3285.

CD-3736, the first version of Footsteps, is the rarer one. It exists as Japanese Denon and U.S DADC pressings. CD-3285 replaced it early on and stayed in print for many years. It exists as Japanese Denon and various U.S. pressings. Here, we focus on the first version, catalog number CD-3736. Specifically, let’s look at the Japanese Denon pressing.

As an early U.S. A&M issue, the CD-3736 Footsteps disc has black text with no paint coating (i.e., black text over aluminum). A nice touch, also common to early A&M discs, is that the artist and album title are printed on the disc in the album artwork fonts. As a Denon pressing, the disc has the familiar dot-matrix matrix code font, and the matrix code for the particular pressing featured here is “CD-3736 1A2 59”.

The inserts for the CD-3736 Footsteps disc were printed in the U.S., and there is a barcode on the back insert. The disc and inserts show the project number “DIDX 171”. This project number pertains to the aforementioned U.S. DADC pressing, and this U.S. disc has the DIDX number in the matrix code. (As a side note, this DADC pressing is also rare and worth tracking down by collectors.)

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the CD-3736 Footsteps issue, along with the Japanese Denon pressing.

 

The cover for the original Japan-for-U.S. issue of Cat Stevens Footsteps In The Dark: Greatest Hits Volume Two (A&M, catalog number CD-3736). This is the standard cover artwork for this compilation.

 

The back insert for the original Japan-for-U.S. issue of Cat Stevens Footsteps In The Dark: Greatest Hits Volume Two (A&M, catalog number CD-3736). The catalog number is printed in the lower right corner (small white text).

 

The Japanese Denon pressing of Cat Stevens Footsteps In The Dark: Greatest Hits Volume Two (A&M, catalog number CD-3736). The matrix code is “CD-3736 1A2 59” and is stamped in the typical Denon dot-matrix font. “Made in Japan” is printed at 8 o’clock.

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At this time back in 2007, we looked at two early Elvis Presley Christmas CDs, both titled Merry Christmas (go here). One was the particularly rare Japan-for-U.S. pressing, and the other was the slightly more common West German-for-Europe version. Collectors would do well to find either version and should expect to pay significant premiums for copies in top condition. Now in 2019, we consider an even rarer version of this Christmas compilation. It is the Japanese issue.

RCA released Merry Christmas in Japan under catalog number RPCD-16 in 1984. The disc label is similar to that of the U.S. issue — a blue outer ring, blue text, white RCA logo, and no paint coating. In fact, the Japanese release shows the U.S. catalog number of PCD1-5301 in addition to the Japanese catalog number. The Japanese issue has the same 10 tracks as the U.S. and European releases.

The Japanese release of Merry Christmas was pressed by Denon, and the matrix code is “PCD-15301 1A2-49”. The U.S. catalog number, PCD1-5301, is contained in this matrix code indicating that this Japanese release was produced from the same glass master as a Japan-for-U.S. disc.

The back insert shows a retail price for Merry Christmas of ¥3800 (3800 Japanese yen), which was on the high end for a single disc from Japan in 1984. The track list is printed on the back cover of the booklet and back insert in English. The track list is also printed in Japanese on the back insert. The booklet has a list of other RCA titles available on CD printed inside. A Japanese lyric sheet is folded inside the booklet.

Given its rarity and price, the Japanese release may only appeal to the hardcore Elvis or early-pressing collectors. Other collectors might consider purchasing the European issue, which is the most common of the three available releases of Merry Christmas.

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the Japanese release of Merry Christmas, along with the disc.

Happy Holidays, and stay safe!

 

The cover for the Japanese issue of Elvis Presley Merry Christmas (RCA, catalog number RPCD-16). The cover artwork for the U.S. and European issues is similar.

 

The back insert for the Japanese issue of Elvis Presley Merry Christmas (RCA, catalog number RPCD-16). Note the track list printed in Japanese on the right side and the retail price of ¥3800 in the bottom right corner. The insert is dated 1984 along the bottom.

 

The Japanese issue of Elvis Presley Merry Christmas (RCA, catalog number RPCD-16). It was pressed by Denon, and the matrix code is “PCD-15301 1A2-49”. Note that the U.S. catalog number, PCD1-5301, is printed in parentheses next to the Japanese catalog number.

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The album was titled Make It Big, and they sure did. Wham!, the British pop duo formed by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, released the sophomore effort in 1984 and propelled to the top of the pop world. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, “Everything She Wants”, “Freedom”, “If You Were There”, “Careless Whisper”. The album runs like a greatest hits compilation. While most consumers rushed out to buy the LP or cassette (or both) in ’84, some “advanced” listeners bought it on CD while the album was still dominating the airwaves and MTV.

Make It Big was released worldwide on the Epic or Columbia labels, both part of CBS/Sony. In Europe, the album was released on Epic. The original European CD release was released under Epic catalog number CDEPC 86311, and the earliest copies were pressed in Japan by CBS/Sony. This pressing can be found fairly readily online. A rarer early disc is a Japanese JVC pressing. As we have discussed here before, CBS/Sony occasionally called upon the JVC and Denon plants in Japan in the early days to meet demand. Generally speaking, these JVC and Denon pressings are rare.

The Japanese JVC and CBS/Sony pressings of Make It Big share the standard early design for European CBS/Sony releases — a black curve on the perimeter with an inner black ring, black text, and no paint coating. For the JVC pressing, the matrix code is “DI8P 60 2E11”. “DI8P 60” represents the pressing plant project number and is derived from the catalog number of the original Japanese CD release of Make It Big — 32 8P-60.

If you own a U.S. LP, cassette, or CD of Make It Big, you may not think much of the cover artwork with the large neon letters. Interestingly, this artwork is unique to U.S. releases (considering the major markets). In Europe and Japan, a different cover photo of Michael and Ridgeley was used, and the surrounding text is printed in large black letters, all caps. This is the cover artwork found with European CD issues.

The back insert for the Japanese JVC and CBS/Sony pressings of Make It Big has no barcode, typical of early European CBS/Sony titles. For the JVC pressing, the back insert was printed in Holland.

Given its rarity, it may take a bit of luck to track down the Japanese JVC pressing of Make It Big. Online vendors are your best bet, especially if you live outside Europe. Shown below is the cover and back insert for the European issue of Make It Big, along with the Japanese JVC pressing.

 

The cover for the original European CD issue of Wham! Make It Big (Epic, catalog number CDEPC 86311). This is the standard cover artwork used in Europe.

 

The back insert for the original European CD issue of Wham! Make It Big (Epic, catalog number CDEPC 86311). There is no barcode. Note “Printed in Holland” along the bottom. The European catalog number and the pressing plant project number, “DI8P 60”, are printed beneath the Epic logo. The U.S. CD catalog number, EK 39595, is printed beneath the project number.

 

The Japanese JVC pressing of Wham! Make It Big (Epic, catalog number CDEPC 86311). This is the typical label design for early European CBS/Sony releases. The disc erroneously has “MANUFACTURED BY EPIC/SONY Inc. IN JAPAN” printed along the perimeter. This is a holdover from the earlier Japanese CBS/Sony pressing. The matrix code is “DI8P 60 2E11”.

With the CD format being targeted to audiophiles at launch, it is no surprise that many of the early releases were classical titles. Philips, both a co-developer of the format and the namesake of a major classical label, released classical CDs right out of the gate. These discs were pressed in West Germany at the PolyGram plant opened by Philips in Hanover, West Germany beginning in 1982. Like many early West German discs, the original Philips classical titles have a distinctive label design that is popular with collectors.

The original Philips classical discs are denoted by a light-blue coating with dark blue (or in rare instances, black) text. Titles with the light-blue design were released under catalog numbers of the form 400 XXX-2 or 410 XXX-2. Typical of early PolyGram pressings, the Philips discs have aluminum to the center hole instead of a clear plastic ring. Accompanying inserts are decidedly plain — back inserts have simple black text on a white background.

As an example, we consider Italian composer’s Antonio Vivaldi’s Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons), performed by Italian chamber orchestra I Musici, with violinist Pina Carmirelli. This title was released under catalog number 410 001-2. The “001” identifies this as one of the earliest Philips’ releases. The matrix code on the light-blue disc is “410001 2 01”, which represents the original PolyGram plant format (pressings from the mid-’80s would have a matrix code of the form “410 001-2 XX”). Also indicative of an early PolyGram pressing, the “dead space” at the outer edge of the play side (i.e., the portion with no encoded data) has a mirror appearance.

Shown below is the cover and back insert for Vivaldi’s Le Quattro Stagioni, along with the light-blue Philips CD.

 

The cover for the original West German pressing of Antonio Vivaldi (I Musici; Pina Carmirelli, Violin) Le Quattro Stagioni (Philips, catalog number 410 001-2). Note the “digital recording” notation in the top left corner.

 

The back insert for the original West German pressing of Antonio Vivaldi (I Musici; Pina Carmirelli, Violin) Le Quattro Stagioni (West Germany, Philips, catalog number 410 001-2). The catalog number is printed in the top right corner below the barcode. “Made in West Germany” is printed along the bottom.

 

The original West German pressing of Antonio Vivaldi (I Musici; Pina Carmirelli, Violin) Le Quattro Stagioni (West Germany, Philips, catalog number 410 001-2). Note “MADE IN W-GERMANY” printed at the top left.

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A popular straight-up rock band in the 1970s and transitioning to a highly successful pop band in the ’80s, J. Geils Band fronted by Peter Wolf gave us many radio and then video hits. You know “Love Stinks” and “Centerfold”. Classics. Since we’re talking J. Geils Band, it seems fitting to consider a hits compilation.

In 1985, early in the CD era, EMI released the compilation Flashback — The Best of J. Geils Band on CD, LP, and cassette. The CD contains 10 songs covering the ’70 and ’80s periods. In the U.S., the CD appeared on the EMI America label under catalog number CDP 7 46551 2. Early copies were pressed by the U.S. DADC plant. We could review the DADC disc, but let’s instead look at something a bit different.

Here we consider an early Canadian pressing that was released in Canada and that also found its way to the U.S. at retail. It is a rare pressing from the early Canadian plant, Praxis. The disc has a typical stark U.S. EMI design of black text with no color coating. Praxis did however apply a unique look to the the disc thanks to their trademark wide mirror band at the center and a second mirror band at the outer edge (the “dead” space where there is no data, no music). The matrix code is “PRAXIS 00156-3 6551 SA0548”. “6551” is part of the Flashback catalog number (CDP 7 4 soma online overnight 6551 2) and therefore associates this pressing with the compilation.

The disc states “MADE IN CANADA” at 3 o’clock. The booklet and back insert both state “Printed in U.S.A.”, but the back insert also shows “PRINTED IN CANADA”. It would seem the U.S. back insert was modified when it was produced north of the border.

Both the disc and inserts display project number “DIDX1166”. The DIDX number appears in the matrix code of early U.S. DADC pressings but was not used by Praxis.

Early Canadian pressings were generally produced in limited numbers compared to U.S. counterparts. As such, the Praxis pressing of Flashback is rather rare. Shown below is the cover and back insert for Flashback — The Best of J. Geils Band, along with the early Canadian Praxis pressing.

 

The cover for J. Geils Band Flashback — The Best of J. Geils Band (EMI America, catalog number CDP 7 46551 2). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

The back insert for J. Geils Band Flashback — The Best of J. Geils Band (EMI America, catalog number CDP 7 46551 2). Note that it states “Printed in U.S.A.” at the end of the paragraph on the right side and “PRINTED IN CANADA” in an oval in the bottom right corner. The U.S. insert appears to have been modified for production in Canada.

 

The Canadian Praxis pressing of J. Geils Band Flashback — The Best of J. Geils Band (EMI America, catalog number CDP 7 46551 2). Wide center and outer mirror bands are typical of Praxis pressings. The matrix code is “PRAXIS 00156-3 6551 SA0548”. “MADE IN CANADA” is printed at 3 o’clock.

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The album is The Golden Age of Wireless. In the golden age of MTV, new wave, synthesizer pop musician Thomas Dolby was a fixture. Dolby’s debut album from 1982, The Golden Age of Wireless, included the MTV staple “She Blinded Me With Science”. It’s hard to discuss ’80s pop without Dolby’s biggest hit being at the center of the conversation. Quirky, fun, catchy. You probably picture the video whenever you hear the song. It was huge in the early ’80s.

So what about The Golden Age of Wireless on CD? In the 1983-84 time frame, Dolby’s label, EMI, released the album on CD in the U.S. and Europe under catalog number CDP 7 46009 2. The 009 portion of the catalog number denotes The Golden Age of Wireless among the first U.S./European EMI CDs released. First copies of the album were pressed in West Germany by PolyGram. It is a rare disc, but not impossible to find. Remember, Thomas Dolby was very popular at the time.

Now let’s take a deeper look at a later issue of The Golden Age of Wireless. It is the first CD release of the album in Japan. EMI finally released The Golden Age of Wireless on CD in Japan in 1989, under catalog number CP28-1031, as part of its “GREEN LINE 2800” series. 2800 refers to the retail price, ¥2800 (2800 Japanese yen).

Since The Golden Age of Wireless was released globally and the lyrics are in English, it is not surprising to find the inserts for the Japanese CD to be printed primarily in English. With that said, one spine label is printed in Japanese. There also is a Japanese lyric sheet inside the front insert. Typical of Japanese CD releases, this issue of The Golden Age of Wireless included a Japanese obi strip as a promotional piece. The obi strip is printed mostly in Japanese and includes the retail price. It is common to find early Japanese CDs without the obi strip since many consumers viewed them as unnecessary, but these CDs carry a premium price with the obi strip intact.

The Japanese Dolby CD has striking green text on the label side with no paint coating. This is the standard label design for the GREEN LINE 2800 series. The disc was pressed by Toshiba-EMI in Japan, and the matrix code is “CP28-1031 1M TO”. The disc shows both the Japanese and U.S./European catalog numbers on the label side.

Shown below is the obi strip, cover, and back insert for the original Japanese issue of The Golden Age of Wireless, along with the disc. While the original U.S./European issue is not terribly rare, be prepared to search a bit longer for the original Japanese issue, especially for a copy with the obi strip. Also expect to pay more for the Japanese issue.

 

The obi strip for the original Japanese issue of Thomas Dolby The Golden Age of Wireless (EMI, catalog number CP28-1031). The obi strip wrapped around the left side of the jewel case when viewing the front insert. Thus, the barcode on the left of the obi strip appeared on back of the jewel case.

 

The cover for the original Japanese issue of Thomas Dolby The Golden Age of Wireless (EMI, catalog number CP28-1031). This is the standard cover artwork for the album. Note the catalog number at the bottom center.

 

The back insert for the original Japanese issue of Thomas Dolby The Golden Age of Wireless (EMI, catalog number CP28-1031).  Song titles are printed in English and Japanese. Note the date 89-5-24 and the retail price of ¥2800 along the bottom.

 

The original Japanese issue of Thomas Dolby The Golden Age of Wireless (EMI, catalog number CP28-1031). The disc was pressed in Japan by Toshiba-EMI, and the matrix code is “CP28-1031 1M TO”. Note the U.S./European catalog number CDP 46009 2 printed above the Japanese catalog number.

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