Carthy & Swarb 2017 Record Store Day release

9 April 2017

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 9 April 2017

No Songs RSD1

Fledg’ling Records will release a newly-remastered version of Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick’s rare 1967 EP “No Songs” for UK Record Store Day (RSD) on 22 April 2017. “No Songs” has been one of Carthy’s harder to find releases and this is the first time it has been reissued in its entirety since 1967. Only a couple of tracks have received limited release on CD.

image

The new version will feature a facsimile reproduction of the original front-laminated, flipback outer sleeve and a new inner sleeve illustrated with rare photographs. The limited edition 50th anniversary release commemorates the life of Carthy’s long-term musical partner Swarb, who died in 2016.

image

As with all RSD releases this will only be available to buy in person on 22 April at participating UK stores but unsold copies of previous RSD releases from both Fledg’ling and Topic Records have been made available to buy online shortly after the actual day.

VIEW “No Songs” in DISCOGRAPHY


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

19 April 2015

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.


#MC50 – ‘Martin Carthy’ at 50: “Scarborough Fair”

1 January 2015

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 1 January 2015

csip502015 marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Carthy’s debut solo album, the imaginatively-titled Martin Carthy. It’s probably fair to say that it was one of the most influential folk albums of the 1960s and in terms of repertoire it had an enormous impact on the British folk scene for many years.

Scarborough Fair may well be the best known song on the album, not least because of the subsequent controversy surrounding Paul Simon’s ‘borrowing’ of Carthy’s arrangement. Perhaps for this reason it has been largely absent from his repertoire since the mid-60s whereas several other songs from his debut album have regularly re-appeared in his live sets.

It hasn’t been entirely absent however, and in the 1990s he was persuaded to record the song with Wood Wilson Carthy and also dueted on a version with Bert Jansch (under the title ‘The Elfin Knight‘). More recently he’s recorded two versions for BBC radio and within the last month a new recording appeared over the closing credits of the BBC TV drama ‘Remember Me‘.

As part of a new project #MC50 I’m creating a new YouTube video every month during 2015. Each video will includes rare, unique or unreleased tracks from Martin’s career – radio sessions, live tracks, TV recordings. January’s offering features Martin’s new recording of Scarborough Fair with some stills from the BBC show. Here is:


How To Buy: 1960s Fontana Albums

10 March 2013

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 10 March 2013
(edited: 16 March 2013, 17 April 2017)

This is the first of a series of posts describing what to look for when buying rare Martin Carthy records, CDs and memorabilia. The posts are designed to give you a better idea of how to identify harder to find examples and what you should expect to pay. The valuations I suggest are purely subjective so it’s worth shopping around and remembering that any item is only worth what you are prepared to pay.

This first post concentrates on Carthy’s 1960s albums on the Fontana label. To avoid complicated explanations and in common with the standard across this entire site I consider ‘solo’ releases to include both Carthy’s purely solo issues and his duo albums with Dave Swarbrick. In terms of collectibility these releases can broadly be grouped together as they share a number of common characteristics which I’ll discuss here but there are also a handful of less common variations which distinguish the original issues from later pressings.

How To Buy 3

Packaging design and construction
The standard packaging method for vinyl albums from roughly the mid-1950s onwards was the ‘wrap-around’ (or ‘flipback’) sleeve. The front cover is printed in colour and laminated but the back cover is unlaminated with black text on a white background. The laminated front section wraps around the printed back panel which tucks under and fixes to three exposed ‘flaps’. In some cases the back card panel is blank and a single printed paper sheet is pasted over the entire back section, partly covering the laminated flaps. By the late ’60s fully laminated sleeves were more prominent, consisting of a single component part, printed in full colour and completely laminated. The back section was fixed outside the flaps allowing the use of seamless full-colour printing across the entire sleeve. This was the method generally used for all subsequent releases in the vinyl age.

Identifying original pressings
Examples of Carthy’s 1960s releases utilising all these construction methods exist and understanding them can be useful in determining when a particular pressing was produced. Carthy’s first album, Martin Carthy, issued by Fontana in 1965, was pressed in both mono and stereo versions and original examples have the wrap-around sleeve with a single paper sheet pasted over the back cover. Second Album (1966), Byker Hill (1967) and But Two Came By… (1968) were all originally issued with wrap-around sleeves without the pasted paper section (i.e. with the back cover info printed directly onto the card sleeve) and Prince Heathen (1969) was the only example to have originally been issued in a fully laminated sleeve.

How To Buy 1

I discussed matrix numbers in a previous post and all original Fontana releases have the first section of the matrix number printed under the catalogue number on the back sleeve. The number also appears on the record label under the 33⅓ and stereo (or mono) symbols and the labels themselves are all printed in black and silver on original pressings. Matrix numbers for the stereo releases all begin with 886 whereas my 1965 mono copy of Martin Carthy has a number beginning with 687 as does the mono copy of Second Album in Reinhard Zierke’s collection (see the relevant scans on Reinhard’s website).

Later pressings
In my collection I have what I take to be a later pressing of Second Album with a fully laminated sleeve and blue and silver Fontana labels. The matrix number doesn’t appear on the back sleeve but it is on the printed label. Fully-laminated versions of Byker Hill and Martin Carthy can also be found and although I’ve never examined copies in detail I do know that the labels on Byker Hill are black and silver. I don’t know when these versions were issued but I guess they date from the later ’60s or very early ’70s. Two other distinguishing features of these issues is the lighter vinyl which again suggests a pressing date some time after their original 1965/66 releases and somewhat lighter card used in the sleeve construction but these difference may only be apparent when compared directly with an original pressing.

How To Buy 2

Valuations
As a general rule the value of collectable records, as with any collectables, is dictated by a combination of rarity and availability. A number of years ago it would have taken some effort, and the occasional stroke of luck, to track down decent copies of Carthy’s Fontana output and prices reflected this. With the recent ubiquity of eBay, Amazon and other online retailers these releases are now much more widely available to the average collector despite being technically no less scarce, but prices remain relatively high. Personally I would be reluctant to pay more than £25 for a mint condition stereo copy of any of the Fontana albums, with the value decreasing by degrees in line with the condition of the specific copy. A cursory review of eBay on any given week reveals prices for original pressings (rarely in mint condition) ranging from around £15 up to £50 or more with the majority sitting at the upper end of this scale. This general overpricing seems to be most common with Carthy’s first album, which is rarely offered for less than £25 and often starts at twice this price, which seems odd as its constant availability on eBay suggests that it is the least scarce of the Fontana releases.

Perhaps the rarest of the Fontana releases is the mono version of the first album so if any release warrants a value at the higher end of the scale it is this. The highest price I’ve seen quoted for this release is €100 (around £85) which seems excessively high and I’d suggest a more realistic value would be somewhere between £35 and £50. It may also be worth pointing out here that mono copies of the first album differ from stereo in that they have a greenish tint to the front cover photograph, whereas stereo copies have a more distinctive blue tint.

First Album mono stereo covers

The later reissues with laminated sleeves and blue/silver labels may in fact be scarcer than the original black/silver label releases with wrap-around sleeves. But a combination of the laminated sleeve, the ‘wrong’ colour label in some cases, lighter vinyl and (most crucially) the simple fact that they are not the original pressings are likely to make them less desirable for most collectors. This will be reflected in the price, which I would expect to be anything up to 40% less than the original pressings.

How To Buy 4

Grading vinyl
Prices quoted are for mint condition copies only. The industry standard Record Collector grading system describes mint as follows: “The record itself is in brand new condition with no surface marks or deterioration in sound quality. The cover and any extra items such as the lyric sheet, booklet or poster are in perfect condition”. Lower quality copies will clearly warrant lower prices by relative degrees and since Carthy’s Fontana releases are now over 40 years old you’re unlikely to find many mint copies so this should be borne in mind when considering how much to pay.

How To Buy 5

Summary
Here’s a checklist of characteristics to look out for on original 1960s Fontana pressings.

Martin Carthy (1965)

Sleeve: wrap-around / pasted paper back cover
Label: black & silver
Catalogue number: STL 5269 (stereo – ‘blue’ cover)
TL 5269 (mono – ‘green’ cover)
Matrix number: 886 752 (stereo) 687 355 (mono)
Later re-issued with fully laminated sleeve (label colour unknown)

Second Album (1966)

Sleeve: wrap-around / printed card back cover
Label: black & silver
Catalogue number: STL 5362
Matrix number: 886 759
Later re-issued with fully laminated sleeve and blue & silver labels

Byker Hill (1967)

Sleeve: wrap-around / printed card back cover
Label: black & silver
Catalogue number: STL 5434
Matrix number: 886 441
Later re-issued with fully laminated sleeve and black & silver labels

But Two Came By… (1968)

Sleeve: wrap-around / printed card back cover
Label: black & silver
Catalogue number: STL 5477
Matrix number: 886 484

Prince Heathen (1969)

Sleeve: full colour / fully laminated
Label: black & silver
Catalogue number: STL 5529
Matrix number: 886 777

Rarities: “Prince Heathen” white label promo

4 March 2013

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 4 March 2013

This is a recent acquisition of mine: a 12″ vinyl white label promo copy of Carthy & Swarbrick’s 1969 classic “Prince Heathen“.

princeheathenwhitelabel3

During the vinyl age major labels would press limited quantities of new and upcoming releases with plain white labels. These were either used to check the quality of the mastering and disc production (‘test pressings’) or distributed to journalists, distributors and DJs for promotional purposes once the quality had been established (‘promo copies’). Occasionally these would be shipped with full artwork but more often than not they would be housed in either a plain white or brown card sleeve, with or without a die-cut centre, or sometimes in just a paper or plastic inner sleeve.

princeheathenwhitelabelmatrix1princeheathenwhitelabelmatrix2

The lack of label information on these discs means that the only identifying marks are often the matrix stamps that appear in the run-out groove (the section between the end of the grooved playing surface and the paper label). Matrix numbers were a necessary element of the disc manufacturing process and appeared on both promotional copies and commercially released albums but the details are notoriously difficult to decipher for the collector. The main number was used for filing purposes in the manufacturing plant and often appeared on the final printed label and the additional numbers or symbols were used to indicate the album side and cut number (determined by the number of times the aluminium disc stamper was replaced), amongst other things.

princeheathenwhitelabel1
There is no other identifying information on my white label copy of “Prince Heathen” so the matrix numbers are all I have to determine when it was pressed. The numbers don’t appear to make much sense at first glance but cross-referencing them with those on the commercial release in my collection reveals that they are in fact identical. This means that the white label pressing derives from the same stamper as the commercial release. It’s still impossible to tell whether both of my copies are from the same actual pressing but it’s most likely that the white label was pressed no later than the commercial release, and possibly some time before.

princeheathenwhitelabel2


%d bloggers like this: