Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Yuletide Soirée (Rhino Records)

Rhino Records - how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Richard Foos started his own record shop in 1973 called Rhino Records. His enterprising store manager, Harold Bronson, convinced Foos to start their own music label and in 1978, Rhino began releasing music.

Since most of the big record companies passed on distribution deals with Rhino, most of their first ten years in business was done out of their shop and by mail-order catalog. However, their eclectic mix of music and strange video (soon to become a specialty for Rhino) kept building a loyal fan base. In 1986, they finally got a six-year distribution deal with Capitol Records and Rhino was on the map for good.

Two years later, I discovered Rhino Records after purchasing some Dr. Demento cassette tapes. I sent my $2.00 to Rhino for a catalog and they sent me their 10 year anniversary catalog - an artifact I treasured until the Toledo apartment fire of 1996 claimed its life. They had great compilations of surf music, acid rock, early works of Todd Rundgren and Jonathan Richman, more Dr. Demento stuff, the Three Stooges albums, and "Sleazemania" - video compilations of stripper movies and Z-rated drive-in movies.

I kept purchasing stuff from Rhino as often as I could and couldn't wait for their mailing to come to my home. One of my prized purchases from those early days was a cassette tape of "The Best Of Louie, Louie". Featuring 10 different versions of the song "Louie, Louie" (girl group / easy listening / garage band). One of the versions was done by a punk band called Black Flag featuring a then unknown Henry Rollins on lead vocals! In later years, the Black Flag rendition would not be included on the CD or cassette, making my copy $$$$$.

Capitol decided six years was good enough and walked away from Rhino in 1992. It seemed the magic ride was over... but wait! The giant music conglomerate WEA (Warner / Elektra / Atlantic) was waiting in the wings not only with a distribution deal but an offer to purchase 50% of Rhino! It was a deal too good to refuse. Several years later, Time Warner swallowed the other 50%, making it yet another wholly-owned subsidiary.

Many long time Rhino fans thought going totally corporate would stop Rhino being Rhino. Not so... They began Rhino Handmade, a place where limited editions (individually numbered) are released, allowing older forgotten material of WEA to hit the marketplace. In addition, Turner Classic Movies has issued hundreds of classic movie soundtracks (Casablanca, Singin' In The Rain) all released on the Rhino label. And don't get me started on all the old TV shows and forgotten movies Rhino Video has released...

Rhino's done a good share of Christmas music as well... they were the one who released "The Star Wars Christmas Album" several years ago (now out of print) as well as Ray Charles' lone Christmas album ("The Spirit Of Christmas") and the "Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits". They've also released great Christmas compilations such as "Bummed Out Christmas", "Cool Yule", "Blue Yule", and Dr. Demento's holiday releases.

This 2-CD set comes with a cookbook sized booklet, chock full of recipes for cocktails / hor d'overes and tips for planning out the best Christmas party. The music is nothing new... "White Christmas" by Bing, "Little Drummer Boy" by Harry Simone Chorale, "Chipmunk Song" by the Chipmunks - your standard Christmas department store / holiday radio fare.

This is mostly stuff I already own (in some cases seven or eight times over) but I received this as a gift from a friend who saw it at a garage sale... used copies of this sell on for $100 and up! Looking through my collection, I own over 15 Rhino Christmas releases. This makes 16...

On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...


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