Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reprise Records: My Sunday Feeling

As I’ve featured a number of classic independent and smaller subsidiary labels in the past, I was in a quandary in trying to come up with a Fourth Week Label Feature for this month. After rejecting four labels for not having enough suitable material, I settled on Reprise Records – the younger and smaller of Warner Brothers’ top two labels. While Reprise also had its own subsidiaries, we won’t be looking at those as Reprise has produced enough material to feature several months’ worth of recordings.

Reprise was founded in 1960 by Frank Sinatra where he was the label’s “Chairman of the Board.” It was originally intended to be a vehicle for Sinatra, his Rat Pack cronies, and his daughter Nancy. When transferred to Warner Brothers in 1963, label president Mo Ostin took Reprise in new directions.

While the Sinatras and Dean Martin continued to record for Reprise for some time, rock artists were brought into the fold. Reprise also struck deals with UK labels that did not have North American counterparts and released their recordings in the US and Canada. Between 1976 to 1985, Warners technically discontinued the label and moved all of the artists except Frank Sinatra and Neil Young over to the Warner Brothers’ imprint. Since its 1985 revival, Warners has changed Reprise’s focus several times.

Jethro Tull was one of the bands that was signed in North America to Reprise. While the band was signed to Chrysalis in the UK, the company didn’t initially have its own label. For a period, Island Records released Chrysalis material in the UK and Reprise originally picked up the option on some of Chrysalis’ artists.

In 1968, Jethro Tull’s debut album was issued in the US on Reprise Records. Although the album did well in the UK, it only peaked on the US at #62. Still not bad from an unknown band; however, it was the band’s worst charting LP until 1984. This record was eclipsed when “Under Wraps” was released.

“This Was” is a bit different from later Tull material, as it has blues and jazz elements that are missing from later recordings. Tull’s musical direction largely changed when guitarist Mick Abrahams left the band following the recording. The title, I am sure which was intentional, truly became a fitting identity of the album, because “This Was” Jethro Tull and not “This Is” Jethro Tull.

While “This Was” produced no hit singles, I have decided to feature the lead track, “My Sunday Feeling,” simply because it is Sunday.

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