Vinyl Spotlight: Lou Donaldson, Gravy Train (Blue Note 4079) [Original Mono Pressing]

  • Original 1962 mono pressing
  • “NEW YORK USA” on both labels
  • Plastylite “P” etched and “RVG” stamped in dead wax
  • “43 West 61st St., New York 23” address on jacket


  • Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone
  • Herman Foster, piano
  • Ben Tucker, bass
  • Dave Bailey, drums
  • Alec Dorsey, conga

Recorded April 27, 1961 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
Originally released June 1962

This is the fourth original mono pressing of this album I’ve owned. Why would I be so persistent for this album? While the title track is one of my all-time favorite soul jazz numbers, the truth is I’m not a huge fan of this album in its entirety, and I’ve largely pursued an original so diligently because I love the album cover so much. Lou Donaldson looks like a serious boss on this cover as he woofs down what looks like a hot dog in a mid-century luncheonette. And that two-tone, bold, fiery orange is indeed very eye-catching.

The first copy I owned was a VG copy I won on eBay in the dawn of my vintage jazz record collecting experience. I quickly replaced that worn copy with a wear-free but crackly copy. A couple years later I found a copy on eBay whose record was touted as VG+ but the jacket was exceptional (sometimes if a jacket is graded conservatively I’ll take a chance on a VG+ record).

That third copy ended up being fairly graded VG+. It looked EX but suffered from a mild case of…dun dun duuun: groove wear. I ultimately gave it up, not feeling it was worth what I paid. Then last year I found this copy at a local record shop for a much more reasonable price. It suffers from groove wear in much the same way as the last copy (the wear being less audible on the outermost tracks like my favorite, “Gravy Train”, as a result of inner groove distortion), and the jacket isn’t as clean as the last either, but I feel that its price more accurately represented its condition than the previous copy I owned. Generally speaking, the records that end up staying im my collection aren’t always the nicest but they always were purchased for a fair price.