Blue Note $19.95 Second Batch Well-Pressed By URP

The second batch of $19.95 digitally sourced Blue Notes has arrived and it's going to take time to go through all of them but there were a few surprises, the most pleasant of which is that aside from side two of the iconic Something Else (BN1595) looking like "cake icing", visually these records appear to be extremely well-pressed.

It will take some time to go through them all (work doesn't get much better) but these are the consistently best looking pressings I've ever seen from URP, with only an occasional minor dimple and no "bumps" whatsoever. No, I don't regret what I said about the plant during the "Vinyl Lives" seminar at AXPONA with the owner in the audience ("among the worst in the world"), but going forward, if this is how URP will be pressing records, I will happily retract that statement.

Another surprise were the mastering credits. Interestingly the first two Blue Notes, of Albert Ammons and Meade "Lux" Lewis (BN-01, BN-02) authentically packaged in simple brown jackets with pink,black white labels were mastered at Sterling Sound by Ray Janos while the others (except for Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch, which was part of the first series but delayed) were cut by either Chris Bellman or by Chris and Bernie Grundman.

The only ones I've had a chance to play are the Something Else (in mono with mono jacket), which despite the visual appearance played well and sounded very good and The Ornette Coleman Trio at the "Golden Circle" Stockholm (BST 84224), which sounded really good. I don't have another stereo version with which to compare. I only have an early "New York, USA" mono. I don't believe either Music Matters or Acoustic Sounds has done this one.

The other titles are:

Sonny Rollins a night at the "village vanguard" BN1581

Dexter Gordon Our Man In Paris BST-84146

Herbie Hancock Maiden Voyage BST-84195

TheThing72's picture

I posted this comment earlier on the 1st posting about the Blue Note Reissues and figured I would pass along here also:

I personally have been pleased with Blue Note's 75th series thus far. Dexter Gordon's "Our Man in Paris" and Art Blakey's "Free for All" I picked up recently play near flawlessly. They also certainly best the RVG CD remasters from a few years back. As stated by Mr. Fremer.. the Coltrane did have a bit of crunch on Lazy Bird near the end of the track.. but not too bad. Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage is also superb. In fact I have never heard a better copy of this album, it breathes with tons of life and Freddie Hubbard's trumpret is clear and full. The only one that has been grievous was the Ornette Coleman Trio. The pressing was pretty noisy and has quite a bit of extranious noise issue on the front of the first track. My local shop is hooking me up with a second copy to see if it will have the same problem. 

I have been a Blue Note fan for more than half of my life (42 now). I have quite a bit of respect and experience with these albums in multiple formats and hope that the quality continues with this series. I also own a good handful of the Music Matters 45rpm reissues.. and yes they are AMAZING.. but for less than $20.00 even for a self confessed audiophile like me.. the new Blue Notes sound pretty damn good. 

I have yet to see the Dolphy.. it has been on backorder here (I prefer to shop my local.. they have impecable service).. (and it keeps the money in town). But I had an 80's copy of that was so terrible I never played it. I am hoping for better this time around. It is my all time favorite Blue Note.. and I missed the MM verison.. that is now going for over $100 on the re -sale market.


iyke's picture

You are in luck. Currently, Music Matters is offering Out To Lunch and thei other out of print titles for sale at the standard rate of $49.95. If you want a copy I'd email them or call their phone #.

tresaino's picture

There are different pressings out there: my 'speak no evil' bought from amazon Germany came on 180g vinyl, but I also saw the 2014 remastered series as a 140g pressings in a local store in Brussels, Belgium. 

What is really worrying is this: the latest 'our man in paris' is sold for 17.99 dollars on, and costs 27,52 euros - EUROS ! - on Some big speculation going on here, and certainly not respecting the approach taken by Don Was and Blue Note. 

Wymax's picture

German retailer charges 21,99 EUR for Our man in Paris. I usually do all my purchases there, having compared prices on many records, and they usually quote the best prices for us here in Europe.

cement_head's picture

Hi Michael,

  Interestingly, after your interview with Don Waas, and the critique of URP I went back and checked what new pressings that I owned that were URP.  Well, all of the recent Joan Jett (RSD coloured wax) and the new record are on URP and they're all flat and quiet.  The Bruce Springsteen "Wrecking Ball" is a double LP on 33 with tracks towards the outside.  It's dead quite and completely flat. Also, the Jack White "blunderbuss" record. I'm sure I own more - just haven't been able to identify them.  Anyway all of the ones I own are perfect.  If I'm not mistaken, all of the new White Stripes reissues are on URP.

I am especially looking forward to these Blue Note reissues - the $20 price point is very attractive to me, and if they sound anywhere close to the recent Mile Davis $20 reissues, I'll be very happy (and they will sell very well, AND bring a whole new cohort of jazz fans back to vinyl).

MicallefK's picture

Glad to hear round two consists of great pressings. Three out of five of my Blue Note 75th LPs were warped, though they sound pretty damn fine.  

TheThing72's picture

Like stated before I am very glad these pressing from United are tuning out solid thus far. Too bad a few people have experienced other issues. My real question is why are these not being pressed at RTI? I was playing my copy of Sonny Rollins Tenor Madness this morning.. a recent OJC pressing that was mastered by Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman. It was pressed at RTI and only $15.99. In fact quite a bit of that catalog is pressed there and still very affordable, less than $15.99 most places. I would think Capitol would have as much pull as Concord Music Group in that respect. Just a thought..

RobWynn's picture

I've never seen any mention of Gray & Hoffman or RTI handling the $15.99 OJCs.  If so I figured the websites would be plastering those names all over the item page. Gray is handling the $30 monos with Analogue Productions.

Even vinyl at indie's like Merge, Matador, and a very small label run by a friend of mine, all companies who understand about keeping prices low, need to charge $19 or so for their titles pessed at RTI.

Which still begs the question, why can't Capitol get these BNs done at RTI for $19.99 if the indie labels can do it... unless the cost of a name masterer raises the price by $4.

Michael Fremer's picture

Don't know the financial side of it or the logistics so I can't comment. 

RobWynn's picture

I'll only be picking up titles that are either hard to find used (which isn't very likely since I live down the street from PREX who is always getting good used jazz titles priced to move) or those that never came out on vinyl (Brian Blade Fellowship).

I picked up the OC because of what Don Was said about the channels, or something, being crossed in the originals and now fixed.  I need to listen more closely for that next time, but when I compared this pressing to a Blue Liberty (which I believe is from the '70s) that I got used for probably $9.99 a year or two ago I found:

- The new pressing is no quiter than the used '70s pressing, and in some spots is noisier... so that isn't what a new vinyl should aspire to.

- I don't know about "cake icing" but I would describe one of the labels as resembling the top of a muffin, all nice and puffed up about a 1/2 inch

- Jacket of the Blue Liberty is better as it is tip-on and the picture and type is much more vivid.

As mentioned in my reply above, I still don't see how they couldn't have released RTI pressings at $19.99 ... indies do it all the time and I'm sure they can't get the volume discounts that the majors can possible get.

However, overall I thought the new pressing sounded good and I would have liked it if I had nothing to compare it to. So these I think will be right up the alley for those who want to pay normal prices for jazz vinyl and get what I would describe as a normal, mass-produced vinyl... and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Isn't that what 99% of vinyl buyers did at record stores across the country before the "death of vinyl" at such places like Tower, Mothers, Record Bar, Peaches, etc.  And isn't that one of the objectives of this series... to keep these titles in print and accessible... which is a valid cause.

My 2 cents.

e.s.'s picture

Agreed. I bought the Larry Young LP since I didn't already have a copy of that and enjoyed that enough that I decided to compare the Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Rollins records with my less-than-minty earlier pressings. The new pressings are indeed well-pressed and if I didn't already have nice copies of the records in question, I'd probably be satisfied with the sound quality, but even my early '70s blue label pressing of the Sonny Rollins record sounded better than the Blue Note 75 pressing, so I think I'm going to stick to just grabbing the albums I don't already have for the duration of this campaign.

TheThing72's picture

At Rob.. I am not crazy about the OJC Tenor Madness. Inner groove reads Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray and the vinyl itself was packed in RTI's standard pink sleeve. The pressing itself is identical to many RTI's I have in weight and quality. If its not.. then who knows.. but I know Fantasy/Concord does use them for pressing. I do also have most of the Analog Productions Prestige Mono's.. so I know what you are talking about with Kevin Gray. My other thought would have been all of the Indy labels that use RTI and still keep the pressing around $20.00. Why that is not happening is ultimatley the question. 

RobWynn's picture

Very interesting about the OJC @ RTI.  Thanks!

Yeah, I agree with your question to Capitol/BN about why not at RTI at $19.99 price point.

Have a good one TheThing72.

Sean Zloch's picture

My OJC "Saxophone Colossus" is also a Steve Hoffman/Kevin Gray cut. 

Blue Note's picture

thing, your post hear caught my eye, I picked up last year Tenor Madness and checked it out, indeed Steve and Kevin are in the deadwax. Do you have any idea what other OJC reissues they mastered? thanks!

TheThing72's picture

Blue Note, thanks for your reply. I also have Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus that is OJC and mastered by Hoffman and Gray. I would have to do some digging for you on the other titles, but I am sure others on the forum could also put their 2 cents in on this topic. I am actually surprised that this has not been discussed before. Let me see what I can find out.

Blue Note's picture

I am guessing that they would be pretty much top notch, but I was unaware of these until I saw your thread, thanks!

MicallefK's picture

Rob...let's keep that info among ourselves..ok? ha ha 

RobWynn's picture

I see that says the 70s pressings we're talking about were "pressed from overused Blue Note legacy stampers, resulting in pressings which are dull and lacking in dynamic range" which I'm guessing that is your opinion too.

I guess my comparison of the two pressing shows either my lack of ear or the lack of quality in my consumer electronics-level sytem, or both.

I never claimed to be an audiophile, audiophile reviewer, or have an audiophile system, but I do love music and prefer to get the best quality pressings that I can while I start to build an intro-level audiophile system.

Oh well...



tresaino's picture

Thanks to wymax for the hint, indeed an alternative to  I note however that at today's currency rates 21.99 euros correspond to 30.49 US dollars, not the 17.99 price found directly in the States. An old story. 

rosser's picture

I have a large collection of vinyl, including hundreds of recent reissues, both 33 and 45, and have all the Music Matters Blue Notes. I have a number of the AP Prestige mono's too, and in general have found them near CD quiet, although a good number of them are dish warped, like far too many albums pressed by QRP. That said, I have now bought five of AP's new RCA reissues, and all five were defective -- not one of them was quiet enough to keep, and nowhere near the level of their own Prestige pressings. In addition, one of the RCA's was dish warped and pressed off center as well as noisy. At this point, despite buying four different titles and one of them twice, I don't have any that are listenable -- I returned four and kept the fifth just because I was sick of dealing with it, though due to the noise/warp/off center problems, it won't get much play time. Based on Mikey's sound samples recently using the "Pictures at an Exhibition," it sounds like his copy is pretty filled with ticks and snaps too. I thought it was an old used record when I first listened to the samples. Why do so many people keep saying how quiet they are? I don't get it. I guess in betwen the ticks and pops it is pretty quiet...

My defect rate with new vinyl from Pallas and RTI runs about 30 percent, and has for many years. QRP is more like 60-70 percent, mostly with severe dish warps, but also the aforementioned noise and off-center pressings. Is United really worse than that? I'm sure their best pressing doesn't compete with QRP's best, but actually getting one of those consistently requires the patience of a saint and far too much work for something that is supposed to be fun. 

amarok89's picture

defect rate for those places. I didnt start out a fan of QRP, my copy of Tea for the Tillerman is garbage. Too bright, and although most of it is really quiet some parts sound like he's singing right in my room, while gargling. Not to mention playing guitar under water. After that though I must admit most of what I bought from them (at first reluctantly) is pretty stunning. I have the Pictures at an Exhibition and its explosive.

rosser's picture

You have to separate the mastering from the pressing. I have no issue with the mastering, which is outstanding on the RCA reissues I've heard. There's nothing in a pressing that will affect a music's "explosive" sound, unless it's really really horrible to the point of causing distortion. My beef is with the noisy pressings. That makes it almost worse -- I can hear how great it should sound, but can't pay attention to the music because I keep being irritated by snapping and ticking every few seconds. My copy of the Gershwin started out great (in spite of a nasty dish warp) -- but after a couple of minutes, the ticks and snaps started in, and the experience was ruined. Cleaning doesn't help, nor does treatment with my anti-static machine. If some quiet copies exist (ie if it's not on the lacquer), then the noise is from stampers getting too hot, or trying to get too many records out of a stamper. Whatever it is, if you include a promotional piece in your records, as AP does, talking about how nearly completely free your vinyl is from ticks and pops, then every single copy better not be noisy. That's my experience anyway. 

amarok89's picture

Maybe I was too brief in my reply. By stunning I meant in every way. They may have a few ticks here and there but no loud pops. Nothing that remotely takes me out of the music. The Tillerman on the other hand jeeeze!!!

Michael Fremer's picture

I just played the "Pictures..." that I used for those recordings (all of side 1) and other than two barely audible tiny "ticks" DEAD SILENCE. I really don't know what your game is here but I don't believe a word you've written.  

rosser's picture

I can hear ticks and snaps on the samples you posted for the tonearm comparisons. Can you not hear them? I thought at first you were playing an old record, but then you said it was the new AP reissue. That to me is not a quiet pressing. Mine was the same (actually a bit worse) and I sent it back. Why would you think I have some ulterior motive? I just want to get quiet pressings of these albums, and so far five out of five have been unbearably noisy. Is there some reason it's not okay for me to say that?

Michael Fremer's picture

I played the entire record and it's virtually perfect. There were two tiny ticks on side one. Furthermore the deep black background during the quieter passages surpasses that produced by other pressing plants.

I played the files and I really have no idea what you are talking about there either. "Like playing an old record"? Seriously?

I don't hear pops and clicks and noise that make it sound like an "old" record and I want to hear from other readers about this. 

If that's a "noisy" record to you, I wonder why you bother with vinyl in the first place. Seriously.

Michael Fremer's picture

It's funny but bright is what an Ovation guitar sounds like. Chad was perturbed by some of the brightness too (the original Pink label Island was almost certainly accidentally mastered with Dolby "on", which gave it a really pleasing romantic quality but that's not what an Ovation guitar sounds like) and if you listen to the Mobile Fidelity UHQR you'll hear a similar sonic signature. I got an "alternative" test pressing with somewhat softened top end but I thought it lost the greatness of the first cut.....but how can something sound both "bright" and "underwater"? If anything sounds "underwater" but pleasing it's the original! i find that playing the reissue at lower volume nicely balances it out and when the dynamic crescendos hit they explode---and not brightly.



amarok89's picture

I love your amazing knowledge of Tillerman Michael. Although I have heard several copies of that album I unfortunately dont have either the original pink Island or the UHQR. I wish I could afford them. Anyway, I know the Ovation sounds bright and I always liked that, I meant an overall brightness, even in his voice. Much of the album was very clear and detailed but just a bit bright compared to what I expected.

As for sounding both bright and underwater, the underwater parts were only here and there. There are passages where his voice sounds like he's gargling, especially when he sings the word "ordered" in Father and Son, that sustained note during the phrase "ordered to listen". It really gets a funny look from people when I play it for them. Other parts like a piano bit in Sad Lisa, and the guitar in I believe Miles From Nowhere. The vocals on that song too are particularly harsh. As for the term underwater, I can't think of the correct term but its like when a tonearm rumbles when a truck drives by because of a poorly set up system. I should try to dig out a CD I made of some bad pieces of it to send you a file.

(A bit later) I just put the album on again because Im curious. One example of the bright guitar that is not what I was talking about is the intro to Hard Headed Woman. Incredible. But his voice when he belts out "I know a lot of fancy dancers" curled my ears and about knocked me through the window, in not so good a way. Its almost like they tried too hard in mastering this thing. Pull back a little bit. But I admit I probably dont know what I'm talking about with the technical stuff.

It's funny but I sent the LP back to Acoustic Sounds with a description on where it was bad. I got an email back saying that they thought it was fine but they wanted to keep the record and credited my card.They said I can decide to buy another one. I laughed because it made it seem like they just wanted to keep it off the streets. I had them send it back anyway and kept it as a novelty.

Bigrasshopper's picture

My own experience with QRP has been very positive. I stuck with them through their first year, when I did exchange several warped records, but then things started to flatten out and have remained flat. Occasionally I receive a moderately warped record from RTI and was beginning to think they were slipping, but it's not at all a regular problem and overall I'm getting about equall quality from both houses. Actually my return rate for ticks and warps has been declining and is probably about 5% now! though I've probably softened up a bit, but will return a repetitive tick. I do tend to stick to the audiophile treatment for all the obvious reasons, I don't like to screw around. I buy records to listen to analog sound at its best. Digits were made for Dacs.
I did make an unannounced visit to QRPs plant at the time they were pressing TFTTM and was given a full tour ( very nice of them ). I really was fascinated by the whole process. Last stop was inspection and packing, I asked the lady there "what's your rejection percentage " Jay was looking very nervous, but she said calmly,
" about 70%". I said " well, your still figuring it out." And of course that was true, but they did figure it out and in a very short time became one of the best. Speakers Corner has a video were in they show the records stacked between plates and left to cool a full 24 hours before being handled and sleeved at Pallas.
I heard that Yusuf Islam got a new agent and for unknown reasons backed out of the deal they had with Analog Productions. That was some time ago and I'm surprised that no new record reissue deal has been forthcoming. I don't want to harp on it but my copy gets no play. For whatever reason I can't handle the sound.
Accuracy be dammed if that's the truth, give me rose colored glasses please. Their first steps were faultering, but it was obvious they were going to succeed.

amarok89's picture

Not that QRP has to be in my good graces but they got back in there with the next release or two that I bought. And I have never received a warped pressing from them. I really think Tillerman was a mastering problem. Some people in forums seem to think the QRP release showed flaws in the tape, like your Accuracy be damned comment I guess. I'm sure vocal sibilance is there on the tape in many places but I have heard exquisite highs from the Ovation guitar on other pressings but the vocal sibilance is fully under control throughout. Those would be the rose colored glasses releases. But the one thing that just can't be on the tape is the warble in his voice and guitar in some parts, as if the turntable in on top of a spinning washing machine. They are brief moments sure, but something that I would think couldn't be accepted for release.

Anyway, that's the last on that. I am glad as hell QRP, Pallas and RTI are around for my audiophile whims. I can't spend what I used to spend on single records anymore so I'm all in for $19.98 releases as long as they satisfy.

Michael Fremer's picture

Show of hands: how many people heard this:

"Based on Mikey's sound samples recently using the "Pictures at an Exhibition," it sounds like his copy is pretty filled with ticks and snaps too. I thought it was an old used record when I first listened to the samples." 

I am going to play that record again and comment further but based on your comments I think you should go to HDTracks for your music and give up on vinyl. Seriously.

And please tell me where you do most of your buying please?


rosser's picture

Also Elusive Disc. I've been buying vinyl since 1963. But maybe you're right. I have enough records to listen to the rest of my life without buying anything else. But digital is not my thing. 

MicallefK's picture

My experience is that as long as there is "RVG" or "Van Gelder" in the deadwax the sound is uniformly very good, be it Liberty Blue Notes or later 70s black note on blue label era Blue Notes. 

amarok89's picture

to this series. I had Blue Train and Out to Lunch already from several years ago so I only bought the Blakey, Young and Shorter albums. I had only dabbled in jazz before but watching Michael's Don Was videos really got me interested in digging deeper. I'm hooked now. So far the releases have sounded great to me so I'm glad to be able to build a collection at decent prices. The down side is that although I like to buy my vinyl at local record stores so far most of the jazz sections only have Blue Train and mulitple copies of Kind of Blue as usual, both of which I am kind of tired of seeing released all the time. I can't get all the way into Boston very often for the larger selection so I'll probably have to pick up most of mine online.

analogkid14's picture

I have a couple of Third Man LP's . The Karen Elson album sounds fine, but the pressing is quite clicky. I also have the White Stripes White Blood Cells ; the first album was off center, but the Third Man folks gladly exchanged it. That second one sounds great and is a terrific pressing. I have the Sun singles that Third Man has put out, and they are nice. The Sun 45 by D.A. Hunt had the labels switched, and the entire run of that single had the same problem, but no plans to re-press the single. 

I do buy recent releases on LP if I really love the album or artist. The quality varies, even though they are pressed at the plants you all talk about. I have good RTI and iffy RTI for example. My biggest disappointment is the vinyl of Neko Case's latest. It was released by Anti-, pressed in Canada on thin vinyl, which I think might be because of the cool etching on side 4. The sound is not  good. Anti- usually puts out a better product. I have Neko's Middle Cyclone and Tom Waits Mule Variations , 180 Gram, they sound great. So Anti-, get on it and press a decent copy!

So results may vary. We all need to stay on top of it and keep these labels honest.

bmilwee's picture

Any thoughts on how this new series compares to the old Blue Note Connoisseur Series pressings from the 90's?