Percussion By The Pound

A quick listen, investigation & opinion of the various labels and their content in my collection of abstract percussion cover art LPs.

IMG_9868 copy

Was looking forward to hearing the percussive sounds of the harmonica but alas no vinyl found in the sleeve. Looks like a combination of public domain and copyrighted material. Celebrity Records was one of the many labels of low budget NY based Premier Albums Inc who had at least one lawsuit against the Biharis for stealing their JFK tribute LP. Other Premier labels included more well-known Spin-O-Rama & Coronet.


IMG_9835 copy

As you might suspect, HiFi Dance Party is not ping pong percussion but instead capitalizes on the popular dot effect to sell some MOR dance music.  Nothing here for anyone.


IMG_9838 copy

The first of three Enoch Light and the Light Brigade LPs that the Tilton Record Corporation released in 1962.  Can’t find any info on Tilton and it doesn’t come up as one of Enoch Light’s Command related labels.  This is strictly easy listening music with a few decent stereo percussive cuts plus others that are bland and monophonic.  All three Tilton LPs have great abstract art covers but they are non-gatefold & printed on cheap dull card stock, unlike the Command LPs.


IMG_9841 copy

TerrySnyder

United Artists did a great job mimicking Command’s gatefold LP design, complete with great cover art & extensive liner notes describing music & recording technique. UA also came up with a clever “Wall to Wall Stereo” promotional header bookended by speakers.  UA added their own touch on the back of the gatefold with a dreamy pix of “Mister Percussion” Terry Snyder! The music? Clean, wide stereo separation recordings of easy listening music with loads of percussion but no back & forth ping ponging.


IMG_9843 copy

As is often the case when you buy budget LPs for the cover, the vinyl inside is not what’s on the cover so I can’t report on the music. But by the looks of the LP, this would be an authentic Enoch Light LP, reissued on the budget Coronet label. Cover art by brilliant graphic artist Sam Suliman who was responsible for scores of terrific LP covers for Command and other labels. You can find some of his work here. 


IMG_9846 copy

A low budget mix of several percussion, cha-cha’s, dance music & a few decent jazz cuts. Though some tracks are in stereo, there’s no attempt to ping pong the sound. There’s little info available on the low budget KoKo Records label out of NYC though there’s a discography available on Discogs.


IMG_9847 copy

TimeCover

Not fair to present the Brass Time Records LP as potential ping pong as it is exactly what it says: brass all the way.  Not even stereo. Time definitely copies the gatefold & extensive liner note style of the original Command series but that’s about it. Label was founded in 1959 by jazz record man Bob Shad who had a number of other labels, eventually reissuing some of his jazz LPs on his Mainstream label.  The series 2000 bragged that they recorded in multitrack but this LP is strictly mono.

The Rodgers & Hart Percussion & Strings LP is an exact description of the music inside hough again it’s a mono release. If you’re lucky there’s a bonus awaiting you inside the gatefold: a sleeve with images of other cool Time covers you may want to collect.

TimeSleeve


IMG_9849 copy

Purchased for the cover, this is a classical LP. Cover by Rudolph De Harak , a graphic artist noted for his modern aesthetic, influential professor of design at Cooper Union for 25 years and a contemporary of Saul Bass.  Westminster was a classical label started by a record shop owner & several others, utilizing a one microphone recording technique coveted by audiophiles. Eventually the label was sold to ABC-Paramount and it became the home of their classical library.


IMG_9855 copy

Great cover art by Frank Parisi but the so-called percussion rhythms only appear on one track. The rest of the LP is a guy playing the piano, perhaps recorded in a hotel lobby. Golden Tone was one of many budget labels of LA-based Precision Radiation Instruments Inc which had a colorful history, starting out manufacturing Geiger counters to record radiation levels. Can’t find any bio of Frank Parisi but he did a number of great LP covers on various labels. This is one of his best.


IMG_9857 copy

No ping pong stereo effects but a decent easy listening LP featuring many cuts of bongos & piano. Plirouette Records was a low budget label from Synthetic Plastics Inc out of Newark, New Jersey.  Synthetic Plastics was founded in the 1920s to supply plastics to the garment industry.  Later, low budget LPs were also manufactured and the company is apparently still around making records, run by the son of the original owner. A real Bihari Brothers story,  kinda in reverse, as the Jules’ Normandie plant eventually manufactured other plastic items besides records like poker chips under the guidance of Jules’ son Peter. Unfortunately, Peter could not hold on to the company and the rest is history…


IMG_9859 copy

So far this Kimberly “stereo in motion” is closest to the original Enoch Light sound with a big band punctuated with an array of percussion instruments in vivid stereo. Bravo! Decent liner notes with bios of the two main musicians plus details of the recording process (always a tip off that this is a low budget LP). Kimberly Records was another low budget label from Precision Radiation Instruments Inc.


IMG_9860 copy

Another good Latin-based easy listening percussion LP with good stereo separation but no ping pong effects.  Good record to play in the background at the start of any party. Broadway was a low budget label located at 108th & Broadway in the Watts area of Los Angeles. It was founded & run by the two Puccio brothers who must have known Jules & the Bihari brothers just up the street at Slauson & Normandie.  Broadway was in business from 1947-1989, almost the same years as the Biharis were making records.


IMG_9863 copy

A quality ping pong stereo percussion record inspired by Enoch Light in every aspect, from the sound, title, recording quality, liner notes & gatefold record cover presentation.  Liner notes by author & music critic Nat Hentoff who wrote the back cover notes on many jazz LPs.


And finally, what about some ping pong product from Crown?

This is Crown’s copy of Enoch Light’s first successful percussion release on Command. It’s a solid effort from a Maxwell Davis big band with many great session players like Al Viola and Jewel Grant. Some copies have decent liner notes & musician credits but other editions with the same LP # have Crown’s generic back.  I don’t own a stereo version so can’t comment on any ping ponging happening between channels.


Velvet_Brass

Excellent stereo recording from Crown that lives up to its brass & percussion title. No ping pong effect but music swings. No liner notes and these cuts appear on other Crown cheapies.

Little is known about this Kent percussion release beyond what you can read on the back. It’s not listed in any discography.  However, my LP (seen above) has the previous vinyl release in the series inside, revealing that the first release was mostly a copy of Crown’s Predominant Percussion Command clone.

The Kent red vinyl release is not in stereo as were the Crown red vinyls. No explanation.


Two main thoughts on what I learned from working on this post: first, that Enoch Light’s original ping pong percussion LPs were a brilliant, inventive gimmick that was copied by many (including himself) but rarely if ever completely duplicated. Second, budget record labels recognized that the covers of their percussion LPs were the selling point and were willing to pay well known graphic artists to create them, often recycling bland cha-cha music in the vinyl.

That wraps up this cursory look inside the covers of several imitations of Enoch Light’s popular Command Records series.  It’s not meant to be complete and only covers a sample of the LPs in my cover art collection which is not large compared to other collectors.


Check out the awesome Project 33 blog for more great covers.

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One thought on “Percussion By The Pound

  1. You’re correct in that the Time albums you reviewed are mono, but they were indeed recorded in stereo. Time, Command, Audio Fidelity and the other audiophile labels released most if not all their products in both stereo and hi-fi mono editions; and their fidelity was outstanding in both versions.
    Time stereo LPS have the word STEREO on the cover, each letter enclosed in a circle, and have the letter S preceding the catalog number. I will email you a photo of the stereo cover of the Jerry Fielding album.
    Veteran jazz man Dave Pell was the prime mover behind the Kimberly “Stereo In Motion” series; I recall reading they were already-extant mono orchestra recordings with the stereo percussion overlaid.
    The Enoch Light reissues may have originated with Waldorf Music Hall or Audition; two labels he headed that were backed by the F.W. Woolworth Co. Even in those days, he was respected for both his musicianship and audio expertise.

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