This month, an artist makes her debut to keithhirsch.com. British singer, songwriter Joan Armatrading began recording in 1972, starting out with a folk emphasis. A master of many genres, she later infused jazz, rock, and eventually pop and new wave into her music. By 1983, Armatrading, like many, had adopted synthesizers with the release of The Key. Let’s take a closer look at this album, including a very rare CD pressing.
The Key was released by A&M Records in 1983 and contains 11 songs, including the hit, “Drop the Pilot”. The album was issued on CD in the U.S. in the 1983-84 time frame with three Japanese pressings. These early CDs bear A&M catalog number CD-4912. The relatively common Japanese pressings are from the Matsushita and Denon plants. The third Japanese pressing, the very rare one, is from CBS/Sony and will be the focus for the remainder of this post.
The CBS/Sony pressing of The Key has “CSR COMPACT DISC” repeating three times in the center plastic ring, a common feature of many early pressings from the Japanese plant. CBS/Sony assigned project number DIDX-20 to The Key, and the matrix code on this particular pressing is “DIDX-20 31A1 +++++”. The disc also has “Made in Japan” and “DIDX20” printed beneath the CD format logo at 8 o’clock.
The inserts for the CBS/Sony pressing were printed in Japan, and there is no barcode on the back insert. Despite the U.S. catalog number on the disc and inserts, the particular copy featured here was actually issued in the U.K. The front of the jewel case has a sticker that reads:
This disc is not the standard early U.K. issue of The Key. Rather, it is a U.S. issue that was distributed in the U.K. to meet demand. There is a dedicated early U.K. issue of The Key showing catalog number CDA 64912 on the disc and inserts. The earliest such copies were pressed by CBS/Sony but do not show project number DIDX-20.
Getting back to the CD-4912/DIDX-20 disc, another interesting feature of the copy shown here is a sticker on the front of the jewel case announcing Armatrading as a nominee for the 1987 Brit Awards. Despite the date, the Japanese DIDX-20 disc definitely pre-dates 1987 and was likely pressed in 1984. The sticker must have been added at a store in 1987 for promotional purposes.
As previously stated, this Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of The Key is very rare. One is far more likely to find the Japanese Matsushita and Denon pressings (and later U.S. pressings reissued under A&M catalog number CD-3318). Expect to search quite a while for the CBS/Sony disc, but keep searching. I finally found a copy after years hunting online and in used CD shops. Shown below are the inserts for original U.S. issue of The Key, along with the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing.
The cover for the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of Joan Armatrading The Key (A&M, catalog number CD-4912). This is the standard cover artwork for this album. The insert is shown inside the original jewel case. The two stickers are on the front of the jewel case. One indicates that this copy was distributed in the U.K. in place of the official U.K. release bearing catalog number CDA 64912. The second sticker indicates that Armatrading was a nominee for the 1987 Brit Awards. Despite this sticker, the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing pre-dates 1987 and was likely pressed in 1984.
The back insert for the Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of Joan Armatrading The Key (A&M, catalog number CD-4912). There is no barcode. As noted along the bottom, this insert was printed in Japan.
The Japanese CBS/Sony pressing of Joan Armatrading The Key (A&M, catalog number CD-4912). The text “CSR COMPACT DISC” repeats in the clear plastic ring at the center, and the matrix code is “DIDX-20 31A1 +++++”. Note that “Made in Japan” and “DIDX20” are printed beneath the CD format logo at 8 o’clock.