Ace Records History Part 4
Harold Battiste’s productions ran the gamut from ‘I Got You Babe’ by Sonny and Cher to Dr John’s “Gris Gris” LP. It was the latter aspect of Battiste’s talents that he brought to the label we licensed his New Orleans-based AFO (All For One) Records. This was deep, deep Crescent City, with early and many previously unreleased sides from Mac Rebennack, Dr John, Prince La La, Nookie Boy and soul chanteuse Tammi Lynn. The series title, “Gumbo Stew”, was as apt as could be. We also issued a jazz piano album by Ellis Marsalis, father of Wynton.
‘Earth Angel’ by the Penguins was way too expensive for us, being the top oldie on American radio at the time. But we did buy the rest of the label, Dootone. Some great doo wop CDs resulted, in the shape of the Meadowlarks with Vernon Green, the Calvanes, the Romancers and the Penguins, including ‘Earth Angel’ which we licensed in. Among the tapes was a single by Claude McLin, the highly respected jazz sax player doing his party piece ‘Jambo’ with a jew’s harp vocal — a track subsequently used in several movies and ads.
In 1960s Britain, the Excello label meant more than it did in the US, certainly to young longhairs. The Stones, the Kinks, Them, the Pretty Things and just about every art college R&B band played Excello and, in particular Slim Harpo, with varying degrees of success. Consequently, the original sides were licensed by Pye and then Stateside, some of them coming out contemporaneously – instant reissues! The strange sounds achieved by JD Miller in his Crowley, Louisiana studio sounded even more exotic in East Finchley. One of the coolest records to carry around in the 60s was the “Authentic Rhythm And Blues” LP on Stateside. Ace opened its batting on Excello with an expanded CD version of this compilation. By the time the label was sold to Universal, John Broven had produced just about the most comprehensive anthologising of a blues label ever.
Ted compiled an all-time great in “Primitivo Rock’n’Roll”: every couple’s ideal for a quiet night in…leather; the kind of record that will beat you up if you look at it wrongly. More politely, “Fabulous Flips” and the all-instrumental “Teen Beat” joined the “Golden Age” college of compilations.
A second major blues box set came out, featuring the distinctive slide guitar of Elmore James. Around the same time, the post-Atlantic era of Stax, characterised by its distinctive finger clickin’ logo, was celebrated with the first of two boxes of soul sides.
Originally stationed in Cincinnati, Syd Nathan’s immense King Records was, by the 90s, located at Gusto Records in Nashville. We had licensed the Scepter/Wand and Musicor labels owned by the same company for some time. We finally got to access the well-organised King vaults and what a wonder they were. Pretty soon, the Delmore Bros where rubbing shoulders with Freddie King, Wynonie Harris shouted the blues at Moon Mullican: great sounding records from well-preserved tapes. Some years later, we shipped the original 16” acetates that contained the first recordings to our studio. We have been transferring them to digital ever since, releasing many previously unheard performances in pristine sound. There is an argument that it was all downhill for recording when music stopped being cut straight to disc.
Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley were best known as rock’n’roll acts, but their blues potential was spotted by Ray Topping and a brace of CDs ensued.
Ray was also behind two great new blues releases from Hy Weiss’s Old Town, a collection of “Downtown Sides” and an album by Bob Gaddy. Hy had finally decided we were good guys and even sent a random fax to confirm this new fact. Contrary to industry legend, he did, it seems, have a soft side. So, in quick succession, three Volumes of “Old Town Doo Wop” appeared — just in case Hy changed his mind about us. They were put together by Peter Gibbon, a friend of Trevor’s since college days when they bonded over a shared interest in girls and discographies. Peter went on to work for IBM and when in the US would frequently pop up in various studios, lending a hand and acting as an excellent dinner companion. In 1993, he joined us on an official basis, bringing his vast discographical talents and knowledge of black American music. He tended to major in doo wop and soul at Ace and produced many fine compilations. Over the years, he brought his computer skills to play on the vast databases of tape files and discographies. This easy access to information helps set Ace apart from the rest of the re-issue business.
Kent eased back into the swing of its compilation thing, bringing more light to the dance floor with the laser disc and the appropriately titled “Living The Nightlife”. The soul theme continued with the delectable Ruby Johnson finally getting her dues for the agonising ‘I’ll Run Your Hurt Away’ and 19 other heart breakers on Stax. Meanwhile, back in the 70s, “Royal Rappin’s” redefined smouldering as Millie Jackson and Isaac Hayes locked horns – can that be right? Still on the subject of deep guttural moaning, we issued seven albums of unlimited love from Barry White.
The Chocolate Watchband were often, but not always, fronted by David Aguilar, Professor of Astronomy and outstanding performer. The band themselves often, but not always, featured on their own records. We released the first three albums which came out under the Chocolate name, but many years later put it all to right with a definitive overview that explained it all. Also put right was the Sonics catalogue which we gave a visual and audio makeover — so that its massive distortion could be fully appreciated. Land Rover cars picked up on the Sonics’ version of Richard Berry’s ‘Have Love Will Travel’ for a series of TV ads and the band eventually reformed. They were as good as you could ever have imagined them to be.
The genuinely charming Fugs joined us and reissues of their first and second albums laid the foundation for a long and happy relationship. These marvellous LPs came with extra tracks, including one of E.S.P. label-owner Bernard Stollman returning the masters to the band.
Having survived war-torn Mozambique, poor Ben got very sick recording Bajourou. Yet, in partnership with Lucy Duran, he still made a terrific record in the field with a superstar acoustic trio made up of singer Lafia Diabate and two of Mali’s greatest guitarists, Bouba Sacko and Djelimadis Tounkara . Ex-Ace recording artist Ron Kavana began an exploration of the Irish output of Topic Records. Ace was heading for 20 years by now but was a mere infant compared to Topic which was founded in 1939 by the Communist-led Workers’ Music Association. We were proud to be associated with such longevity and clear moral purpose. The Ace Topic output kicked off in (Globe)style with an overview of our forthcoming series, “Treasures Of My Heart”.
Unlikely dance record title of the year - ‘Swinburne Stomp’ in the key of metaphysical distress by the Fugs – a sort of waltz.
Our dear friend Jake Porter of Combo Records died. He was more than just a man we did business with and it was a privilege to take care of the label. We really missed his good nature and generous bonhomie every time we went to L.A.
We began distributing Arhoolie Records. Owner Chris Strachwitz was persuaded to let us anthologise the label, starting with “Shake ‘Em On Down”. This was a broad church compilation of blues, from pre-War singers Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis and Fred McDowell recorded in the 60s to the relatively young R.L. Burnside, then only in his late 40s, to the wild eccentric fife and drum of Napoleon Strickland. All fully documented by Chris, a beacon of American vernacular music.
We also entered into a ‘finished goods’ arrangement with Malaco. The music couldn’t have been more different but it was an equally authentic form of American music. Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle, Z.Z. Hill and Bobby Bland were all acts that Malaco were cutting new records on and that Ace had on back catalogue. So, a great fit.
Halfway through the year, when things normally go quiet, we put out “Shreveport Stomp: Ram Records Vol 1”. The most that most people might know about Ram is TV Slim’s ‘Flatfoot Sam’. Good though that track is, the real discoveries were Margaret Lewis and Mira Smith. Mira was owner of Ram and, as Grace Tennessee, played the moodiest, bluest guitar you ever heard behind Margaret’s Patsy Cline on blues vocal. Together, they wrote ‘Reconsider Me’, a smash for Johnny Adams in 1969. Their demo for the song is a country-meets-soul revelation. PBS in the US picked up on this story, producing a radio documentary on the label, interviewing both Margaret Lewis and, via satellite, Ray Topping. Mira, who died in 1989, had passed Ram Records on to Alton Warwick, her cousin and Margaret’s husband. The Ram people have always been a real pleasure to do business with. The following year we released a CD of Margaret’s recordings that included her fabulous version of ‘Reconsider Me’.
One very funky down-home blues record was by Papa George Lightfoot, remixed via hot valves, by Vic Keary and Roger Armstrong, for the thick, gritty sound of a man and his harp through an amp.
The year also saw the beginning of the epic 4 Seasons 2-on-1 project which went right through to the release of “Edizione D’Oro” in 1997. The other completist series was the Decca recordings of Rick Nelson. One day when the licensing stars align, the final issue of this series will be a rarities compilation. The fact that Ace director Trevor Churchill names the 4 Seasons, Rick Nelson and The Impressions as among his favourite acts is not coincidence.
Back in 1982, we had a deal with Joe Evans for a contemporary dance track, New Jersey Connection’s ‘Love Don’t Come Easy’, with high hopes for a hit but it didn’t connect enough for a Top Of The Pops appearance. Ady licensed Joe’s older Carnival sides so the Lovettes and the Manhattans became a welcome addition to the Kent CD catalogue. Later a Carnival specific compilation snuck out. Kent started to dance again until dawn and slowly chugged back to life in the digital age.
A record contemporary to this year was another superb Quinton Claunch production, a lovely record by Vernis Rucker that became an office favourite.
The Stax releases continued to stack up. Another side to the label was displayed with the release of “Disturb My Soul: Gospel From Stax Records’ Chalice Label”. The title says it all but it still doesn’t prepare you for the experience of the Dixie Nightingales’ ‘Assassination’, a devastating song about the death of JFK. Specialty releases also mounted and a budget compilation, “It’s Spelt Specialty”, clarified that. A damn good, cheap listen, too. At the other end of the price spectrum was “The Specialty Story” five-CD set. The real deal, it was illustrated with some spectacular archive material, including a Specialty Records Goes 45 RPM ad from Billboard, 25 Feb 1951 heralding the first great format change – from 78rpm shellac.
GlobeStyle had a thankfully not fatal attraction to places about to be in the news for all the wrong reasons. Cecile Kayirebwa’s “Umurego” was as beautiful as the horror that overcame her country Rwanda was ugly.
By 1994 Alec Palao signed up as a fully fledged consultant and though most of his time was spent among the heady sounds of 60s psych, he did divert to issue one of the year’s more fascinating compilations in the shape of Sly Stone’s early years. From Bobby Freeman’s freestyle ‘Swim’ sides through to some real gone demos with Billy Preston, this one defied categorisation. Other companies had shoddily recycled much of the material masquerading under a later photo of Sly Stone. A superb period photo of Sly in hound’s-tooth jacket, comprehensive sleeve notes and newly mastered sound from better source tapes put into perspective these misrepresented recordings by one of the founding fathers of the funk and showed how Ace gets it right where others don’t even know that they are getting it wrong.
Alec also anthologised the Scorpio label, part of the early Fantasy set-up and home to the pre-Creedence Clearwater Revival band, the Golliwogs. This was part of the “Nuggets From The Golden State” series that viewed the West Coast psych and beat group bands without the aid of any psychotropic substances. Further east, “I Turned Into A Helium Balloon” explored the psych side of a group of labels including Challenge, begun by Gene Autry. Now that’s some kind of acid flashback.
Live, the Cramps were a phenomenon. When their sound man brought them a cassette of a gig they couldn’t believe how it had accidentally caught the full power of their performance. So “Rockinnreelinaucklandnewzealand” brought the live sound of the Cramps into your living room to terrify the neighbours.
Title of the year - “It’s Jesus Y’all” courtesy of Ace sales supremo Phil Stoker.
Visit of the year - ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.
Inexplicable compilation of the year – “The Return of the Del-Fi and Donna Story”
As someone once said “it was 20 years ago today” or thereabouts. So we had to have a party. What a party. Jesse Hector ripped it up in style with his great line in acrobatic showmanship while playing the guitar in some very odd poses. Kent Records’ favourite singer Mary Love flew in from Los Angeles and delivered a blistering soul set - not for the last time on an Ace stage. Finally, the monumental Link Wray tore the house down and shredded eardrums for miles around with power chords the size of the universe. If you listen closely you can still hear them reverberate around the edge of the Solar System. Ooo what a night it was, it really was such a night. More were to follow.
Austin, Texas was our next stop. Domino Records was formed in 1957 by a bunch of genteel folks getting into the music business. Pretty soon they had a hit on their hands with the Slades’ ‘You Cheated’ and pretty soon after that were gazumped in the charts by a cover of their track by the Shields, a studio group put together by arch Hollywood record hustler George Motola. Domino lived on for another few years, without further disturbing the charts, though they recorded more great Slades sides and a blistering, throat-shredding take on ‘Got My Mojo Working’ by Joyce Harris — worth the purchase price of the Domino CD compilation alone.
A small but interesting acquisition was a collection of recordings, demos mainly, by songwriter Jack Rhodes. After nearly 10 years’ gestation, they finally came out with the self-explanatory (if slightly laboured) title, “Gene Vincent Cut Our Songs: Primitive Texas Rockabilly and Honky Tonk”. It included demos for ‘Git It’, ‘Bi-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo-Boo’, ‘Red Blue Jeans And A Pony Tail’ and ‘Woman Love’. The rest of the compilation is as advertised, and none the worse for that.
A more substantial purchase was made of Arock, Serock and Sylvia. We bought them from Ruth Sears, whose late husband Big Al was a ubiquitous sideman from the late 20s on. They ran the New York-based labels from the early 1960s and made great soul records, utilising the talents of arrangers Ed Townsend, Teacho Wiltshire and Van McCoy. Theola Kilgore’s big ballad ‘The Love Of My Man’ is probably the best-known side, but the Sears catalogue included a lot of other very well made records.
We licensed in Vanguard Records and promptly issued 42 CDs. How could we resist such a glorious catalogue of such amazing American folk music: Joan Baez, her sister Mimi and husband Richard Farina, Tom Paxton, Doc Watson and Buffy Sainte-Marie. Vanguard also put out some good blues records, harking back to the pre-war tradition with Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt and also recording the more contemporary styles of Otis Spann, Junior Wells, John Hammond and Charlie Musselwhite. Some records aren’t like any others and “Electric Music For The Mind And Body” by Country Joe and The Fish is one that fills its own space in the canon. This and the follow-up were produced by Sam Charters, who produced many great blues records as well as writing authoritative books on the subject.
“The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier” could well have been on Vanguard, produced as it was by Sam Charters, but instead ended up on BGP in the UK, having been issued first on Prestige. It just showed how far the Acid Jazz scene had shifted, embracing a pure folk record.
Another series was launched as Ace quiffed up for a very R&B “Jivin’ Jamboree”. A new generation of kids bopped to the beat of some 20-odd years before they were born. Rock’n’roll was indeed here to stay.
The slightly odd title “Early Girls” was given to a new series. Nothing to do with punctuality, it focused on pre-Girl Group / Wall of Sound era; records with a bit more innocence. An example is the Exciters’ ‘Do-Wah-Diddy’, which became a hit for Manfred Mann in the UK.
A one-off was the “Mojo Workin: The Best Of Ace Blues”. Priced to sell, it did.
Kent began to motor. As well as a couple more Carnival releases, there were a bunch of sides from Excello/Abet put together for “Uptown, Down South”. A new pact was inked for the Ginn group of labels that included Aware and Hotlanta – guess where that was from. This also gave us access to the first of many re-releases of deep soul from Sam Dees. Little-known on the wider music scene, Dees has long been highly rated by the cognoscenti.
Booker T & the MGs fans were well catered for with “Play The Hip Hits”, a cornucopia of fabulous 60s covers we found languishing in the vaults. Steve Cropper has said the MGs felt it was a job. But what a job. They went into the studio every day and made music. Hence there is so much good stuff left in the can. We just took out our can-opener.
It being 20 years since we recorded the Count Bishops, we went into our own vaults and dug out the session reels for the Pathway session and for a previous Hope & Anchor studio session. The result was a CD issue of the “Speedball” EP with a further 11 tracks. Rightly or wrongly, we remembered the company’s early days as all good clean fun, so we put out a Chiswick companion piece of that title. The Radiators (sometimes From Space) were anthologised by Phillip Chevron.
Alan Lorber was a top arranger in the late 50s and early 60s. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he moved with the times, forming a production company and recording Ultimate Spinach and other avant-pop Boston bands. We worked with Alan for a number of years.
GlobeStyle was winding down a bit. The world music business had become much larger, beginning to require touring acts and videos. Our main business was catalogue and we were just not geared for that. So the early, heady release schedules were tailing off. Despite a lack of width, the quality was still there in depth. Ben travelled to Albania with Kim Burton and cut some glorious “Songs From The City Of Roses” with the clarinet player Laver Bariu. In London, a studio album was cut with Macedonian sax player Ferus Mustafov.
Our house magazine Network News closed but rose from the ashes as Get On The Right Track, later diminished to just Right Track, as it is called today. I told you that would come up again – paying attention at the back there?
Time for another Dana Gillespie album and “Hot Stuff” it was.
EP of the year (the only EP of the year, in fact) – four essential Excello sides: Slim Harpo, ‘Shake Your Hips’ / Lazy Lester, ‘I’m A Lover Not A Fighter’ / Leroy Washington, ‘Wild Cherry’ / Lightnin’ Slim, ‘Hello Mary Lee’. It was the first-ever UK 7” pressed on an Excello label, complete with a tri-centre that made grown men way more over-excited than they should have been.
All this time we were working our way through Modern, Excello, Arhoolie, the 4 Seasons albums, making raids on the MCA and EMI catalogues, plus the odd few from Ginn, Ram and more from Westbound. In the background were hundreds of jazz albums coming in from Germany and passing through the warehouse. I haven’t bothered with so much detail on these or we would be here all night. And still another 20 years to go.
“Rockin’ From Coast To Coast” turned out to be a fairly short-lived series but what it lacked in length it made up for in width. Volume 1 opened with Freddy Cannon’s ‘Buzz Buzz A-Diddle It’ which showed how a great compilation can shed new light on a familiar track. It did what it said on the cover and how. Ray Topping, Ted Carroll and Rob Finnis were in the driving seat for this trip.
Fats Domino’s “Early Imperial Singles 1950-1952” was the first of our chronological run through of his 45 output, which eventually ended in 1964. It kicked off with that most visceral of records, ‘The Fat Man’. Jake Porter told us Imperial owner Lew Chudd was less than enamoured with his venture down to New Orleans, reckoning that he had done his money. An early 1950 #2 R&B placing proved him wrong. Ricky Nelson was one of Lew’s other big acts. Our highly successful “Rockin’ With Ricky” LP was expanded to 32 tracks on CD. Like all good rock’n’roll, the tracks were brief and to the point.
Apart from the Del-Fi catalogue releases, Ace hadn’t hung 10 that much over the years, so with “Toes On The Nose” there was a welcome return to big waves and surf runs.
Mention must be made of the Zion Travelers album of their Dootone material, if only to flag up the coruscating brilliance of ‘The Blood’ - a chilling gospel sextet with power to chill. The loaves and fishes photo on the cover does not hint at the intensity inside. A baker’s dozen of gospel albums from the Excello subsidiary, Nashboro, added to the ecumenical feel.
Jean-Jacques Perrey was one of the first musicians to discover the Moog, in 1960 or so, and way before dance music was invented. Some 35 years later, BGP issued his “Moog Indigo” album for the dance floor. The hook was ‘EVA’, a strange, loping funk track that had captured the imagination and feet of the young dancers of the Acid Jazz scene. Oddly the original album had appeared on Vanguard.
By now, DJ Russ Dewbury was doing A&R at BGP. He managed to put together enough sides for a CD of Vanguard material called “I Like It…”. Vanguard was unfolding as a surprisingly broad-based label.
Also on BGP were S.O.U.L (Sounds Of Unity and Love) from Cleveland and their 1970 ‘Burning Spear’ track was fetching bucks on the sampling scene. In the wake of its release and their other funk album “Can You Feel It”, they reformed for one night only, doing a sold-out show in London carried on a wave of unbelievable enthusiasm.
Kent developed with “The Birth Of Soul” charting the music’s origins and falling closer in line with the Ace approach. There was also the first “Club Soul” album from the Chess catalogue and, from the same source, the excellent “Chicago Radio Soul”. Things were changing at Harboro central.
One of those changes came out of the Acid Jazz scene. Ady Croasdell played a set on a Friday night dance at the 100 Club featuring the jazzier end of soul: stuff like Mel Torme’s ‘Comin’ Home Baby’ and Ray Charles’ ubiquitous ‘Get On The Right Track’ as well as Smith and McGriff and a lot of organ soul / jazz. After a night out on the floor at one of these, Roger suggested a compilation called “Mod Jazz” and a whole new series was born.
Our 1983 Irma Thomas vinyl album was one of those definitive records. Now we expanded it for CD. Baby Washington’s Sue sides went straight to silver disc.
Vanguard and Takoma had one act in common: the eccentric ragtime blues guitar maverick John Fahey. Suddenly, we were a folk label, though one with Leo Kottke’s “6 And 12 String Guitar”, a record that somehow captured the imagination and turned into a very big seller. But back to Fahey and his discovery, “Blind Joe Death”. In 1959, he made an album with John Fahey playing on one side and the great lost blues guitarist Blind Joe Death on the other. The conceit was transparent to say the least. The album was recorded three times and a CD with (nearly) all the tracks was issued. However John claimed that one track could not be used as the only surviving copy of the album had a bullet hole through it. The logic is impossible to argue against. You could ‘accuse’ Takoma of inventing Americana, but unselfconsciously so.
Then again, Jones and Hazelton’s “One String Blues” was cited by Captain Beefheart as a favourite album. Hey diddley bo…
James Hunter had previous under the name Howling Wilf, a light-hearted moniker disguising a serious R&B talent. His debut album as James Hunter helped launch a stellar career including much success as he trod the well-worn trans-Atlantic path, returning the music to its birth place.
In the studio again for Ace was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the loud guitar, Mr Link Wray. The sessions produced two albums. Blistering stuff.
Unusual promotion of the year – A Sunday Times “Stax O Soul” CD co-promotion.
At the end of 1996, Russ Dewbury bumped into DJ Norman Cook who, having moved on from the pop group the Housemartins, was now having success as Mighty Dub Katz. Norman mentioned he had remixed Jean-Jacques Perrey’s ‘EVA’. In January, we released the remix, by the man now known as Fat Boy Slim, as a single. We even made a video, featuring Perrey himself. It didn’t chart but paved the way for Mr Slim’s next remix which - perhaps coincidently, perhaps not – was the next track on the BGP “I Like It….” album, Camille Yarbrough’s ‘Take Yo’ Praise’. It became ‘Praise You’ and Norman’s first UK #1, taking him and his career all around the world. There were rumours Ms Yarborough had died but her protestations to the contrary belied that. There was a financial settlement, a happy ending and Norman and Camille performed together.
Something completely different? The best new Link Wray album in years, “Shadowman”. It consisted of Link’s signature, terminal guitar mayhem, only with a surprisingly gentle cover of Hank Williams ‘I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)’, a-rip roaring take on John Fogerty’s ‘Run Through The Jungle’ and the Elvis cover, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. He was a huge Elvis fan, Link.
Link Wray and Robert Gordon had teamed up in 1977. Apart from cutting two Long Players that we reissued, they played a legendarily loud London show this year. To this day people who were at it still say ‘eh?’ when asked about it.
We added two new ones to our list of ‘series’. “Where The Girls Are” was the younger sister to the “Early Girls” — much more flirtatious and a lot more fun. It was put together by Girl Group and Spector aficionados Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick. The latter later signed up with Ace as a consultant.
Also on a ‘teen’ tip, the self explanatory “Teenage Crush” came out to launch another series. This one was dedicated to the tender side of the late 50s and early 60s Popular Music releases that parents weren’t so upset by. Tommy Edwards ‘It’s All In the Game’ was on there. Originally issued in 1951, it topped the US and UK charts when revived in 1958 by Edwards - and was later re-revived as a Van Morrison cover. Just goes to show a good song is a good song, regardless of the context it appears in.
We were less than halfway through issuing the Fireballs catalogue with the Jimmy Gilmer-led “Sugar Shack” / “Buddy’s Buddy” LPs. The 45 of ‘Sugar Shack’ was one of the last American #1s by an American act prior to the 1964 British Invasion of the US charts. Live at the 100 Club in London some years later, the Fireballs’ George Tomsco recalled how Norman Petty added the twee organ lick to the track when the band were on the road and they hated it. That night in London, he played it without the cheesy organ but admitted it would not have been #1 without it.
The big news over at Kent Records was the first volume of “Deep Soul Treasures”, the blockbuster series compiled by soul maven Dave Godin. Not only did Godin coin the term Deep Soul but he also came up with the phrase Northern Soul and suggested to Berry Gordy that he issued his records as Tamla Motown in the UK. Godin looked after many of the Motown acts when they came to Britain. Chaperoning a young female Motown artist at the must watch TV show Ready Steady Go! who wanted to meet the Beatles, Dave had to ask producer Vicky Wickham which Beatle was which. A deep soul man indeed. Three further volumes came out before Dave’s death in 2004. He did much to spread the word about American soul music.
John Spalding ran Fantasy’s Prestige Music publishing operation in Europe since the dawn of time itself. Through that connection, Roger found out that one of his companies owned Marquis Music and hence the entire Zombies back catalogue. A casual email went off to Alec Palao on the West Coast asking if he had any interest. The next morning, a suggested four-CD compilation was on Roger’s desk. The Zombies had one UK hit, ‘She’s Not There’: everyone knew and loved ‘Time Of The Season’ but it wasn’t a hit. In the US, the group were held in higher regard but even there their record on the charts was not great. So the illogical decision was taken to go for a full-blown, lavishly packaged four-CD box set. Against all odds, it sold really well. Sometimes quality will out. We set up a launch for the box set at London’s Jazz Café. Colin Blunstone’s current band played and all the Zombies were there. So the thrilling moment of the year was when DJ Mark Lamarr said, “And now for the first time in 26 years….. the Zombies”. The roomful of mainly industry insiders erupted. They played ‘She’s Not There’, then, by widespread popular demand, ‘Time Of The Season’, launching the box set and relaunching themselves. They reformed and, with various line-ups, started to tour again.
Mouse of Mouse and the Traps was one of the best Dylan sound-alikes around — as good as the Knickerbockers’ John Lennon impersonation. So an entire CD of the well-monikered Robin Hood Brians productions was welcome.
The Oxford Circle only released one single, so how to turn that into a CD compilation? In the case of the Oxford Circle find a live recording made at the Avalon Ballroom in 1966, especially if it contains fiery versions of Them’s ‘Mystic Eyes’ and the Yardbirds’ ‘Mister You’re A Better Man Then I’.
Roger indulged himself with “Belfast Beat: Maritime Blues”, a compilation of his home town’s groups. Them were on there, courtesy of (Sir) Van Morrison. The city’s other great R&B band the Wheels were there, too.
Stefan Grossman’s Kicking Mule Records really was the string player’s string player label, home to seriously adept picking, from Dale Miller, Duck Baker and Stefan himself. Our relationship with the label was brief but worthwhile. It included recordings by Davey Graham and Bert Jansch — who we connected with again later.
There is a theory that the great jazz label Riverside really made its money from recordings of racing cars racing, on albums like “The Sounds Of Sebring”. Nothing but the sounds of cars hammering around the race track going aaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yrrrrruuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmm. Whatever turns you on. Riverside issued four interview albums featuring racing drivers Stirling Moss, Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby and the Marquis De Portago (of which only one side was an interview — the flip was a tribute as the driver died in the 1957 Mille Miglia). We had issued a kind of companion to these records, Peter Ustinov’s spoof “The Grand Prix Of Gibraltar”, on car-friendly cassette. It sold inordinately well, and did again later when it came out on CD. (The vinyl tended to skip on hairpins, though, so didn’t do so well.) Sales manager and racing car enthusiast Phil Stoker is to be congratulated for the most unlikely success story in the Ace catalogue.
In all the excitement of nearly hit records and the smell of burning rubber our next catalogue purchase is in danger of getting lost. Dave Hamilton was a songwriter, producer and occasional record label owner and session guitarist – he is the man who plays that lick on John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom’. We bought the label from Dave’s widow Alice, a delightful woman full of fun. Much of the material was unissued so it was a matter of acquiring a bunch of tapes and seeing what was in there — but it was to prove a good investment, if for unexpected reasons.
Strange record of the year, oddly even stranger than interviews with racing car drivers – Korla Pandit. Korla had an afternoon show on local TV in LA on which, bedecked in a turban, he would play a keyboard instrument and stare out of the screen as if hypnotising watching housewives. The Cramps once visited his studio and were ushered in by a “servant” who after a bit walked over to a door, pulled a curtain aside and announced, “And now, Korla Pandit”.