Get the scoop on designate promos, plus ‘Songs of The World’

Question: I am hoping you can locate old copies of LP record collections, or can point me in the right direction.  I am looking for a three-record LP set entitled “Songs of the World,” performed by the Normal Luboff Choir.  This was an item which was released by this group sometime in the early 1950s.  If you can find it, I would be additionally grateful.

— J. Benfatto

Answer: First, let’s correct some information. The name of the album indeed is “Songs of the World” by the Norman Luboff Choir, but it was “only” a 2-LP set and it came out in 1958.

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Norman Luboff Choir Songs of The WorldToday, a chorale recording songs from non-native countries is most likely to sing the songs in the original language. But the approach was different in 1958. Most of the 24 songs on “Songs of the World,” originating in 24 different global regions, received new English lyrics. It is on this album (Volume 2 to be exact) that Luboff’s stunning arrangement of the Austrian Christmas carol “Still, Still, Still” first appeared, and not on any of his Christmas albums.

Interestingly, the composers of many of the new words (including those of “Still, Still, Still”) was the then little-known team of Alan Bergman and Marilyn Keith. Keith later married Bergman, becoming better known under her married name, and they went on to write countless hit songs, including the Academy Award-winning “The Windmills of Your Mind” and “The Way We Were.”

Originally, this album was released only in mono, and only as a two-record set. The number of that release is Columbia C2L 13, and it features a gatefold with a four-page glued-in insert containing the complete lyrics to all the songs.  The two records contain the separate numbers CL 1218 and CL 1219, but they apparently weren’t issued separately in mono.

A year later, in 1959, Columbia released the two records separately in stereo. “Songs of the World, Volume 1” was issued as Columbia CS 8140 and “Volume 2” as CS 8141. Just as the mono version apparently wasn’t split up, the stereo discs evidently were never united. At least they weren’t until the CD era, when the Collectables label released both Songs of the World volumes on the same CD (COL-CD-6877).
This should be more than enough information to find a copy, either on vinyl or CD.

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Question: In preparation for a recent Blue Oyster Cult/Foghat concert, I pulled out some old vinyl. After listening to “Foghat Live” Side 1 again for the first time in years, I flipped the record over to Side 2 but noticed that the label is largely blank. Outside of the Bearsville insignia and the words “STEREO” and “33 1/3 RPM,” the rest of the label is blank. Side 1 label looks normal, but any ideas about what happened on Side 2?

 — Steve Harnden

Answer: Basically, the print that was supposed to be on the label didn’t get printed on the label.

Most labels that have been around a while and have settled on a basic design use blanks. To use the Bearsville example, the label probably had hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of copies of its label printed with only the basic design (logo, colors, perimeter print, etc.) and no other identifying information.  These were usually done in sheets. When a new release is scheduled, a designer at the print shop would decide how to superimpose the information specific to that record onto the label template. Then the two would be combined as one phase of the record pressing process.

Sometimes, if you are making hundreds of copies of something at a print shop, two pieces of paper go through the machine at the same time, leaving one of them blank. This is basically what happened when you see a label with only the corporate information and none of the specific record information.

This kind of error isn’t as common as, say, a record with the Side 1 label on Side 2 and vice versa, or a non-promo record with the same stock label on both sides. But it still doesn’t have any positive effect on the value of the record.

I only know of one instance where this kind of pressing error is considered collectible. It’s actually the opposite situation; in this case, the label print ended up on a white label with a missing label template.  Some copies of Pat Benatar’s album “Crimes of Passion” have the contents with a photo of her leaning on a dancer’s barre, but the Chrysalis logo, and corresponding blue label, are absent.  Instead, the labels are white. Some collectors seem to think this is quite rare, but I’ve seen this variation more than once.  Perhaps the print “error” was intentional, or someone thought it was and the boo-boo wasn’t corrected until quite a few copies had been pressed.

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Question: I have a “Journey In the Beginning 1975-1977” and it has a gold stamp on the back saying “Property of CBS Demonstration Only, Not for Sale” in gold writing. Any info?

 —  Jay Scott

Journey In The Beginning 1975 to 1977Answer: I assume that your record is otherwise ordinary — in other words, that it has the typical red-orange Columbia labels of the era in which this album was released (1980). If so, you have what is known to collectors as a “designate promo.”

A “designate promo” is what it sounds like; it is simply a regular stock copy of an album that has been stamped for promotional use. They often are early pressings, but not always. Any time someone called a public-relations person looking for a review copy of a recent album, the PR department had those gold stamps, which then were placed on the cover art. When labels started using bar codes, the stamp often was made over the bar code so that it could not be scanned or returned for credit.

Most of the time, “designate promo” records fetch no extra value above the usual price for a regular copy of the same record. Sometimes, they’ll even get less, if unmarred stock copies are hard to find.

One of the exceptions is  Warner-related LPs pressed on “Quiex II” vinyl in the 1980s. All of these use regular stock labels, but these usually have an additional sticker affixed to the front cover noting the presence of the “audiophile pressing” inside.  Quiex II albums, especially by artists who are already collectible, often bring several times what a regular stock copy brings.

The same is also true of Ringo Starr’s “Ringo” album from 1973. By this time, the Capitol series of labels designated its promos by punching a large hole through the cover in either the upper left or upper right corner.  Some of the earliest Ringo albums so punched contain a longer version of the song “Six O’Clock” than regular, un-punched, stock copies.

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