Analog Spark

Hope springs eternal, or at least repeatedly in the high-quality, analog LP reissue game. In recent years longtime industry leaders Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, and Analogue Productions have been joined by new players ORG, Intervention, and now Analog Spark.

This new label caught my eye and ears when I saw and then heard their excellent, RTI-pressed, 180-gram LP reissue of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk. Mastered and cut from the original stereo analog tapes by Kevin Gray at his Cohearent Audio facility in California and housed in the excellent, and suddenly very trendy again Stoughton tip-on jacket, this is a high quality reissue of a seminal jazz session, one that marks the only time Monk recorded for Atlantic Records.

As one of the newest players, Analog Spark, which does both LPs and SACDs, has recently reissued titles by an eclectic roster that includes Ben Folds, Glenn Gould, Ella Fitzgerald, The Cranberries, and a number of film and Broadway soundtracks. Launched in 2015, Analog Spark is owned by reissue label Razor & Tie, which itself was recently purchased by one-time indie label Concord Records. In the last several years Concord has bucked declining music business trends and acquired its way—Fantasy, Rounder, Imagem Music etc.—into becoming a new major label with considerable publishing interests.

Analog Spark is the brainchild of Mark Piro, a dedicated record collector and longtime employee of Razor & Tie.

"At the time that I pitched the label, the vinyl resurgence was kinda coming into full force so the timing was right. The heads at Razor & Tie were fully in support of it. I thought there was room for us, a label that makes sure things are done right; records get cut from analog tape where possible. And maybe we could try and chose titles that the established labels wouldn't necessarily do."

When I ask him about the feasibility of licensing material to reissue from major labels, an arena where longtime players like MoFi have a huge head start, Piro admits it's tough but he seems equal to the struggle.

"It sometimes feels like we are going after the same titles. But as much as we all go after the big titles like Dylan, Miles Davis and that kind of stuff, personal taste always takes you in a different direction and you'll get a title that someone else isn't thinking of."

One area Analog Spark has made a specialty is film and Broadway soundtracks. Among the label's first releases were single- and double-LP versions, in partnership with Sony Music, of the 50th Anniversary editions of the film soundtrack to The Sound of Music. Analog Spark has also reissued on LP several original Broadway cast recordings, including South Pacific and West Side Story, and done a pair of exclusive LP releases with Barnes & Noble of the Broadway original cast recordings of Into the Woods and The Sound of Music. According to Piro, the soundtrack projects have sold well. He expects a coming revival of My Fair Lady to positively impact that already reissued AS title.

"We tried to do something different with the Broadway titles. It's a genre that no one's reissued recently. And so many of those titles were recorded during the golden age of musicals. We thought it made sense and decided to take a chance. Obviously, that audience isn't as large as the rock or jazz audiences, but I feel like those fans are just as dedicated so I hope to do more."

Like all record labels, whether they focus on music or reissues, Analog Spark will ultimately succeed or fail depending on the A&R, aka what artists and music sells. Piro has a budget and he alone decides what to attempt to license for Analog Spark. So far his track record has been fairly stellar, if eclectic in the extreme. With a new reissue of the oft-reissued Nilsson Sings Newman in the can as well as two upcoming SACD reissues of Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything? and A Wizard, a True Star, Piro's eclectic approach seems to be working. He laughs when I mention that titles by The Raspberries, Sam Cooke, Louis Armstrong, and Rufus Wainwright all appear on a single page of the Analog Spark website.

"Eclecticism has kind of been an issue with my collecting. I'm sure my wife would appreciate it if I would focus on one genre!

"I grew up listening to so much. My dad's a big musical guy in classical and opera and I grew up discovering the rock stuff on my own so it's really all over the place. But I think that gives me a unique perspective in choosing titles and doing something for everyone.

Piro remains open to growing Analog Spark any way possible. They have recently done the LP releases for a pair of new Sony Masterworks titles by Hiatus Kaiyote and Allison Pierce.

"If the opportunity presents itself and there's a new album that I really like and believe in, I'm certainly open."

Listen below to a 24/96 vinyl transfer from the Analog Spark vinyl reissue cut by Kevin Gray from the original stereo tapes.

https://soundcloud.com/user-991376698-984500828/rhythm-a-ning.

COMMENTS
deckeda's picture

... that in at least one area, they would have little trouble licensing: Analog Spark/Concord is of course already within the UMG fold. They should be able to “pay themselves” an attractive fee for relevant titles, no?

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