Saturday, 30 August 2014

Albert Productions turns 50

Australian Independent record label Albert Productions is celebrating their 50th Anniversary currently, with a lavishly produced 5 CD boxed set and a reissue program of sorts to follow.

Albert Productions was the brainchild of 4th generation music publisher Ted Albert, of music publishing firm J. Albert and Sons. Their stock in trade was largely sheet music sales but Ted saw a future in recordings, and so put pressure on his father to let him start a label in the family name in 1964.

What followed was a legacy rich in great (and some not so great) records that have made more than their fair share of impact on music both locally in Australia and around the world. As such Albert Productions is rightly regarded as one of Australia's most seminal record labels.

Their first signing was the fledgling Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, who had just had a number one single, "Poison Ivy" on a tiny indie label "Linda Lee" in early 1964. From there, Ted signed a group who started in the Villawood migrant hostel who went by the name of the Easybeats.

They also handled some hardcore R&B and Beat groups that other labels wouldn't touch, like the Missing Links and the Throb. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the label churned out records of heavy boogie and rock by the likes of the Ted Mulry Gang, Dallimore, and Newcastle band The Heroes (the band playing on stage the night of the Star Hotel Riot in 1979). However, the label's biggest success were in a few bands whom, as per tradition, no-one else would touch: Rose Tattoo, The Angels, and a little band whom no-one thought would do any good...AC/DC.

They also gave a start to the Choirboys and Dallas Crane, and issued later career albums for Knievel and The Cruel Sea.

From 1970 onwards, former Easybeats George Young and Harry Vanda had a major role in shaping the label's catalog. They wrote many songs for the label's young solo artists and, from 1973, started producing artists on the label, including the two comeback albums for former Easybeats singer Stevie Wright.

Alberts were a canny label, inasmuch as they were clever enough to keep one foot in the heavy rock camp, while keeping one firmly in the teen pop/top 40 camp with artists like Alison McCallum and William Shakespeare. During the 1970s, one of the label's major successes was a big seller to teenage girls: one John Paul Young, whose 1978 single "Love Is In The Air" (written by Vanda and Young) is well known around the world thanks to its inclusion in a Baz Luhrmann movie.

By the 1980s most of the stalwarts of the label had jumped ship or split up. AC/DC being the only major constant. Aside from them, the labels releases hardly troubled the charts during the 1990s, with a couple of pop releases from the likes of soapie star Daniel Amalm towards the end of the decade making any real waves. The label hit back in a big way with Knievel and Dallas Crane in the 2000s.

It is interesting to chart the ups and downs of the label and the new 5 CD box does that nicely. It is effectively a replacement article for the 1988 release "Good Times: 25 Years of Australian Hits", including all but two of the 34 tracks on that release. Some of the mastering sounds to me like it has some in-built digital distortion to it, as is the case with most modern album releases. The digital remastering still leaves behind a lot of the tape hiss and certain tracks do sound a little bit digitally over-processed, leaving a few strange artifacts. However, it is great to see not only the label's most well known tracks, but plenty of rare tracks on CDs 4 and 5, with certain EP tracks and B-sides making their first appearance on CD. For $40, you really can't go wrong with this.

Happy 50th Albert Productions. May you stay around for another 50, and then some.

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