Risky Business was a back-catalog specialty label operating within the Sony Special Products Division. According to Harold Fein, senior VP of Sony Music Special Projects at the time, the idea for the label came about while discussing all the licensing of music from Sony's vaults they were doing for labels such as Rhino and Priority when someone suggested doing something similar in-house.
"So we decided to do our own label and use our product rather than licensing it."Having made that statement, he went on to stress that Sony would continue to license its songs to other labels, and when needed, Risky Business would license material from other sources, according to an article by Melinda Newman announcing the label's launch in the Sept 25, 1993 issue of Billboard (p. 14). Fein stated the label's compilations would be
"a little irreverent in attack and nature...We're going to have some fun with this. We're not just looking to put out the greatest hits of the '80s."He also ambitiously announced that Risky Business would release approximately forty titles per year with each one featuring the new label's trademarked pink logo stripe at the top of the CD coverart as well as pink spines on both cassette and CD.
The first wave of ten titles from Risky Business were released on Tuesday, October 19, 1993 on both cassette and compact disc as part of Sony's discounted Best Value series with MSRPs of $7.98 for the tapes and $11.98 for the discs. (Regular priced new releases were $2-$4 more back then.) Each disc and tape has twelve songs with minimal liner notes containing copyright info as well as artist, title and running time. All ten titles from 1993 seem to be readily available on compact disc in the secondary markets priced so cheap you should expect to pay more in shipping than for the used discs themselves.
The first disc of the bunch Dangerous Women is a fairly straight-forward compilation on then contemporary rocking female-voiced acts with New Wave-ish acts (Scandal and Missing Persons) bookending mostly metal matrons.
Second out of the gate was Trash And Burn... The Metal Alternative. The album lives up to its name though the inclusion of Fishbone is off-putting unless you are familiar with the included song "Sunless Saturday".
Soul Of Vietnam is the first of the bunch that seems like a true mixtape from someone with a huge eclectic record collection and a vast musical knowledge. Both the title and cover art speak to the fact that this isn't just any random collection of war songs but rather one geared towards a certain audience, one that I can imagine dwindling each and every day with the passage of time.
The fourth album from Risky Business's 1993 releases is another mixtape marvel. Rubber Souled is eleven soul covers of Beatlesongs and one original of a song the Fab Four covered themselves. For the playlist above, I took the liberty of including the full length Booker T & the MGs medley that opens their McLemore Avenue album, the entire album a lovely and fitting tribute to Beatlesongs complete with Abbey Road nod on the cover.
Quite possibly the best of the bunch is this fifth album. It is a wonderful album, a fully mixtape that captures what this non-hippie imagines hippies would listen to. For the record, if the last word in the album's title was potatohead, I would be three for three. The only song I would add, and please correct me if I'm wrong, would be "I'd Love To Change The World" by Ten Years After.
Though the girl in the knee-high boots, tight polka dot skirt and black halter top gets my attention every single time, the sixth album in the first wave of Risky Business's releases is pretty damn good as well. The Bonds song is among my favorite of all-time and it's Springsteen and Miami Steve connection is more than palpable. Tommy Conwell and John Eddie were brief flickers in the Eighties. Thinking of those two, Henry Lee Summer's "I Wish I Had A Girl" springs to mind.
The first Risky Business disc I bought was this one, Double Knit Dance Hits, the seventh one in the series of ten. It's mostly disco and definitely all danceable for sure and the primary reason I picked it up was the more than seven minute mix of Patrick Hernandez's "Born To Be Alive" which I only had on vinyl. The selection of twelve inch mixes versus seven inch edits is puzzling yet overall, this is a decent disc at a decent price.
The eighth album in the 1993 flight of Risky Business titles is a complete strike-out for this music fan. With a name like Whole Lotta Lava, I was expecting something completely different. The final two songs on the album do make me smile though but its more of a I get the joke smile rather than a these songs make me happy smile.
The penultimate title in the series of ten is another disappointment. I guess I don't understand the whole concept of what constitutes a guilty pleasure. I like a couple of songs on here and positively love "Magic", the piece of power pop candy produced by The Alan Parsons. I was in between third and fourth grade when the song peaked at number 5 on the Hot 100 in the Summer of 1975.
Rounding out the 1993 freshman run of Risky Business releases, Oh, Split! is definitely my least favorite among them. I recognize half of the artists and NONE of the songs.
No further Risky Business titles would be released until 1994. Those releases will covered in a future post and will be followed by a third post covering the label's final releases in 1995.