Thursday, August 2, 2018


Happy 60th birthday to the celebrated Warner Bros. record label, certainly home to some of the biggest records of our time, and generally regarded as a class act among companies. Thanks to a roster of artist-friendly producers and A&R execs over the years, many careers have been nurtured, and beloved stars have reached our stereos, radios and laptops because of the company's dedication. Of course, you don't usually hear that about record companies, but Warner was known to stick with acts they thought deserved to be heard (Little Feat, Gram Parsons) or give a home to true talents who probably were a little too weird for the mainstream (Van Dyke Parks, Capt. Beefheart). Of course, they also had plenty, I mean plenty of stars too, from James Taylor to Seals & Crofts to The Doobie Brothers.

For their birthday, the company is releasing a series of vinyl double albums, compilations that reflect the various sides to the roster. This set shows the company's California roots, as the label did start out as an offshoot of the Warner Bros. film company. During the singer-songwriter heyday, Warner (and associated label Reprise) had a lock on that cool pop style of writer. Even though the artists weren't all from that area, they were drawn there, as L.A. became the recording capitol over New York and Nashville. Even our own beloved Gord Lightfoot is featured here in a California collection, with his U.S. breakthrough If You Could Read My Mind, after he had signed up to the Warner empire. The former folkie was immediately rewarded with pop stardom, which continued right through the '70's.

Just to prove there's no real California music style (it's more a hip thing than a sound), you have such diverse artists as Norman Greenbaum (Spirit In The Sky), Christopher Cross (Ride Like The Wind) and Maria Muldaur (Midnight At The Oasis) here. There's a bit of the hippie vibe from Arlo Guthrie (The Motorcycle Song) and John Sebastian (She's A Lady). Master writers are included, Jimmy Webb doing his own version of Galveston (a little overwrought, Glen did a better job), and oh my goodness, the great Randy Newman, with Sail Away. You could knock this a bit by dragging out that old term, soft rock, but come on, Summer Breeze, Fire And Rain, and Willin'? This stuff has stood the test of time. Sadly, no Neil or Joni, both of whom were California standard-bearers by this era, but they routinely refuse to be part of such compilations, I'm assuming that's why. Also available are a New Wave 80's set, a Punk Nuggets collection, and still to come, I Wanna Be Sedated, a very strong underground set with Ramones, Replacements, Talking Heads, etc.

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