TEN ALBUMS I WISH WERE ON CD…

It’s easy to assume that the digital age has preserved everything. Even the black and hillbilly stuff. But there are still more than a few holes in our Paradise’s memory banks. Here’s ten of the hundreds I’d like to see plugged. listed more or less chronologically. No bonus tracks needed. Just put them out. Bear Family. Hip-O. Raven. Ace. Somebody…

1) Louis Armstrong: The Louis Armstrong Story Volume 4: Favorites

A stellar collection of Armstrong’s early thirties’ ballads, which may have been even more influential than his smoking small band sides from the twenties. They were certainly more subversive and, while they’ve been collected numerous times in larger formats and this set has probably been approximated somewhere or other among the voluminous Armstrong re-issues, the precision of this particular collection is sufficiently burned in my memory to make me loath to accept any substitutes. I listen to these songs compiled any other way and they simply feel incomplete. In that respect, you might consider this the first concept LP. Of course “Black and Blue” is the all time killer, but for pure perversity, don’t sleep on “Shine.” which works in this context as a kind of answer record.

2) The Coasters Their Greatest Recordings…The Early Years

Still the best way to hear the Clown Princes of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Fourteen diamond hard classics that represent the cream of 50s’ era vocal group R&B, plus the songwriting and producing pinnacle of Leiber and Stoller’s not exactly one-dimensional career. Best CD Substitute is 50 Coastin’ Classics, which is fabulous and never quits either. But sometimes you just want a shot of Rhythm and Blues…not the whole bottle. Plus, it’s the only place you can find Barret “Dr. Demento” Hansen’s fabulous liner notes. Yet more proof, if any is needed, that record company comps can make their own irreducible statement.

3) The Everly Brothers: Wake Up Again With the Everly Brothers

Okay, so you’ll kind of have to take my word for it that that’s the name of it and it was a real thing. That picture is the best I could find. This collection was released on GRT records–one of those seventies’ era subsidiary labels of dubious virtue–and was the kind of mishmash you might have expected…except it was, by happy accident, also a superb overview of the brothers’ legend-making career on Cadence, where they made most of the records we still remember them by. Unlike pretty much every other comp restricted to that era I’ve seen on vinyl or CD, it’s spiced with a few cuts from their great Songs Our Daddy Taught Us LP. And, cheap knockoff or no, I swear it sounds great, too. If you wanted a CD that caught all the excitement of the early Everlys without having to listen to an entire box set, or all their period LPs at once, this would fill the ticket before anything else. GRT went bankrupt in 1979, so I won’t be holding my breath on this one. But I can dream, can’t I?

4) The Impressions: The Vintage Years

I’ve written at length about this one before. It blends half a dozen career phases seamlessly (Jerry Butler, early and late, the Impressions from doo wop to early sixties r&b to mid-sixties’ soul, capped off by Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly breakout) and tracks black music from the street corner where “Your Precious Love” was conceived to the street corner where Freddie, the small time loser headed for the graveyard in Superfly,  hangs out, without telling you whether it’s the same one or ever letting you forget it might be. No CD era reissue has come close, because none have fused all those careers together, let alone accepted them as being of a piece. If more people recognized this as the greatest concept album ever made, the world would be a better place.

5) Buffalo Springfield 

Not their eponymous first LP, which is readily available. This two-record retrospective was how most of us from the hinterlands, who discovered them in the late seventies when their regular LPs were a bit hard to find at Camelot or Record Bar, first heard them. It’s probably still the best way, outstanding though all the other ways be. But the real reason me and a lot of other folks want this to be on CD is because it still seems to be the only place you can find the long version of “Bluebird.” Except for YouTube, of course…

6) Fairport Convention: Fairport Chronicles

This superbly chosen and programmed two-record set, which can only be approximated now by buying five or six separate CDs by Fairport, Fotheringay. The Bunch  and Sandy Denny, then mixing them on the re-recording device of your choice, hasn’t even come close to being matched  by any CD era release. And this group, which cries out for a definitive box set that focuses on their early career and its various immediate off-shoots, is represented instead by sets that include their “entire career,” meaning due deference is paid to decades of fey folk music the in-name-only pros who kept the name alive made after Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny departed for their respective fates as aging eccentric and most-inevitable-young-corpse-ever. Their three definitive albums (What We Did On Our Holiday, Unhalfbricking and Liege and Lief) are great beyond words (and easily available on CD). But this is by far the best place to hear Thompson’s “Sloth,” the Bunch’s revelatory covers of Dion and Buddy Holly, and Fotheringay turning Gordon Lightfoot into King Dread on “The Way I Feel,” all essential. This exercise is partly tongue in cheek…but this is one of those things somebody really should fix dammit!

7) Brenda Lee Memphis Portrait

See, I don’t even have this. I should probably just bite the bullet and spring for a cheap used version off Amazon or something. But Jesus, can somebody please release Brenda’s late-sixties and seventies albums in the new format? All of them? Any of them? The Bear Family doesn’t even have these recordings on a box. They and Ace have both done thorough jobs of making her prime hit-making years and before (1956 to 1963 roughly) available. The rest has been left to float in the ether. I’ve heard enough of it to know that shouldn’t be so.

8) Johnny Bush: Bush Country

I don’t have to speculate about this one. it’s been a staple of my collection since John Morthland turned me on to Johnny with his invaluable guide to the greatest country albums (that was released just as the CD era arrived). A couple of his other albums for Stop–where he was never less than inspired–have made it to CD but not this one, which is as hard as hard country gets and doesn’t have a wasted second. If nothing else, this–one of the greatest records ever made–deserves a home on some format more permanent than vinyl. But, really, the whole thing, including killer versions of “It’s All in the Game,” “Statue of a Fool” and “Funny How Time Slips Away,” back-to-back-to-back, is up to the same standard. There’s no finer vocal album in any genre.

9) Tanya Tucker: Here’s Some Love

Along about now, you’ll be detecting a theme here–Nashville has not done a good job of taking care of its legacy. Such value as there’s been has mostly been provided by overseas reissue labels (with Bear Family preeminent, though by no means alone). No one, home or abroad, has yet stepped into the breach and released Tanya’s string of child-into-woman albums recorded between her departure from Columbia and her mid-eighties comeback. This is from early on (1976). The deathless title cut (a natural country #1) is readily available on numerous comps, and all these albums were a touch uneven. But they all had great, hidden things on them, too. “Round and Round the Bottle” is up to the standards of her early Gothics, and the two-step from “Gonna Love You Anyway” to “Holding On” used to keep me up nights.

10) The Kendalls: Old Fashioned Love

Yes, the whole list could have been devoted to lost country albums from the seventies. Heck the whole list could have been devoted to the Kendalls. If I wanted to put together a list of the ten most beautiful vocals ever recorded, I wouldn’t consider having Jeannie Kendall occupy less than half of it. That her greatest records (the four albums she and her father made for Ovation, beginning with Heaven’s Just a Sin Away), have never been re-released in any format is the kind of thing I like to point to when I talk about how civilizations decline and fall. That she is remembered, if at all, for even as great a cheating song as “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away,” is something like a national sin–testimony to how casually we throw talent away after having misunderstood it in the first place. Not that she ever sounded like she expected any better, especially on this, a concept LP about cheating as redemption. And yes, it blew everybody’s minds back when, especially the open marriage crowd at all the hip rock and roll mags, who suddenly decided they were Puritans after all. “PIttsburgh Stealers” wasn’t the half of it. They did plenty of good work before and after (I especially recommend Mercury’s Movin’ Train), but If anybody ever has the sense to release their four Ovation LPs as a box set, it will be one of the essential documents in country music.

Til then, Thank God for Vinyl.

8 thoughts on “TEN ALBUMS I WISH WERE ON CD…

  1. Some great choices here. The Impressions and Fairport Convention albums contained terrific era combinations, offering a unique perspective on each song when it was heard as a chapter in the whole story.

    I was going to selfishly add my own ongoing disappointment that no original B.J. Thomas recordings had been made available on CD, apparently due to some lingering legal ABC/Dunhill nonsense. For years, they were all more recent remakes. I’ve just checked to ensure that this is still true, and I’m delighted to find that it apparently isn’t. One or two collections of original recordings have been made available. (My ear can tell the real “Hey, Won’t You Play” from an eighties remake, damn it! The 45 was given to me when I was 3!)

    Did the Elvis double, 1969: The Year in Review, ever see a CD equivalent? I remember ordering that from Columbia House! It was a great selection of stuff, with fascinating liner notes by the producer.

    Finally, this was an interesting set, which I also had for years: RCA’s television-offered The Idols of Rock & Roll. At least half of the songs were eighties remakes, including all of Paul Anka’s stuff, and Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.”

    https://www.discogs.com/Various-The-Idols-Of-Rock-Roll/release/8046761

    • Oh, man, I didn’t even want to THINK about various artists comps. But now you’ve got me doing it…..Time Life (or maybe it was Time Warner–the 80s have kept me confused ever since) did a 4 record set on girl groups that’s still the one to beat for that genre’s comps. It even had great sound. (no Spector, of course, which is probably what kept Rhino from doing a girl group box on a level with what they did for Surf, Rockabilly, Punk, etc….they did do the fantastic box of relative obscurities as a fall back).

      Not sure about the Elvis double. The 69 material has been repackaged so many ways I lost count.

      Plenty to chew over, though. I had to laugh when I pulled all my vinyl comps just now. I kept most of them–including the K-Tel and Ronco specials!…Because you just never know. Several gems, though, that I’d frankly forgotten about.

      It does look like the pickings are slim on B.J. I don’t know about the rest, but the Rhino comp from ’92 is the one I have and I’ve always been happy with it. (Especially compared to the atrocious job they did on a lot of the Atlantic soul albums). Looks like Everybody’s Out of Town, the one I’d want most, is going for 40 bucks on CD….Ouch. Might have to wait a bit on that one.

      • You know, it didn’t even occur to me that you had (wisely) avoided various-artists LPs. I didn’t mean to send you down that rabbit hole! Before we maniacally cover it up again, I’ll nominate Ronco’s That’ll Be the Day soundtrack as a fun combo of songs that were already, in 1973, considered “oldies” — such was the varied, stylistic upheaval of the intervening decade.

          • Heh heh…let me get you the Miracle Cold Forehead Cloth (TM)! A revolution in cloth technology! Remains cold for more than thirty seconds at a time!* It doesn’t slice! It doesn’t dice! We promise!

            *K-Tel is not liable for temperature duration in equatorial climates.

  2. I agree with you on all ten albums. The Kendalls very much deserve far more attention than they get. And for a very reasonable price of about $20 you can still get a new copy of “The Complete Scepter Singles” by B.J. Thomas from Amazon. It’s a very solid 2-disc compilation with very good sound and decent liner notes.

    • Well we may not be men of wealth Kevin, but we’ve certainly got the taste thing covered! I may have to look into that singles package….love the comp I’ve got but that looks to be more complete and there can never be too much primo B.J.

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