Reis­sue la­bels de­serve praise for sav­ing the acts that slip through the net

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

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

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