Spin Doc­tor and the lat­est al­bum re­views

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Iain Shed­den

It was a mo­men­tous and sad day in the mu­sic busi­ness on Tues­day when the an­nounce­ment came that the coun­try’s old­est independent mu­sic com­pany, Al­berts, had been sold to the Ger­man multi­na­tional BMG. The Syd­ney-based com­pany that brought AC/DC, the Easy­beats and John Paul Young — among many oth­ers — to the world has been swal­lowed up by a global gi­ant more able to cope with the tech­no­log­i­cal de­mands and in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing strate­gies re­quired in the 21st-cen­tury mu­sic busi­ness. It brings to an end 131 years of trad­ing un­der the Al­berts name, be­gun in 1885 when Jac­ques Al­bert, a re­cent ar­rival from Switzer­land, opened a small watch, clock and mu­si­cal in­stru­ment re­pair busi­ness in New­town, Syd­ney. Gen­er­a­tions of the Al­bert fam­ily have been at the helm of the ever-ex­pand­ing com­pany since then, not least Ted Al­bert, who in the 1950s guided it through the rock ‘n’ roll era, es­tab­lish­ing in the 60s the Al­bert Pro­duc­tions arm of the fam­ily busi­ness, a cor­ner­stone of the Aus­tralian in­dus­try that has pro­duced a wealth of pop and rock tal­ent ever since, from the Ted Mulry Gang to Me­gan Wash­ing­ton, from the An­gels to San Cisco, from Ste­vie Wright to Paulini. The last ever Al­berts chief ex­ec­u­tive, David Al­bert, ad­mit­ted to SD on Tues­day that it had been dif­fi­cult for the fam­ily to reach the de­ci­sion to sell, thus end­ing a brand name syn­ony­mous with lo­cal tal­ent. “We as a fam­ily have been think­ing about the changes in the mu­sic busi­ness for a good pe­riod of time,” he says. “The larger tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies are hav­ing a greater im­pact on our busi­ness. We’ve been think­ing about the chal­lenges of run­ning a full-ser­vice mu­sic pub­lish­ing and record­ing com­pany in the Aus­tralian mar­ket.” Those chal­lenges, it ap­pears, were too great. The Al­berts can con­sole them­selves know­ing they re­tain fi­nan­cial in­ter­est in one of the most profitable cat­a­logues in rock ‘n’ roll his­tory, that of AC/DC. That and the cat­a­logues of long-time as­so­ciates Wright, Harry Vanda and Ge­orge Young are not part of the BMG deal.

The sig­nif­i­cance of Al­berts’ demise was not lost on one of the in­dus­try’s lead­ing and most en­dur­ing movers and shak­ers. Hours af­ter Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment, Mush­room and Lib­er­a­tion founder Michael Gudin­ski held court at a small Syd­ney venue to in­tro­duce one of his lat­est pro­teges, Bris­bane singer Emma Louise, to a gath­er­ing of in­dus­try types at a show­case for her new al­bum, Su­per­cry (which sounded sus­pi­ciously like Su­per­crime each time he men­tioned it). While not ex­actly bask­ing in the Al­berts sale, his speech prior to Emma Louise’s daz­zling per­for­mance did make clear that his em­pire is a glow­ing ex­am­ple of an independent force that will not be go­ing the way of Al­berts any­time soon.

Next week sees the re­lease of Amer­i­can tune­smith Michael Ki­wanuka’s sec­ond al­bum, Love & Hate, fol­low-up to his crit­i­cally ac­claimed de­but, Home Again. This week the singer re­vealed that songs from the new al­bum, in­clud­ing sin­gles Black Man in a White World and Rule the World, will fea­ture in a new tele­vi­sion se­ries by Aus­tralian di­rec­tor Baz Luhrmann. The Get Down, a 13-part drama that Luhrmann says he has been de­vel­op­ing for 10 years, fo­cuses on New York as a hub of hip hop, punk and disco mu­sic. It screens on Net­flix from Au­gust 12.


Al­berts brought AC/DC to the world

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