Capitol Records 1942-2002
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., Dec. 6, 2002
Capitol Records 1942-2002(Capitol) What's the proper way to evaluate this ambitious, self-congratulatory 6-CD vanity project? If it's signature artists -- Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Beastie Boys, Radiohead -- then Capitol rates very high indeed. But what about songs that came out of nowhere to help define their era, like Tennessee Ernie Ford's "16 Tons" or Katrina & the Waves' "Walkin' on Sunshine"? No shortage of those either. How about eyebrow-raisers the label would probably like to have back? Well, Poison, Blind Melon, and MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" are present and accounted for. What you won't find is much R&B, country, or hip-hop -- Capitol was always a pop/rock label from the get-go -- or much of anything, past Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee," that speaks directly to any social or political issues of their day. But again, that's not what Capitol was about. The label, still located at Hollywood and Vine, is after the hits, baby, and delivers with 96 songs. This patchwork of pop history gets going with the starry-eyed ballroom blitz of Freddie Slack & His Orchestra's "Cow-Cow Boogie" and doesn't cease until the Vines' amp-wrecking "Get Free." In between, there are songs you know by heart ("Unforgettable," "Hey Jude," "My Sharona"), songs you should know by heart ("Fever," "Wichita Lineman," "Sabotage"), forgotten gems like Les Paul & Mary Ford's "How High the Moon" and Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over," and still others you might be hearing for the first time. For me, those included Quicksilver Messenger Service's lysergic "Fresh Air" and the Four Preps' sugary doo-wop "26 Miles (Santa Catalina)," but for others it might be Mazzy Star's haunted "Fade Into You" or Coldplay's dreamlike "Yellow." It takes a lot of savvy for a record company to remain relevant (not to mention profitable) for 60 years, but someone should hang from the gallows for including Baz Luhrmann's "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" over Buck Owens and the Dandy Warhols. And no Billy Idol? Unforgivable.