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Ace is 40!

It was 40 years ago this September, give or take, that the team behind Ace Records first made a record. We have been going in and out of style ever since and hopefully over the years have contributed in some measure to the business of human happiness.

We started life as Chiswick Records with Ace becoming a separate label three years later. Though many of these early releases were from new up-and-coming bands seeking fame and fortune, from the start there was a reissue side to the business.

After several years of not quite bothering the charts enough the company gradually turned full time to the reissue side of things, but not before we had a top 20 US single with Sniff ‘n’ the Tears’ ‘Drivers Seat’, the debut Motorhead album and what is now recognised as the Damned’s finest, “Machine Gun Etiquette”. We also scored a fair number of rock‘n’roll revival hits with Rocky Sharpe and the Replays.

We were the first of that mid to late 70s explosion of independent labels that went on to shape many aspects of the mainstream business. We became major players in reissues, getting the name Ace Records firmly associated with quality.

We are the only independent reissue company with its own fully fledged post production studio – set up at enormous expense so that we can exert ultimate quality control over the sound on our CDs. The sleeve and booklet designs and the accompanying sleeve notes have been in the same careful hands now for 30 years and we aim to keep them up to the same standard as the audio.

Way back in 1975 the Ace empire consisted of two market stalls and a few thousand pounds worth of second hand records as capital. The mainstay of the company has always been the expertise of the people who compile our releases. We have always worked with those who have a deep knowledge of their music and that shows in the quality of the compilations.

In the beginning Ace was the only reissue label and concentrated mainly on 50s Blues, R&B and rock‘n’roll. The first catalogues that we licensed-in were Pappy Daily’s Starday (home of George Jones) and Modern Records where B.B. King cut his finest sides.

In 1982 Kent Records was formed to move the label into the 60s and soul music and has since become a byword for all things Northern and way beyond,

Shortly after that we crept into the jazz market with the short-lived Boplicity label, though within another five years we were knee-deep in it as we took on the Fantasy group of iconic Jazz labels; Prestige, Riverside, Milestone and more. Later the Stax finger-clicking label came our way from the same source as indeed did the Creedence Clearwater Revival albums.

We were very involved in the establishment of World Music through GlobeStyle and in a further innovative move we formed BGP as the first Acid Jazz label. The Grateful Dead passed through and Funkadelic joined the ranks courtesy of Westbound and since we had just purchased Spring Records we started the Southbound label as a home for Millie Jackson and Fatback Band.

We diversified into folk music with the home of Joan Baez, Vanguard, as well as Takoma, giving us access to most of John Fahey’s catalogue by the mid 90s.

Among our significant purchases are Goldwax Records, the other great Memphis soul label with the other great singer, James Carr. In addition we bought the Mira/Mirwood labels that pretty much define Northern Soul and with Flip Records came Richard Berry’s original ‘Louie Louie’ and ‘Have Love Will Travel’. Very significantly, the John Lee Hooker masters recorded in the late 40s by Bernard Besman are in our care.

Our signature style is the impeccably compiled and focused compilation as in “The Golden Age of American Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures” and the Songwriter series that encompasses Goffin/King, Randy Newman, Allen Toussaint and Lee Hazlewood to name but a few.

On the lighter side there is the “Land of 1000 Dances”, the fun side of mortality in two compilations of death discs, complete “Great Googa Mooga Googly Moo” on two CDs of arrant nonsense, the ghoulish are well catered for by two CDs of hallowe’en horror and for cool cats everywhere there is the inimitable “Feline Groovy”.

Although we are often associated with rock‘n’roll we really do cover the full gamut of, mostly, American post-war music up until the early 80s. However we do carry some UK-originated sounds with our early Chiswick releases and most notably, the epic Zombies box set.

So there is something for everyone at Ace, with some 2300 titles currently available, and it has been great fun creating it over the past 40 years.

Look out for a very special 40th anniversary compilation in September, more information to follow shortly.

Selected releases