Under European Union law, recordings move into the public domain after fifty years. This means that anyone can issue tracks after that time without restraint, provided that the songwriters are paid. As I’ve discussed before, over the years this has led to the reissue of many tracks which may not otherwise have seen the light of day. For example, there is Secret’s R&B Years series, the excellent Proper boxes, and the Classics series of jazz and blues reissues from France. Until recently this was a mini-industry aimed at connoisseurs, but this changed in 2006 when Elvis Presley’s Sun studio work moved into the public domain leading to several budget collections being issued.
Things are already looking to move up a gear as the fruits of 1957 become available. Already scheduled are two 4 disc boxes from Acrobat containing every UK chart hit of the year (1957 British Hit Parade volumes 1 and 2). Quite who would want their Little Richard and Elvis tracks nestling alongside Max Bygraves and Pat Boone is quite beyond me. The same company also has a 1957 country hits collection called, surprisingly, The Greatest Country Hits of 1957. Hank Snow, Elvis and Johnny Cash rub shoulders uncomfortably with rather too much Jim Reeves for my liking.
There’s a single disc collection of Elvis tunes from a label called Xtra (me neither) called From Jailhouse to Graceland – the Complete 1957 Recordings and a lovingly crafted three CD box containing everything that Buddy Holly committed to tape that year from El Toro (Not Fade Away: Buddy Holly 1957 – The Complete Recordings) which is probably a little too much for all but the most ardent Holly acolytes.
I’ve never heard of a company called Performance, but their 46 song double CD compilation Rock ‘n’ Roll Diner 1957 has a pretty spectacular line-up with all the year’s hits from Holly, Presley, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Fats Domino etc all present and correct. And all for seven quid!
No doubt there will be much more stuff to come. A lot will be shoddily packaged and mastered cash-ins, but others will be nerdy completists wet dreams. By December I doubt whether there will be much left un-anthologised which, on balance, I think is a good thing.