1: Review Posted by Bruce Kinch in Positive Feedback (March/April 2013)
Primyl Vinyl and The Collector’s Illustrated Vinyl Bible
by Bruce Kinch
Way back in the last century when Positive Feedback was printed on paper and in living black and white, I self-published a photocopied newsletter for audiophile record collectors called Primyl Vinyl Exchange, PVX for short. The Perfect Sound of CDs had arrived a decade before, and lots of folks had been helpfully dumping entire collections of primo vinyl at Boston’s many used record stores. I was filling boxes with Mercury’s and RCAs and Blue Notes at $1-5 a pop, even less at yard sales over the weekend. I had long been a reader of The Absolute Sound and Stereophile as well as Fanfare, Gramophone, and had started using an early Mac to collate various reviews into want lists. I was still single and had my priorities straight. I spent more money on concerts than records, more on records than audio gear, and more on audio gear than I probably should. Still do. The Internets was only just beginning to take over the arcane knowledge universe, and there seemed a need for a forum for unreconstructed analogists like myself.
But the real reason I started Primyl Vinyl was fraud. I was a college professor teaching photography, and always took a trip to shoot somewhere warm over the semester break. That year, I was heading to Death Valley; from Boston, I could fly to either LA or Las Vegas and rent a car, and Vegas flights were cheaper. I was tire-kicking at one of my regular haunts, Q Audio in Cambridge, when the trip came up in conversation with the then owner, Bob Heenan. He laughed when I complained how hotels in Vegas were surprisingly expensive. “That’s because it’s CES week… and you should go!”. Except CES was not open to the public, trade only. Bob refused to let me steal a business card and impersonate him, but suggested I “go as press”.
So, mea culpa. All I needed was a publication and a business card in 48 hours. I “borrowed” a layout program from a fellow faculty member, and started designing a fake newsletter. For content, I boldly violated copyright on whatever might fill a page. The lead article was from the early days of the LP, complaining that despite the marketing hype, 78s sounded better. Plus ҫa change, etc. I needed a back page, so I scanned record store ads from the Yellow Pages. Avery made sheets of blank precut business cards, so that was easy. I printed a few copies, packed the camera gear, and headed for the airport.
Death Valley was awesome, but when the time came to pack up and head for Sin City, I was more than nervous. As it turned out, at the CES check-in, the fake business card was all I needed to get a Press badge: Primyl Vinyl in bold, me as editor. The Convention Center was a zoo, but high end audio was actually blocks away at a slightly dowdy but slot-free motel, busy but not mobbed. I tried to blend in, but show etiquette requires everyone surreptitiously scanning the badge around every other person’s neck before greeting them like old friends; I had to keep explaining what Primyl Vinyl was, and weirdly enough, people wanted copies. Each night I photocopied another batch at Staples. At the end of the show I had somehow given away over a hundred samples and acquired 13 paid subscriptions. My kind of luck.
Why? Well, I figured I could do a few issues in exchange for discounts (and tax deductions) on equipment and audiophile LPs. I ended up doing four years of Primyl Vinyl, because it was kind of fun, and because subscribers started submitting articles (the Exchange part) on re-wiring Rega tonearms, record cleaning tricks, record reviews, 10-Best lists, all sorts of things.
One of the issues featured (with Harry Pearson’s blessing) a collation of all the titles ever to appear on the many Absolute Sound “Super Discs” lists. Much of the work was done by a subscriber, Larry Toy, who was intent on collecting them all. Between us, we had a complete run of TAS from issue one. We went over them again and again, as there were typos, changes, revisions, and alternate pressings galore. Most of HP’s own LPs had been lost in a fire, so there was no officially “absolute” list possible.
The copyright cops never knocked on my door, but Primyl Vinyl succumbed to its own modest success when subscriptions approached 1500 and the part-time venture began to consume far too much time and energy from my day job and personal life. I had segued into writing occasional pieces for Positive Feedback, Listener, and yes, TAS, so at least I had gone legit. But I still run into ex-subscribers now and then, or get emails about back issues.
Which, in a roundabout way, is why a few months ago I received a very interesting and impressive hardcover book, The Collector’s Illustrated Vinyl Bible, direct from the author, Alfred H.C. Wu. Alfred had emailed me a while back asking for a copy of the TAS List issue. We were cited in Wu’s bibliography, and he most graciously sent me a copy. Crime pays, Mom.
And Wow! An active collector/audiophile himself, Wu has managed to print full color photographs of the covers of every LP, CD, and SACD ever on the TAS lists, with basic discographic and production information and even a price estimate (basically what he had paid). That takes up the first 394 pages, followed by pictures of other TAS recommendations from Sid Marks, Jonathan Valin, and Mark Lehman, illustrated summaries of James A. Mitchell’s “Golden Era of RCA” list, the Gramophone Top 100 lists, a compilation of the best early Everest LPs and the entire Lyrita stereo catalogue. There are often pictures of alternate covers and reissues, labelographies, and an index by artist and composers. It ends up at 693 pages, and nearly 6 lb. There is even a ribbon bookmark, just like those other Bibles.
Many collectors I know can happily flip through countless LP jackets in record store bins and yard sale boxes, but don’t carry around detailed want-lists and check catalog numbers. Eventually, one simply develops a visual memory of covers, labels, and other indicators of desirability. But if you’ve never seen a copy of something, you can often pass it by (I know I have, all too often). Spend some time with Wu’s magnum opus and you won’t flip by the less many obvious audiophile spectaculars, like Cantabile CSPS 1349, Orion ORS 78282, or Richardson RRS 70001.
There are some limitations to this ultimate audiophile discography, however. It is TAS/Gramophone intensive, so primarily covers classical music recordings and the few pop/rock/soundtrack LPs HP favored. While all the essential information is in English, some of Wu’s own commentary is in Chinese only. It is also a limited edition, and I think he may have only about 100 copies left (it has done well in the Chinese/Taiwan market). There is no official US distributor, so the books must be shipped from China or Austria (where Alfred is based).
Given the superb reproduction quality, and personally understanding the research involved, I consider it an amazing bargain at the official list price of $75, and. However, Alfred understands the language and shipping problems, and is willing to offer a substantial 25% discount to US-Canadian buyers, available through 4/30 if you mention you saw this on Positive Feedback. (I’m sure he would consider trading for a copy of Valin’s RCA Bible, too).
For more information, see his web page, www.alfredwu.com, note the link to web page 8, which has the ordering information.
2: Review Posted by Rudolf A. Bruil (February 2013)
hobbyists’s views for hobbyists
Alfred Wu’s Big and Heavy Reference Book
Many collectors may already know the name of Alfred H.C. Wu. They may know him from eBay when he bought records from them. Wu is a vinyl collector like so many of us. And you can see that he lives with his treasures. At right you see just part of his collection in his study.
Now Alfred Wu, who started collecting vehemently a couple of decades ago, has published a heavy book.
The cover is well designed and departs from the usual. The lay-out of cover and pages show the origin of the man who compiled it, his cultural background. It is colorful, the pages have an enriched appearance by including a soft background illustration, and it has the English text translated into Chinese (or vice versa). One sees that Chinese takes up more space compared to the Western-style of typesetting, and the density of it. That is only one reason for the book having 693 pages. The main reason are the many records with references and images.
The book is compiled on the basis of lists by other people, generally considered to be experts, and lists published in magazines have been used too. Images of the listings are from Alfred Wu’s own 6000-records-collection.
Dimitri Alexeev’s name is in the index at the end of the book, whereas the names of Philips artists Haitink and Van Beinum – who appear in the CD-section only – are not mentioned, nor is the name Beaux Arts Trio indexed; the names of its members are not listed.
So several names that are listed with records are not mentioned in the index. However most collectors know by experience what label carries an artist and will go directly to that section in the book about a label, or a specific series. But the newbie will have to browse and browse. Which is not bad because he would have done that anyway. I know indexing is a time consuming job. However, a more complete index could be helpful.
There are labelographies of Argo, Mercury, Everest, etc. Many readers will find LPs they own themselves in these pages. Cherished recordings on labels like Columbia, Mercury Living Presence, RCA Living Stereo, Decca (London), Everest, Sheffield Lab, Reference Recordings, Chesky, etc. Yet, it is inevitable that several recordings which they cherish themselves are not listed. Not every record is mentioned in the lists consulted by collectors and are not worth the highest praise.
And where is Kyrill Kondrashin’s Scheherazade with the Concertgebouw Orchestra on Philips? All Kondrashin’s RCA recordings are mentioned of course. The only Philips LPs Wu mentioned are of the Haydn Piano Trios. Of course I conduct a bit of a chauvinistic search, but the common idea that Philips did not make good recordings, is repeated too often and is certainly not true in all cases. The question is: What are the criteria for a recording to be labelled “audiophile”, or technical superior?
While Everest recordings are being mentioned, I do miss a section with the Command label of which many recordings were made by C. Robert Fine and cut by George Piros; they also did the many Mercury Living Presence discs. Regarding that omission Alfred Wu explained to me:
“This book started from those best sounding LPs from TAS, RCA and the Top 100 from Gramophone (old & new list) etc. If I put my personal favorites or many other rare LPs, even listed in the Penguin Edition, the book would have more than 1000 pages! I am working day and night on a complete illustrated Decca-London cross-index; EMI-Columbia SAX series; EMI ASD 3 digit series, etc. There are too many good discs to write about. Westminster, which many collector’s love, should be introduced, and also the Command Label from 35mm film, etc. But my purpose is to list them with color photos, which are easily remembered and be discovered in the internet shop. For that I need more time and the book needs more space.”
From reading Wu’s comment, we may expect more great things to come from his hand.
And there are also several pages with jazz and pop, the lighter side and film music. A few names: Earl Hines, Joni Mitchel, Gordon Lightfood, The Beach Boys, Thelma Houston, Kraftwerk. Another positive feature.
As Alfred H. C. Wu is originally from Taiwan and Chinese is his native language, he was clever enough to write the contents also in Mandarin Chinese. And this is not only an idea that first came naturally, I suppose, but it certainly is a clever step to selling high volumes now that more and more Chinese music lovers are going to collect records. This guarantees the commercial success of his enterprise and will make it easy to publish a revised and upgraded version – if he would think that to be necessary in time. The book represents a great value to the Chinese collector. It also may lead to a gradually increase of the prices of a few individual items. It is alway like that. I started writing about specific labels myself, and gradually prices were getting higher and higher.
Wu: “It is an illustrated Discography for English readers too. I found that the most important thing about my book for English readers is the weight (2.6-2.9 kg) and the cost of shipping. That’s why I offered more price discount to them in order to compensate for the ca. 100 hundred pages of Chinese text.”
Is this Vinyl Bible for me personally a must to have? Lists like the TAS, etc. can be viewed on the internet and can be downloaded. A subscription to Gramphone.net can also provide reviews from the early days of the LP to the present time of digital media. And if you do not want that, because of the subscription rate, there are the older Good CD Guides and editions of Penguin Guide. These give expert information about the era of the LP and also about recordings transferred to CD; this cannot always be said of the many fora on the web and YouTube uploads.
But now that I have Alfred Wu’s richly illustrated Vinyl Bible, I will browse and browse and will enrich my knowledge about many more remarkable recordings that became collector’s items. And so will many a record collector, I am sure!
You can go to Alfred H. C. Wu’s web site www.alfredwu.com and find the details. Or you can click on the page at right. For ordering your copy go to page 8 and scroll down. There you will find all the details.
Rudolf A. Bruil
Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published on February 16, 2013
3: 音響論壇 288 期 (AUDIOART, Issue 288), 劉漢盛先生特別報導
4: 音響論壇網站討論區 主編特別報導: (2012-8-22)
吳輝舟是誰？1952年生的吳先生，工作之餘喜歡音樂，參加合唱團、組織「維也納台北市內樂團」，曾擔任旅奧中國人協會理事長、奧地利台商會會長，也是歐洲之星旅遊公司負責人。多年來創立過高爾夫球隊、開過撞球俱樂部、義大利餐廳、中餐廳等等。二十年前因為音響論壇的「唱片聖經」，引發他搜尋黑膠唱片的烈焰，在工作之餘不計一切代價的找尋TAS榜單的黑膠唱片、SACD、CD，RCA唱片黃金年代最值得收藏的唱片，Sid Marks最佳40張Mercury唱片，Mark Lehman與Jonathan Valin合力推薦的20世紀古典音樂最佳100張，以及Everest、Lyrita唱片等，最後的成果就是這本「黑膠唱片聖經收藏圖鑑」！
5: Review Posted by Bruce Kinch in Phonogram (August 2012)
I received a very interesting and impressive hardcover book last week, The Collector’s Illustrated Vinyl Bible, from the author, Alfred H.C. Wu.
Some Pholk on the list will recall that I published a newsletter called Primyl Vinyl for a while in the last century. One of the issues featured (with HP’s blessing) a collation of all the titles ever to appear on the many TAS “Super Discs” lists. Much of the work was done by our own Larry Toy (his version with commentary is available on line I think). We were cited in Wu’s bibliography, so got an early copy.
An active collector/audiophile himself, Wu has managed to print color photographs of the covers of every LP, CD, and SACD ever on the TAS lists, with basic information and a price estimate (basically what he had paid). That takes up the first 394 pages, followed by pictures of other TAS recommendations from Sid Marks, Jonathan Valin, and Mark Lehman, and illustrated summaries of James A. Mitchell “Golden Era of RCA” list, the Gramophone Top 100 lists, the best early Everest LPs and the entire Lyrita stereo catalogue. There are often pictures of alternate covers and reissues, labelographies, and an index by artist and composers. it ends up at 693 pages, and nearly 6 lb . There is even a ribbon bookmark, just like those other bibles.
Many collectors, I know, can happily flip through countless LP jackets in record store bins and yard sale boxes, but don’t carry around detailed want-lists and check catalog numbers. One simply develops a visual memory of jackets, labels, and other indicators of desirability. But if you’ve never seen a copy of something, you can often pass it by (I know I have, too often). Spend some time with Wu’s magnum opus and you won’t flip by the less obvious titles, like Cantabile CSPS 1349, Orion ORS 78282, or Richardson RRS 70001.
There are some drawbacks, however. It is TAS intensive, so primarily covers classical music recordings and the few pop/rock/soundtrack LPs HP favored. While all the essential basic information is in English, Wu’s own commentary is in Chinese only. Larry Toy may have some comments on the text. It is also a limited edition, and I think he may have only about 400 copies left (it has done well in the Chinese/Taiwan market). There is no official US distributor, so the books must be shipped from China or Austria (where Alfred is based).
The US price is a very reasonable $75 + shipping, but Alfred understands the language problem, and is willing to offer a substantial discount to English-only buyers. I’m sure he would consider trading for a copy of Valin’s RCA Bible, too.
For more information, see his web page, www.alfredwu.com
Other than having sold a few LPs to Alfred on eBay in the past, I have no financial interest in this venture, of course.
I ): “TAS-Harry Pearson’s Super LP & CD List” Page
-Complete old & new lists from “The Absolute Sound”-Editor’s Choices 001-393
1.1. Super LP List: Special Merit of the Classical; Operas & Collections.
(Listed according to Record’s Label) 001-302
1.2. Super LP List: Special Merit of the Informal; Popular, Rock, Jazz & Soundtrack. (Listed according to Record’s Label) 303-356
1.3. HP’s Super CD & SACD List: old and new lists of 1998 , 1999, 2000 & 2002.
List of Classical (Listed their composers alphabetically) 357-377
List of Collections 378-383
List of Informal (Pop and Jazz) 384-389
List of Soundtrack 390-393
II ): “TAS Recommended List” 394-476
2.1. The Recommended List includes TAS ratings: +, ++, +++ for labels DECCA、EMI、LONDON、LYRITA、MERCURY & RCA; the ratings: +, ++, +++ from Sid Marks’s ‘Mraks Barks Column’ and his Top 40 ratings about the sound-quality of the Mercury Records: N01 to N40. (Listed according to Record’s Label) 394-455
2.2. ‘TAS 100 Best-of-20th Century Classical Music Recordings’ Mark Lehman & Jonathan Valin’s ‘100 Best-of-Century Classical Compositions’. Includes additional LP labels & photos. (Listed their composers alphabetically) 456-476
III): “The Golden Era of RCA Records” 477-577
3.1. Summary and Remark in English 477-480
3.2. Summary and Remark in Chinese 480-489
3.3. The best of James A. Mitchell’s List (16th ED, April 1990), includes ratings: JM10+, 10++ & ++* (Listed according to serial number) 490-577
IV): “Gramophone Top 100 (1995 to 2008, Old & New List)” 578-620
(Listed their composers alphabetically)
V): The best of “EVEREST RECORDS” 621-646
(Listed according to serial number)
VI): Photo Index of the ”LYRITA RECORDS” 647-668 (Listed according to serial number)