September 21st, 2013
To many audiophiles and music collectors, the record label DCC (originally Dunhill Compact Classics and later DCC Compact Classics) evokes thoughts of very carefully mastered rock and jazz LPs and 24-karat gold CDs. These LPs and gold CDs were mastered by well-known audiophile mastering engineer Steve Hoffman, who insisted on using the original master tapes and mastering these albums without compromise. The results were often stellar. DCC closed its doors in 2001, so the aforementioned LPs and gold CDs are out of print and generally command a premium today.
Focusing on the digital side of DCC, the gold CDs were released between 1992 and 2000. However, the label actually got its start in 1986, and its first CDs were pressed on conventional aluminum. Steve Hoffman came on board with DCC in 1987. One of his early projects for DCC involved the mastering of two Ray Charles compilations on CD. These compilations were titled Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 and Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 and were released in 1987 under catalog numbers DZS-036 and DZS-037, respectively. These compilations are relatively common and offer an excellent mastering of many Ray Charles classics. As will become apparent momentarily, DCC found a novel way to promote itself and its Ray Charles product in 1987.
By 1987, the music industry was seeing significant growth in the popularity of and therefore demand for CDs. To meet this demand and further promote the CD format, record labels began producing CD singles to mimic classic 45s. CD singles were typically the conventional 5″ in diameter (i.e., the same size as a standard CD album), but in a further marketing effort (ultimately with limited success), labels began releasing 3″ singles in the late ’80s. Early CD players in the home could not accommodate 3″ singles, so adapters were offered to “convert” the single to a 5″ diameter. The 3″ single would snap in the middle of the adapter to, in essence, create a 5″ disc. In time, manufacturers of CD players incorporated a well in the disc tray that could accommodate a 3″ single directly. Adapters were still necessary for slot-type players found in cars.
DCC used the 3″ CD single as a promotional vehicle in 1987. One single that DCC released was of Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful”. This 3″ single was assigned catalog number DZS45-002. From the catalog number, it is obvious that DCC saw the analogy between a 3″ CD single and a 45. “America the Beautiful” appears on the aforementioned Greatest Hits Vol. 2 CD. In comparison to the Ray Charles compilation discs, this 3″ single is very rare. The single was pressed in the U.S. at the Shape Optimedia plant (this plant was often contracted in the late ’80s for CD singles and promotional CDs). The disc has “SHAPE OPTIMEDIA, INC.” and “MADE IN USA” stamped on the plastic ring, and the matrix code is “DUN-DZS45-002 SOI01”. As a nice touch, DCC added an image of Ray Charles on the label side of the disc.
Shown below is the 3″ single of Ray Charles “America the Beautiful”. This particular copy was found in a clear plastic protective case. The single was likely issued in this case, which was then placed in a mini-longbox sort of envelope for retail sale.
Note: The original pressings of Ray Charles Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 and Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 show the record label as Dunhill Compact Classics on the disc and inserts. Later pressings show the label as DCC Compact Classics on the disc and inserts.
The 3″ CD single of Ray Charles “America the Beautiful” (DCC, catalog number DZS45-002). This is a very rare disc. Note that the record label is shown as Dunhill Compact Classics at 9 o’clock. This disc was pressed in the U.S. by Shape Optimedia, as noted by the text “SHAPE OPTIMEDIA, INC.” and “MADE IN USA” stamped on the plastic ring. The matrix code is “DUN-DZS45-002 SOI01”.