It’s the time of year for saving money!
By Mark Smotroff
One thing that has been a constant for this writer and music fan is the never ending joy of discovery of new artists and sounds, from the past to the present.
Such as the case with a soon to be reissued collection by legendary jazz saxophonist Yusef Lateef, an artist who I have admittedly been a little late to the party of diving down deeply into exploring his catalog. Mea culpa.
Recently I found one of his albums called Eastern Sounds in a local record store’s bargain bin — for just $5 in well-loved but not trashed condition, it felt like a no-risk opportunity to try out the album in its original form (which I generally prefer doing vs. streaming, warts ‘n all).
Originally issued in 1961 on the Moodsville Records label, my used copy is a mid-60s second pressing on the parent company’s Prestige Records (navy blue) label. Despite the album not being in perfect condition, I immediately fell in love with the music contained in its still very nice sounding grooves. I have since gone on to learn that this recording is considered one of Mr. Lateef’s seminal albums and probably was a title I should’ve been seeking out right from the start!
Melodic and meditative, some of my favorite tracks include the hypnotic album opener “The Plum Blossom,” “Ching Miau” (which feels like an early Coltrane homage) and “Snafu.” And its hard to not fall in love with the infectious waltz of “Love Theme From Spartacus.” End to end, Eastern Sounds is a beautiful listening experience.
It was thus a timely coincidence and pleasant surprise learning that Craft Recordings is soon reissuing Eastern Sounds later this week as part of its excellent Original Jazz Classics (OJC) series.
From the official press materials issued by Craft Recordings, we learn that:
“These new reissues feature lacquers cut from the original tapes (AAA) by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, 180-gram vinyl pressed at RTI and tip-on jackets, replicating the original artwork. All titles will also be released digitally in 192/24 HD audio. Original Jazz Classics was created in 1982 (under Fantasy Records) and relaunched in 2023. Since its inception, the audiophile series has reissued 850+ jazz albums, drawing from its unmatched jazz catalog, which had grown to include thousands of acclaimed titles from Prestige, Galaxy, Milestone, Riverside, Debut, Contemporary, Jazzland and Pablo.”
Selling for just under $40 on Amazon, Craft Recordings’ new OJC edition of Eastern Sounds is ultimately a great value from both an audiophile perspective and collectors viewpoint. My copy sounds wonderful. The deep dark black vinyl is well centered and dead quiet (at least up until the run out dead wax when there was some light surface noice apparent, but that is not a deal breaker for me).
The reissue sounds much like my 1960s pressing although it is hard to make a direct comparison as the new edition is in Stereo and my old copy is Mono. I’ll put it this way: the mastering felt of the period, so while there are nice dynamics going on I didn’t get any sense that there was any significant brightening or attempt at modernizing the music — it felt just right and true to my ear.
I love that someone at Craft Recordings is paying attention to the little details which matter to collectors, reproducing the original “Moodsville” label design from the first pressings (it was a short lived Prestige Records subsidiary).
Looking at Discogs, the handful of original pressings on Moodsville being sold there are going for between $150 and $300! Even sellers of the 1964-65 era pressings like my old bargain bin copy are asking for more than $50 for just “Good” condition status (which, from the description, doesn’t always sound too good actually for that price but for the five bucks I paid, its just swell!).
Heck, even sellers of the 1972 Stereo reissue on the bright green Prestige Records label are asking some pretty hefty coin for that edition (between $50 and $200!).
Taking all that into consideration, $40 for a mint condition, sealed, brand new copy which honors the past and which may sound arguably superior to the originals seems like an easy choice to make. The production details seem mostly on target right down to the thick brown cardboard cover construction and the pasted on printed album art graphics. Even the label design is in the ballpark. While not quite the exact color of the original editions I’ve found online — bright green center image in collage below — at least it looks and feels of the time period.
And while I’m sure the now sold out “Small Batch” series edition from 2021 sounds amazing, those are commanding prices ranging from $300 on up to $650 on Discogs (it originally sold for $99).
For the price, Yusef Lateef’s Eastern Sounds OJC reissue is another sure winner from Craft Recordings. If you love this artist’s music and have always wanted a clean, fine sounding vinyl version of this album without breaking the bank, this new OJC edition is a smart option to consider.
[Mark Smotroff has been reviewing music at AudiophileReview for many years but can also be found at AnalogPlanet.com. In the past he has written for Sound & Vision, DISCoveries, EQ, Mix and many more. An avid vinyl collector and music enthusiast who has also worked in marketing communications for decades you can learn more about his background at LinkedIn.]
1. The Plum Blossom
2. Blues For The Orient
3. Ching Miau
4. Don’t Blame Me
1. Love Theme From Spartacus
3. Purple Flower
4. Love Theme From Robe
5. The Three Faces Of Balal