Monday, October 21, 2013

Asylum Records: Let There Be Music

Day two at our look at Asylum Records takes us to the band Orleans – an unlikely name for a band from Woodstock, NY; however, in their early days they chose the moniker as they were doing a number of songs influenced by Louisiana artists and it made sense at the time. Unfortunately like the city which inspired their name, Orleans was a band that had incredibly bad luck with record labels.

They cut their first two albums with ABC Records and the label sat on “Orleans II” for release in the US until the band produced hits on their next label, Asylum. With Asylum they had two significant hits: “Dance with Me” and “Still the One.” But after two albums with Asylum, John Hall left the band and Asylum kept Hall on contract, while Orleans segued to Infinity Records.

Orleans cut one album with Infinity in 1979 – “Forever,” which produced their third most popular song, “Love Takes Time” – and then, Infinity filed for bankruptcy. MCA, which had already absorbed ABC’s catalog, did the same with Infinity and upheld Orleans’ contract and released an album in 1980 titled “Orleans” – the same title as their debut album – also part of MCA’s catalog. I’m sure it was confusing to someone, but the first “Orleans” album was probably not in print in 1980.  In 1978, ABC had repackaged the first two albums as “Before the Dance.”

Confused? Good, as it gets worse.  MCA failed to promote the 1980 album and it went bust as did their contract with the label. By 1982, Orleans signed to Radio Records and released the album “One of a Kind,” which failed to generate any interest, as Radio Records also filed for bankruptcy and the record went out of print soon after it hit the market.

While Orleans continued to record, they fell into relative obscurity. Two of the original members, Wells Kelly (1984) and Larry Hoppen (2012), have since passed, but the band presses on with John Hall back at the helm as he had been three other times in their history.

Released in 1975, “Let There Be Music” was Orleans’ first single to chart in the Hot 100 and their first for Asylum Records. Although it only made it to #55, it is a killer tune that features excellent slide guitar work from John Hall and lead vocals by Larry Hoppen. While it didn’t chart that high, it paved the way for some of the biggest records of the band’s career.

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