With the dawning of the digital age, an increasing number of pop music groups are re-releasing archival tracks, and even offering for the first time songs that were never previously available except to die-hard fans as cassettes or bootlegs. The Atlantics, a Boston-based punk/pop band that helped spearhead the new wave scene from 1976 to 1982, recently restored and released collections of the band’s powerpop hits, many that had never been previously available. The band’s first CD release was the self-titled “Atlantics,” on the band’s label something.hot communications. The 2006 collection included the Atlantics’ huge regional hit “Lonelyhearts” and the original vinyl flip side “Can’t Wait Forever.” But what has made “Atlantics” a hit on CDbaby and local radio was the inclusion of tracks that were favorites from their live concerts but only previously released on cassette tape to New England radio stations– “Pop Shivers,” “Wrong Number,” and the Friday drive-time favorite “Weekend.”
The tapes of the thirteen tracks had been stored in a trunk in the basement of guitar player Tom Hauck’s parents. “Our drummer Paul Caruso took these analog tapes and had them professionally restored at M-Works in Cambridge,” says Tom. “He was able to put together a thirteen-track digital master that offers very competitive sound quality. These twenty-five-year-old tapes sound as good as many records released today.” And now, because the tracks are digital, the process of tape deterioration has been arrested.
Encouraged by the success of “Atlantics,” in 2007 the band released “Atlantics Live,” a concert recording from the Paradise Club. The March, 1979 concert was originally broadcast live over WCOZ-FM, and includes most of the hits from the band’s 1979 ABC Records album “Big City Rock.” The digital releases continue. A digitally remastered bootleg of “Big City Rock” appeared in 2008; this CD now fetches a high price on the used CD market, if you can find one.
The Atlantics are planning a third release for 2009. “PowerPop” will include a whopping seventeen tracks dating from 1977 to 1982, including the never-released Jukebox Records 45 classic “When You’re Young.” Recorded in 1978, the song combined the Ramones wall of sound with a Fifties boy-band melody and paved the way for post-punk hits like blink-182’s “Dammit” (compare them both-you’ll hear it).
Not to be overlooked, the eighties glam band Ball and Pivot–featuring Bruce Wilkinson from the Atlantics at the microphone–went to the archives and released “Heart in the Sky” in 2008. The CD includes a digitally remastered version of their massive dance club and radio hit “Down,” as well as favorites including “Two O’Clock Jump” and “Downtown,” the band’s hi-octane Stones-ish tribute to the pleasures of the big city. Combining crunch guitars, big beats, and eighties synths, “Heart in the Sky” is a surprisingly fresh-sounding collection that both evokes a bygone era and packs a contemporary punch.
What makes the re-release market viable for bands like the Atlantics and Ball and Pivot are the availability of online CD retailers like CDbaby, regional chains like Newbury Comics, and digital outlets. “Twenty-five years ago you had to have a major distributor for your vinyl LP,” say the Atlantics. “Now we can sell our music globally from a laptop computer. We’re selling more tracks today than we were back when the band was performing. It’s great that the old fans can get our music, and even new fans–the kids who are looking for authentic sounds from before they were born–can own a piece of history.”
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