Kingsmeadow in Kingston-upon-Thames…

Any of you know where I am taking this?

Just a couple of you, I see. Well, it is the home of Football League Two newcomers, AFC Wimbledon. It is also the only football ground in the country to my knowledge named for a record company, and for sponsorship purposes Kingsmeadow is known as The Cherry Red Records Stadium.

Having talked about Rock Candy and BGO in my previous two Blogs, this time I am going to discuss the splendid Cherry Red Records – and the main differences from those labels are

(a) there is a plethora of different labels under the CR umbrella, some of which have more artists than others with greater interest to Rocktopia (and Fireworks Magazine) readers, although there are some surprises tucked away in the sub catalogues of labels such as LEMON and Rev Ola, as I will explain…

(b) some of the labels now include brand new releases in addition to reissues: ESOTERIC ANTENNAE and HNE being pre-eminent here from my perspective. In fact, Cherry Red started out as a label that issued new recordings, the first release appearing in 1978 and

(c) Cherry Red is mad about football (something you might have gathered from the opening of this piece) and started ‘The Football Collectors Series’ nearly 20 years ago to pull together all football related releases! I must admit that this side of things has completely escaped my notice…but there are now around 50 such releases with collections of songs of most of the Premier League clubs!

A little history for those of you who like that sort of thing (if you want more, you’ll find it on t’ Web).…Firstly, the name of the company. The track ‘Cherry Red’ on the Groundhogs album ‘Split’ (great track incidentally!) seems to have been responsible for this, and the record label that tentatively began in 1978 grew from a promotions company of the same name. One of the company’s three founders, Iain McNay remains with Cherry Red as its Chairman, while Adam Velasco, the Managing Director has “only” been with the company since 1992, apparently starting out as office junior, packing orders and making cups of tea (that’s the way to do it!!)

The Cherry Red family of record labels include the following (there are more, quite a few of which are currently inactive) –

7Ts - the label for all things seventies and beyond! Amongst the label’s discography are albums by 10CC, Blackfoot Sue, Bonnie Tyler, Ian Hunter, Suzi Quatro and Sweet – but also Donnie Osmond, Nolan Sisters and The Partridge Family: so care is needed!

Anagram – focuses upon Punk, Psychobilly and Goth. I admit to having a Sham 69 vinyl album that has been re-released here on CD, but have nothing else from this label’s discography. However, if you like (for example) Alien Sex Fiend, Demented Are Go, Frantic Flintstones and Peter & The Test Tube Babies then go and have a look!

Atomhenge – the home of pioneering psychedelic and classic rock – and primarily Hawkwind and their offshoot projects. For me, the Robert Calvert releases such as ‘Captain Lockheed & The Starfighters’ and ‘Lucky Leif & The Longships’ are as interesting as any Hawkwind album, excepting perhaps ‘Warrior On The Edge Of Time’ (to be found here as a standard edition, a three disc expanded edition and a Super Deluxe Box set special edition.

Big Break (and its new offshoot Hot Shot) is a focus for classic black dance music - psychedelic soul and jazz though funk and Philly soul, on to disco and then to street soul, pop dance and electro. There’s little or nothing here to attract the dedicated Fireworks and Rocktopia cognoscenti, I think…

Cherry Red - “the original home of independent thinking music” focuses upon “finest indie, alternative, punk & pop music created over the last five decades.” There is a HUGE label discography – but I’m really focused here upon the broad family of labels that operate under the Cheery Red umbrella…so all I can recommend is that you explore the CR catalogue for yourselves!

él – now this label has a truly diverse discography: “a serious-minded look at history, seasoned with the bravura style of the original label”. Avoid unless Blossom Dearie, Elmer Bernstein, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Michel LeGrand, Tito Puente and so much more besides happen to float your boat!

Esoteric – “Established in 2007 and label managed by Mark Powell, Esoteric Recordings is the home of Progressive, Psychedelic & Classic Rock, with all releases finely packaged and remastered from the best possible sources to ensure the highest possible audio quality…” There really are some grand re-releases here and among my favourites are ones from the Climax Blues Band, Denny Gerard (his sole albuim is a peach), Gordon Giltrap (the trio of releases ‘Visionary’, ‘Perilous’ and ‘Fear Of The Dark’ are essential treasures in my opinion), Hapshash & The Coloured Coat (whose two album precisely define “esoteric”!) and String Driven Thing (whose track ‘It’s A Game’ from ‘The Machine That Died’ is one of my all-time favourites).

Esoteric Antennae – a new offshoot from Esoteric has recently been added to the range of labels and here the focus is upon releasing brand new albums by well-known progressive and classic rock artists and newly emerging acts within these genres. The first release was ‘Diving Bell’ from Sanguine Hum in March 2012 and other notable releases subsequently have come from John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest, Panic Room, Gordon Giltrap & Oliver Wakeman, Steve Hackett, Squackett, Ken Hensley, Lifesigns, The Reasoning and Nick Magnus among others…Both Esoteric labels have plenty to interest us at Fireworks and Rocktopia.

Grapefruit – this is what is described as Cherry Red’s “bespoke psych/garage-era imprint, devoted to issuing single-artist career anthologies (The Herd, The Sorrows, The Knickerbockers) and definitive versions of rare and/or classic albums (Duncan Browne’s debut, Skip Bifferty, Tinkerbell’s Fairydust) dating from the 1966-70 timeframe, with all releases boasting sympathetic artwork, rare photos, detailed liner notes and from-the-masters sound quality”. The discography numbers 29 releases at the time of writing, but I am delighted to have the ones by Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera (including the wildly variable material contained on their first two albums, plus tracks from another early album that was never released – because the associated film never made it to release either!), John’s Children (including ‘ Desdemona’, one of the most incredible psych tracks of 1967, written by Marc Bolan who was at that time a member of the band), The Herd (featuring a very young Peter Frampton) and Skip Bifferty, a Newcastle band that went on to become the (only very slightly) more famous Heavy Jelly, were managed by Sharon Osbourne’s father Don Arden and whose first single ‘On Love’ was another of those fantastic 1967 releases!

Hear No Evil – the newish hard rock and heavy metal member of the Cherry Red family and fronted by Hugh Gilmour (also bass guitarist in the band Pig Iron). The rapidly expanding catalogue already has releases by (amongst others) 21 Guns, Accept, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Hellion, Ken Hensley & Live Fire, Terraplane, Touchstone and Uriah Heep. One for our readers to keep a close eye upon, methinks!

Ironbird – this is another newish member of the Cherry Red family of labels, and another one to keep an eye upon as its focus is also rock…to hard rock…to metal. There are just over a dozen reissues so far, but include ones by Britny Fox, CoC, Dangerous Toys, Europe, Mind Funk, Riot and Warrant.

Lemon – established in 2003, this label releases classic rock and new wave albums from the 70s to the present. Look out for albums by 38 Special, Aldo Nova, Bachmann Turner Overdrive (the 2 on 1 release of ‘Not Fragile’ and ‘Four Wheel Drive’ is an absolute doozy!), Humble Pie, Vinegar Joe (featuring the incredible Elkie Brooks…if you’ve never heard ‘Black Smoke Rising From The Calumet’ on ‘Six Star General’ (CDLEM03) then I beg you to rectify the omission!) and The Wildhearts (and many, many others…)

Now Sounds – a label name strangely at odds with their discography that focuses upon “the golden era of popular music (1964-1972) via soft psychedelia, Brill Building, breezy harmony pop, Wilsonian-sploitation, girl groups, Spectorian sound and his imitators, folk rock, downer folk psych, Bacharock, Wrecking Crew/anything recorded at Gold Star Studios, and the best in new music”… Well, there’s the wonderful harmonies of The Association, the “feeling groovy” sounds of Harper’s Bizarre, the Mamas & The Papas and the utterly bizarre Tiny Tim amongst the sonic treasures to be discovered here. I can only suggest, “investigate with care”!!

Rev-Ola – this label is no longer releasing any new material, but there’s a huge discography, from which I personally have great albums by The Appletree Theatre (‘Playback’), Captain Beefheart (‘Safe As Milk’), Dave Mason (‘Alone Together’), Eric Burdon & The Animals (‘Winds Of Change’), Honeybus (‘Story’), H P Lovecraft (‘Dreams In The Witch House’), The Merry-Go-Round (‘Listen, Listen’) and The Pozo-Seco Singers (‘Time For…’) Hidden among these albums are several of my top 100 songs of all time – they’re that good (but do remember that I have a very eclectic musical palette!!)

R.P.M. – This label has been in existence for nearly 25 years and specialises in reissues from the 1960s to mid 1970's, principally from UK music archives, and my most recent addition from the label is the 3CD box by The Artwoods (‘Steady Getting’ It’) about which I will be saying much more in a future Blog. There is a huge discography, and I strongly recommend having a good look. I personally only have two other releases on this label so far (by The Mojos and Arrival) but you will be amazed at what else is in there…

T-Bird – here you will find Bluegrass, Country, Country Rock, Rockabilly, Rock n’ Roll and all points in between, so there may be something for a couple of Fireworks Magazine and Rocktopia readers. Included in the discography so fare are albums by The Charlie Daniels Band, Hot Tuna, The Men They Couldn’t Hang and (the one that I have) the self-titled release from Nona Hendryx (although her ‘Skindiver’ album is the one more likely to appeal to readers here…)

You will find reviews of quite a few of the labels’ key new issues reviewed at Rocktopia (and initially in Fireworks, of course) and you can get a good discount for purchasing multiple CDs direct from Cherry Red – go and have a look at and see for yourselves.

I shall return to looking at some record labels in due course. My next few Blogs are going to be more observational…and, oh yes, Firefest, The Final Fling beckons. See you there, I hope….

Paul Jerome Smith
29 September 2014

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