'The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death'

The 1967 Riverboat release:

The second Riverboat sleeve, circa 1970:

The final Riverboat sleeve, circa 1972:

The 1973 Takoma re-issue:

The 1980 Chrysalis re-issue:

Prior to the commercial release of this album, Riverboat pressed a limited edition of fifty numbered copies. These simply came in a plain white sleeve. Copy #1 was sent out as a promotional copy, and here is the card that accompanied it:

Riverboat's 1966 sleeve names the company as 'Riverboat Records', shows their address as 12 Noyes Place, Boston, Mass 02113, and quotes a price of $5.00. The second marks the company's relocation to Cambridge around 1970; the rear paste-over now shows the address as 141 Columbia Street, Cambridge, Mass 02139 and the price remains at $5.00; the front of the sleeve is unaltered. Incidentally, the remaining stock with the Boston address were cleared as cut-outs, which is why they are sometimes found with a corner missing. The final sleeve names the company as 'Riverboat Enterprises', uses a different steamboat logo, and abandons the $5.00 price. Takoma inherited the bulk of these on acquiring the 'Transfiguration' rights in 1973 and continued to use them for some time before bringing in their own variant (dated as 1973 above, but probably not actually in use until 1975). Here are enlargements of the two Riverboat logos:

The original Riverboat graphic:

The later Riverboat graphic (circa 1972):

An unusual back cover for the first Takoma sleeve is shown above, with no credits. The one here has subsequently been signed by John. I do not know how many were printed like this.

Use of the Chrysalis era sleeve carried over to the Allegiance release, and I have not yet seen an Allegiance sleeve

Original 1965 booklet, back page:

Second edition, 1970, back page:

It is interesting to see from the card that accompanied the pre-release edition of 'Transfiguration' that although the subsequent sleeve was not yet ready, the booklet was (I'm presuming that they didn't come with hand-written ones). Early booklets appear to have been printed 'in-house' and are much more attractive than later ones, using an ivory coloured paper and a less harsh black ink. Later booklets are on whiter, and finally white paper, with hard black lettering, suggesting fairly cheap lithography. The printing quality of the later booklets is variable, and some have unwanted black ink stripes across the pages (like those from misfiring photocopiers).

I have posted pictures of the backs of the booklets because this is where one is able to determine definitively whether a booklet is an early one; in the bottom right-hand corner are the printer's details:

12 Noyes Place was of course the address of Riverboat Enterprises at that point. Following the move to Cambridge, the printing credit was removed. These later booklets were printed in very considerable quantities, and Takoma inherited sufficient to be able to use them until the end. Even then there was a significant quantity remaining, and Fantasy were happy to post them out to owners of the CD. This very generous supply of booklets means that many early Riverboat records have subsequently acquired booklets that date from later. I can say with considerable certainty that all those first albums that show Noyes Place as the Riverboat address have the Gringo Press credit on the back of the booklet; this means that comparisons of paper colour are thankfully unnecessary given that paper tends to discolour with age anyway.


Rebecca Davis Winters said...

Hi Stephen! I am immersing myself in Faheyania today. Thanks so much for sharing the music with me! Keep an eye on your mailbox as I am burning something for you... will send out today or tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

hello - i have a variant version of transfiguration - i bought it because it had a different title - forget what it was - its in my loft - as soon as i get a minute i'll send you a picture of it ( unless its of no interest).

Great blog incidentally - johnafhey.com kind of seemed to peter out, so yours is great to see.

Stephen said...

Hi Rebecca! Thanks.

Anon, hello. Thanks for the compliment. What I've put up here is the sequence of sleeves used for the US releases; if you have any variant I'd be very grateful for a picture. However, I am not covering foreign releases (Sonet for example excelled themselves with a truly awful sleeve for a European issue).

I know that the IFC are still developing the johnfahey.com site. I would feel quite lost without their scholarship, as well as their generous contributions here.

David said...

I've got an original Blind Joe Death vinyl. Side A is normal, but you're never going to believe what's on the other side - it's not Fahey, it's not guitar. It's Disco. I'll make a video of it showing you. Unfortunately, I am still in that shit of an institution they call high school.
You can also check out my youtube page to see some of my Fahey stuff. Each video has something to do with him. In the film I made entitled "The Great Chase," the music doesn't come on for a few seconds but when it does it's me playing "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home." Aside from you, no offence to the rest of the Fahey community, I am the biggest Fahey nut you'll find. We should get in contact (I've got some pretty cool rare Fahey stuff/stories). Wonderful site you've put together by the way. Cheers. Oh and here's my youtube:

Stephen said...

David, a belated response I'm afraid. Another visitor has reported a similar mis-press, dating from the Chrysalis era; that record was pressed at Columbia Records, Terre Haute, and the error would have occurred there (they pressed for many companies).

Anonymous said...

Me again :-):
I'm wondering that you don't mention the brown vinyl pressing. Is it really from 1965?

Stephen said...

I'm aware that there is a copy of 'Transfiguration' up on eBay at the moment (it started at a pretty hefty, but now it's reducing price) that claims to be a 1965 pressing in 'brown vinyl'. It can't be from 1965 since no copies on Riverboat whatever were pressed until 1966, and the copy concerned is in a 1970s sleeve (the address on the back of the sleeve is Cambridge rather than Boston - I asked).

All the Riverboat-labelled copies of this album are pressed from semi-translucent coloured vinyl of a rather murky colour which I would describe as purplish (they appear black until held up to the light). As far as I know, there is no other specific 'brown vinyl' pressing, although I could of course be wrong.