Sony's RISKY BUSINESS - The Second Wave [1994]

After launching with the simultaneous release of ten titles in 1993, Risky Business regrouped and released their first title of 1994 in March of that year.  It is a double disc inscrutably titled Read The Hits: Best of the 80's.  Seriously, what does Read The Hits mean?  I know what the words mean but how does it relate to this album?  Anyone?
I picked this disc up sometime in 1994 or 1995 as I was looking specifically for Slade's "Run Runaway" for a mixtape.  I had the album Keep Your Hands Of My Power Supply on vinyl but as all of the rest of the songs were dubbed of CD, I tried to make it a clean digital sweep. Read The Hits is a double disc, priced slightly above the previous Risky Business single discs and it is the first and maybe only disc I remember buying with a Best Value Plus hype sticker on the front.  The album followed the previously established label (industry?) compilation standard and included just a dozen songs per disc for a total of twenty-four really good and somewhat popular full-length songs from The Eighties including the nearly seven minute version of "Total Eclipse Of The Heart", which was kind of rare at the time on CD.  Still don't get the Read The Hits title though?
The next batch of four Risky Business releases hit the market in May 1994 and for the first time in the young label's history there was somewhat of an underlying or recurring theme among the discs, one that had begun with the release of Read The Hits - it was (mostly) Eighties New Wave! Punky But Chic..., titled after the David Johansen song from 1978 that serves as its first track, kept things going by featuring American New Wave bands.  The album serves to remind us that New Wave was not entirely an Eighties thing (reaching back to 1975 for one track) while spotlighting artists you might know (The Knack, Bangles) and some you might not (Wire Train, Laughing Dogs).  The three song block from track 7 through track 9 is my favorite part of the album though I never skip a track.
This album focuses on New Wave in the U.K. and follows the same template that the album above did, with songs dating back to the Seventies from both popular (Adam & the Ants, A Flock Of Seagulls) and obscure artists (Bruce Wooley & the Camera Club, The Sinceros).  I am much less familiar with the artists and songs on this one and as such it doesn't get much play.
For an album sub-titled New Wave Dance Hits, This Ain't No Disco oddly contains edited 45 versions of some songs rather than their longer album counterparts or longer still twelve inch remixes.  As album fourteen in the Risky Business catalog it is also the first one to feature songs from another Risky Business collection, in this case two songs from Read The Hits.  Six of the songs on here make me happy and three of them are found on tracks seven through nine.  Again.
Couldn't begin to tell you why I picked this one up.  (It was cheap?)  The Red Rockers "China" is my favorite song on the tracklisting though I don't really not like any of the others. Why are these "lost singles"?  The final track was also included on Read The Hits - surely the CBS vaults were much deeper than this.  The two guys responsible for compiling the last three albums are Doug Wygal and Scott Schinder.  For all I know the duo might have put together the first two albums above as well - the credits are skimpy beyond copyright info.  On the other hand, it makes very little sense that they would repeat themselves using tracks from Read The Hits.

The next flight of Risky Business releases - all six of them - appeared in June 1994, bringing the yearly output up to eleven titles.  Depending on your appreciation and definition of glam rock, Wham Bam, Thank You Glam! is either spot on, a near miss or horribly misguided.  I would suppose I am of the middle opinion as it does have "All The Young Dudes" and "Rock On" but not much else for me.  And any Midwesterner can tell you that is Ted Muthatruckin' Nugent on the album cover with his little fox(?) tail hanging off the waistline of his tightie whitey jumpsuit.  He'd be the first one to tell you that he wasn't glam rock.

There is a similar problem of authenticity on Godfathers Of Grunge, which features seven classic rock radio stalwarts... and five other songs.  Nugent may be even be the coverboy again but even if he's not, he's on the album this time around with his menacing and never-ending "Stranglehold".  I noticed half of the artists included on this album were also included on Rhino's 1990 compilation Heavy Metal Memories, which leans more towards classic rock than heavy metal in its sixteen tracks.  
Coincidence?  Probably. Other songs I like on the wrongly titled Godfathers Of Grunge are the first three tracks and tracks number 5 and 8.  In 1998, Sony licensed this album to K-Tel minus the Iron Butterfly and Grand Funk contributions and replaced them with tracks by Edgar Winter and Rick Derringer.  The running ordered was shuffled and the album was retitled Rock Anthems with guess who on the cover? 
That's right, the Motor City Madman himself.

As with its predecessor Oh, Split! from 1993, there is not much to like here though the artist line-up is a bit stronger, especially with ringer Roy Orbison.  Both Brenda Lee and Jackie DeShannon cover songs I am more familiar with and like much better by other artists.
A return to the quirky mixtape mentality that is hallmark of Risky Business titles, Country Goes To The Movies is country songs heard in Westerns on the big screen.  (My Grandpa Harold called them "shoot'em ups" and my mother-in-law calls them "John Wayne Movies" whether The Duke is in them or not.)  My favorite three song block is the one that runs from Eddie Rabbitt through Willie Nelson and ends with Mickey Gilley's last call.  Multiple volumes could be mined from this untapped vein of music, especially Westerns from the Seventies, Eighties and early Nineties.  I'm looking at you Blazing Saddles, The VillainRustler's Rhapsody and all those Gambler movies Sweet Kenny Rogers filmed. 
Small Screen Cowboy Heroes sort of says it all - it's a collection of classic Fifties (and Sixties?) television Western themes and songs.  All of them play it straight and the great Johnny Cash even makes an appearance, singing the usually wordless Bonanza theme song.  At under 28 minutes, this might be the shortest disc Risky Business ever issued.  Again, this could have been a multi-disc series with a little more research and a lot more licensing.

The third Western themed disc in a row is the straight forward Silver Screen Cowboys, featuring classic songs from movies starring those famous singing cowboys.  The first three songs in the seven song Spotify playlist above are unparalleled American classics.  Heck, John Wayne himself has a track on this album, a recited poem "Texas Is A Woman" from his film The Sons Of Katie Elder (1965).

Risky Business released their first two seasonal titles in September 1994.  They are also the only two releases in the label's catalog not to feature iconic bright pink logo.  A Different Kind Of Christmas was just that, a dozen alternative acts performing both original and traditional Holiday fare.  The album quickly became a mixtape staple with its acoustic Americana and boogie blues vibe though I really don't listen to the song "Ice" much.  A Different Kind Of Christmas actually triggered three additional CD purchases that Christmas: Bruce Cockburn's Christmas, the Acoustic Christmas compilation from 1990 (shares four songs with A Different Kind Of Christmas) and the 1993 compilation Christmas Time that has since seen two or three updates so that I picked it up in 2015 as Christmas Time Again!

Ghastly Grooves is a Halloween disc featuring appropriately themed songs from the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.  The album's opening three track salvo also appears on at least three other Halloween albums here in the Hideaway Archives.  I give credit to Wygal and Schinder for their inspired Blue Oyster Cult selection, "Nosferatu" - other Halloween album compilers have always opted for the band's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" or "Godzilla".  Ghastly Grooves was later released intact except for the artwork by K-Tel in 1997 with two alternate covers:
So if you've been playing along at home, you've probably realized that nine months into 1994, Risky Business has put thirteen new titles on the market, somewhat ahead of the original ten titles released in 1993.  How many more albums could the little label produce before year's end?  And had they run out of concepts, ideas and inspiration?  Read on, dear viewers, to see what how 1994 ended for Risky Business.
The final wave of 1994 Risky Business titles began with Wall Street's Greatest Hits featuring ten songs with the word money in their title and two more songs related to money.  All of the artists and a few of the songs are well-known but the rest just seem like the results from a quick title word search in the CBS vaults for money.  Except for a few tunes, this one is bankrupt!    
Someone at the small label said "Hey! What about a CD with songs all about time?"  And someone else said "C'mon everybody let's put on a show to raise money."  That person was shown the door and the CD eventually saw the light of day as Rock Around The Clock.  (Get it?)  This one is only slightly less clever than the disc above which isn't saying a whole lot because that one wasn't the least bit clever. 
I didn't want to love this album but I fell for it the first time I listened. Once again, Risky Business has managed to capture the eclectic, decade-hopping mixtape ambiance they had promised from the git go yet only rarely delivered.  This one runs from the Fifties up through the Eighties and each song just fits.  There are no deep album cuts or unearthed treasures here as all songs were hits in their time and the fact that no less than half of the songs were among my father's favorites has only added sentimental attachment to this little piece of plastic.
The theme of this album is wildly off the charts creative, a dozen jazzy big band songs about food.  (Unfortunately, many are not yet available via Spotify - the playlist above only has five of the twelve songs.)  Doesn't make the album any less of a must have for those of us who frequently host dinner parties.  Delightfully delicious!
Jokers & Wildcards is a dozen funny country songs, including one about brain surgery, bank robbing and a singing chicken by none other than the Man In Black, Johnny Cash. Shel Silverstein shows up with a silly song about Johnny Cash and Cledus Maggard brings his Citizens Band and "The White Knight", but my favorite song on the album is Charlie Walker's contribution, the title of which I'll spare you because you might not appreciate wordplay as much as I do.  As a longtime fan of Kooky Kountry, Looney Tunes, Silly Songs, Dumb Ditties, Funky Favorites, Wacky Weirdos and Goofy Greats, this one should have been right up my alley but I found it lacking.  Maybe because I'm more than 40 years older than when I first had all of those novelty song albums?
That concludes the 1994 slate of Risky Business releases.  I counted 18, how many did you get?  Next time out, we'll wrap up the label discography with all of the Risky Business releases from 1995.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - talk about an interesting mix of compilation themes put out here. Risky indeed.