Reissue labels deserve praise for saving the acts that slip through the net
What do you know about Ned Doheny? Perhaps very little, so you can start your education here. Like many others, he was part of the Laurel Canyon and Southern California scene in the 1970s, dreaming of stardom. He released a couple of albums with little or no return for himself or the labels such as Asylum that took a chance on his music.
That should have been that for Doheny, a kid from a rich background with an oil-baron father who had a mansion, beach and stretch of highway named after him in California. The records didn’t set the world alight and so, like many other unheralded names who watched a small number of their peers soar, Doheny faded into obscurity.
But his music never disappeared because music never truly disappears, even when the records fail to do the business. Over the years, new audiences slowly began to find their way to him and his music.
Then, the reissue machines swung into action. The Be With label, which had also worked on reissues for The Streets, Leon Ware and Letta Mbulu, gave Doheny’s Hard Candy and Prone albums the proper reissue treatment. The everexcellent Numero gathered together tracks from Doheny’s first clutch of albums, added a few demo tracks and commissioned a lengthy essay on him for the Separate Oceans retrospective.
The work of labels such as Numero, Be With, Light In the Attic and Soul Jazz is always worth taking time to note and appreciate. Pop’s abiding fondness for the new and the next means some of the good stuff inevitably falls through the cracks.
Tally the amount of music that has been released since the record industry went into overdrive in the 1960s, tot up how many of these releases actually found an audience and you’ll hit on quite an imbalance.
The job done by those reissue specialists – as well as the reissue departments of many labels – means many acts, such as Vashti Bunyan and Rodríguez, get a second bite of the cherry. Watching these acts release new albums and tour many years after their first records were released and largely ignored is something anyone with a heart can cheer.
But, sadly, some acts who get a second go on the merry-goround are not around to enjoy the attention. Nick Drake never lived to see his music find an audience, which initially happened thanks to placement on a Volkswagen advert.
You also hope too that others who vanished without trace – like the enigmatic UFO-obsessed singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan and the very mysterious Lewis – reappear at some stage to tell their story.
In the case of Ned Doheny, he’s still around to enjoy the renewed interest in his work. Catch him later this month when he plays Dublin’s Sugar Club on March 21st as part of his first ever European tour.
Pop’s abiding fondness for the new and the next means some of the good stuff inevitably falls through the cracks