The start of 2013 has been a strange one for fans of 60s music like me. There has been a big focus by people a lot younger than me on the ‘analogue’ age and the ‘Golden Era of the Long Player’ with BBC Radio and TV nostalgically looking back on ‘records’ as some sort of antiques.
Perhaps they are but when you grew up with them and you still have a big collection they just feel gloriously ‘tangible’ in an age when we abound with hundreds and thousands of digital downloads or CD extracts on I-pods. It doesn’t seem so long ago that we were ‘hunters and gatherers’ of 60s and 70s vinyl epics on album. Back then it was the only way to get to hear the music. Last week Danny Baker and Co in a series of panel interviews on TV Channel , BBC Four recalled how we used to caringly lower the needle in the groove and listen intently to 2 sides of 26 minutes or so without a break in homage to the artists and the producers.
Now it seems we are casual digital collectors of catalogues of hundreds of artists and thousands of tracks. The release this week of seven of the Four Seasons albums as mp3 downloads by Rhino sums up where we are today. We can pick and choose the tracks we want and random play on the I-pod now gives us a juke-box life with music something in the background whilst we do something else.
We have had the vinyl age and survived the CD age (buying everything again) and now we are in the middle of the download age. And everyone is in on the act of becoming an archivist. Amoeba the classic west coast collectors store (I just love their San Fransisco unit)have announced they are archiving classic albums And today’s Sunday papers features an all singing/all dancing record/tape and CD archiver (a 4 in 1 Music Machine) to illustrate the point
But a look beyond the surface reveals that much of what we are getting released today is not original, not good sound and not properly archived. Certainly with the Four Seasons catalogue there is lots of room to complain. But it seems no one cares as much as we do. It remains a mystery why the 4 Seasons catalogue doesn’t get the respect or care in its reproduction that Jazz music gets with its specialist albums and collections of rarities, live performances and previously unreleased tracks.
Neither Rhino or The Four Seasons Partnership have shown any respect for the fans wishes in this respect and whilst the ‘Gold Vault of Hits’ CD sets last month were welcomed by some fans we continue to be ‘underwhelmed’ at the lack of inspiration in the releases. Its another tale of the continuing exploitation of the fan base with no investment in documenting and archiving the history. No re-mastering from analogue tapes, no new mixes and not stunningly good re-mastering. And if you don’t believe us just take a listen to what is possible check out the great samples from this superb box set compared to the ‘puny’ Jersey Beat selection of Four Seasons history.
So whilst some UK fans may be getting excited at the prospect of another visit of Frankie Valli and his band to their shores in the summer we will be focusing on preserving the original MONO mixes as the analogue history. We’ve completed the Vee-Jay 45s and work progresses on the Philips singles. All tracks are digitally transferred from best vinyl sources, cleaned and re-mastered in professional software. These masters match and surpass the current CD catalogue. Of course copyright rules prevent us from sharing such work with you but hopefully you’ll be happy to hear that we have them. So this year we have got possession of ‘the masters’. Bob Crewe’s beautifully crafted 45s digitally archived. Some of us do care about the music!!