1. Things you need to know about the new ‘Conversations’ PM system:

    a) DO NOT REPLY TO THE NOTIFICATION EMAIL! I get them, not the intended recipient. I get a lot of them and I do not want them! It is just a notification, log into the site and reply from there.

    b) To delete old conversations use the ‘Leave conversation’ option. This is just delete by another name.
    Dismiss Notice

A small Columbia / CBS labelography

Discussion in 'music' started by Tony L, Jun 23, 2005.

  1. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator


    1) US Columbia ‘six eye’ mono – original late 50s to early 60s design with deep groove. Nice heavy paper over card sleeves but prone to seeam splits and ring wear (same as Blue Note and Riverside). Superb sound quality.

    2) US Columbia ‘six eye’ stereo – same period and again deep groove. The red or grey colour may or may not mean anything – it doesn’t refer to stereo or mono, and it doesn’t seem to be a distinction between jazz and classical. Any ideas? Superb quality.

    3) UK CBS matt orange mono – this is early 60s, later 60s-early 70s kept the same design but has a smoother less matt finish and different contour – I’ve left these off the picture as they’d look no different at this resolution. Nice laminated flip-back or non-flipback sleeves. Superb quality.

    4) UK CBS matt orange stereo – same period and traits as above. Superb quality.

    5) US Columbia ‘two eye’ – has a ridge but not exactly a deep groove. Stereo ‘two eyes’ are the same IIRC. But I don’t think I’ve got one to photograph. Paper over card sleeves. Superb quality.

    6) UK CBS blue – frequently used on classical and also soundtracks. Overlaps with the UK orange timewise, again matt and less matt variations. Both laminated or non-laminated sleeves. Very decent quality.

    7) UK CBS mid 70s gradient – used on new titles and later on ‘nice price’ reissues. Variable in quality, but usually pretty decent. No laminated sleeves by this point.

    8) US Columbia mid 70s red – tends to come in nice heavy paper over card 60s style sleeves. Decent quality.

    9) UK CBS Masterworks – 70s – 80s classical label and very nice quality. Non-laminated sleeves.

    10) German CBS Masterworks – same period as above – I’m sure I’ve seen UK pressings with this design. Thin card sleeves. Decent quality.

    11) UK 80s CBS red – quality starting to take a substantial dip now, but not actually bad, just not as good as what went before. Really cheap typical 80s card sleeves. Worth having at the right price.

    12) Current US Columbia – appears as both warped 180g and warped 140g pressings. Glossy card sleeves. Actually bad.

    13) Japanese 1960s Nippon Columbia pressing. US style paper over card sleeves with OBI and insert. Superb.

    14) Japanese 1970s CBS Sony pressing. US style paper over card sleeves with OBI and insert. Superb.

    Please post any corrections / opinions / omissions to the above.

  2. sideshowbob

    sideshowbob 47 Lab Rat

    Nice summary. I've got a couple of these:


    Japanese, 1980s AFAICT, but there's no date on them anywhere that I can see. Excellent pressings though.

    I bought a job lot of your number 12s a few years ago (Thelonious Monk albums mostly), none of them are warped and they all sound reasonably OK - although noticeably inferior to earlier pressings, they're quite listenable as they are, if you're not comparing them to anything else. Maybe I got lucky.

    -- Ian
  3. PaulB

    PaulB pfm Member

    Great posting Tony.

    I bought a number of 180gm #12s (some Miles and Monk titles) and haven't had a problem with warpng at all. Not consistently the quietest surfaces though and I wonder what the master was that was used. A good cleaning helped. They are quite cheap however, and they at least filled some gaps in my collection.
  4. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Ok, looks like I'm being a little hard on 12! I've not liked the ones I've had much though - it's not that they are noisy or anything, just that they sound thin, lifeless and somehow musically 'disconnected' compared to a really good pressing such as a US six eye / UK orange / Japanese / Classic etc.

  5. rgordonpf

    rgordonpf Member

  6. dan m

    dan m pfm Member

    Tony - nice summary - thanks!

    Ron - I thought you were in Berkeley - did all that development near Spengers and 4th Street drive you out?

  7. edb15

    edb15 pfm Member

    Grey is masterworks, red is pop/jazz in both the six and two eye era. No color distinction between mono and stereo.

    Yes, 12 is Scorpio. However I believe there was a period in the early nineties when Columbia was using this label. I think the safe bet is that if the record is a reissue, it's a Scorpio, but if its an original, it is actually Columbia. At some point I'll try to take note if I have some non-reissues in that label (I feel that I do but can't think of one, and the one 90s Columbia I checked had custom labels).

    My memory is hazy on this but I believe Scorpio may have bought a pressing plant from Columbia in the 90s. Hence the labels, and also the sometimes use of analog (but safety) tapes for these reissues. Apparently, they just use the copies that were left at the plant for whatever the last pressing of a given title was.

    As I mentioned in the Classic thread, they also do exact repros of other labels, from Reprise Steamboat to New Jazz to Inner City and the provenance of these tapes is even more spotty--and there is confirmation that everything from WEA--including the Ornette, Coltane and Mingus, is from DAT copies of the masters. [The WEAs tend to say Rhino/Scorpio somewhere, though sometimes only a sticker on the shrinkwrap]. These aren't horrible, but they have some edge and not the best bass--and I can't see why to prefer them to a cd. However, they have done many titles that are not on cd, particularly obscure jazz and psych.

    Also, there are now some Rhino/Scorpios with better provenance, including Costello and Grateful Dead and I think AC/DC and Metallica records. Some of these are cut by Kevin Gray, who works with Steve Hoffman. However, reports on these have been mixed. I haven't tried any--you can often still get originals for the $18 list price they charge, and the titles are either uninteresting to me or I've got them already.

    This is all very complicated and it's hard to tell looking at a record in the store if it's likely to be good, great, indifferent, or even very bad.

  8. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    That is exactly what I thought myself until I landed a copy of Lovers Luau by Les Paul and Mary Ford on a grey stereo six eye. Not classical, more Hawaiian kitsch!

    In the UK there has been a whole raft of different reissues / pirates of key riverboat period Riverside psyche bands of incredibly varying quality. I’ve got a copy of Underground by The Electric Prunes that is so piss-poor it just has to be a pirate. I also have 180g copies of Mass In F Minor (by the same band) and A Childs Guide To Good And Evil by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band that are not too bad in theory, but have totally crap quality control (one is warped, one is scratched and warped). I suspect these last two must be Scorpios. Not overly impressed.

  9. edb15

    edb15 pfm Member

    I have two of those you mention which are definitely Scorpios, and I suspect the rest are as well. Those are legit, but as I say, Scorpio gets DATs or Reprise (part of WEA, of course) masters, and I don't think they care in the least about quality. Some of their other records, like their Sun Ras, are almost certainly pirates. By the way, I believe Collector's Choice did cds of the Electric Prunes which are likely to be good.

    Some companies, like Akarma, who's done Blue Cheer and a whole bunch of ultrarare psych stuff I've never heard of, do care, but frequently have to make do with less than the best--dubbing from original lps, if necessary. The titles are so rare it is fully justified. If the tapes are gone the tapes are gone. But Scorpio just uses whatever is at hand. Sometimes, you are just lucky to have the music, other times you curse their existence.

  10. dave charlton

    dave charlton cubist

    nice work Tony!

    I've just replaced my #12 E.S.P. with a #14 that came in a recent shipment from Early Records. As you say, superior in every way. Sketches Of Spain is coming in the next batch.

  11. joel

    joel mojo working

    THe #14s are consistantly superb, and not just for jazz. I've got a bunch pf Philly albums and they sound simply superb (dare I say better than the originals in some cases...). The early to mid-seventies was *the* great period for Japanese pressings IMHO.
    PS nice work, Tony!
  12. dan m

    dan m pfm Member


    I have a #5 with a white label and black lettering - it has typed across it

  13. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Nice – a few companies used this kind of white label (I’ve got a lovely mono Ornette On Tenor on Atlantic), it made sense as a band dosen’t get paid royalties off a ‘proper’ white label, i.e. one that has no writing / credits etc.

  14. John

    John TDS free

    I read somewhere recently that six-eye were done with tube amps, two-eye and later with solid state.
  15. edb15

    edb15 pfm Member

    I don't believe that is accurate. In the first place, if the original is 6-eye, the reissue is often from the same metalwork.

    In addition, I don't believe anyone went solid state with cutting amps until the late 1960s and often later than that. So while a few late two-eyes may be solid state, I'm pretty sure the vast majority are tube cut.
  16. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I'd have expected tubes to be used for most of the two-eye run too, certainly the UK companies only migrated in the very late 60s to early 70s. The two-eye label was around from about 1962 IIRC, that's far too early for wide adoption of solid state.
  17. John

    John TDS free

    This is what I read, not exactly what I meant.

  18. mr.datsun

    mr.datsun pfm Member

    Interesting! They're nice to see, Tony. I like the CBS legacy.

    Here's some additions.
    I have a USA dark grey masterworks with a large '360 sound' stereo '360 sound' at the bottom in a curve. Medium weight vinyl, heavy card sleeve. I think it'll be a 60s pressing. An LP by J Marks I acquired recently.

    Also have a French brown CBS with the eye over the central hole. Music In Our Time series. Terry Riley. I guess pressed early-mid 70s from when I bought it new. Light weight but high glossy sleeve.

    I can photograph them but have no scanner.

    I have also seen a red plastic label French CBS pressing of Terry Riley with a black inset circle around the spindle hole. The text was embossed. This was a technique I remember some labels using in the '70s. The sleeve was not coated. I had to return it due to a defect so no longer have it.
  19. John

    John TDS free

  20. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Interesting, a very useful indicator if accurate.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice