Two CD Collection Highlights History of Famed Memphis Studio
“Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story” celebrates with a deluxe two CD anthology that ranges from the label’s earliest mid-60s garage studio recordings to the inspired days of the early 1970s, when a distribution deal with Stax established Ardent as a purveyor of the finest pop-rock.
Ardent Studios is one of the most respected recording facilities in the world. Recording artists ranging from Led Zeppelin to R.E.M, from Cat Power to The Raconteurs have made music within its hallowed halls. But despite the studio’s credentials, it is Ardent Records, the label, that inspires awe amongst pop aficionados, particularly as the imprint that created pop cult heroes Big Star.
Memphis might have been the city where rock’n’roll was born, yet a significant minority of its youth in the late 60s and early 70s appeared obsessed with the sound of British rock, inhabiting a Southern microcosm where the Yardbirds and Who reigned supreme. The sharply-dressed Brit-pop aesthetic seemed integral to the Ardent formula, adding a certain flash to even its most undemonstrative acts. It was also reflected in founder John Fry’s unerring commitment to technical quality, and the dedication to experiment in the spirit of Abbey Road.
The two CDs are neatly divided between the two eras of the studio/label. Disc One (the 1960s, when the studio was based on National Street) features a striking array of rare garage singles and unissued psychedelic sessions, mostly overseen by Memphis maverick Jim Dickinson, as well as the early experiments of Big Star’s Alex Chilton and Chris Bell.
Disc Two (the 1970s, when Ardent moved to Madison Avenue) examines the Stax era and beyond, with selections from Ardent acts Cargoe and the Hot Dogs, and 14 rare or unissued Big Star-related cuts, most of which have not been on CD before. These include demos, alternate versions, original mixes and non-LP tracks. Everything is presented from the master tapes and the sound quality, as befits any Ardent recording, is second to none.
Additionally, the lengthy sleeve notes draw upon in-depth interviews with both Fry and Ardent associates Dickinson and Terry Manning, as well as other behind the scenes personages such as Richard Rosebrough, Tom Eubanks and Steve Rhea, all of whom add unique insight to a cornerstone chapter of both Memphis and pop music history
“It was a thrill it to spend so many hours at Ardent Studios during the lengthy assembly of this project,” recalls compilation producer Alec Palao. “The magic that infuses all the recordings I have included on “Thank You Friends” is still quite tangible as you pass through its corridors and studio spaces at Madison Avenue. Thus, eternal gratitude to John, Jody, Adam and everyone else at Ardent from this long-time fan.”
For info about Ardent Studios, visit: http://www.ardentstudios.com