Rarities: ‘Byker Hill’ South Korean mini LP replica CD

7 May 2017

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 7 May 2017

Byker Korea 06

Mini album CDs are scaled-down reproductions of albums that were originally issued as 12” LPs and are perhaps most popular in Japan. Packaging reproduces that of the original vinyl LP rather than any later CD reissues and will often include any inserts or inner sleeves that may not be included in the standard CD.  A paper insert with additional information in both English and Japanese may also be included and an ‘obi strip’ – a small strip of paper or card wrapped around the cover – is a standard feature.

This is an August 2015 release of Martin’s 1967 Byker Hill album from Media Arte Records and rather than being from Japan this was issued in South Korea. It’s something I picked up around a year ago but have been reluctant to post here as I wasn’t sure if it was a legitimate release or one of the many available pirate/bootleg issues. I was recently reassured by David Suff of Topic Records that this was indeed a legitimate issue so I’m happy to post some detailed pictures here.

As you’ll see, reproduction of the original Topic LP sleeve and label are of a high quality and while the mastering on some Japanese albums gives a notoriously ‘brittle’ sound, the sound quality here is at least as good as the standard issue Topic CD of the same album.

There are now a number of Japanese mini album CDs of Martin’s solo and duo albums available – just last week a pirate version of his first album was released – but this is the only issue I can confirm as a legitimately licenced product. As it’s also the only one I actually own I can’t vouch for the quality of any other releases in terms of the overall packaging or sound quality so I guess a general ‘buyer beware’ warning should go along with any of these items. And of course, it goes without saying that neither Martin nor Topic Records (or any of the other relevant artists or labels) will receive the necessary royalties from pirate releases.

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“.


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.


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.

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.


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