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!

This month, an artist makes her debut to keithhirsch.com. British singer, songwriter Joan Armatrading began recording in 1972, starting out with a folk emphasis. A master of many genres, she later infused jazz, rock, and eventually pop and new wave into her music. By 1983, Armatrading, like many, had adopted synthesizers with the release of The Key. Let’s take a closer look at this album, including a very rare CD pressing.

The Key was released by A&M Records in 1983 and contains 11 songs, including the hit, “Drop the Pilot”. The album was issued on CD in the U.S. in the 1983-84 time frame with three Japanese pressings. These early CDs bear A&M catalog number CD-4912. The relatively common Japanese pressings are from the Matsushita and Denon plants. The third Japanese pressing, the very rare one, is from CBS/Sony and will be the focus for the remainder of this post.

The CBS/Sony pressing of The Key has “CSR COMPACT DISC” repeating three times in the center plastic ring, a common feature of many early pressings from the Japanese plant. CBS/Sony assigned project number DIDX-20 to The Key, and the matrix code on this particular pressing is “DIDX-20 31A1 +++++”. The disc also has “Made in Japan” and “DIDX20” printed beneath the CD format logo at 8 o’clock.

The inserts for the CBS/Sony pressing were printed in Japan, and there is no barcode on the back insert. Despite the U.S. catalog number on the disc and inserts, the particular copy featured here was actually issued in the U.K. The front of the jewel case has a sticker that reads:

U. K

CAT. NO.

CDA

64912

This disc is not the standard early U.K. issue of The Key. Rather, it is a U.S. issue that was distributed in the U.K. to meet demand. There is a dedicated early U.K. issue of The Key showing catalog number CDA 64912 on the disc and inserts. The earliest such copies were pressed by CBS/Sony but do not show project number DIDX-20.

Getting back to the CD-4912/DIDX-20 disc, another interesting feature of the copy shown here is a sticker on the front of the jewel case announcing Armatrading as a nominee for the 1987 Brit Awards. Despite the date, the Japanese DIDX-20 disc definitely pre-dates 1987 and was likely pressed in 1984. The sticker must have been added at a store in 1987 for promotional purposes.

As previously stated, this Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of The Key is very rare. One is far more likely to find the Japanese Matsushita and Denon pressings (and later U.S. pressings reissued under A&M catalog number CD-3318). Expect to search quite a while for the CBS/Sony disc, but keep searching. I finally found a copy after years hunting online and in used CD shops. Shown below are the inserts for original U.S. issue of The Key, along with the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing.

 

The cover for the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of Joan Armatrading The Key (A&M, catalog number CD-4912). This is the standard cover artwork for this album. The insert is shown inside the original jewel case. The two stickers are on the front of the jewel case. One indicates that this copy was distributed in the U.K. in place of the official U.K. release bearing catalog number CDA 64912. The second sticker indicates that Armatrading was a nominee for the 1987 Brit Awards. Despite this sticker, the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing pre-dates 1987 and was likely pressed in 1984.

 

The back insert for the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of Joan Armatrading The Key (A&M, catalog number CD-4912). There is no barcode. As noted along the bottom, this insert was printed in Japan.

 

The Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of Joan Armatrading The Key (A&M, catalog number CD-4912). The text “CSR COMPACT DISC” repeats in the clear plastic ring at the center, and the matrix code is “DIDX-20 31A1 +++++”. Note that “Made in Japan” and “DIDX20” are printed beneath the CD format logo at 8 o’clock.

Back in 2011, a rare West German pressing of the 1979 Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers album, Night in Tunisia, was featured here on keithhirsch.com (click here). That disc is noteworthy by virtue of its prominent blue-arrow motif. The blue arrow was one of the earliest label designs used for CDs on the Philips label. As such, this Blakey pressing is quite rare and popular with collectors.

Now we consider a variation of the blue-arrow pressing that is also early, rare, and sought by collectors. Behold the green-blue-arrow pressing of Night in Tunisia. This disc is similar to the copy we discussed in 2011. In one case, the arrow and the text printed on the label side of the disc are dark blue. For the copy considered here, the arrow and text are green-blue, like a teal color.

The two arrow pressings of Night in Tunisia were pressed by Polygram and share the same matrix code, “800064 2 01”, meaning they were made from the same glass master. The two discs have identical inserts. By inspection of the disc and inserts, it is not clear which color variation came first. It also is not known why the variations exist. Was Polygram consciously testing colors? Is one variation a pressing error? Did Polygram get the wrong ink lot at some point?

Both of these early arrow pressings of Night in Tunisia are rare. Based on the limited number of copies likely to be found in used CD stores and online, determining which variation is rarer is not expected to be definitive. If you can only buy one of these variations, take either one happily.

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the West German Philips release of Night in Tunisia, along with the green-blue-arrow pressing.

 

The cover for the West German green-blue-arrow pressing of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers Night in Tunisia (Philips, catalog number 800 064-2). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the West German green-blue-arrow pressing of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers Night in Tunisia (Philips, catalog number 800 064-2). This is the identical insert found with blue-arrow pressing.

 

The West German green-blue-arrow pressing of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers Night in Tunisia (Philips, catalog number 800 064-2). The matrix code is “800064-2 01”. Three spelling errors are noted. Tunisia is twice misspelled “Tunesia”, and alto next to Robert Watson in the personnel list is misspelled “also”. The same spelling errors appear on the blue-arrow pressing.

As we head into 2019, let’s consider an early, brilliant album by Bob Dylan. No, not Bringing It All Back Home. Not Highway 61 Revisited. Not Blonde on Blonde either. These three consecutive albums certainly are brilliant and are worthy of a spot here, but not this time. Instead, let’s look at Dylan’s 1967 effort that followed Blonde on Blonde. It is the departure album, John Wesley Harding. Not another folk album, John Wesley Harding instead is a softer album representing Dylan’s first venture into country.

John Wesley Harding is not a complicated album, but it nevertheless illustrates Dylan’s genius and breadth. The album consists of 12 songs and includes “All Along the Watchtower”, famously covered by Jimi Hendrix. Let’s now take a look at the first U.S. CD issue of John Wesley Harding. This CD was released in the mid-’80s under Columbia Records catalog number CK 9604.

Admittedly, John Wesley Harding does not enjoy top-tier status when considering Dylan’s early efforts (Popularity Contest!), and as such, was not among the first Dylan albums released on CD by CBS Records. In the U.S., the first Dylan albums released on CD were Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, and Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. The first copies of these albums to be released in the U.S. were Japanese CBS/Sony pressings. In the case of John Wesley Harding, there is no Japan-for-U.S. pressing. Instead, the album first appeared as a U.S. DADC pressing.

The early U.S. DADC pressing of John Wesley Harding bears the typical plain design of U.S. CBS releases, just black text with no paint coating. The disc has “Made in USA – Digital Audio Disc Corp.” stamped on the plastic ring, and the matrix code is “DIDP 70097 11A4”. “DIDP 70097” is printed beneath the catalog number at 3 o’clock. This disc is not terribly rare, though one is far more likely to find later U.S. pressings by DADC or the now-defunct Columbia Records plant in Pitman, New Jersey (all bearing catalog number CK 9604).

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the original U.S. issue of John Wesley Harding, as well as the early U.S. DADC pressing.

Happy New Year!

 

The cover for the original U.S. issue of Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding (Columbia, catalog number CK 9604). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the original U.S. issue of Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding (Columbia, catalog number CK 9604). The 12 tracks are listed. Note the barcode in the bottom left corner.

 

The early U.S. DADC pressing of Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding (Columbia, catalog number CK 9604). “Made in USA – Digital Audio Disc Corp.” is stamped on the clear plastic ring at the center, and the matrix code is “DIDP 70097 11A4”. “DIDP 70097” is printed beneath the catalog number at 3 o’clock.

Happy Holidays 2018! As we embark on the most wonderful time of the year, and the cold that comes with it (for many of us), let’s take in some country music. This year, we consider the 1984 album from country legend Barbara Mandrell entitled Christmas at Our House. First, Mandrell is particularly fitting for our holiday post, not just because of her pop and country prowess, but because she was born on Christmas Day (in 1948 in Houston, Texas). Christmas at Our House contains 10 songs with a country pop flare and includes the standard “I’ll be Home for Christmas”.

Mandrell’s label MCA Records released Christmas at Our House on CD in the U.S. under catalog number MCAD-5519. The first copies to hit the shelves were pressed in Japan by JVC, and both the disc and inserts show a JVC project number as “JVC-516”. The inserts reference MCA’s address in Universal City, California and likely were printed in the U.S. The back cover of the booklet boldly states “DIGITALLY MIXED AND MASTERED ANALOGUE RECORDING”. The inserts are bland pink, a motif adopted by MCA in the mid-’80s.

Shown below is the the booklet and back insert for Christmas at Our House, along with the Japanese JVC pressing.

Be safe this holiday season. Enjoy!

 

The cover for Barbara Mandrell Christmas at Our House (MCA, catalog number MCAD-5519). This is the standard cover artwork for this album, with the addition of the CD format logo in the bottom right corner.

 

The back insert for Barbara Mandrell Christmas at Our House (MCA, catalog number MCAD-5519). A barcode is printed in the top right corner. The plain pink color scheme was commonly used by MCA starting in the mid-’80s.

 

The Japanese JVC pressing of Barbara Mandrell Christmas at Our House (MCA, catalog number MCAD-5519). “Manufactured in Japan for MCA Records, Inc.” is printed beneath the CD format logo at 3 o’clock. The catalog number and JVC project number are printed next to the CD format logo. The matrix code is “MCAD-5519-S1C11”.

Back in January of 2013, we featured a rare Japan-for-U.S. pressing of Vince Guaraldi Trio Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus on the Fantasy label (click here). That post mentioned the existence of Japanese CBS/Sony and CTA pressings of the Guaraldi album. Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus is part of a small series of Fantasy Records titles first released on CD in the U.S. in the mid-’80s. Many of these titles exist as Japanese CBS/Sony and CTA pressings and U.S. DADC pressings. All pressings of these early Fantasy titles are very rare.

This month we consider another title from the initial Fantasy series, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine’s 1974 album Pieces of Dreams. The album consists of seven songs and is best known for Turrentine’s interpretation of Michel Legrand’s “Pieces of Dreams”. This first CD issue was released by Fantasy under catalog number FCD-610-9465. The back insert credits George Horn as the mastering engineer for this CD release.

As with Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, Pieces of Dreams exists as Japanese CBS/Sony and CTA pressings. Let’s look at the CBS/Sony pressing. The disc has “CSR COMPACT DISC” repeating in the plastic ring at the center, where CSR stands for CBS/Sony Records. The matrix code is “DIDX-119 11” and is stamped in a neat font in the mirror band bordering the plastic ring. The DIDX number and “MADE IN JAPAN” are both printed on the disc face at 3 o’clock.

It was noted above that the first U.S. issue of Pieces of Dreams is very rare. As such, one is far more likely to locate the later U.S. issue released under the Original Jazz Classics (OJC) banner. If you want to simply experience the album, get the OJC disc. It has bonus tracks and is a good listen. As a collector, it could take some time to locate a Japanese or U.S. pressing of the original issue, so be patient.

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the original U.S. issue of Pieces of Dreams, along with the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing.

 

The cover for the original U.S. CD issue of Stanley Turrentine Pieces of Dreams (Fantasy, catalog number FCD-610-9465). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the original U.S. CD issue of Stanley Turrentine Pieces of Dreams (Fantasy, catalog number FCD-610-9465). George Horn is listed as the mastering engineer. Note that “DIDX-119” is printed beneath “All rights reserved.”

 

The Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of Stanley Turrentine Pieces of Dreams (Fantasy, catalog number FCD-610-9465). The disc has “CSR COMPACT DISC” repeating in the clear plastic ring at the center, and the matrix code is “DIDX-119 11”. “DIDX-119” is printed beneath the catalog number at 3 o’clock, and “MADE IN JAPAN” is printed beneath the CD format logo.

Steve Earle. You can be forgiven if the name does not register. This is because Earle does not fit neatly into a genre and, perhaps as a result, has not enjoyed extended mainstream success. Earle’s music and style can be thought of country, rock, pop, folk or, more aptly, a combination of all of these genres. After several years of songwriting and playing in backing bands in Nashville and Texas, Earle got his big break in 1986, signing with MCA Records and releasing his debut album, Guitar Town. The album afforded Earle two top-ten hits, the title track and “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left”.

MCA released Guitar Town on CD in the U.S. and Europe in 1986 under catalog number MCAD-5713. The first copies of Guitar Town were pressed in West Germany by the PolyGram plant in Hanover. This is noteworthy because the majority of CDs released by MCA in the mid-’80s were pressed in Japan (by JVC or Denon). West German pressings of MCA titles are few and far between by comparison.

The West German pressing of Guitar Town has PolyGram’s trademark hub with aluminum to the center hole (i.e., no clear plastic ring). The matrix code is “MCAD-5713 2896 388 01 #”. Both the disc and inserts show “JVC-524”, which is a project number similar to DIDX or DIDP numbers seen on titles pressed by CBS/Sony or DADC. The inclusion of the JVC number suggests that Guitar Town was slated for a Japanese JVC pressing. Such a pressing of Guitar Town does not exist.

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the original CD issues of Guitar Town, along with the West German pressing.

 

The cover for the West German pressing of Steve Earle Guitar Town (MCA, catalog number MCAD-5713). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the West German pressing of Steve Earle Guitar Town (MCA, catalog number MCAD-5713). This insert is dated 1986. “JVC-524” is printed in the bottom right corner. Despite this, there is no early Japanese JVC pressing of Guitar Town.

 

The West German PolyGram pressing of Steve Earle Guitar Town (MCA, catalog number MCAD-5713). There is no clear plastic ring at the center of the disc. The matrix code is “MCAD-5713 2896 388 01 #”. “Manufactured in West Germany” is printed below the CD format logo at 3 o’clock.

A fun part of collecting early CDs is the challenge of finding particularly rare pressings or pressing variations. For some titles, there are multiple early Japanese or West German pressings for the completist to track down. How did this come about? Well, back in the early days of the format, CD pressing plants had limited production capabilities. As a result, popular titles were often produced at more than one plant, possibly in more than one country, to meet the demand. Let’s get to a specific case — the original Carpenters compilation, The Singles 1969-1973. Considering the original U.S. CD release by A&M (catalog number CD-3601), there are four different Japanese pressings and West German PolyGram and PDO pressings.

The U.S. issue of The Singles 1969-1973 was pressed in Japan by CBS/Sony, Denon, JVC, and Matsushita. All of these pressings bear catalog number CD-3601. In my experience, there are variations in where the inserts were printed among these pressings as follows:

  • CBS/Sony: Booklet printed in the U.S., back insert printed in Japan
  • Denon and JVC: Booklet and back insert printed in the U.S.
  • Matsushita: Booklet and back insert printed in Japan

From the above list, one could assume that the Matsushita pressing came first, the CBS/Sony pressing came next, and the Denon and JVC pressings were released later. This cannot be confirmed, but it is a reasonable supposition.

Another interesting consideration for early pressings of The Singles 1969-1973 is that early pressings, Japanese, West German, and early U.S. DADC, are found with sped-up versions of “Superstar”, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, and “Goodbye to Love” and the original single mix of “Yesterday Once More”.  So with this title, the collector has the challenge of finding a number of rare early pressings, all of which have unique content.

For the remainder of this post, we consider the Japanese Matsushita pressing of The Singles 1969-1973. The disc has the telltale signs of an early Matsushita pressing. It has “MADE BY MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC IND.CO.LTD.” and the Technics logo stamped on the clear plastic ring, and the matrix code is simply “3601 2”. The matrix code looks like handwriting. The disc has “MADE IN JAPAN” printed at 5 o’clock. As stated earlier in this post, the booklet and back insert were printed in Japan. There is no barcode on the back insert.

In my experience, all Japan-for-U.S. pressings of The Singles 1969-1973 are rare, but the Matsushita and CBS/Sony pressings are the rarest of the four. If you are a collector, grab any Japanese pressing you can find, as they all have the unique content mentioned above. With persistence, you should be able to find all four searching online and in used CD shops.

Shown below are the cover and back insert for The Singles 1969-1973, along with the Japanese Matsushita pressing.

 

The cover for the Japanese Matsushita pressing of The Singles 1969-1973 (A&M, catalog number CD-3601). This is the standard cover artwork for this compilation. The back page of the front insert indicates that it was printed in Japan.

 

The back insert for the Japanese Matsushita pressing of The Singles 1969-1973 (A&M, catalog number CD-3601). There is no barcode. As noted along the bottom, this insert was printed in Japan.

 

The Japanese Matsushita pressing of The Singles 1969-1973 (A&M, catalog number CD-3601). The disc has MADE BY MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC IND.CO.LTD.” and the Technics logo stamped on the clear plastic ring. The matrix code is “3601 2”. “MADE IN JAPAN” is printed at 5 o’clock.

When looking at early CDs, one of the more intriguing labels is CBS Records. In the 1980s, the CBS umbrella included titles across many genres under the parent label, as well as Columbia, Epic, and several smaller labels. It seems that CBS had the collector in mind, as a particular album was given distinct CD releases for the Japanese, U.S., and European markets. The original CBS CDs for these three markets were pressed, for the most part, at the CBS/Sony production plant in Japan. Early Japan-for-U.S. and Japan-for-Europe CBS/Sony pressings of CBS Records titles have been discussed here many times over, and scans of some of these discs, many of which are quite rare, appear in the Gallery.

As the demand for CDs grew globally, record labels could justify domestic or regional production, resulting in supply efficiencies and lower costs. By 1985, CBS in the U.S. replaced Japan-for-U.S. with domestic pressings from its Digital Audio Disc Corp. (DADC) plant in Terre Haute, Indiana. Similarly, CBS opened a DADC plant in Austria in 1987 to supply CDs to countries across Europe.

Focusing on Europe, the transition for CBS can generally be thought of as Japan to Austria. In reality, the transition was not always so straightforward. Recall the point of growing local demand for CDs. In Japan, CBS saw the need to direct production at its CBS/Sony plant to meet demands at home. As a result, CBS in Europe turned to various countries to meet demand. For certain mid-’80s European CBS releases, we see pressings from France, the U.K., and West Germany. Occasionally, U.S. pressings were released Europe. In this post, we consider a U.S.-for-Europe pressing for CBS.

1983 saw Billy Joel release another hit-filled album, An Innocent Man. Included on this 10-track effort are the radio staples, “The Longest Time”, “Tell Her About It”, “Uptown Girl”, “Keeping the Faith”, and the title track. An Innocent Man was originally released on CD as distinct Japanese CBS/Sony pressings for the Japanese, U.S., and European markets (recall that CBS is an intriguing label for collectors). In the U.S., the Japanese pressing was replaced by seemingly countless U.S. DADC pressings (quite easy to find used). In Europe, Austrian pressings became the norm. However, there is a very rare U.S. pressing of An Innocent Man that made its way to Europe.

CBS released An Innocent Man in Europe under catalog number CDCBS 25554. The U.S.-for-Europe CD of An Innocent Man was pressed by DADC in Terre Haute. Typical of an early U.S. DADC pressing, the disc has “Made in USA – Digital Disc Corp.” stamped on the clear plastic ring at the center. It also has “MANUFACTURED BY CBS/SONY IN U.S.A.” printed along the perimeter. The particular DADC pressing considered here has matrix code “DIDP 50077 11A4”. This matrix code is unique to the U.S. pressing in that “DIDP 50077” is not found on later Austrian pressings. By virtue of the matrix code, the U.S.-for-Europe pressing was made from the same glass master used to produce discs for the U.S. market. Only the label designs differ between the U.S.-for-Europe and U.S.-for-U.S. discs. The label design on the U.S.-for-Europe disc is the same as that found on Japan-for-Europe and early Austrian pressings of An Innocent Man.

The U.S.-for-Europe pressing of An Innocent Man is accompanied by European inserts. The same inserts are found with earlier Japan-for-Europe pressings. In fact, the back insert with the U.S.-for-Europe disc states “Made by CBS/Sony in Japan”.

Shown below is the booklet and back insert for the U.S.-for-Europe issue of An Innocent Man, along with the U.S. DADC pressing. U.S. DADC pressings exist for several early European CBS releases, and they are all very rare in my experience.

 

The cover for the U.S.-for-Europe pressing of An Innocent Man (CBS, catalog number CDCBS 25554). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the U.S.-for-Europe pressing of An Innocent Man (CBS, catalog number CDCBS 25554). There is no barcode, which is typical of early European CBS releases. This same insert was issued with the earlier Japanese CBS/Sony pressing as noted by the statement “Made by CBS/Sony in Japan” in the paragraph at the bottom.

 

The U.S.-for-Europe pressing of An Innocent Man (CBS, catalog number CDCBS 25554). The disc was pressed by DADC plant in Terre Haute, Indiana. It has “Made in USA – Digital Audio Disc Corp.” stamped on the clear plastic ring at the center, and “MANUFACTURED BY CBS/SONY IN U.S.A.” printed along the perimeter. The matrix code is “DIDP 50077 11A4”.

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