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Wild Kingdom

August 11, 1996|Steve Hochman

A record company that specializes in archival reissues and clever concept compilations, with a logo depicting a large, thick-skinned African beast?

Gotta be Rhino.

Not any more. Now it could be MCA's Hip-O Records division. The label kicked off recently with some oldies compilations and a two-CD anthology drawn from Steve Earle's MCA albums. Upcoming projects include Pat Boone's album of heavy metal songs done his way, due in October--as well as albums of songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen covered by other artists. The last is a concept already done by Rhino.

Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say. But Rhino Records co-founder and managing director Harold Bronson doesn't sound exactly flattered by Hip-O, the brainchild of MCA Music Group chairman Doug Morris--who was key when he was at Atlantic Records in bringing Rhino there to oversee its reissues.

"It seems clear to me that when Doug Morris went there, having seen Rhino's success, he would attempt to confuse the public in a variety of manners with a knock-off," Bronson says.

But Bruce Resnikoff, the MCA Music executive vice president who oversees the new label, downplays any relationship to Rhino.

"They do similar things to what we're doing, as do a couple of other competitors," he says, noting that MCA has long been active in archival reissues, including much-praised packagings of blues and rock chestnuts from the Chess Records catalog. "And the name Hip-O just started as a play on the word 'hip.' We want to be more hip than the conventional label. It's just another member of the animal kingdom in the record business, along with Blind Pig, Alligator and Bear Family."

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