#MC50 : Comparing Topic’s ‘Martin Carthy’ 50th anniversary re-issue with the Fontana original

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 19 April 2015

Topic Records issued their 50th anniversary edition of Martin Carthy’s debut album in a limited edition of 750 copies as one of their 2015 Record Store Day releases.

I thought it would be interesting to compare this edition with my original 1965 Fontana records copy (mine is the mono edition) so what follows are a series of compare and contrast photographs of the 1965 and 2015 editions.

Front Cover

The immediately obvious difference with the 2015 edition is the removal of the Fontana logo from the top right corner which has been handled very well compared with previous re-issues which either cropped the entire section of the cover (the 1970s vinyl re-issue) or blocked out the logo in black (the CD re-issue). This works so much better. Otherwise the cover is a faithful reproduction of the original although the new edition has a slightly more prominent blue hue whereas the original tended towards green in places (I accept that this could be due to the age of my copy). On closer inspection the image on the new edition is reproduced a little darker with higher contrast and saturation but slightly lower image definition and the text in the top right appears to have been re-set.

Back Cover

Again, this is a faithful reproduction of the original but with some slight alterations. The MARTIN CARTHY text has been re-set in a different (but similar) font. The track listing and main sleeve notes on the new edition appear to be the same font as the original but have again been re-set so there are a few discreet changes in layout and text placement. The necessary addition of the Topic logo, copyright notices and barcode are slightly less discreet changes. The main difference between the two editions is in the manufacturing method – the original 1965 mono edition features the then-standard ‘foldback’ sleeve with paper label pasted on top whereas the new edition is ‘fully-laminated’ (some later ’60s Fontana editions were also ‘fully laminated’ so arguably this is a ‘faithful’ reproduction but it obviously differs from my early copy).

Inner Sleeve, label and spine

The 1965 edition only included a plain (blank) inner sleeve but the new edition has an attractive picture inner sleeve that reproduces a Karl Dallas review of Martin’s first two albums (no date given) and a transcript of his classic arrangement of Scarborough Fair. The labels are completely different by necessity and it’s nice to see one of Martin’s albums featuring the now-classic blue and silver Topic label design. Finally, the title and catalogue number on the spine differs from the original.

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4 Responses to #MC50 : Comparing Topic’s ‘Martin Carthy’ 50th anniversary re-issue with the Fontana original

  1. Barolojoe says:

    After some disappointments with older Topic rereleases from the seventies, I’m going strictly for the Fontana pressings of the sixties.

    ‘Byker Hill’ for example I’ve bought two months ago on Topic – and I’ve resold the LP immediately after just one hearing: although it was an unplayed archive copy, there were several crackling noises in some tracks; and both sides wobbled also strongly. A very poor pressing quality.

    I’ve bought this English Topic edition from a dealer in Greece. After my complaints he told me that this is no unusual experience for him: as much as he knows, Topic used at least in the seventies from time to time recycled Vinyl, which lead often to quality problems in the pressing plants….

  2. oldfolkie says:

    Topic themselves were not directly responsible for the pressing quality. It might come as a surprise to you to find that Topic never owned their own pressing plant. In fact Decca handled much of their pressing from early 1960s onwards. If recycled vinyl was used at the time it was because this was almost a universal activity and has led to small bits to be found in pressings from the 1960s onwards. Only now do the vinyl producers boast of “Virgin Vinyl” which are often poorer quality that 1970s pressings despite their boasting of 180g virgin vinyl status. If you found a copy which you bought was not great, you have the right to go back to the shop and ask for a replacement. If they are all bad, it could just be a bad batch. Quality control at the factory is not something that Topic has direct oversight on either. If it is sound perfection you are after I suggest a CD copy of the album. Your “unplayed archive copy” that you bought two months ago was perhaps sold by someone who was a dealer who tricked you. Just because it was sold as “unplayed” doesn’t mean that no one had played it before, and possibly with a damaged needle.

    • Barolojoe says:

      My copy of ‘Byker Hill’ on Topic from the late seventies was indeed unplayed. I know the difference between MInt and used or even damaged Vinyl (from bad needles etc.) very well. Most annoying was the strong wobbling on both sides – and for that the pressing plant is responsible alone.

      Many of my Fontana pressings from the sixties by comparison are of very good quality.

      And I agree that several modern, promoted “audiophile 180g pressings” of today are often rather poor in pressing quality. Plus some remixed and remastered editions are sometimes disappointing, too. (One recent example: the Mofi re-release of Grateful Dead’s ‘Live Dead’ cpmpared to the superior old pressings on Warner Brothers-Seven Arts from 1969.)

      Furthermore, I never buy music on CD or MP-format. Albums only on Vinyl. And a few old pre-war Blues classics sometimes on ’78 shellac…

      • oldfolkie says:

        If I understand your meaning of wobbling, it sounds like a hole centring issue. I had the same problem with a rare private issue LP by an Icelandic group who came to the UK in the 1970s to record and have the LP pressed by Lyntone. Every record I found to begin with had the wobble. At last, however, I found one that played well both sides. I blame poor workmanship but it ain’t nothing to do with the record company.

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