In a move sure to delight audiophiles and collectors of classic pop music albums, the Audio Fidelity label will reissue of two classic Grateful Dead albums on 180-gram pure virgin vinyl, in limited numbered edition gatefold packages on June 7th, according to label president Marshall Blonstein.The band's 1975 BLUES FOR ALLAH and 1978's SHAKEDOWN STREET will be available from both online and brick-and-mortar retail outlets as the latest offerings in Audio Fidelity's continuing program of audiophile reissues.
Audio Fidelity, which Blonstein founded in 2002 after leaving the pioneering DCC Compact Classics label that he started in 1986, has become synonymous with high-quality album reissues geared toward the audiophile market. Since 2009, Audio Fidelity has reissued some of the best-known and most significant pop and rock titles in both 24Karat Gold CD and 180-gram virgin vinyl editions.Continuing the policy Blonstein established at DCC, all Audio Fidelity titles are produced from original sources and feature the original artwork. Among the imprint's growing catalog are key recordings by Stevie Wonder, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, Rod Stewart, the Doors, Cat Stevens, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.
The two Grateful Dead reissues occupy special places in the fabled San Francisco band's history. BLUES FOR ALLAH, originally released in September of 1975, was the third of only four albums issued on the group's Grateful Dead Records imprint. While the LP's best remembered cuts, "Franklin's Tower" and "The Music Never Stopped," remained in the band's concert set list for some 20 years, the title track-the first part of an ambitious suite-was performed only a few times in 1975 before being retired from the band's repertoire. BLUES FOR ALLAH reached No. 12 on Billboard's album chart; from the LP, "The Music Never Stopped" was the Dead's highest charting single since "Uncle John's Band."
First issued in November 1978 on Arista Records, SHAKEDOWN STREET was the Dead's tenth album, its eighth to go Gold. Produced by Little Feat founder Lowell George, it was an eclectic collection that featured updated versions of venerable live Dead favorites ("Good Lovin,'" "All New Minglewood Blues") and also introduced songs that would become staples of the band's concerts for years to come, most notably "I Need a Miracle" and "Fire on the Mountain." The lighthearted SHAKEDOWN STREET cover illustration was done by renowned underground-comics artist Gilbert Shelton, famous for The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Wonder Wart-hog strips. The album remained on the Billboard chart for close to six months, peaking at No. 41.
The Grateful Dead vinyl reissues represent Audio Fidelity's expanded vinyl release schedule, which has recently included titles such as Cheap Trick's IN COLOR, Laura Nyro's FIRST SONGS, Harry Nilsson's A LITTLE TOUCH OF SCHMILSSON IN THE NIGHT and Kate Bush's HOUNDS OF LOVE. While the label often issues a title in both Gold-CD and virgin-vinyl formats, Blonstein admits some of the impetus for producing the latter comes from the renewed interest in vinyl LP's. According to the R.I.A.A., vinyl sales surged 26% in 2010 over the previous year.
Blonstein is bullish on the public's appetite for audiophile reissues of classic albums, and Audio Fidelity's capacity to satisfy it. "The traditional music retail stores as we once knew them are gone," he continues. "At the same time, there's a strong traditional 'unique' retail base of retailers that has found a way to do more than survive; they're thriving. When CDs first came out, they were unique. It was a new format. Vinyl and cassettes starting declining rapidly in sales. The uniqueness and the improved sound quality made the CD an almost instant success, but it lacked the emotional connection consumers experienced with vinyl. The resurgence of vinyl shows us that connection is being made again ... the consumer likes to hold a vinyl LP, to study the artwork. It's now become a very hip format again, and when you see consumers shopping for vinyl at stores, you see them spending more time looking to buy music in general. It's obvious that there is an audience for top-quality remastered CD and vinyl pressings."
Marshall Blonstein's professional career comprises a virtual history of the modern music and entertainment business. The Los Angeles native started in the business in 1965 as a promotion executive at Epic and ABC Records. As a principal of Ode Records, he helped make Carole King's Tapestry one of the best-selling albums of all time and built two of the longest running cult-film franchises in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke. Blonstein subsequently served as president of Island Records, working with artists such as Bob Marley and Steve Winwood, and, in 1986, founded DCC Compact Classics to take advantage of the technical advances offered in the digital medium. DCC quickly grew into the premiere audiophile imprint, issuing sets by Elvis Presley, the Eagles, the Doors, Frank Sinatra and many others.
Upon leaving DCC in 2002, Blonstein created Audio Fidelity, which has assumed a similarly prestigious perch among imprints serving the audiophile and music-collecting communities. In addition to its audiophile catalog, Audio Fidelity, based in Camarillo, California, also releases compilation CDs, a variety of reissues and DVDs, such as Soupy Sales, Elvis Presley, Tim Allen and Hugh Hefner's legendary series Playboy After Dark.