Monday, February 05, 2007

Collector's Choice Music

I complain a lot about music that should be reissued, so I wanted to cast the spotlight on a label that has reissued a lot of formerly rare albums, Collector's Choice Music. In the course of going through my record collection and looking for out-of-print music to post here, I've discovered that a lot of the records that I spent years searching for have been reissued by Collector's Choice. Here are a few of them:

Sammy Davis Jr.: Sings The Complete Dr. Doolittle. I used to have a super-cool girlfriend. On my 27th birthday this chick gave me a mint copy of Sammy Davis Jr. Sings The Complete Dr. Doolittle, plus a copy of George Jones' autobiography, I Lived To Tell It All. She must have noticed that I had spent months drooling over a copy of the record at Footlight Records in New York City, but had always balked at buying it due to the high price. Where I come from, when a woman gives you birthday presents like that, you have to marry her--so I did.

Duke Ellington: Afro Bossa, Plays Mary Poppins. You would think that an LP of the Duke Ellington Orchestra playing the music from Mary Poppins would be a sad reminder of a great band's past. You would be wrong. The album is actually a tribute to the incredible arranging talents of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Afro Bossa is one of the very best Ellington albums from the LP era.

Phil Ochs: Tape From California, Rehearsals For Retirement/Gunfight At Carnegie Hall, All The News That's Fit To Sing, I Ain't A Marchin' Anymore. I paid way too much for a sealed copy of Tape From California at the over-priced Orpheus Records in Washington, D.C. But for years it was the only copy of the record I ran across, so I have no regrets. It's nice to see that Collector's Choice has made Ochs' difficult to find (and sometimes difficult to listen to) A&M albums available on CD.

The dB's: Stands For Decibels/Repercussion, Like This, Christmas Time Again. You might be thinking, "Collector's Choice has the dB's? But I thought they were an oldies label?" If you are thinking that, wake up you senile old coot! Collector's Choice is an oldies label. The dB's are oldies, and so are you. The dB's music is older today than the music that was featured on Happy Days or Sha-Na-Na in the 70s. So sit on it, oldster. The dB's albums have been in and out of print for years, it's nice to see they have found a home at Collector's Choice. I would like to see them reissue the currently out-of-print Sound Of Music too.

Oh-Ok: The Complete Recordings. This is the kind of thing that is surprising to find in print. Oh-Ok featured Lynda Stype, Linda Hooper (Magnapop) and Matthew Sweet. They released a couple EPs on the dB label before splitting up. This CD combines the studio records with some live material.

Let's Active: Cypress/Afoot, Big Plans For Everybody, Every Dog Has His Day. Okay, Let's Active's music is pretty easy to find on LP, still it's nice to see it kept in print. I'm guessing someone at Collector's Choice has an 80s-southern-jangle-pop fixation.

Richard Lloyd: Alchemy, Field of Fire. I can still remember how psyched I was when, after years of searching, I found a mint, white-label promo of the former Television guitarist's solo debut, Alchemy. (In fact, I can remember it quite clearly because it happened this past Saturday). White-label promos are more valuable than ordinary record pressings (or at least they used to be). Aside from mere fetishism, there is a good reason for this: they tend to be the most minty-fresh used records available. Promo records were typically the first done in a pressing, so worn-out stampers weren't used to press them. And perhaps more importantly, the fact that it's a white-label promo means the record likely belonged to someone in the music industry, which in turn means it was never played much (if at all) because--as a rule--music industry people do not actually like music. For these reasons, white-label promos tend to be highly prized by audiophiles and other people with more money than common sense.

Alchemy is a very interesting record. The music isn't much like that of Lloyd's former band, and Lloyd isn't much of a singer, but the album sounds like a rough blueprint for much of the alternative/college rock music that followed during the 80s. I'd be willing to bet Michael Stipe wore out his copy. Drug problems kept Lloyd inactive for several years until he released Field of Fire.

Tom Verlaine: Tom Verlaine. Tom Verlaine's first solo album does sound like his former band, Television, only not as good without Richard Lloyd to serve as co-lead guitarist. It's still a very good record though.

Collector's Choice has a ton of other reissues in print that are worth checking out. But good luck navigating their website.


Peter Hennig said...

I remember when they were doing almost exclusively R&B vocal/doo-wop reissues. Then they branched out into garage -- and now Let's Active. And yes, this means we are old.

Collector's Choice get's kudos for reissuing one of my favorite 60s artifacts Donovan's "A Gift from a Flower to a Garden".

Pete Bilderback said...

Yeah, it does make you realize you are getting older when a label you previously associated with doo-wop starts putting out the music you listened to as a teenager. It's a natural evolution though.

I wish British EMI had reissued A Gift From a Flower To A Garden along with Sunshine Superman/Mellow Yellow/Hurdy Gurdy Man/Barabajagal. The sound quality and bonus tracks on the EMI reissues are top-notch.

Anonymous said...

The sound quality if their reissues is not up to the same standards as those of other labels. Even for 70s and 80s sources. So if there are two editions of the same album, one on Collector's Choice and one on another label - I'll generally go with the other label. It is nice they're are making an effort to get some rare recordings back on the market though...