Record search turns complicated with the Internet

Leave it to the Internet to ruin a good thing.

To me, Impulse! Records is the epitome of cool when it comes to classic jazz albums. The label got started in 1960 and enjoyed a strong run through the 1970s as a division of ABC Paramount. The label was nicknamed “the house that ‘Trane built” after John Coltrane put them on the map, and the label includes other greats like Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Yusef Lateef, Milt Jackson and more.

I’ve been compiling a collection of each original record in the label’s classic series — the first 100 albums of the 300 or so in the Impulse collection. I started my collection like most people start new things — ignorant and knowing little about what I was looking for in the right pressing of each record. I soon realized that was a mistake.

The classic run of the Impulse A series is simple and uniform. Each was sold in a thick, laminated gatefold sleeve with a black and orange binding. Unlike many records that have multi-digit label number, Impulse albums are all listed simply: A-1, AS-1, AS-2 (the S marks a stereo pressing), etc, and so on through A-100.

The records also boast a simple, striking design with a black, orange and white label and striking photographs on each cover.

But that’s really where the simplicity ends. After buying my first set of records and noticing three different labels on my albums: An orange and black, a green and a red and black. Which was best? Which were the originals I’d been trying to buy?

I took to the Internet, where I learned the orange and black labels where the originals … most of the time. The more I read the online sources, the more I learned — and the more my heart sank.

Not only were there multiple labels, but there are different etchings in the dead wax on each of those labels. That means even records with original labels may be later pressings and not originals.

Those that read RVG — after famed jazz recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder — are often considered the true originals.

So I started seeking Van Gelder pressings, until I read even further. Most audiophiles criticize original Impulse albums for having too much surface noise. They prefer the 180-gram, modern reissues. Not to mention, people argued on either end of the age-old mono vs. stereo battle.

Long story short: The online “experts” each found a host of things wrong with every possible pressing. In the Internet age, it’s often best to avoid the online experts and focus on what makes you happy.

 My favorites in my Impulse collection:

•“Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus” by Charles Mingus

•“Africa/Brass” by John Coltrane

•“McCoy Tyner plays Ellington” by McCoy Tyner

•“Ascension” by John Coltrane

•“Statements” by Milt Jackson

•“Jazz ‘Round the World” by Yusef Lateef

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