Reissue Review: “Ork Records: New York, New York”

Written by Music, Reissue Reviews

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Ork Records: New York, New York is the vital compilation of all the output from the legendary New York City label of the late 1970’s.  Earlier this year, for Record Store Day, a vinyl box appeared with all the Ork 45’s in their original sleeve art; this beautiful package was missing a few items, but now, the forward thinking people at Numero Group has delivered the complete item:  a 4-lp or 2-CD set, housed in a hardcover book with extensive/detailed notes and slip case. 49 songs in all – plus a special 45 single of The Feelies’ unreleased “The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness” b/w a cover of “My Little Red Book”.

It’s a well-known story and you can have any and all curiosities/questions answered about Ork Records and its founder, Terry Ork.  The most important thing is the music within – and the key word is “important”; it cannot be emphasized enough.  For it was through Ork that some of the cornerstones of the (as-yet-unnamed) New York “punk” scene began to make their mark with their initial releases.   The first and probably most well-known would be Television’s debut, “Little Johnny Jewel” (parts 1 & 2), but equal to this release was the first offering from Richard Hell & The Voidoids, with the original version on “Blank Generation”.  Amongst the treasures are Chris Stamey & The dB’s’ take on Richard Lloyd’s “I Thought You Wanted To Know” – of which Richard’s vocal is included in this set; amongst the “lost” classics would be The Idols’ “Girl That I Love”, The Marbles’ “Fire And Smoke”, Stamey’s partner in The dB’s, Peter Holsapple’s “Big Black Truck” and the power-pop/new wave gem “Channel 13” from The Student Teachers.

Included as well is Alex Chilton’s brilliant/maniacal debut solo single, “Bangkok” (technically NOT an Ork single upon release but merits being included here – Chris Stamey &  The dB’s “I Thought You Wanted To Know” isn’t an Ork single either but was included in both the vinyl singles box and on this compilation) but for me, the biggest treasure unearthed is Prix, the duo of Jon Tiven and Tommy Hoehn (the wonderful and often-overlooked Memphis pop master).  The stunning “Every Time I Close My Eyes” is just one example of what this formidable duo were capable of – thankfully, this compilation has 5 tracks.  One listen and you know this could have been the very logical, natural and direct continuation of the way pointed forward via Big Star – nowhere is this more evident than on the previously unreleased “Love You All Day Long” which features the one and only Chris Bell.

I’m sure I could continue to rhapsodize about this collection of songs, but why bother?  It’s very simple – the roster of artists should be enough to convince you to get this and dive in.  Or the fact that it’s 49 songs.  But the bottom line is that the songs are worth every moment spent listening to and absorbing.  In turn, that should inspire you to learn more and if you’re so inclined, go and carry the tradition into tomorrow.

ESSENTIAL LISTENING

Ork Records: New York, New York is available now

http://www.numerogroup.com/products/ork-records-new-york-new-york