Tips on Some Good VICs!

You say you don't want to spend hundreds on an original LSC-1806 "Living Stereo" or LSC-1817 or $1500 on the Soria box set LDS-6065? That's understandable. By the numbers: LSC-1806 is the 1954 stereo spectacular "Also Sprach Zarathustra" with Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony. Of course RCA couldn't issue it on vinyl in 1954, though it did issue it in stereo on reel to reel tape well before the vinyl, which didn't get released until 1960.

The tape issue, ECS-1 was RCA's first reel to reel tape release and it came in two versions: one for stacked heads and one for what was called "displaced" or "staggered" heads. In the early days of stereo tape some machines had two separate playback heads one next to the other so one channel had to be delayed relative to the other.The "stacked" heads with which most of us are familiar came later.

These early "New Orthophonic" High Fidelity tapes cost $14.95 in the mid-1950's, which today would be around $130!

The 1954 "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is considered to be a more dramatic performance and recording than one RCA produced with Reiner and the CSO some years later (LSC-2609). The 1954 recording was experimental but RCA's engineers nailed it, producing enormous space and luscious string tone. The record is rare because the reissue window was extremely narrow: it came out in 1960 and was soon out of print.

LSC-1817 is "Gaité Parisienne with Fiedler and the Boston Pops. LIke LSC-1806, the recording is a sonic spectacular that came and went rather quickly and like LSC-1806 it is far superior in every way to a later recording by RCA with Fiedler and the Boston Pops.

LDS-6065 is a Soria box of an original UK Decca recording engineered by the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson at the equally legendary Kingsway Hall. It is a sonic spectacular, though ballet aficionados say there are better performances than the ones in the box set with Ernest Ansermet conducting the Royal Opera House Orchestra, Convent Garden.

Originals of all of these are pricey and hard to find but you might have an easier time finding the three Victrola editions in the photo. These were budget label reissues that while sounding not as good as the originals come reasonably close. Certainly close enough for you to decide if buying the originals is worth your while. VICS-1265 is the Reiner. Make sure it's the plum colored, not pink label. VICS-1012 is the "Gaité Parisienne" and VICS-1066 contains highlights from the box and is probably the one that most degrades the stunning sound of the original, but without hearing what came first, this one sounds very good too.

Classic Records in the 1990s reissued both "Gaite Parisienne" and "Also Sprach Zarathustra" but neither came close to the original's stunning transparency, three dimensionality and melt in your ears string tone. Classic's reissue of LDS-6065, particularly the single sided 45rpm multi-record box set is a stunning sounding reissue, though since I've never held or heard an original I don't know how it compares.

samman's picture

How does the Classic Records 45 rpm of this title compare to the original? What about the new AP reissue of this title vs the original?

Michael Fremer's picture

The Classic at either 33 or 45 doesn't do it sonic justice. AP hasn't yet issued it. 

samman's picture

Darn. Now I'm gonna have to hear what this thing "really" sounds like. How can some reissues, within the same company, knock it out of the park, but drop the ball on others. Next I'll be hearing that the Classic Led Zeppelin titles are bettered elsewhere. I know, I know, Tom Port comes to mind. I do appreciate the honesty Mike. I guess I can sell my one-sided 45 rpm pressings on ebay and seek out the real sound on an original.  

mobileholmes's picture

The most disappointing experiences (plural) of my life (leaving out women, jobs, money and women), were buying the Classic Records pressing of Also Sprach, and a copy of ECS1.  The Classic Records pressing was so dire, I emailed to ask if something was broken.  I was treated like a hayseed from Texas (I am, but that has nothing to do with borderline atomic sound--if a gamma ray burster has a sound, it was that pressing).  A white dog sounds better than the Classic, but at least the Classic was pressed on quiet vinyl.  Maybe if you were using some really dark sounding cartridge.  IDK.  

I put down $200 for a copy of ECS1*, and it must've been partially erased by X-ray machines.  I'm blaming that on W, Bin Laden, Homeland Security, Black Helicopters, and the Post Office.  It's possible I was duped (literally and figuratively), but the reel was correct, it had the correct box, and the tape stock was correct.  Oh well.  I gave up finding a perfect copy after that.  

BTW, I don't think there is any fundamental tone from the organ on the master tape.  I've heard multiple versions, and the fundamental is really light.  Perhaps the 2 microphone setup was in a suck-out in the hall.  

*best $200 investment was an RVG/ears/DG first pressing of Blue Train, which sounded like all the electronics in the recording and mastering chain were single ended triode, with PIO caps and carbon comp resistors, or like I drank a bottle of cask strength scotch before listening.  Very pretty sound, and one of my favorite recordings.   

MicallefK's picture


any idea where these are being pressed?

No info in press release..


decameron's picture

Very good stuff Michael. I have quite a few interpretations of Zarathustra including an original LSC 1806. A few other recordings worth mention are: Golden Note DDG 902 Reiner/Chicago and RCA LM1806 Red Seal ( " A New Orthophonic High Fidelity Recording) Reiner/Chicago performing Zarathustra & Salome. The later recording is a double gatefold and has some very interesting commentary on the recording process.

decameron's picture

I was amiss by not mentioning the Strauss Tone Poem collection recorded by Vangaurd Everyman in 1944. Nothing like hearing Struass conduct his own work with the Vienna Philharmonic. Recording quality perhaps not world class but still....

mobileholmes's picture

After he finished Ein Heldeleben, did he give himself a standing ovation?