If you own records like I do, you probably have a few that never saw life on CD, or perhaps they did but the CDs are hard to find or too expensive, yet you’d love to listen to those albums on CD. If you’re technically inclined you could copy the records onto CDs yourself, but you probably wouldn’t be able to eliminate the pops and clicks and generate high definition artwork.
Where To Turn?
I have a few records that were never released on CD and probably never will be. I prefer not to play them since they’re collectibles, yet I wanted to be able to enjoy the music. Yes, I still own and play CDs and I own 2 CD players, yet I didn’t have the ability to transfer the records onto CDs. Even if I did, they would include all the noise from the records. If I used a service to do this, I wanted to be sure my records would be handled with care and I’d end up with something I’d be happy with. I searched the Internet and found a resource I felt comfortable relying on…Record Rescuers in San Diego, CA.
Recordrescuers.com, a division of King Tet Productions, has been in business for almost 30 years and was one of the first to offer this kind of a service. It isn’t a store, a sideline business, or a part time hobby. Owner Eric Van der Wyk is an audio engineer and composer as well as a graphic designer and musician. He plays the electric sitar amongst other stringed instruments and studied Classical Indian music under Ali Akbar Khan. He’s worked on audio and video projects for Warner Brothers, the late Roy Clark, Troma Entertainment, Buck Trent, and many others. His website (link at the end) has numerous glowing reviews from satisfied customers from around the world, be they professionals or regular music lovers like you and me.
The process to turn your records into custom CD-Rs is pretty simple. The first step is to contact Van der Wyk to discuss your needs and coordinate mailing your record(s) to his studio. Pack your records securely, include a check for whatever you owe (or Van der Wyk can invoice you via PayPal after he receives your platters), and send them off. Some of his customers actually have records shipped directly from the sellers they bought them from.
Once received and paid for, Van der Wyk dubs your precious albums onto CD-Rs, and in the process, removes most if not all of the surface and other noise in the records’ grooves. Everything is done in the digital domain in 24 bit/96kHz (high resolution) which Van der Wyk says is twice that of a Blu-Ray DVD movie soundtrack. He’ll also craft the artwork for the CD-Rs if you’ve included that option.
Depending on how busy Van der Wyk is, you’ll generally have your albums and new CD-Rs back to you in about a week, give or take. He does his work in the order received, but rest assured, he won’t allow your albums to sit around for an extended period. He prides himself on turning around his projects promptly.
Despite the company’s name, Record Rescuers isn’t limited to just LP’s. Van der Wyk also works with 78 and 45 RPM records, cassette tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, and DAT tapes. He’s even transferred MiniDiscs to CD-Rs, though you may have to ship him your MD player.
But wait, there’s more, as Flex Tape’s Phil Swift might say. Van der Wyk also repairs cassette tapes and transfers VHS tapes and any kind of film, including Betamax and 8mm, to DVD. It’s one stop shopping for all of your audio and video restoration needs.
Van der Wyk’s graphic design experience kicks in when it comes time to create the high-definition artwork that goes in the front and back of the jewel case and gets printed on the CD-R’s surface (if you’ve paid for that service). This makes him as much an artist as an audio engineer. He has many examples of his finished work on his website and you can see images of the albums he’s recently restored on his facebook page (link at the end).
In my case, after I emailed and then spoke with Van der Wyk, I shipped him 3 albums…Kay Martin’s I Know What He Wants For Christmas (But I Don’t Know How To Wrap It), Paul McCartney’s RAM (in mono), and John Bult’s Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday. Allow me to briefly break down each record and its corresponding Record Rescuers CD-R for you.
- I Know What He Wants For Christmas
I wrote extensively about this album in an old “Have A Strange Christmas” blog post, so I’m not going to rehash the details here. For this article, suffice to say it’s an adult Christmas record from 1962 with cheeky songs like Hang Your Balls On The Christmas Tree, Santa’s Doing The Horizontal Twist, and I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas. Side B features live bits from Kay Martin And Her Body Guard’s risqué comedy shows (“Ms. Martin’s received 11 requests and not a damn one of them is for music!”)
This record was reissued in 2015 on RockBeat Records, which is impossible find, but was never released on CD. I have the original pressing on dark green vinyl and I didn’t want to degrade the condition with each play, so I asked Record Rescuers to transfer it to CD-R.
After I received the newly minted CD-R, I popped it into my beloved vintage Technics SL-P999, unsure if it would even play CD-Rs considering it’s 34 years old. It read the TOC. So far, so good. With fingers crossed, I pressed the “Play” button with some degree of hesitancy and was amazed at what my vintage Blueroom Minipod speakers reproduced. The sound quality was eyebrow raising, without a single snap, crackle, or pop from a 61-year-old record! The organ sounded, like, crazy, man. Martin’s voice is somewhat reminiscent of Lola Albright’s with a pinch of Lucille Ball, and it was strong and clear. The mostly spoken word comedy show portion had a few sonic issues that managed to find their way onto the CD, but nowhere near as bad as it sounded on the record.
The album artwork Van der Wyk generated was equally impressive, and he invested quite a bit of time getting it just right. A previous owner had written on the front cover and used Wite-out and colored markers which I asked to be cropped out. Although this personal touch made my copy unique, I didn’t appreciate how it ruined the front cover. All in all, the CD-R is a great acoustic and artistic restoration of a wild vintage holiday album. Kay Martin herself would be titillated.
Paul McCartney’s second solo album after the Beatles broke up was RAM from 1971, and what an album it was. Every track was a winner, not just the #1 hit Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. RAM was issued in stereo, but interestingly, in Brazil, a mono version was also released. Mono versions were also shipped to US AM radio stations (AM stations broadcast in mono) in a white cover with a white label. Other than the Brazil pressing, the mono version was never made available commercially to the public.
That changed in 2021 when the mono version of RAM was remastered at Abbey Road studios in London and re-issued as a limited-edition vinyl record (my copy is stamped #14868). It was never released on CD though there are various bootleg CDs of the album. Why would anyone want to hear this fantastic album in mono? Because the mono version uses a different mix from the stereo version. Some actually prefer the mono mix to the stereo mix.
Record Rescuers came to the rescue again, expertly transferring my record to CD-R. The plain white artwork is hardly exciting but Van der Wyk worked his magic and made the CD-R look great. The quality of the recording was fab. This is one CD that will find itself in my CD player very often.
3. Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday
Were it not for this record cover from 1981, country singer John Bult would’ve remained unknown. It’s gone down as one of the worst album covers in history. At first glance, the picture looks like an older man trying to pick up an underage girl in a seedy bar. Or, judging from the expression on her face, perhaps he got her pregnant and he’s trying to comfort her. Interpret the cover however you wish, but you must admit it isn’t exactly Sgt. Pepper. For his part, Bult said he never approved that cover photo and had assumed one from a professional photo shoot was going to be used. He wasn’t a happy camper, and from what I’ve read, apparently still isn’t to this day.
Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday was reissued in a small batch four years later, still using the same embarrassing front cover, but it was never put out on CD. This was another opportunity to put a scarce album on CD-R so I could enjoy it without fear of degrading the original.Here again, I was blown away by Record Rescuers’ work. The artwork for this title, which presented a bit of a challenge, was spot on. The sound was perfect, as if I bought the CD from a record store. I could practically hear the truck accident described in the depressing title track. Not bad for a 42-year-old record!
Here again, I was blown away by Record Rescuers’ work. The artwork for this title, which presented a bit of a challenge, was spot on. The sound was perfect, as if I bought the CD from a record store. I could practically hear the truck accident described in the depressing title track. Not bad for a 42-year-old record!
I reached out to Van der Wyk to get more information about his craft.
Peter: Why did you get into the audio restoration business?
Eric: “As a struggling artist in the 70s, (with no budget for decent recording equipment) I had an idea that by 2000 I would connect my reel to reel tape deck to a computer and use it to make my old tape recordings sound better.
I achieved this in 1996 by creating new interfaces for a computer, that’s when I decided it was a career idea, not a hobby. This lead to my suite of related services for restoring irreplaceable audio recordings from LPs, 45s, 78s, cassettes and reel to reel tapes.”
Peter: Does your background as a musician give you an advantage in this kind of work?
Eric: “I think it helps immeasurably. My broad knowledge of music styles and appreciation for diverse genres helps people to know they’re in good hands. I try to find something to love about every recording that I’m given to remaster. I think it helps to love what you’re doing and have passion for preserving something that’s important to my clients.”
Peter: What specific equipment do you use in your home studio?
Eric: “Over the past 25 years I’ve been steadily upgrading and appending the equipment in my studio, the software involved and the techniques that I’m developing. Like a Doctor or a Lawyer, I consider this a “practice” so my work is always evolving and (in my opinion) on the path towards perfection.
I use a professional turntable with a unique interface I developed, it is equipped with 7 unique Pro Cartridges, ranging in value from $200 to $900 each and are selected based on various aspects of the type of record involved.”
Peter: Your process doesn’t involve applying any subjective equalization to the original music, right?
Eric: “For normal LP and 45 conversions, correct. I do what I call an “honest restoration” which means that no frequencies are boosted and no compression is added. Great care is taken to preserve the original stereo image, dynamics and dynamic relationship between the tracks. What you end up with is something cleaner and hotter but technically “flat” so you can apply your own personal EQ settings on playback and it will respond.
Artists and record labels appreciate this because I’m not “ruining” the recording trying to make it sound “modern”, and it is appropriate for re-issues. Many of my clients have stated that my remasters and hot, yet warm, and not “cold” like many digital recordings are considered to be.”
Peter: Do you ever receive records that have so much noise or defects that they’re beyond restoration? What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on?
Eric: “Most of the 78s I receive are home-made “acetate” recordings which only had a few good plays back in the 1940s. Today these records have more noise than signal, the noise is literally louder than the voice. So, I developed a nine-step process to make them “listenable.” Any recording that can’t sound “stellar” or “excellent” can at least be improved to become “listenable.” These records are typically from 1947, my website for this service is 78toCD.com and there’s a link to a New York Times article about this.”
Peter: What are a few of the more rare or unusual record titles you’ve received from clients over the years? What’s the oldest record you’ve ever handled?
Eric: “I’ve done a few old Edison records that were over 100 years old. Songs like “The Old Grey Mare”, that’s a lot of fun. It really shows the genius of Edison that his “unbreakable” records from over 100 years ago still work! How many “things” today will last that long?”
Peter: Do you have a rough idea of how many records you’ve restored since you started?
Eric: “That’s a great question, I really haven’t kept track. However, when my clients order the optional cover art, I also post a Hi Def jpg of the front cover to my company facebook page. There are now over 5,000 examples of OOP album covers to peruse.“
Peter: Your clients are really passionate about their records, aren’t they?
Eric: “Indeed, it makes what I do fulfilling and satisfying.”
Peter: You’ve got the best job ever! You’re your own boss and you get to listen to music all day and get paid for it.
Eric: “I’m grateful every day to be doing such important work for so many interesting people. It’s challenging, stressful, long hours, but I love being busy with such relevant work. It certainly is a blessing to be successful at a business I made up.”
Van der Wyk mentioned a New York Times article. This was perhaps his most famous project. Two years ago, he was asked to restore several 78 RPM records for a then 94-year-old woman who had recorded them back in 1946. Not long after, Madeline Forman packed the records away and forgot about them, knowing her childhood dream of being a professional singer could never become a reality. She rediscovered the dusty records more than 7 decades later during COVID. Her son got in touch with a cousin, who in turn, recommended Record Rescuers to restore the records. The heartwarming story received national press coverage.
That’s great, you say, but how much does all of this cost? It’s more affordable than you might think. Each CD-R of a restored album costs $35 which includes a jewel case and a label on the CD-R. If you want glossy color front and back artwork in the jewel case then that costs an additional $10. For “full artwork”, which includes the front and back artwork plus color printing on the front of the CD-R instead of a label, that costs $25. Based on the CD-Rs I received, I’d highly recommend this option. If you want an extra copy of a CD-R, that adds another $5-$8.50 per CD-R depending on what artwork level you prefer. If you send in 78 RPM records, those are $7.50 per side. For a complete menu, refer to Record Rescuers website (link at the end). You’re responsible for the cost to ship your records to Record Rescuers in CA but Van der Wyk ships your first order (up to 5 LPs) back to you via USPS Priority at no charge. From my own experience I can tell you he does an excellent job packing the records to insure they arrive back to you in the same condition you sent them.
With the thousands of albums Van der Wyk has restored over the last 2+ decades, you might wonder why he wouldn’t make a bunch of extra copies and sell them on his website. People would be willing to pay good money to get high quality CD-Rs of rare or obscure records. Van der Wyk knows that wouldn’t be fair to the customers mailing in their records to him. Moreover, it would be illegal under US Copyright law, though there are companies that somehow manage to fly under the radar and make CD-R copies in bulk of records and sell them.
If you’ve got audio media, be they LPs, 78s, 45s, reel-to-reels, cassette tapes, or a combination thereof, and you want to get them on CD-R and get the best sound quality and visual presentation, I can think of no better company than Record Rescuers to trust your precious music with. You’ll be very pleased with the end results as I was.
And if you’re looking for a unique Christmas or Birthday gift for that special music lover in your life, look no further than Record Rescuers. Imagine their surprise when they see the custom CD-Rs and listen to the music! Unlike some other gifts, this is something they’ll keep forever and enjoy many times over.
Record Rescuers links:
Trivia (from encyclopaediaoftrivia.blogspot.com/2014/06/compact-disc.html):
“Billy Joel’s “52nd Street” was among the first commercially released on the compact disc format (it was one of 50 CDs released on October 1 in Japan…
“Mercedes-Benz was the first automobile manufacturer to offer a CD player as a factory option in 1984.
“Born in the U.S.A.” became the first compact disc manufactured in the United States for commercial release when CBS and Sony opened its CD manufacturing plant in Terre Haute, Indiana in September 1984. Columbia Records’ CDs previously had been imported from Japan.
“For years after CD players hit the market, they remained unpopular and were mostly limited to fans of classical music. Dire Straits then released “Brothers in Arms”, the first totally digital album. It sold 30 million copies and is credited with launching CD players into the mainstream.
“David Bowie was the first major artist to convert his entire catalog to the compact disc format in 1985.
Tony Bennett’s 1987 “The Art Of Excellence” was the first album to be initially released on CD instead of the traditional vinyl format.”
Disclosure: The CD-Rs reviewed in this article were received at a discount. I do not receive a commission if you do any business with Record Rescuers.