Thursday, 10 September 2009
The Roar of the Red Lion
256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Mainstream SRL-1
Joe Scott - Born To Be Wild
The previous two posts were actually subtle thematic set ups for the next few weeks here at Soundological. What are the unifying threads you ask? Well, how about the 70s, dodgy reissues and low budget productions using old school jazzbos? Those tags tend to evoke Bob Shad's Mainstream records MRL series in our mind. On the 23rd, our sister blog the shad shack celebrates its 1st anniversary so, in honour of this momentous occasion, we'll be featuring MRL releases exclusively leading up to that date.
Kickin' off this month(ish) of Mainstream is a promo record and one-of-kind glimpse at the start of Shad's Red Lion record label. Culled from the first four sets in the MRL series, none of these tracks will be a revelation to regular followers of the shad shack, since the Ron Frangipane, Joe Scott, Dean Christopher and Phoenix Authority have all been linked up there some time ago (except for Joe Scott, follow the links to preview clips provided by original posters). If you haven't grabbed them yet, this will act as a suitable sampler for the goods therein as it compiles most of the best bits from each. All are orchestral renderings of the groovy hits of the day, with the latter being the strongest since its line up was somewhat of a dry run for the monstrously funky studio creation known as Afrique.
It would actually take at least a dozen albums of this brand-x-plays-the-hits material peppered with a few reissues from his old Sittin' In With label and earlier Mainstream catalogue before the MRL series finally found its groove. For a couple years it would become a jazz refuge where perennial sidemen, has-beens and unknowns could head up their own sessions and a place where taking chances was often OK - as long as you didn't take too many takes taking them!
Shad may have been frugal (some felt he was shady or worse) but he understood survival of the fittest and, as both an A&R man for major labels and owner of a string of independent imprints, he made a comfy career cashing in on a small percentage of the numerous new artists he set down in the studio for their first sessions. He laid a little bit down on a lot of long-shot bets and that meant a lot of artists got a shot the bigger boys may not have shelled out for. In the MRL era he had found a niche in bop-laden jazzfunk and soul that was neither as slickly urbane as CTI and Blue Note nor as spicy as Concord and found himself jostling for dwindling jazz shelf space not only with them or other giants like Fantasy, Atlantic and Columbia, but for the most part with smaller outfits such as Pablo, Flying Dutchman, Strata-East, Groove Merchant and Muse.
They would all prove to be more than considerable competition in the conflict for a shrinking subset of a declining number of jazz consumers and Shad's MRL imprint was ultimately a short-lived endeavour. Within a hundred releases of getting its sea legs, the Red Lion was on its last legs as Shad started picking its carcass for out-take compilations while it was leaning heavily on licensed material from outside sources - meaning no publishing royalties. No shame on Shad since few of those labels made it through the 70s intact but his horse never really had a hope of coming in on the track he was playing.
1 Ron Frangipane - Wedding Bell Blues
2 Ron Frangipane - Holly Holy
3 Ron Frangipane - Venus
4 Joe Scott - Born To Be Wild
5 Joe Scott - Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head
6 Joe Scott - Suicide Is Painless
7 Dean Christopher- Eli's Coming
8 Dean Christopher- Alice's Restaurant
9 Dean Christopher- Lady Madonna
10 Phoenix Authority - Spinning Wheel
11 Phoenix Authority - Honky Tonk Women
12 Phoenix Authority - Everyday People
In that short run though, there was a high ratio of excellent releases that have withstood the test of time including a few re-issues reviving classic, and sometime definitive, sides. Stay tuned to Soundological for many more MRL morsels, including some rarities and curiosities, most of them will be blogosphere firsts but some space will also be given to sonic upgrades of old standbys as well. In the meantime, hear the Red Lion's first roars HERE or HERE.
PS - Got the first DMCA takedown notice today and as a result pulled material from a post. Not too surprising though, since the nebulous nature of its OOP status was speculated upon in the original write up (which still remains). One more mystery solved. What have we learned from this? You never know when these notices will come up in the future so get 'em while they're hot folks!