In September 1947, Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson founded Atlantic Records with a $10,000 loan from Ertegun’s dentist. In 1948, Atlantic began putting out its first releases. Seventy-five years later, Atlantic remains one of the most storied labels in American history as home through the decades to such artists as Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Stevie Nicks, Matchbox Twenty and Crosby, Stills & Nash; and, more recently, Twenty One Pilots, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran and Lizzo.
This year, Atlantic is paying homage to its rich heritage with a multi-pronged, year-long campaign that celebrates some of its most iconic titles. Already started is the release of 90 classic titles, many on crystal clear, colored or recycled vinyl, curated by Atlantic Records chairman/CEO and noted audiophile Craig Kallman.
Among the releases in the 75th-anniversary commemoration are John Coltrane’s Olé Coltrane, Yes’ Fragile, Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis, Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, Hootie & the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s self-titled album. More recent titles in the collection include Mars’ 24K Magic, Gucci Mane’s Mr. Davis, Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You, Sheeran’s Divide and Gayle’s A Study in the Human Experience. All titles are for purchase through Atlantic Records’ site and a number are available through various brick-and-mortar retailers.
Kallman began working on the project, which is running in conjunction with Rhino Entertainment, a number of years ago, printing out spreadsheets highlighting every significant title of the past 75 years. “It was stacks of paper making sure we didn’t miss anybody. It was painstakingly done. There was a lot of internal debating,” he says.
His mission was to cover the “breadth and scope of Atlantic’s history by genre,” he says. “We tried to include records that were culturally significant, that were groundbreaking for the company, that were blowout sales successes. It was about records that defined the label and the culture of the company.”
Though painstaking and extremely time-consuming, Kallman says the process “was a lot of fun and brings back a lot of memories because I was here for 32 years of it.” Kallman joined Atlantic in 1991 when the company purchased his dance label, Big Beat Records, and, in many ways, he had unintentionally been preparing for this moment. When he started at Atlantic, “I thought part of my responsibility was to really know and understand the history and legacy of the company so I can’t think of any [release] I didn’t already know about, but we wrestled with making sure that the depths of the early catalog were there,” he says. “My DJ’ing background also came in handy in making the selections.” Kallman’s personal collection numbers more than 2 million LPs.
While titles started rolling out a few months ago, forthcoming releases include Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams (including The Chainsmokers and Coldplay’s 2017 hit, “Something Just Like This,” as a bonus track) on Oct. 20 and Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin IV on Oct. 27. The collection includes a number of titles that have been out of print, like Lil Uzi Vert’s Luv is Rage 2, as well as releases that have never come out on vinyl. All releases are tagged with a 75th-anniversary logo.
Kallman tried to keep the releases to 75, but ultimately, he could only whittle it down to 90. “We’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is too tough to narrow down,’ and we figured we could err on the side of going beyond 75 titles,” he says.
The anniversary has several other components. Atlantic has partnered with high-end audiophile label Acoustic Sounds to release 75 classic titles in 180-gram, 45RPM black vinyl and SACD versions. That offering includes such Genesis albums as Selling England by the Pound and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Coltrane’s Giant Steps and My Favorite Things, Otis Redding’s The Dock of the Bay and Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled set.
Another tie-in is with vinyl subscription service Vinyl Me Please (VMP), through which Atlantic will offer several titles through VMP’s record of the month program. Five titles will be available to VMP members as November selections, including Charles’ Ray Charles in Person, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor and Stone Temple Pilots‘ No. 4. Kallman says the deal could extend beyond the initial five titles depending upon the response.
Another component is a collection of remixes, available exclusively for streaming via DSPs. Among the selections are DJ Nora En Pure’s fresh take on Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever,” DJ Spinna’s remake of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” and Italian DJ Luca Olivotto’s version of Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
The anniversary also includes a coffee table book from luxury art book publisher Taschen, which is expected to come out in 2024. “That’s been a labor of love,” Kallman says. “We’re excited to have a fitting chronicle of the history of the company with extraordinary photos and great essays.”
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