Savvy record publicists learned early in the compact-disc craze that the best way to get critics' attention was to send out a CD copy of a new album rather than the conventional vinyl one.
At a time when critics still had few of the discs, writers were so caught up with the excellent CD sound quality that they tended to listen to almost anything that came their way in the format.
Now, Rykodisc--the Massachusetts record company that started in 1984 as a CD-only label--has taken the "CD-tease" to an imaginative new level in media relations. To outline the company's ambitious plans to re-introduce David Bowie's pre-1981 work on CD (and vinyl and cassette), the company has mailed CD "press releases" to pop music writers around the country.
The standard 5-inch disc opens with a rare 1971 rendition by Bowie of Chuck Berry's "Round and Round." The music is followed by a three-minute announcement by MTV news anchorman Kurt Loder explaining that Rykodisc's Bowie campaign will kick off in early September with a set featuring 45 selections recorded between 1967 and 1980.
The three-disc CD set, "Sound + Vision," will contain a sampling of Bowie hits--including "Changes" and "Young Americans"--plus various rare and previously unreleased tracks. Expected to retail for between $50 and $60, the package will also contain an illustrated 72-page booklet saluting the career of one of the most stimulating figures of the modern pop era, an odds-on favorite to eventually make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The package will also contain a CD-Video disc featuring the 1980 video clip for Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" single as well as three audio selections from the Englishman's heralded "Ziggy Stardust" tour in 1972. Rykodisc will then begin releasing early next year all of Bowie's pre-1981 albums, from "Space Oddity" to "Scary Monsters," at the rate of one or two per month. The albums will contain bonus tracks in many cases, perhaps all.
Carrie Anne Svingen, spokeswoman for Rykodisc, said approximately 1,000 of the press releases--which cost about $2 each--were mailed to music writers around the country. Members of the company's marketing department had been toying with a CD press release for some time and felt the flashy Bowie campaign would be an ideal time for one.
CALL OF THE WILD: "Gorillas in the Mix," already in the stores from Rykodisc, doesn't have the commercial appeal of a Bowie album, but it is as unconventional as anything ever put out by the rock master of shifting personas and musical styles.
Bernie Krause, a San Francisco bio-acoustic researcher and former studio musician, has recorded animal noises and strung various combinations of them together via "sampling" synthesizers to make music. What you hear often sounds just like electric guitars or steel drums, but it's actually the animal noises electronically processed.
In a good-natured track titled "Ape No Mountain High Enough," the lead rap vocals were taken from sounds of mountain gorillas, while the piano is from a dolphin. Other animals featured on the album include elephants, parrot fish, a walrus, coyotes and crickets.