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!

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 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.

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.

In this month’s post, we consider an early West German CD with one of the popular painted labels. This is not the first time, however, that we have written about this particular design. In March of 2013, we looked at the original West German CD of the renown jazz album on Verve Records, Getz/Gilberto (click here). The disc has the original Verve CD design, silver text on a black paint coating. Let’s look at another such pressing.

Wes Montgomery is regarded as one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time. Sadly, Montgomery passed away at just 45 years of age, but he still amassed a very impressive catalog of recordings. After a successful run with Riverside, Wes Montgomery signed with Verve. His Verve debut was 1964’s Movin’ Wes, an 11-track effort containing some pop renditions and a brass orchestra to back him up.

Verve originally released Movin’ Wes on CD in the 1983-84 time frame under catalog number 810 045-2. Early copies were pressed at the PolyGram Hanover, West Germany plant for sale in the U.S. and Europe. The earliest such pressings have the aforementioned silver text and black paint coating. Later West German and subsequent U.S. pressings have black text over aluminum (i.e., no paint coating). The original black-paint version is rather rare compared to no-paint counterparts.

The matrix code for the black-paint pressing is “810045 2 01”. This is the original matrix code format adopted by the PolyGram plant. Later West German pressings of Movin’ Wes (with no paint coating) have matrix codes of the form “810 045-2 XX”, where XX represents a two-digit number identifying the particular digital “stamper” used. As noted, the black-paint disc presented here has a matrix code ending in 01, meaning that this disc was made from the earliest stamper. (It should be stated that not all West German discs are found with an 01 pressing. In some cases, 02 is the earliest pressing.)

The inserts accompanying the black-paint Movin’ Wes disc were printed in West Germany. As an early pressing, it is typically found in a jewel case with smooth top and bottom edges (rather than the later ridged edges).

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the West German release of Movin’ Wes, along with the original black-paint disc.

 

The cover for the West German black-paint pressing of Wes Montgomery Movin’ Wes (Verve, catalog number 810 045-2). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the West German black-paint pressing of Wes Montgomery Movin’ Wes (Verve, catalog number 810 045-2).  The catalog number is printed in the top left corner. As noted next to the catalog number, Movin’ Wes is a stereo recording. Note the statements “CD is manufactured by PolyGram in Hanover, West Germany” and “Printed in West Germany” along the bottom.

 

The West German black-paint pressing of Wes Montgomery Movin’ Wes (Verve, catalog number 810 045-2). The catalog number is printed at 3 o’clock, as is “Made in West Germany”. The matrix code is “810045 2 01”.

With the Elton John biopic Rocketman opening in theaters in the U.S. today, it seems fitting to review an early CD of the megastar behind the piano. In this post we consider the original Japanese CD issue (i.e., Japan-for-Japan) of Sir Elton’s 1973 album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player. This is a favorite Elton John album of mine by virtue of its inclusion of two staples, the album’s opener “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock”.

Before hopping and bopping to the Japanese disc, let’s quickly review the record labels that Elton John’s early albums appeared on when they first appeared on CD in the 1980s. In the U.S., early titles were under license with MCA Records. However, in Europe and Japan, Dick James Music (DJM) owned the rights to the early John catalog. Therefore, the first Japanese issue of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player was released on the DJM label.

The Japanese DJM release of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player was released in 1988 under catalog number 23PD-105. The disc label is monotone with black text and black line accents over aluminum (i.e., no paint coating). The line motif is similar to that found on Mercury titles with the common “atomic” label design. This is not so surprising when one considers that DJM and Mercury were under the Phonogram label umbrella in the 1980s.

The DJM disc was pressed by Sanyo. Early Japanese Sanyo pressings are easy to spot due to the text “MANUFACTURED BY SANYO JAPAN” stamped in the mirror band. By the late ’80s, Sanyo stopped adding this text, but the matrix code on the Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player disc is stamped in the standard ’80s Sanyo font. The matrix code is “23PD105 B8B16J”.

With Japanese CD releases often imported to various parts of the world, it is rather common to see inserts printed in English and Japanese. For the Japanese Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player issue, the booklet contains the lyrics in English and liner notes in Japanese. The back insert provides the album title, song titles, and Elton John in both English and Japanese. The disc label is printed entirely in English. One spine label is printed in Japanese, while the other is printed in English.

This Japanese Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player CD is rare, but used copies can be found for sale online. As a Japanese release, it carries a premium over the original U.S. and European issues of the album, especially if the obi strip is included. Thus, the Japanese disc is more for serious Elton John and CD collectors. If you are more of a casual collector, consider the U.S. and European versions, which are still rare.

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the original Japanese issue of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player along with the Sanyo pressing.

 

The cover for the original Japanese issue of Elton John Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (DJM, catalog number 23PD 105). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the original Japanese issue of Elton John Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (DJM, catalog number 23PD 105). The album title, song titles, and Elton John are printed in English and Japanese. As noted in the text next to the barcode, this disc was made in Japan. The retail price is listed as ¥2,153 (Japanese Yen) along the bottom.

 

The Japan-for-Japan pressing of Elton John Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (DJM, catalog number 23PD 105). The disc was pressed by Sanyo, and the matrix code is “23PD105 B8B16J”. Note that “MADE IN JAPAN” is printed at 6 o’clock.

In this month’s post we consider something new: A first review of an early rap CD on keithhirsch.com. Long before L.L. Cool J starred on NCIS: Los Angeles, he was, of course, a rapper, and a brilliant one. L.L. hit the rap scene with a smash in 1985 with his acclaimed debut, Radio. Then in 1987, he released his sophomore effort, Bigger and Deffer.

Although Bigger and Deffer did not receive the rave reviews of Radio, it still further established L.L. Cool J as a rap star. Bigger and Deffer is particularly remembered for the hit opening track, “I’m Bad”.

Naturally, 1987’s Bigger and Deffer was released on vinyl and cassette, but it also saw a digital release on CD. CBS, the parent to L.L. Cool J’s label, Def Jam Recordings, released the album on CD in the U.S. and Europe in 1987. Let’s take a closer look at the European release.

The European issue of Bigger and Deffer bears catalog number DEF 450515 2. DEF, of course, references the Def Jam label. Early European CBS CDs have a catalog number prefix of CDCBS (CBS), CDEPC (Epic), CDGEF (Geffen), etc. By 1987, CBS dropped the CD portion of the prefix in Europe.

First copies of Bigger and Deffer released in Europe were pressed in Japan by CBS/Sony. Although the U.S. DADC plant had been running for three years by 1987 serve the domestic market, its Austrian counterpart first opened in 1987 to serve Europe. As a result, CBS continued to import Japanese pressings to Europe into ’87. Thus, while U.S. pressings of Bigger and Deffer hit the shelves in the U.S. in ’87, Europe first received Japanese pressings.

The Japanese pressing of Bigger and Deffer bears the typical label design for early European CBS releases — black text with no paint coating, with a black ring on the perimeter and a black arc filling the space not covered along the perimeter by the legal text. That text ends with “MANUFACTURED BY CBS/SONY INC. IN JAPAN”. The disc shows both the Def Jam and CBS logos at 9 o’clock and the catalog number at 2 o’clock.

The Japan-for-Europe disc has no text stamped on the central plastic ring, and the matrix code is “DIDP-10770 11 +++++”. The project number, “DIDP 10770”, is printed beneath the catalog number.

Given that the CD was still growing in popularity in 1987 and that rap was not yet mainstream, the Japan-for-Europe pressing of Bigger and Deffer is rather rare. Shown below is the cover and back insert for the Bigger and Deffer, along with the Japanese pressing.

 

The cover for the Japan-for-Europe pressing of L.L. Cool J Bigger and Deffer (“BAD”) (Def Jam (CBS), catalog number DEF 450515 2). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the Japan-for-Europe pressing of L.L. Cool J Bigger and Deffer (Def Jam (CBS), catalog number DEF 450515 2). The catalog number is printed beneath the Def Jam logo in the top left corner. As noted in the paragraph at the bottom, this insert was printed in Holland.

 

The Japan-for-Europe pressing of L.L. Cool J Bigger and Deffer (“BAD”) (Def Jam (CBS), catalog number DEF 450515 2). The disc was pressed by CBS/Sony. The catalog number is printed at 2 o’clock. There is no text stamped on the plastic ring, and the matrix code is “DIDP-10770 11 +++++”. “DIDP 10770” is the project number and is printed beneath the catalog number.

Back in October 2016, we looked at a Japan-for-U.S. pressing of Boston’s self-titled debut album. As noted in that post, the album first appeared on CD in the U.S. as a U.S. DADC pressing. Early DADC pressings of Boston are rather common, but here we consider a much rarer U.S. pressing

We’ve discussed in other posts that the record labels sometimes farmed out CD production to various pressing plants to keep up with demand in the early years. That led to some unusual pressings given typical record label-pressing plant affiliations. Boston Boston was released on the Epic Records label, which in the ’80s was part of CBS Records. In the U.S., CBS owned the DADC plant. Thus, the majority of CBS CDs released in the U.S. were pressed by DADC. In a few rare instances in the late ’80s, CBS turned to PDO, Philips-DuPont Optical, for production of its CDs. Boston is one such CBS (Epic) title pressed by PDO.

The predecessor to PDO in West Germany was PolyGram. West German PolyGram and subsequent PDO pressings are distinguished by an aluminum hub, meaning an aluminum coating running to the center hole in place of a clear plastic ring. PDO plants that opened in the U.K. and U.S. adopted this same manufacturing process. Thus, the U.S. PDO pressing of Boston is unique for an Epic title by virtue of the aluminum hub. This is one of those unusual pressing affiliations we mentioned above. Epic CDs, as part of CBS, are typically found with a clear plastic ring since the discs most often originated from the Japanese CBS/Sony, U.S. DADC, or U.S. Columbia-Pitman plants.

The U.S. PDO pressing of Boston is found with standard U.S. inserts that were in use for nearly two decades. The matrix code on the PDO disc is “EK34188 09%”, where “EK34188” represents the U.S. catalog number. The disc also has “MADE IN USA BY PDO” stamped near the center hole on the play side.

Shown below is the cover and back insert for the original U.S. issue of Boston Boston, along with the rare U.S. PDO pressing.

 

The cover for the original U.S. issue of Boston Boston (Epic, catalog number EK 34188). This is the standard cover artwork for this album.

 

The back insert for the original U.S. issue of Boston Boston (Epic, catalog number EK 34188). The running time for “Rock & Roll Band” is erroneously shown as 2:60 (2 minutes, 60 seconds) instead of 3:00 (3 minutes, 0 seconds).

 

The U.S. PDO pressing of the original U.S. issue of Boston Boston (Epic, catalog number EK 34188). Note the aluminum hub, a hallmark of the PDO manufacturing process. The catalog number is printed above the CD format logo at 3 o’clock. “DIDP 20006” beneath the catalog number is a project number that also appears on earlier U.S. DADC plant pressings. The disc above has “MADE IN USA BY PDO” stamped on the play side near the center hole, and the matrix code is “EK34188 09%”.

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.

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