September 23rd, 2012
One of the ubiquitous Japanese CD pressing plants on the scene in the early days of the format was Denon, aka Nippon Columbia. In addition to pressing CDs for their own jazz and classical music labels, Denon was contracted to produce 5″ digital discs for numerous other labels, including MCA, RCA, and A&M. Of interest to the collector is a change in Denon’s matrix code format early on that led to pressing variations for selected titles. These variations are the focus of this post.
Most Japanese Denon pressings are found with a matrix code font that resembles that of a dot-matrix printer (Remember those?). In fact, the majority of titles pressed by Denon are only found with this matrix code font. Let’s call the dot-matrix pressing “Standard”. However, titles pressed in 1982 and ’83 can be found with the matrix code pressed crudely into the plastic ring at the center of the disc. Let’s call this pressing type “Early”. Of course, by denoting a pressing “Early”, we are using it relative to the Standard Denon pressing. In terms of the CD era, the Standard pressings are still early. It’s all relative. Confused yet? Hopefully not.
Many titles found as Early Denon pressings also exist as Standard pressings. That is, some titles were pressed in Japan by Denon long enough to go through the matrix code format change. These variations can be found for a handful of A&M titles released in the U.S. One such example is Cat Stevens’ 1970 classic, Tea for the Tillerman. Tea for the Tillerman was released on CD in the U.S. by A&M under catalog number CD-4280.
The first version of Tea for the Tillerman to hit store shelves in the U.S. was the Early Japanese Denon pressing. Thus, the matrix code is stamped in a crude font onto the center plastic ring. Further evidence that this is a particularly early issue is that the inserts were printed in Japan and not the U.S. (even though many record labels had CDs pressed in Japan for the U.S. market early on, it is common to find the inserts printed in the U.S.). Additionally, the back insert with this Early Denon pressing has no barcode. This is a very rare version of Tea for the Tillerman.
The second and much more common version of Tea for the Tillerman is the Standard Japanese Denon pressing. This CD has the matrix code stamped on the aluminum mirror band bordering the plastic ring in the dot-matrix font. The inserts with this pressing were printed in the U.S., and there is a barcode on the back insert.
As stated above, these Denon pressing variations exist for other titles released in the U.S. by A&M. Examples are Squeeze Singles — 45’s and Under and The Police Zenyatta Mondatta. In my experience, the Standard Denon pressing is always the easier one to find. It would seem that the Early pressings were issued in limited numbers, meaning that the switch to the Standard pressings occurred soon after these titles hit the market. If you find a Standard Denon pressing, you still have found an uncommon disc. However, an Early Denon pressing is a proverbial needle in a haystack.
Shown below are the Early and Standard Japanese Denon pressings of Tea for the Tillerman, along with the accompanying back inserts.
The “Early” Japanese Denon plant pressing of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman (A&M, catalog number CD-4280). Note the Denon manufacturing credit at 6 o’clock. Looking closely at the disc, the matrix code is stamped on the outer edge of the plastic ring at the center. The matrix code is “CD 4280 A-22”. The “CD 4280” and “A-22” portions of the matrix code are separated by 180 degrees. This disc is very rare.
The “Standard” Japanese Denon plant pressing of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman (A&M, catalog number CD-4280). The matrix code is stamped on the aluminum mirror band bordering the plastic ring in a dot-matrix font. The matrix code is “CD-4280 2A1 59”. The “CD-4280” and “2A1 59” portions of the matrix code are separated by 180 degrees. Other than the matrix code, this disc is identical in appearance to the Early pressing above.
The back insert for the Early Japanese Denon plant pressing of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman (A&M, catalog number CD-4280). As noted along the bottom edge, this insert was printed in Japan. There is no barcode.
The back insert for the Standard Japanese Denon plant pressing of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman (A&M, catalog number CD-4280). As noted along the bottom edge, this insert was printed in the U.S. A barcode appears on the right side.