EXHUMED: Titan Records: It's All Pop! 2CD

posted Thursday Jan 15th, 2009

Well, it's finally happened, powerpop fanatics! Titan, probably the most criminally overlooked American record label of the 1970's, has been given a proper overview by Chicago-based reissue specialists the Numero Group. It's All Pop! is a two-disc, 42-track collection of, essentially the entire recorded output of the label from it's initial run of 1978-'81. Well, excepting some material by Gary Charlson, (a little more on that later) you get bucketfuls of unreleased stuff, too! Founded by Tom Sorrells and Mark Prellberg, and headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, Titan only released a handful of singles and a couple of LP's, but the level of quality control involved was off the fucking charts. Seriously! Top drawer stuff, over and over. Across the board. Believe it.

This means the label was a huge success, right? Gold records on the wall, convertible sports cars, money to burn, bikini-clad chicks hanging out in the music-note-shaped swimming pool out back? Guess again, kids. Despite the quality of the records being released, Titan just never really took off. The Little Powerpop Engine That Couldn't. Couldn't get distributed, couldn't sell the records, couldn't break even. And, in a few cases, couldn't even get released! The guys running the show over at Titan just didn't know exactly what to do or how to do it. At least, not in a way that maximized profit or record sales, and the gas eventually ran out. Sort of like throwing a surprise party, inviting a roomful of guests, and the guest of honor just never shows up. Eventually, the lights get turned on, and the invited guests go home, one by one. And all that's left behind is some decorations and burned-out candles on a cake. And, in Titan's case, box after box of unsold records.

Now, the label may have been short on money, connections, and experience, but there was never a shortage of talent. Take Gary Charlson, for example. The first-ever Titan release was Gary's awesome "Real Life Saver" 45, backed with "Not the Way it Seems", and it's one of the label's best. In addition, Charlson also released another single a little over a year later, featuring the Dwight Twilley song "Shark" as the a-side (and, uh, "borrowing" the layout from Twilley's "I'm on Fire" single for the sleeve.) He also contributes to the singles issued by both Arlis! and the Gems, and he even plays guitar on 2 of the 3 tracks by J.P. McClain and the Intruders on Titan's "Just Another Pop Album" sampler LP. Furthermore, he even recorded a "live in the studio" album of all covers! (Including, among some other goodies, "Do Whatever We Want" by Vance or Towers! Yeah!) Released in '81, and the last release of this phase of the label, it is, unfortunately, not represented on the It's All Pop! 2xCD set. Long story short, he's probably the one artist most strongly identified with Titan. His crisp, distinctly American pop songwriting definitely drew far more from groups like Big Star and the Raspberries than from any of the British Invasion heavyweights. Which meant that he was a perfect fit for the sort of label that Sorrells and Prellberg had envisioned.

Another perfect fit for the Titan roster was the pride (scourge?) of Lincoln, Nebraska, a group called the Boys. They had already issued two self-released 45's on their own Outrage label, and Titan was eager to release #3. So, in November of 1979, the "Baby It's You" b/w "Bad Little Girl" single appeared. And though their sound may have been an uncommon collision of pop sensibilities and radio rock delinquency (with a little snot thrown in for good measure), the single sold like hotcakes. Signing the Boys was, ultimately, one of the best decisions the label ever made.


Ironically, the end of the label was near. 1980's "Just Another Pop Album" LP (featuring material from the Eric Carmen-worshipping Arlis!, Gary Charlson, J.P. McClain and the Intruders, plus 3 tracks from the Boys) also sold fairly well, especially considering Titan's track record. But the Arlis! "I Wanna Be" 45 totally bombed. And disagreements over Gary Charlson's "Real Live Gary" album severed the relationship with Charlson once and for all. By the end of 1981, the label was done. For a while, anyway. But that's another story.

Thankfully, the Numero Group really has done an incredible job on this anthology. Two discs, dozens of songs, great packaging, and a really nice booklet loaded with lotsa photos and extensive liners. Material that actually deserves to be reissued, courtesy of a label that knows how to do it. Top-notch. The sort of release that could finally shed light on what made Titan so special in the first place. It's All Pop! And it's about time.

Pick up a copy of the 2xCD set right HERE.

check out a video collage of some of the Japanese powerpop superfans, right here..