CTi almost....wasn't...CTi

Rudy

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It just didn't matter to the mass public. In fact, I remember people at the time being put off by the A DAY IN THE LIFE cover. "Why am I looking at a close-up of an ashtray?"
Ironic that it also became one of the early CTI's bigger sellers. 😁 The meaning of the photo was lost on just about everyone--I remember Turner explaining that he was in a failing relationship. He woke up, saw his ashtray next to the bed and photographed it, feeling it represented his mood at the time.
 

Michael Hagerty

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All of which jogged a memory---NBC News Overnight (1982-1983) put together a video using Lou's "Beyond the Blue Horizon". It aired three times, the last on Overnight's final broadcast:

 

Rudy

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Well, I did my part. Both Lou Christie's "Beyond the Blue Horizon" and The Clams' "Close to You" got airplay on KIBS in Bishop.
I wonder what Taylor was thinking with the Lou Christie album, and the label. An attempt at branching out into pop, folk, and/or rock? I would guess it didn't sell all that well, despite airplay from a radio station in Bishop. 😁 (I imagine Christie's name would have been a selling point for the record.) The fact that he had someone else produce it made me wonder what the point for the label was.

The Clams were decidedly in Spike Jones territory. Even the flip side is in a similar style. Both remind me of my first exposure to Spike Jones. My mother and her brothers were heavily into Spike back in the era of 78 RPM records, and she bought me an RCA LP compilation in the mid 70s. "Cocktails For Two"...yeesh, I wondered what the heck she was making me listen to...until all hell broke loose about 30 seconds into the song. 🤣

The best Spike Jones compilation on CD was the 2-disc set released by Rhino which used transfers straight from the original acetates. RCA had doctored up the tracks for album release in later years, some with fake stereo.
 

Michael Hagerty

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Ironic that it also became one of the early CTI's bigger sellers. 😁 The meaning of the photo was lost on just about everyone--I remember Turner explaining that he was in a failing relationship. He woke up, saw his ashtray next to the bed and photographed it, feeling it represented his mood at the time.
If a good copy of Pete Turner's book THE COLOR OF JAZZ ever becomes available at or below $100, I'm grabbing it. Right now (and for the past decade), it's been a bit steep:

The Color of Jazz by Quincy Jones; Ashley Kahn; Creed Taylor: Good (2006) | GF Books, Inc.
 

Michael Hagerty

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I wonder what Taylor was thinking with the Lou Christie album, and the label. An attempt at branching out into pop, folk, and/or rock? I would guess it didn't sell all that well, despite airplay from a radio station in Bishop. 😁 (I imagine Christie's name would have been a selling point for the record.) The fact that he had someone else produce it made me wonder what the point for the label was.
I think I'm about to surprise you---"Beyond the Blue Horizon" made #80 on the Hot 100 and #12 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart (which pretty much suggests that my theory about the AC chart not having any meaning at all is dead on).

It was Lou's first chart record in three years and skipping the AC chart and sticking to the Hot 100, in an eleven-year career at that point, only eight of his singles did better.

That said, the album probably sold five copies---Creed, his three sons and Lou's mom.
 

Rudy

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If a good copy of Pete Turner's book THE COLOR OF JAZZ ever becomes available at or below $100, I'm grabbing it. Right now (and for the past decade), it's been a bit steep:

The Color of Jazz by Quincy Jones; Ashley Kahn; Creed Taylor: Good (2006) | GF Books, Inc.
I have a copy of it in storage--I've been meaning to dig it out one of these days. (We're starting a major downsizing, so I have to go through everything as I shuffle things we want to keep into proper storage bins and sell or donate the bulk of it.)

It's interesting that Christie's record did so well. It still makes me wonder why Taylor would start up another subsidiary and do little more with it, though. Seeing that he didn't produce the record also makes it a curious enterprise at best. I haven't looked further to see if there was any further history behind it.
 

GDBY2LV

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Beyond The Blue Horizon was used at the end of the movie Rain Man. That’s the first time I ever heard it. I was in awe of what a great song it is. It can still make me tear up even today. I had to look for the song on a cd. Fortunately for me, working at Blockbuster Music superstore, we had a had a few Lou Christie titles in stock. I found it on the Varese Sarabande cd called Beyond The Blue Horizon More of The Best of Lou Christie. It gives those chart facts on the back cover. It also has the alternate version of Rhapsody In The Rain. Different lyrics, so stations that refused to play the original, could use it. Controversial lyrics…. Remember making out in the rain…. How times have changed.
The Esther Phillips album with What A Difference A Day Makes was played often at home. The last one my mother bought before she passed. So that song is special to me as well.
 
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AM Matt

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The late Esther Phillips made an appearance on NBC "Saturday Night Live" in late 1975 & did "What A Difference A Day Makes".
 

JOv2

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Well, Creed says late '68 is when it became clear to him that he needed to move on---that would still be a year or so before there'd likely be any talk about a renewal of the deal.

That said, I think your theory that Jerry, at that point, would have preferred Herb to step in, artist-to-artist, to try to right the ship, is probably spot on.

I hadn't fully realized the hot streak that you mention (SP 4108-4137). I think everybody here knows I have a high bar for use of the word "hit", but if we just deal with cracking the Top 200 album list (a pretty low bar), the only A&M artists who couldn't do that in that period were Claudine Longet (CLAUDINE) and Chris Montez (FOOLIN' AROUND).

So, yeah, when you pay a million bucks and in the first two years, the only albums that even make the chart are A DAY IN THE LIFE (which made #13, so A&M was probably expecting great things going forward), WAVE (#114---oops), DOWN HERE ON THE GROUND (#38), ROAD SONG (#94), TELL IT LIKE IT IS (#145) and WALKING IN SPACE (#56), and at the same time your core artists are having their worst year ever, that's ugly.
I read back in the '80s that Blue Note considered 10,000 units a notable success (and informally rewarded these artists (pre-1966) by way of the rare full colour LP front cover photo -- as exemplified in the LPs of Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver and Lee Morgan). I'm going to surmise that anything north of 5,000 or so units was sufficient to consider a follow-up at that label.

For the A&M SP 4108-4137 run the two "failures" weren't really that bad: Montez was a prior success and he would continue to enjoy some order of name recognition while Claudine was becoming a mass media personality of sorts; so, it's not like these two LPs dropped off the face of the Earth when released. Compare those two against the multitude of LPs from essentially unknown (and even untested) artists that sunk without a trace from the SP 4138-4159 batch. Check out how many of the SP-4138-4159 LPs didn't make the Top 200 (Roger Nichols, Lee Michaels, Liza Minnelli, Bill Dana, Phil Ochs, Pete Jolly, Merchants of Dream, Robin Wilson, Brewer & Shipley, The Wozard Of Iz Cosmic Sounds, Don Preston, Dillard & Clark). This takes us nearly to the end of 1968...and was a signpost for '69.
 

Michael Hagerty

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For the A&M SP 4108-4137 run the two "failures" weren't really that bad: Montez was a prior success and he would continue to enjoy some order of name recognition while Claudine was becoming a mass media personality of sorts; so, it's not like these two LPs dropped off the face of the Earth when released. Compare those two against the multitude of LPs from essentially unknown (and even untested) artists that sunk without a trace from the SP 4138-4159 batch. Check out how many of the SP-4138-4159 LPs didn't make the Top 200 (Roger Nichols, Lee Michaels, Liza Minnelli, Bill Dana, Phil Ochs, Pete Jolly, Merchants of Dream, Robin Wilson, Brewer & Shipley, The Wozard Of Iz Cosmic Sounds, Don Preston, Dillard & Clark). This takes us nearly to the end of 1968...and was a signpost for '69.
Well, yeah, but realistically, you don't look at an artist like Chris Montez, who's had some hits, and recently, on your own label, through the same lens that you do new artists no one really knows.

Claudine had TV exposure---acting and singing in series TV appearances as well as on Andy Williams' weekly shows and Christmas specials. I think there were expectations there, too.

As for the others, Bill Dana's comedy, so that's a crapshoot, Pete Jolly is jazz, which is how we got here. And the Wozard of Iz was just one of those things strictly of its moment.

Liza Minelli was fresh off three studio albums and a live set with her mom at Capitol. All but the first didn't chart, but she got to 115 with that one. It debuted at that number, and stayed on the chart for eight weeks. So I think there were expectations for Liza to perform (and by that, I mean at least show up on the chart), as well.

Of course, knowing that those Billboard numbers were wholesale, that first album's performance may just mean that Capitol was willing to press and ship more copies initially than A&M was. This could be an area where Jerry's frugality hurt chart performance, but reduced the expense of dealing with large numbers of unsold returns.

Again, remember, all we're talking here is to make the Top 200 album list...to, on your best week, only have 199 other albums sell better than yours.

I'm betting that if you're not making the Top 200 albums, the difference between your sales and that of anyone else not making the Top 200 is pretty small.
 
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Rudy

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A quick rewind here...

The only other group releasing 45 RPM singles was The Clams, produced by Tony Levin (which I would presume was the now-renowned bass player). I will just mention that the "clams" here are not of the seafood variety, as you'll hear below. (You've been warned.) Creed Taylor produced none of those releases.



As I listened to this single when I first found it a few days ago, I was reminded that Carpenters did a Spike Jones treatment of this song also, on their first TV special and presumably on tour during the same era. Since The Clams did this in 1974, and the Carpenters version came later, I'm inclined to think they took inspiration from the version by The Clams.

So....something else to thank Creed Taylor for, in a roundabout way! 😁
 

Rudy

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Compare those two against the multitude of LPs from essentially unknown (and even untested) artists that sunk without a trace from the SP 4138-4159 batch. Check out how many of the SP-4138-4159 LPs didn't make the Top 200 ....

Well, yeah, but realistically, you don't look at an artist like Chris Montez, who's had some hits, and recently, on your own label, through the same lens that you do new artists no one really knows.

I think overall, it's just a sign of the classic era of A&M winding down, where the established artists are seeing fewer sales, and the unknowns not really able to make a dent because, similar as some of the music was, it was falling out of fashion with what people were buying in the record stores.

It does make me wonder, though, if the waning of A&M's classic artists and their style, along with CTI's records not selling in larger numbers, may have prompted some suggestions to see if the jazz label could be popularized a little more in order to boost sales. I don't want to suggest it was damage control but on the other hand, if your classic artists and other new-artist gambles aren't paying off, and the jazz subsidiary isn't selling as they had hoped, I'm sure there was some speculation going on as to how to solve it. Jerry would sign more relevant acts as the 60s came to a close, and it would only be a few years before groups like Carpenters, Supertramp, Styx, Gino Vannelli, Nazareth, etc. would gain traction and sell records.
 

Michael Hagerty

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I think overall, it's just a sign of the classic era of A&M winding down, where the established artists are seeing fewer sales, and the unknowns not really able to make a dent because, similar as some of the music was, it was falling out of fashion with what people were buying in the record stores.

It does make me wonder, though, if the waning of A&M's classic artists and their style, along with CTI's records not selling in larger numbers, may have prompted some suggestions to see if the jazz label could be popularized a little more in order to boost sales. I don't want to suggest it was damage control but on the other hand, if your classic artists and other new-artist gambles aren't paying off, and the jazz subsidiary isn't selling as they had hoped, I'm sure there was some speculation going on as to how to solve it.
My only thought on that is that Creed says he was feeling pushback from Herb by early '68. A&M was arguably still pretty solid---especially Sergio and the TJB. It wasn't until '69 that all of a sudden it all went south and the only bright spots were "Black Pearl" and Joe Cocker.
 

Rudy

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My only thought on that is that Creed says he was feeling pushback from Herb by early '68. A&M was arguably still pretty solid---especially Sergio and the TJB. It wasn't until '69 that all of a sudden it all went south and the only bright spots were "Black Pearl" and Joe Cocker.
That's true. They might have had higher hopes in terms of sales for CTI product, and watering down the jazz may have seemed like a way to fix it.

It's a good thing Taylor stuck to his artistic formula, though--it eventually paid off, especially as releases post-A&M gained more footing in the marketplace as well as being more favorably reviewed by the press. With some of the A&M-era albums, I get the impression as a listener that he was trying different tactics to popularize jazz in his own style, and didn't really hit on the right formula (which would present the music as he envisioned it) until he had put about 30 albums behind him. The last of the 3000-series releases (save for the Tamba 4) were styled very much like the early records he'd release as an independent.
 

Michael Hagerty

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Knowing the release schedule might put some things in context. Thanks to the back catalog of Billboard magazine at WorldRadioHistory-dot-com.

While the main A&M label had monthly releases, A&M/CTi was quarterly---its albums were included in the February, May, August and November releases of A&M product.

There were a couple of exceptions, likely albums that weren't ready for the release on time and were put out in what normally would have not been a CTi month (Nat Adderley's CALLING OUT LOUD in April of '69, J&K's BETWIXT & BETWEEN in July of '69).

It looks like the contract for CTi with A&M was for three years, beginning with the August, 1967 release and ending with the August, 1970 release.
During that time, 25 albums were released in America, including Jobim's TIDE, which was a CTi production but did not bear the imprint.

Three were withheld from release in the USA (CALIFORNIA SOUL, I GOT A WOMAN AND SOME BLUES, and STONEBONE) and two are shown in the Doug Payne discography as having had catalog numbers assigned but no album released on A&M/CTi (Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws).

A&M had just released George Benson's THE OTHER SIDE OF ABBEY ROAD a few weeks prior to Creed's announcement in Billboard of the new label. So there really was only one official A&M/CTi album released after Creed launched "new" CTI---Quincy's GULA MATARI. And it was recorded after the announcement/launch, too---March 25th, March 26, and May 12th.

TIDE, which didn't bear the CTi imprint, was also recorded in May, but wasn't released until November. I'm sure it counted toward the contractual obligation, but there was no longer an A&M/CTi, so it was given the A&M Records and Tapes logo and was a "Creed Taylor Production". I suppose it could have been held until November because STONE FLOWER was released in July on new CTI.
 
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Michael Hagerty

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Bottom line, Creed starts his million dollar deal with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Mann, Tamba 4 and Nat Adderley.

Wes goes Gold first time out, Jobim does just okay and is three years between albums, Herbie sticks with Atlantic long-term and Tamba and Nat never get traction.

He brings in Artie Butler, Kai and JJ, Tamiko Jones, Richard Barbary and nothing much happens.

Wes Montgomery dies.

In come George Benson, Paul Desmond, Walter Wanderley, Milton Nascimento and Quincy Jones and the only real sales traction is from George and Quincy.

That's a pretty rough run. Some great stuff I'm glad we have, but from a business standpoint---ouch.
 
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Rudy

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It also took some of those A&Ms a while to gain respect. The Milton Nascimento title was his entry into the US (and maybe worldwide?) market, basically a re-recording of his first album in Brazil with a few added tracks. In hindsight, it's regarded as one of his better albums. Jobim's Wave is one of his most treasured releases, right up there with Stone Flower. Even some fans of Wes Montgomery came around to his A&M/CTI albums after decades have passed; they were probably moderately commercially successful, but I've seen more critics and fans pan them as being too encumbered with orchestrations.

It does make me question why Stonebone was shelved (something we'll never know). Was it too close to CTI's sound as an independent? Although those first 1000-series CTI releases weren't all that memorable, it easily could have fit right in with those first several 6000-series releases. Or, was it not commercial enough for A&M? Same with Gula Matari, for that matter, although A&M probably saw the potential in keeping Quincy around, given his past successes.
 

Michael Hagerty

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It does make me question why Stonebone was shelved (something we'll never know). Was it too close to CTI's sound as an independent? Although those first 1000-series CTI releases weren't all that memorable, it easily could have fit right in with those first several 6000-series releases. Or, was it not commercial enough for A&M? Same with Gula Matari, for that matter, although A&M probably saw the potential in keeping Quincy around, given his past successes.
STONEBONE, had it been released in sequence, would have been part of the February 1970 release, along with THE OTHER SIDE OF ABBEY ROAD. It would have been out prior to Creed's public announcement of CTI as its own thing.

More likely to me is that K&JJ had already had two albums sink without a trace, just like Tamba 4, and A&M just chose to shelve it.

In fact, apart from CALIFORNIA SOUL and the untitled Herbie Mann project, the unreleased albums were in sequence: I GOT A WOMAN AND SOME BLUES (3025), the untitled Hubert Laws project (3026) and STONEBONE (3027).

I GOT A WOMAN AND SOME BLUES should have been part of the November 1969 release along with FROM THE HOT AFTERNOON. Given that George was already in the studio working on THE OTHER SIDE OF ABBEY ROAD (sessions began October 22), I wonder if A&M decided to hold the first album in order to strike while the iron was still relatively hot from The Beatles' ABBEY ROAD.

GULA MATARI makes sense to me since WALKING IN SPACE charted well by A&M/CTi standards (peaking at #56). I think it might have been the third-best A&M album chart peak position of 1969, after JOE COCKER! (#11) and WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (#35).
 
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JOv2

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Bottom line, Creed starts his million dollar deal with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Mann, Tamba 4 and Nat Adderley.
Wes goes Gold first time out, Jobim does just okay and is three years between albums, Herbie sticks with Atlantic long-term and Tamba and Nat never get traction.

He brings in Artie Butler, Kai and JJ, Tamiko Jones, Richard Barbary and nothing much happens.

In come George Benson, Paul Desmond, Walter Wanderley, Milton Nascimento and Quincy Jones and the only real sales traction is from George and Quincy.
As a set of threes, this sure is striking:

Wes, Jobim, Mann, Nat, and Tamba 4 was a fine creative start and Wes and Mann were very well known in the jazz world and both had pop followings as well. Jobim was becoming a living legend (don't forget that '67 Sinatra LP) and Tamba 4 could be considered a "discovery" as this was the group's first US LP.

Following that up with Butler, Tamiko, and Barbary is like falling off a cliff in comparison. (All the more given none of these LPs are jazz -- they don't even cross over. While Jones is a solid singer Barbary, on the other hand, is merely passable in comparison and not particularly memorable. Then there's Butler. His LP of cheesy instrumental pop is probably the worst CTi ever issued. Imagine if all CTi LPs were like this.)

Benson, Desmond, K&JJ and Q deliver fine LPs and serve to return CTi back to form. Wanderley is instrumental pop yet, it's far better than Butler. Milton's LP was a fine Brazilian offering; he can also be considered a discovery given, as Rudy pointed out, this was his first US LP.

Mike, I've learnt a great deal in the past few days. Thanks again. You should consider teaching one of those elective music courses at a local community college. You could call it The Creed of Taylor: Where Jazz + Pop = CTi
 

Michael Hagerty

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As a set of threes, this sure is striking:

Wes, Jobim, Mann, Nat, and Tamba 4 was a fine creative start and Wes and Mann were very well known in the jazz world and both had pop followings as well. Jobim was becoming a living legend (don't forget that '67 Sinatra LP) and Tamba 4 could be considered a "discovery" as this was the group's first US LP.

Following that up with Butler, Tamiko, and Barbary is like falling off a cliff in comparison. (All the more given none of these LPs are jazz -- they don't even cross over. While Jones is a solid singer Barbary, on the other hand, is merely passable in comparison and not particularly memorable. Then there's Butler. His LP of cheesy instrumental pop is probably the worst CTi ever issued. Imagine if all CTi LPs were like this.)

Benson, Desmond, K&JJ and Q deliver fine LPs and serve to return CTi back to form. Wanderley is instrumental pop yet, it's far better than Butler. Milton's LP was a fine Brazilian offering; he can also be considered a discovery given, as Rudy pointed out, this was his first US LP.

Mike, I've learnt a great deal in the past few days. Thanks again. You should consider teaching one of those elective music courses at a local community college. You could call it The Creed of Taylor: Where Jazz + Pop = CTi
That's very kind of you, but I'll just say that all I really know how to do is look things up and then try to put them in order.

A switch flipped when I was reading the Paul Desmond BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER thread and that sent me on the trail.
 

Harry

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For those of us who aren't all that big into meandering jazz, the Artie Butler album is more accessible. I even sought out the rare mono promo version!
 

Rudy

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To be fair, Butler could have been on A&M proper, not CTI.

Barbary and Jones (sounds like a law firm, or a brand of gourmet soft pretzels) also should have been elsewhere but on the other hand, with some tweaking of the production and an updating of their sound, they could have fit onto the Kudu label in the 70s, which had the heavier emphasis on soul. (Tamiko's singing was fine, but I didn't find her backing all that engaging--compared to her album with Herbie Mann, where she feels completely at home with that kind of ensemble.)

I chalked albums like these up to Creed experimenting a little with different sounds, trying to see what worked and what didn't. That's where I've felt he didn't really hit his stride until the last few 3000-series CTIs--those were the sound that he was after, and it would be what we'd hear a year or so later when he went independent.
 

Michael Hagerty

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To be fair, Butler could have been on A&M proper, not CTI.

Barbary and Jones (sounds like a law firm, or a brand of gourmet soft pretzels) also should have been elsewhere but on the other hand, with some tweaking of the production and an updating of their sound, they could have fit onto the Kudu label in the 70s, which had the heavier emphasis on soul. (Tamiko's singing was fine, but I didn't find her backing all that engaging--compared to her album with Herbie Mann, where she feels completely at home with that kind of ensemble.)

I chalked albums like these up to Creed experimenting a little with different sounds, trying to see what worked and what didn't. That's where I've felt he didn't really hit his stride until the last few 3000-series CTIs--those were the sound that he was after, and it would be what we'd hear a year or so later when he went independent.
Artie should have been with the Alan Copeland Singers and Nick DeCaro on A&M....





...or Ranwood.

(If the rule of threes applies, there's one more Dot Records joke to be had...)
 
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