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Collectors' Choice Music, one of the most venerated pop music reissue labels, will launch its second series of 15 "Elektra Rarities" CDs from the vaults of Elektra Records on August 29, 2006. Carefully curated with the input of Elektra founder Jac Holzman, and licensed from Rhino Entertainment, each of the reissues have been mastered from the original tapes with original album art plus liner notes featuring quotes from Holzman himself.
The second batch of Elektra Rarities CDs include Ronee Blakley's Ronee Blakley and Welcome; Oscar Brand's military-themed classics The Wild Blue Yonder/Every Inch A Sailor/Tell it to the Marines/Cough!; Paul Clayton's Sings Unholy Matrimony; Dian & the Greenbriar Boys' Dian & the Greenbriar Boys; Cyrus Faryar's Cyrus and Islands; Diane Hildebrand's Early Morning Blues and Greens; Susan Reed's Sings Old Airs From Ireland, Scotland and England and Susan Reed; Joshua Rifkin's The Baroque Beatles Book; Sailcat's Motorcycle Mama, Mark Spoelstra's Five and Twenty Questions and State of Mind; and David Steinberg's Disguised as a Normal Person.
The flagship Elektra Rarities series, released in February of this year, featured the critically acclaimed Great Lost Elektra Singles, Vol. 1 featuring the Beefeaters (later the Byrds) and the Stalk-Forrest Group (precursor to Blue Oyster Cult), and a reissue of the 1966 compilation What's Shakin' featuring Eric Clapton with Steve Windwood, the Lovin' Spoonful and the Butterfield Blues Band, among others
About the new series of "Elektra Rarities" reissues on Collectors' Choice Music:
• Those wondering how Ronee Blakley landed the role of doomed country singer Barbara Jean in Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville would do well to check out Ronee Blakley, her debut 1972 album for Elektra; it elicited praise from as high an authority as Bob Dylan. And while delving into the Blakley catalog, Collectors' Choice also decided to reissue her Jerry Wexler-produced debut album for Warner Bros., recorded in Muscle Shoals, which she made before devoting herself to acting exclusively. Together they portray a singer/songwriter of uncommon depth and ambition. A pair of Collectors' Choice Music exclusives, with notes featuring quotes from the lady herself!
• Oscar Brand has devoted entire albums to such subjects as drinking, presidential campaigns, sports cars, cats, dogs, boating and, of course, bawdy songs. But of all his albums, these four (The Wild Blue Yonder, Every Inch a Sailor, Tell It to the Marines and Cough!) recorded for each branch of the armed services, were among his most popular, and truly their commercial success helped Elektra gain financial footing back in the early days of the label. They were especially well-received by our troops, who no doubt appreciated the, er, "salty" tang of Oscar's renditions. Collectors' Choice "enlisted" Oscar's aid for the notes, too. The four albums are reissued as a double-CD set.
• Paul Clayton was a fixture on the Greenwich Village folk scene who died way too young — in his mid-'30s — in 1967. He is mostly remembered for being a pal of Bob Dylan (he allegedly gave Dylan the melody for "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" and there is some speculation that "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" was written about Clayton), but the man was an important folk artist in his own right, especially as one of the sources for the traditional folk material that so many singers of the time mined for inspiration. The guy had a sense of humor, too, as Sings Unholy Matrimony, his late-'50s Elektra album, demonstrates with its 18 irreverent observations on the institution of marriage, compiled, as the original liner notes read, "to amuse and appall you." And amuse they definitely will.
• Dian & the Greenbriar Boys' self-titled album is a bluegrass treat from deep in the Elektra vaults. Dian was Dian James, a country singer discovered by future Byrds manager Jim Dickson, and the Greenbriar Boys were a noted bluegrass band who were actually signed to Vanguard at the time. This 1963 album marked the only time the two would record together and, in fact, the only known recording by Dian James; yet, this is a tremendous listen, marked by Dickson's sure hand for material ("He Was a Friend of Mine, " which the Byrds would later cover, appears here), the sympathetic ensemble work of the Greenbriar Boys and the unstoppable energy of Dian, who seems to be channeling Rose Maddox.
• By the time ex-Whiskeyhill Singer and Modern Folk Quartet member Cyrus Faryar recorded his two solo albums for Elektra in 1971 and 1973, he was not only well-known in the folk music world but in the Los Angeles musician community at large. On these two albums (Cyrus and Islands ) appear a rotating cast of characters including Rodney Dillard, Mike Botts, Alex Hassilev and even Ralph Towner, Colin Walcott and Paul McCandless of the jazz group Oregon. And since these albums were recorded at Faryar's home studio, there is a mellow, impromptu vibe at play, all presided over by Faryar's baritone vocals (reminiscent of Fred Neil) and sunny presence. As Faryar tells it in the liner notes, the debut LP's entire promotional budget was blown on the record release party! Wish we could have been there.
• Recognize the title of Diane Hildebrand's Early Morning Blues & Greens? It was one of several songs Diane Hildebrand penned for the Monkees, which led to a deal with Elektra, of which this rare album is the happy result! Presided over by Elektra staff producer David Anderle, the album featured such sidemen as
Fred Myrow, who collaborated with David Ackles, and multi-instrumentalist Colin Cameron, who contributes quotes to the notes. But Anderle's influence is probably most profound; there's no mistaking that late-'60s Elektra folk-pop sound here.
• Susan Reed's two albums (Sings Old Airs From Ireland, Scotland and England and Susan Reed) hail from the very beginning of Elektra as a label, and their reliance on traditional material reflects how much the folk music scene changed with the arrival of more pop-oriented acts like the Limeliters and the Kingston Trio. They also illustrate how much the music business changed, and Elektra along with it; Susan Reed had recorded for Columbia, but her main connection with label founder Jac Holzman was that she owned an antiques store down the street. Each record cost probably less than $100 to make, too, yet they are really beautiful, organic recordings, which is how Elektra first built its reputation as an artist-oriented label.
• 1965's The Baroque Beatles Book was one of the most successful early Elektra albums and one we've been trying to license for years. Joshua Rifkin was a mere 21 years old and fresh from the Even Dozen Jug Band when Elektra founder Jac Holzman approached him for the job of adapting Beatles songs the aid of New York's finest freelance classical musicians to craft these whimsical, inventive interpretations. Rifkin was also to put the lessons learned on this recording to good use on his orchestral arrangements for Judy Collins' In My Life and Wildflowers albums; this is a key album in the Elektra catalog. The reissue features quotes in the notes from maestro Rifkin himself.
• Sailcat was the brainchild of Southern rock veteran John Wyker, who enlisted the aid of pals Chuck Leavell, Court Pickett and guitarist/producer Pete Carr in taking Muscle Shoals by storm and recording this quasi-rock opera about a motorcycle tramp who just wants to settle down. Much to Wyker's amazement — he had actually thrown the tapes to Motorcycle Mama in a trash can at one point — the title track became a hit, reaching #38 on the album charts in 1972 and notching a #12 hit with the title cut. Wyker's quotes in the notes are worth the price of admission, but fans of that gospel 'n' soul-dipped Southern rock sound will find much to savor.
• Mark Spoelstra was the very model of a '60s protest folk singer. Not only do these two Elektra albums (Five and Twenty Questions and State of Mind) include a number of topical tunes, as Spoelstra joined his mid-'60s peers in penning original material, but he also walked the walk, electing to perform alternative service in a poor, black, rural community in central California rather than join the military (and hence was unable to promote his first album for the label). Mark has graciously contributed generous quotes to our exclusive reissues; they're a long-overdue look at one of the truly inspirational figures of the protest
• And finally, comedian David Steinberg's 1971 recording debut, Disguised as a Normal Person, wasted no time in causing controversy, both with the track "The Coast, Bullsh*t and Nixon" (for obvious reasons) and the multi-part "sermon" that took up most of side two and got the Smothers Brothers thrown off the air. Nowadays, of course, this sounds kind of tame, but Steinberg's reflections on what it means to be young, Jewish and single (not necessarily in that order) are timeless. He also lends some incisive quotes to the reissue's liner notes.
Commenting on the series, Jac Holzman said:
"For me, the opportunity to again experience these records in full bloom was like meeting former loves and finding that they had remained beautiful and overflowing with spirit."
"Collectors' Choice has lavished every effort to ensure a superb, full-throated transfer of the original analog masters to sumptuous CDs. The carefully thought out notes deal with the music in the context in which it came to be. All of us are delighted with the result."
"My appreciation to Gordon and his fine staff at CC for rebirthing many of my special favorites which have lain neglected far too long. It's nice to welcome them back in these new and relevant editions."
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