Collector's Illustrated Vinyl Bible
Collector's Illustrated Vinyl Bible
Alfred Wu's Vinyl Bible Chapter One
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hobbyists's views for hobbyists

Alfred Wu's Big and Heavy Reference Book

 

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.

 

Illustrated Collector's Discography Alfred WuThe 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.
I am not sure where he got the prices from. He must have consulted Popsike and eBay, as well as Peter Fulops' Mikrokosmos.

 

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.

 

Dimitri 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.
There is a CBS recording of Jean Casadesus playing Debussy Preludes, a recording I do not know the merits of; it probably has audiophile qualities. If I come accross it I will give it a try. In the index that recording of Jean Casadesus, on page 525, is mentioned as being by Robert Casadesus. Of course mistakes can happen, especially when compiling such an enormous book with that many names, data and details.

 

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.

 

Everest LabelographySo 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.

 

There are 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.
I myself miss the Nonesuch LP with Dreigroschen Musik and Création du Monde. There is no mention of the 3-record set with the 'Complete Works for Piano' of Maurice Ravel performed by Philippe Enteremont on CBS that I find so impressive on French pressings.

 

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:

Mercury Labelography"This 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."


Collector's Vinyl Bible Film Jazz and Pop
From reading Wu's comment, we may expect more great things to come from his hand.
Of a relative small number of original vinyl recordings the tranferred-to-CD versions are mentioned, and of course CDs that never appeared on LP.
Interesting is also that the book shows the period when Decca had an agreement with RCA. Decca's Ken Wilkinson appears to be a recurring recording engineer in RCA listings. The names of recording engineers, recording venues, and dates of recordings, give extra value to Wu's Vinyl Bible.

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.

 

Collector's Illusrtrated Vinyl Bible DiscographyAs 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.

ALFRED WU WebsiteBut 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!
The Collector's Illustrated Vinyl Bible is not only a labour of love, it is a vast compilation of beautifully executed and recorded music.

 

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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Audio&Music Bulletin - Rudolf A. Bruil, Editor - Copyright 1998-2013 by Rudolf A. Bruil and co-authors