Column from December 7th, 1998

The category "oldies but goodies" seems to be really filling up. Happy with the success of their "Anthology" release, Ambrosia are now working on an all new full album which is likely to be released in the first half of 1999. All the band’s back catalogue is now likely to also be re-issued on CD ("Life beyond LA" and "One Eighty" have previously been re-released in Japan, but are now deleted). Angel are practically finished their comeback album are should have it out soon, while Legs Diamond are still working on new material, though their "lost" 1980 album is due out in Europe in the early part of 1999. Also now received the two Morningstar re-issues from Japan, which are interesting, even if they remind you how rough the band’s production was! If you’ve never heard them they sound like Boston with keyboards, or a rough and ready early Kansas.

Dakota are also recording a new album and looking at a March 1999 release, though it is likely to be preceded by a live album (actually recorded in 1980) around the turn of the year….

Thanks to those eagle-eyed readers that let me know that Whiteheart’s "Hot Line" had been on CD before – Cool Sound will also now released the band’s "Live at Six Flags" release as well on December 12th. Cool Sound also has a reissue of Sneaker’s excellent second album – "Loose in the World" – coming January 25th with four bonus tracks, along with Tony Scuito’s "Be My Radio" which is unreleased material for 1980 and 1982 recorded with help from the guys from Toto. Release date for the Scuito album is February 25th.

In a similar vein to my last column on the state of the overall industry. The next change among the majors hit by "poor trading conditions" (they were the ones that made it weak anyway!), appears to be EMI.

EMI has recently reported a 20% slide in interim operating profits citing a "weak release schedule" as the main problem. Ahem, didn’t they chose what to release? Operating profits were still in excess of 91 million – but not that much when you consider how many of its executives earn in seven figures and the former chairman got a "golden goodbye" of more than 30 million!

The label’s shares have also had 30% wiped off their value in six months. EMI still remains a target for take-over (especially with such a weakened stock value), and it has essentially admitted holding recent meetings with BMG to this end. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has also been rumoured as a potential suitor, though EMI has denied interest from that source, not sure if that would be a good or bad thing when Murdoch’s lowest common denominator principles are applied to a record label. Probably couldn’t be any worse….

Why should anyone care? What does EMI ever release of any quality? Take yet another major out of the market via consolidation and there’s even less chance of a more diverse music (and yes that could include melodic rock) ever making a comeback, as the potential homes for releases will be even more limited.

What I think this also shows is that labels’ blinkered viewpoints are beginning to catch them out. EMI likes to also blame the Asian financial crisis, CD piracy and a "more fickle, fragmented European music market" as the culprits behind its continuing decline. Maybe I’m taking a rather simplistic view-point here, but surely if majors stopped aiming at a tiny segment of the huge overall music audience, they might find an audience to whom music is truly important, rather than flogging the pop mainstream to death, and then not understanding when their target demographic grows up!