views for hobbyists
Many collectors may already know the name of Alfred H.C. Wu. They may know him from eBay when he bought records from them. Wu is a vinyl collector like so many of us. And you can see that he lives with his treasures. At right you see just part of his collection in his study.
Now Alfred Wu, who started collecting vehemently a couple of decades ago, has published a heavy book.
The cover is well designed and departs from a conventional presentation. The lay-out of cover and pages show the origin of the man who compiled it, his cultural background. It is colorful, the pages have an enriched appearance by including a soft background illustration, and it has the English text translated into Chinese (or vice versa). One sees that Chinese takes up more space compared to the Western-style typesetting, and the density of it. That is only one reason for the book having 693 pages. The main reason are the many records with references and images.
book is compiled on the basis of lists by other people, generally considered
to be experts, and lists published in magazines have been used too. Images
of the listings are from Alfred Wu's own 6000-records-collection.
A price tag can also have been based on his own experience when buying vinyl discs. He lists Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances on Turnabout (American pressing) which he bought from me a couple of years ago for $30. It is listed with a reference price of $30. There is also the Dimitri Alexeev recording of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3 - an interpretation which has its own merits - that he bought from me. Alfred Wu stresses that the price he gives is just an indication and can vary of course.
Alexeev's name is in the index at the end of the book, whereas the names
of Philips artists Haitink and Van Beinum - who appear in the CD-section
only - are not mentioned, nor is the name Beaux Arts Trio indexed; the
names of its members are not listed.
Everyone who has published a book at one time or another knows that it asks for scrutinous proofreading when preparing a publication, and also knows that a small error easily creeps into the final text. Wu told me that for convenience sake he compiled the Index for all recordings listed, except for those mentioned in Chapter 1.3, Chapter 2.2 & Chapter IV. For everybody's convenience he also has published a short list with errata on his website.
So several names that are listed with records in the book are not mentioned in the index. However most collectors know by experience what label carries an artist, and they will go directly to that section in the book about a label, or a specific series. But the newbie will have to browse and browse. Which is not bad, he would have done that anyway. I know indexing is a time consuming job. However, a more complete index could be helpful.
labelographies of Argo, Mercury, Everest, etc. Many readers will find
LPs they own themselves in these pages. Cherished recordings on labels
like Columbia, Mercury Living Presence, RCA Living Stereo, Decca (London),
Everest, Sheffield Lab, Reference Recordings, Chesky, etc. Yet, it is
inevitable that several recordings which they cherish themselves are not
listed. Not every record is mentioned in the lists consulted by collectors
and are not worth the highest praise.
And where is Kyrill Kondrashin's Scheherazade with the Concertgebouw Orchestra on Philips? All Kondrashin's RCA recordings are mentioned of course. The only Philips LPs Wu mentioned are of the Haydn Piano Trios. Of course I conduct a bit of a chauvinistic search, but the common idea that Philips did not make good recordings, is repeated too often and is certainly not true in all cases. The question is: What are the criteria for a recording to be labelled "audiophile", or technical superior?
While Everest recordings are being mentioned, I do miss a section with the Command label of which many recordings were made by C. Robert Fine and cut by George Piros; they also did the many Mercury Living Presence discs. Regarding that omission Alfred Wu explained to me:
book started from those best sounding LPs from TAS, RCA and the Top 100
from Gramophone (old & new list) etc. If I put my personal favorites
or many other rare LPs, even listed in the Penguin Edition, the book would
have more than 1000 pages! I am working day and night on a complete illustrated
Decca-London cross-index; EMI-Columbia SAX series; EMI ASD 3 digit series,
etc. There are too many good discs to write about. Westminster, which
many collector's love, should be introduced, and also the Command Label
from 35mm film, etc. But my purpose is to list them with color photos,
which are easily remembered and be discovered in the internet shop. For
that I need more time and the book needs more space."
And there are also several pages with jazz and pop, the lighter side and film music. A few names: Earl Hines, Joni Mitchel, Gordon Lightfood, The Beach Boys, Thelma Houston, Kraftwerk. Another positive feature.
As Alfred H. C. Wu is originally from Taiwan and Chinese is his native language, he was clever enough to write the contents also in Mandarin Chinese. And this is not only an idea that first came naturally, I suppose, but it certainly is a clever step to selling high volumes now that more and more Chinese music lovers are going to collect records. This guarantees the commercial success of his enterprise and will make it easy to publish a revised and upgraded version - if he would think that to be necessary in time. The book represents a great value to the Chinese collector. It also may lead to a gradually increase of the prices of a few individual items. It is always like that. I started writing about specific labels myself, and gradually prices were getting higher and higher.
I thought that the commercial aspect of his undertaking was one of the important reasons to publish also the Chinese text. Important it certainly is, because he made a second edition in simple Chinese. That is why you see two different covers on Wu's website. But Alfred Wu says that he published the book not for business reasons. He states that it is for all the music lovers, especially for the Chinese collector. That is the reason why he put more Chinese comments in Chapter I.
Wu: "It is an illustrated Discography for English readers too. I found that the most important thing about my book for English readers is the weight (2.6-2.9 kg) and the cost of shipping. That's why I offered more price discount to them in order to compensate for the ca. 100 hundred pages of Chinese text."
Is this Vinyl Bible for me personally a must to have? Should I have bought it? Lists like the TAS, etc. can be viewed on the internet and can be downloaded. A subscription to Gramphone.net can also provide reviews from the early days of the LP to the present time of digital media. And if you do not want that, because of the subscription rate, there are the older Good CD Guides and editions of Penguin Guide. These give expert information about the era of the LP and also about recordings transferred to CD; this cannot always be said of the many fora on the web and YouTube uploads.
now that I have received Alfred Wu's richly illustrated Vinyl Bible, I
will browse and browse and will enrich my knowledge about many more remarkable
recordings that became collector's items. And so will many a record collector,
I am sure!
You can go to Alfred H. C. Wu's web site and find all the details by clicking this link: www.alfredwu.com .
Or you can click on the page at right. For ordering your copy check the various prices and then scroll down to fill out the form. Good luck and enjoy.
Rudolf A. Bruil
Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published on February 16, 2013
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