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Labels Turn to Country Vaults for CD Retrospective Series

Times Pop Music Critic

Record companies have been concentrating on rock, jazz and soul when it comes to CD retrospectives, but Capitol and Columbia are now turning some of their attention to their prized country vaults.

Columbia has just released the first eight discs in a country-oriented “American Originals” series, which is also available in cassette. Each disc is devoted to a particular artist: Charlie Rich, Ray Price, David Houston, Johnny Horton, Jimmy Dean, Sonny James, Stonewall Jackson and Bob Luman.

The company follows this fall with albums saluting Lefty Frizzell, Marty Robbins, Carl Perkins, Claude King, George Morgan and Mel Tillis.

Capitol, meanwhile, unveils a “Capitol Collectors Series” line Aug 1. While the new series isn’t exclusively country, country singers Ferlin Husky and Hank Thompson will be among the first five artists highlighted, while Merle Haggard and Sonny James will be among the artists featured in the group of eight titles due in mid-September.

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Non-country artists due Aug. 1 in “Capitol Collectors Series” are Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer, while discs by the Five Keys, the Four Preps, Stan Freberg, Dean Martin, the Kingston Trio and Wayne Newton will be the second batch.

While all these albums will carry mid-line prices (about $11 to $12 in most stores), the Capitol series will offer 20 selections per disc as opposed to just 10 in the Columbia line. The Capitol retrospectives will also include extensive liner notes, including release dates and chart positions of all the songs involved.

Though most of the artists in the “American Originals” series have not previously been available in CD, Columbia already has Rich and Price packages available as part of its extensive “Collector’s Choice” series.

The result is some interesting buying decisions because the “Collector’s Choice” series is a budget line (less than $10 in most stores) and features some of the same songs contained in the new “American Originals” packages.

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With Price, for instance, the “Collector’s Choice” entry (titled simply “Ray Price’s “Greatest Hits”) contains two more songs than the new “American Originals” package and concentrates on Price’s ‘50s recordings, which were in a raw, honky-tonk style, where “Original” disc offers a little from all areas of his career, include his ‘70s emphasis on a more lush pop-country approach.

Though Sonny James appears on both the Columbia and Capitol lists, there is no duplication. James had 11 Top-10 country singles when he recorded for Columbia from 1972 to 1978, and eight of them are on the “American Originals” package. He had an additional 32 Top-10 singles for Capitol, including a remarkable 16 in a row in the ‘60s.

MORE CHOICES: In the continuing stream of Roy Orbison repackages, Rhino Records and PolyGram have both just released retrospective albums that focus on Orbison’s recordings on MGM Records after he left Monument, the Nashville-label where he had his greatest success.

The Rhino album, “The Classic Roy Orbison/1965-68,” contains 18 songs, including “Ride Away” (his biggest MGM hit) and “Cry Softly Lonely One.” The PolyGram collection, “The Singles Collection, 1965-1973,” repeats nine of the 18 songs from the Rhino album and offers 13 additional ones, including an especially stirring version of Mickey Newbury’s tender “Remember the Good.” One of the songs on the Rhino album that isn’t duplicated on the PolyGram disc is Orbison’s version of “Claudette,” the hit he wrote for the Everly Brothers.

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