Artist: Various Artists
Album: Ork Records: New York, New York
Label: Numero Group
Release Date: 10/30/2015
Punk rock was born in America. Before the Sex Pistols and the Clash, playing young, loud and snotty was already a stateside tradition. Someone just needed to put the sound on wax.
Enter Terry Ork. Once a fringe member of Andy Warhol’s entourage in the late ’60s, Ork founded the eponymous Ork Records label in 1975 to document the first rumblings of New York City’s burgeoning underground music scene. Now, 40 years later, the resulting output has been packaged together in this sprawling 49 track box set featuring songs by Alex Chilton, Lester Bangs and more. Available on four LP’s or two CDs, the release also tells the history of a time and place that, while never responsible for massive sales or immense riches, still impacted the music world for decades to come.
It’s all there in the first single Ork released – Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel.” Originally spread out across both sides of a 45, the track is all quirky rhythms and idiosyncratic guitar lines playing out over seven minutes. Singer Tom Verlaine’s lyrics, though not stereotypically punk rock, mix jaggedness and clever wordplay creating a foundation that indie song-smiths keep revisiting even today.
Also included here, “(I Belong To The) Blank Generation” from Richard Hell and the Voidoids is another tune that spawned countless imitators. Dubbing himself “God’s consolation prize” over what sounds like a lurching lounge band and distorted electric guitar, the punk icon casts himself as the more rough-hewn flip-side of the Ork Records coin.
Though started as a label to support artists of a limited audience, Ork never shied away from reaching for the brass ring of widespread success. Sadly, by releasing pop gems from the likes of Chris Stamey and Marbles instead of material from fellow Bowery stalwarts Blondie or Talking Heads, the label would always remain under the radar. Yet, with the laundry list of names featured on this box set, and the countless others mentioned in the accompanying 120 page book, it’s easy to note that Ork Records existed in a universe of endless possibilities. Cult fans and music die-hards alike will find hours of enjoyment here ripe for further investigation.
– Michael Cimaomo