Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I love Ace Records

I'm always searching out new labels for old music -- record companies that specialize in hard-to-find or high-quality reissues of classic music. Rhino Records is a long-time fave, of course (latest purchases: the Girl Group Sounds boxed set and a limited-edition rerelease of Melanie's 1976 Photograph album), as is Wounded Bird Records. But my new discovery is Ace Records, a British reissue label. Not that they reissue British records (although they probably do); what I'm getting into are their reissues of classic American soul and girl group recordings.

On the soul front, Ace has a particular fondness for northern soul, in the form of various compilations: The Mirwood Soul Story, Shrine: The Rarest Soul Label (Vols. 1-2), Rare, Collectible and Soulful (Vols. 1-2), Northern Soul's Classiest Rarities, OKeh: A Northern Soul Obsession (Vols. 1-2), and New York Soul Serenade. Ace is also big on southern soul, straight soul, R&B, funk, and related genres, with a fondness for the obscure.

When it comes to the girl group sound, Ace is also big on the obscure. Their compilations move quite swiftly from well-known artists to little-known or "lost" recordings by a variety of one-hit (or no-hit) wonders. But, boy, are these great compilations. If the Rhino Girl Group Sounds box is a great place to start (and probably more than enough for the casual listener), Ace takes the exploration several steps further. I'm not sure that some of the artists included ever got heard outside of their immediate neighborhoods. Where Ace dug this stuff up is beyond me, but I'm glad they did. If you're into girl groups, you have to check out Ace's Where the Girls Are (Vols. 1-6) and Early Girls (Vols. 1-4) compilations, as well as their one-offs Boy Trouble: Garpax Girls, Playin' Hard to Get: West Coast Girls, Kiss 'n' Tell, Queens of King, and Girls with Guitars discs. There's good -- and very rare -- stuff here.

Ace also covers other genres -- folk, blues, doo wop, early rock 'n' roll, you name. Sound quality is generally pretty good, not quite up to Rhino standards, but still. Liner notes are extensive, although with a bit of a British spin. All in all, this is a small label definitely worth checking out. They're doing all of us classic music lovers a huge favor by bringing all this forgotten music to light.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

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