Monday, July 6, 2015

Cristy Lane: The United Artists and Liberty recordings on CD

From the late 1980s onward, LS Records saturated the market with so many Cristy Lane releases and re-recordings that Lane's original Liberty and United Artists (UA) recordings got lost in the flood. EMI gained ownership of these recordings and released a number of Lane's Liberty and UA recordings on CD over the years, but they can be hard to find because so many of her CDs have similar titles and track lists. 

Before Lane became a contemporary Christian artist, she was a mainstream country artist who charted a number of national country hits. Some of these songs were sexy, like "Sweet Sexy Eyes" and "Cheatin' Is Still on My Mind," so they're inconsistent with her later image as a Christian artist. Nevertheless, she subsequently has released some of these songs on her own labels.

One of these labels, LS Records, is run by Lane's husband, Lee Stoller. Lane's earliest country hits—including the Top 10 hits "Let Me Down Easy," "I'm Gonna Love You Anyway," "Penny Arcade," and "I Just Can't Stay Married to You"—were originally released on LS Records, but when Lane signed with United Artists (UA) Records in 1979, UA acquired the earlier LS masters. 

The religious "One Day at a Time" opened the door for Lane to become a contemporary Christian artist, but she didn't make the switchover immediately. After "One Day at a Time" topped the country chart in 1980, she went on to have a number of additional secular hits, although only one of them reached the country Top 20.

Her lack of major chart hits didn't change the fact that she was one of the biggest-selling artists in country music at that time. In fact, Lane was much more popular than her chart positions suggest. Stoller told Billboard in 1985 that the previous year had been Lane's biggest year yet for record sales, but—according to the charts—she didn't have a single Top 20 record. Because of Stoller's direct marketing of Lane, much of her sales activity was off the grid, so to speak; the RIAA certified only those sales that occurred through retail outlets, so Lane's actual popularity wasn't reflected in the popularity charts.

As an aside here, there were a number of artists like Lane who sold piles of records but didn't register proportionately on the charts. Jim Nabors had gold-selling albums but no chart hits. The Sego Brothers & Naomi reportedly sold a million copies of the gospel single "Sorry, I Never Knew You" but peaked at a measly #50 on the country chart in 1964. If artists sell steadily over a long period of time instead of rapidly within a short period of time, they can sell a lot of records without having apparent hits. 

A weird bit of trivia about Cristy Lane and my hometown of Muncie, Indiana: In her 1986 biography, One Day at a Time, Lane says that her 1966 single "Janie Took My Place" was a #1 hit at a radio station in Muncie, but I've never met anyone in Muncie who remembers this song.

In 2005, I produced a reissue of Lane's mainstream country hits for Collectors' Choice Music. Collectors' Choice licensed the recordings from Capitol-EMI, and the collection was the first—and still the only—CD to round up the original versions of Lane's country chart hits. Collectors' Choice agreed to license the package after the Good Music Company—which sold boatloads of Lane's original One Day at a Time television LP through ads in the Weekly World News and other publications—said they'd feature it on the front page of their catalog.

Lane had a unique singing voice for a country singer. The speech therapy that she received for a childhood speech impediment gave her a clear, crisply enunciated style. She also had a neutral Midwestern accent (she was born in Peoria, Illinois) instead of the typical country singer's Southern twang. 

Christmas with Cristy (EMI-Manhattan CDP 7 48390 2, 1983)

A straight reissue of Lane's 1983 Christmas album. It includes Lane's 1977 country hit "Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry)," a remake of a song that originally was a hit for Marion Worth; it's not a Christmas song, but it's about a girl who wants a doll, so it sort of fits. 

Amazing Grace (EMI-Manhattan CDP 7 48391 2, 1981)

This is an abridged version of the One Day at a Time album that Suffolk Marketing advertised on television and that reportedly had sold 750,000 copies by 1982. The track list for this abridged release—which was originally offered as a full-price CD, not a budget disc—is reduced from 18 songs to 10 songs. "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" became a minor hit for Lane in 1987, but I don't have that single, so I don't know if it was the same recording that appeared on this album. The unabridged One Day at a Time album was a Top 20 hit on the US Christian album chart. 

Footprints in the Sand (EMI-Manhattan CDP 7 48392 2, 1983)

The title track reached #80 on the Billboard country chart in 1983. The album isn't strictly gospel—a few songs, like "You're Healing My Heart," are love songs. The album reached #64 on the Billboard country album chart and #3 on the Christian album chart.

One Day at a Time (Capitol Special Markets CDLL-57248, 1989)

This 12-track budget CD collects songs from the albums Amazing Grace and Footprints in the Sand. In 2008, Collectables Records reissued this collection with different artwork.

Greatest Country Hits (Collectors' Choice Music 534-2, 2005)

An anthology of Lane's complete Billboard country hits for the LS, United Artists, and Liberty labels from 1977-1983. All 20 of the cuts were hits on the country Top 100. Seven were Top 10 country hits, and one ("One Day at a Time") was a #1 hit. 

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