United Artists Records
|United Artists Records|
|Status||Defunct (fate: absorbed into Liberty Records by EMI in 1980)|
|Country of origin||United States|
United Artists Records was a record label founded by Max E. Youngstein of United Artists in 1957 initially to distribute records of its movie soundtracks, though it soon branched out into recording music of a number of different genres.
In 1959, United Artists released Forest of the Amazons, a cantata by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos adapted from the music he composed for MGM's Green Mansions, with the composer conducting the Symphony of the Air. Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayão was the featured soloist on the unusual recording, which was released on both LP and reel-to-reel tape.
Besides the movie soundtracks and the few classical releases, UA had quite a few rock 'n roll and r&b hits from 1959 (and into the 1960s) with hits by The Clovers, Marv Johnson, The Falcons, The Exciters, Patty Duke, The Delicates, Bobby Goldsboro, Jay and the Americans, and later Manfred Mann and The Easybeats. Berry Gordy placed a number of early Motown acts with UA including Marv Johnson and Eddie Holland in 1959. UA signed Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller after they left Atlantic to produce artists. They had hits with The Exciters, Bobby Goldsboro, Jay and The Americans, The Clovers, as well as Mike Clifford. UA also covered folk with the inclusion of Gordon Lightfoot on the roster, and easy listening mood music with the piano duo Ferrante & Teicher.
The soundtracks from the James Bond movies and A Hard Day's Night (1964) were very popular United Artists releases in the 1960s. United Artists released many other movie soundtrack albums, including those of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and of the film versions of the musicals A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and Man of La Mancha (1972). However, the movie soundtrack album of United Artists' film musical, West Side Story (1961), was released by Columbia Records, which had also released the Broadway cast album (Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the music for West Side Story, was a Columbia recording artist). Many of these soundtracks have reverted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, whose MGM Music unit (no connection with the now-defunct MGM Records) in turn have licensed them out to other labels for reissue; first Rykodisc, and more recently, Universal Music and EMI (the Fiddler on the Roof movie soundtrack). However, it is Sony, which now owns Columbia Records, that has released the West Side Story original cast album and film soundtrack on CD.
In addition to soundtracks and pop output, United Artists also produced a series of children's records under the "Tale Spinners For Children" name throughout the 1960s. These were album-length adaptations of classic fairy tales and children's stories done in an audio drama format.
United Artists also had a few subsidiary labels: Unart, Ascot, United Artists Jazz, Musicor (United Artists was half owner of the company from 1960–1964 before selling out in 1965) Ultra Audio (an audiophile label) and Veep. Unart was initially created in 1958 and was only in operation until 1959 producing some vocal group 45 singles; Unart was recreated in 1967 for budget albums.
United Artists involvement with jazz was significant. The company recruited Alan Douglas in 1960 to run its new jazz department. The company's jazz included albums by Duke Ellington and Art Farmer, although there were only a few jazz titles after about 1963. In 1961, designer and photographer Frank Gauna who worked with Alan Douglas joined the company as art director after Candid Records was discontinued. Gauna photographed and designed a variety of album covers for the company.
Around 1966 a subsidiary jazz label Solid State was founded, which lasted until 1969, on which recordings by the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and Chick Corea, among others, were issued. After the merger (see below), Liberty's ownership of Blue Note resulted in Solid State's artists being transferred to the more prestigious label, and Solid State itself was wound up.
In 1966 United Artists acquired the masters of Sue Records, a New York R&B/soul label whose artist roster included Ike & Tina Turner, Justine "Baby" Washington, and jazz organist Jimmy McGriff. Some Sue material was reissued on Unart.
Other UA labels
United Artists Special Projects were budget records designed for product and movie tie-ins. Examples are The Incredible World of James Bond an album sold by Pepsi Cola and Frito Lay of cover version themes and original soundtrack music of the first three James Bond films and Music From Marlboro Country, various cover versions of the theme to The Magnificent Seven and original soundtrack music from Elmer Bernstein's Return of the Seven that was sold by Philip Morris as a tie-in to its Marlboro cigarette brand.
Mainstream pop acts were signed to the label, among them being Traffic, the Spencer Davis Group, Peter Sarstedt, Shirley Bassey, and War. The label also attempted, without success, to update the style of 1950s rock group Bill Haley & His Comets with a 1968 single. After UA bought the small Mediarts Records label, their roster grew to include Don McLean, Merrilee Rush, Paul Anka, Chris Rea, Dusty Springfield, Bill Conti, Northern Calloway, Johnny Rivers, Ike & Tina Turner, Gerry Rafferty and Crystal Gayle. Later, through a distribution deal with Don Arden's Jet Records, Electric Light Orchestra was signed to UA in America. UA also distributed the otherwise-independent Grateful Dead Records in the early-to-mid 1970s.
In England, Andrew Lauder, who had been head of A&R at the UK branch of Liberty Records, transferred to UA when Liberty was shut down in 1971. His signings included The Groundhogs, Aynsley Dunbar (only in the UK), Hawkwind, Bonzo Dog Band, Brinsley Schwarz, Man (all originally Liberty artists), High Tide, Help Yourself, Dr. Feelgood, The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers and 999. He also licensed UK releases for several influential German bands during the early 70s, the best known of which were Can, Neu! and Amon Duul II. Lauder left UA in late 1977 to help found Radar Records.
The label's most successful artist was country artist Kenny Rogers who signed to UA in the mid-1970s, enjoying a long string of hit singles and albums.
In the mid-to-late 1970s the company was known as United Artists Music and Records Group (UAMARG).
Sale to EMI
In 1978, UA executives Artie Mogull and Jerry Rubinstein bought the record company from Transamerica with a loan from EMI, which took over distribution of the label. The official name of the company was changed to Liberty/United Records, but the United Artists Records name was retained under license. The deal led to an immediate setback as the change of ownership allowed Jet Records to end its relationship with UA and switch its distribution to CBS Records, with the Jet back catalogue transferring to CBS distribution as well. This meant that UA completely lost the Electric Light Orchestra and wound up dumping mass quantities of ELO albums into the cutout market which CBS was unable to legally prevent. (However, for some years after ELO's departure, CBS reissues of their earlier albums - through to Out of the Blue (1977) - contained copyright notices for United Artists Music and Records Group.) Unable to generate enough income to cover the loan, Liberty/United Records was sold to EMI in 1979 for $3 million and assumed liabilities of $32 million.
EMI dropped the United Artists name in 1980 and revived the Liberty label for releases by artists who had been signed to UA. This incarnation of Liberty Records operated between 1980 and about 1986, when it was deactivated and its artists assigned to other EMI labels.
Many albums from the United Artists Records catalog were reissued on Liberty during these years. Two significant exceptions were a couple of Beatles albums not previously controlled by EMI in the United States: the A Hard Day's Night (1964) soundtrack album, and Let It Be (1970). The Let It Be album was actually released by Apple Records in both the UK and the US but because the movie had been distributed by United Artists Pictures, in America the album was distributed by United Artists rather than EMI. Both previously non-EMI Beatles albums were reissued on the Capitol label, which already controlled the rest of The Beatles' catalog in the United States.
When producer Jerry Weintraub was enlisted to revive the United Artists movie studio in 1986, he attempted to revive the United Artists Records label as well. However, they released only one album: the soundtrack for The Karate Kid Part II, a film which Weintraub had produced for Columbia Pictures before being hired at UA.
The United Artists catalog is controlled by Capitol Records, now part of Universal Music Group (who also owns the non-soundtrack catalog of MGM Records, once owned by UA's current parent Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Capitol Records also has the rights to soundtrack albums UA Records released under license from MGM Music.
United Artists Records and associated labels artists
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