Part 153: Russian Imports

SAM_1771

RECORD STORE TALES Part 153:  Russian Imports

One of the weirder items that we used to see regularly were these Russian import discs.  Their status as official releases was very questionable, the quality was cheap at best, and the guy that sold them wanted top dollar for them all.

His name was Serge, and he was a Russian model.  Seriously.  He gave me his business card one time.  He was a model, and he had the perfect Fabio hair and everything.  On the side, he’d bring CD’s over to Canada from Russia. They would usually come without jewel cases, just the CD and the paper cover art, so he could transport more of them.  The discs often ended up terribly scratched because of this.  He’d bring over “greatest hits” releases from everybody.  Springsteen, Abba, Bon Jovi, even bands that didn’t have greatest hits releases like AC/DC.  Often the Russians would throw on “bonus tracks” from live or solo albums.

The guy was a real pain to deal with, and most of the stuff he brought over was obscure European dance, trance, techno stuff that nobody had heard of over here.  He’d assume he was going to get a lot of money for them, because they were big in Europe.  But if nobody had heard of them in Canada, and they sat on my shelf for a year, no, I’m not paying top dollar for it.   So, eventually Serge stopped coming in.

I bought two albums from him that I’ve never played, but bought just “for the collection”.  One is a Kiss disc called Hit Collection 2000, the other by Europe, called Best Ballads.

Hit Collection 2000 is on a label called “DJ’s Club”.  It does not have the official Kiss logo, just a poor attempt to copy it.  There are some spelling errors on the back — I don’t know where “Detrot Rock City”  is.  The tracklist itself is pretty weird, containing newer songs like “Psycho Circus” and “I Finally Found My Way”, along with one track from each of the four Kiss solo albums.  There are three songs from Dynasty, and three rare live cuts from the Psycho Circus Live Australian disc.  This one came sealed but I didn’t even bother to open it.  Even Serge’s sealed discs often ended up scratched to pieces, I don’t know how that happens because these are clearly factory sealed.

The Europe album, Best Ballads, is notable for not depicting keyboardist Mic Michaeli on the front cover, even though he plays on the majority of songs.  The album contains ballads from Europe’s first monumental self-titled disc through to 1991’s Prisoners In Paradise.  The Russians picked some cool songs this time:  “Words of Wisdom” and “The King Will Return”, from the first album, “Dreamer” from Wings of Tomorrow, and “Coast To Coast” from Out of This World.  As usual there are three “bonus tracks”; “Under the Influence”, “Lord of the Manor”, and “Elsewhere” from Joey Tempest’s 1995 solo album A Place to Call Home.   Not that you would know this from the liner notes, since there are none.  Just a paper sleeve.

In the end I don’t think we missed Serge when he decided not to deal with us anymore.  A lot of his product sat on the shelves.  In fact I tried selling my Kiss Hit Collection CD back to the store last year, and they refused to take it.  Lesson learned!

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25 comments

  1. I’ve went through a wee phase of getting the occasional Russian editions when I order online. Not like these bootleg type ones though. A couple of recent orders of official albums, I’ve ended up with the Russian editions. It’s ok as long as they’re packaged properly and sound good but… it’s a bit annoying when you’re not told what it is your buying though!

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    1. I have another one I forgot to pull out of my collection. A Bon Jovi – Bounce, with bonus tracks. No booklet though, and the cover was printed on flimsy paper. Is yours like that at all?

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      1. No, not that one. I think it has 1 bonus track but I’d have to check at home. It does have the full booklet.

        It was only really in the last year. A Gwar CD, two Enslaved ones and a Dissection DVD that all seemed to be Russian. But all had the full packaging etc… so they do appear to be official releases rather than knock-offs. And I got them all very cheap so I’m not too bothered. I’d just rather know what I’m buying though!

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        1. Interesting…I’d be curious to see these on a future Noise-some Notes (hint hint).

          Another weird one was Chinese imports. A buddy of mine bought me a Chinese import of Deep Purple’s Rapture of the Deep and it came with a bonus greatest hits disc. I’m pretty sure it was not official even though the packaging was quite lavish.

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        2. Yeah, they’re all fine. The only thing that tipped me with Enslaved was the odd cover. And the Gwar one is perfectly normal apart from the licensing info on the back. I think that was the only reason I got that one for just £8. It’s normally quite hard to come by here (especially with the bonus track). All bought off the Amazon Marketplace. It’s not uncommon to have all sorts of European issues on sale here though, but this is the first time I’ve seen Russian ones.

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        3. That’s not something I’ve seen buying from the Canadian Amazon marketplace. Interesting. As long as you’re happy (and you got the bonus track!) and the price was certainly right.

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        4. I think it’s more prevalent here. You have a lot of neighbouring small countries so importing is often a good way of suppliers getting cheaper stock. As long as they aren’t pirated I don’t mind too much.. and these don’t seem to be from what I can tell!

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        5. Ahh I see. In Canada we mostly see US imports creeping across the border. But what really grinds my gears is when we have to buy CANADIAN ARTISTS like Saga on US import! Our labels need to give themselves a good head shake.

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  2. All I could think of, through this post and all these comments, was that old cell phone ad where the neighbours are talking over the fence, and the one has a new cell phone. It’s the sleek one being sold in the ad. But the other neighbour has a new phone too, and it’s this gigantic, ridiculous one, the size of those field radios they use in war movies. And he says “yeah, mine’s Russian. The brand is called Imanokoff.”

    Anyway, I’ve often wanted to travel through the eastern bloc (and Japan/China, too!), not just to check it out but also to go record shopping. I’ll bet you’d see all sorts of odd things! The only eastern-European CD I have is a punk CD our friend brought back from the Bosnia/Serbia area for me. It’s a CD-R they were selling in the shops, so there’s a boot for sure! ;)

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  3. Canada and the US have always had an odd relationship, just in general, but when it comes to music too. The US (largely) ignores Canadian bands, unless they get huge. Celine Dion. Bryan Adams. Rush, I suppose. And so on. And the psychology from this side of the border is that you have to go to the States and make it big there in order to be successful. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but there are just as many who did it. Like Neil Young. Or Leonard Cohen (once he started singing). Then, sometimes it just takes a while… I remember the Barenaked Ladies saying that for all the good touring in the US did for them in the early days, they may as well have driven down the interstate with a wide-open suitcase full of money on the roof of the car. But then Jason Priestly liked them and got them on 90210 and boom, they’re in. Whether for good or for bad, I’ll leave you to decide. Or, look at Sloan, releasing the brilliant One Chord To Another. Fans here gobbled it up. It’s truly a perfect record. It saw re-release on a US label (with a bonus disc, even), and the response was tepid at best. It should have been HUGE, and broken them into exposure in the US, but it failed. It’s a weird set-up.

    Well, whatever. Fortunately, we have a VERY vibrant and creative music community right here in Canada. Bands may not sell bazillions of records like the big fish in the US do, but they’re making GREAT music and touring constantly and we’re doing just fine without the US thankyouverymuch.

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      1. Exactly! But then, if they had broken big in the US, would they still be the Sloan that we love and adore? Would they have become crap like BNL (all deference to BNL fans everywhere, but seriously, the later output is NOT on par with the brilliant early stuff). And we wouldn’t have The Rest Of My Life, either. Think about THAT.

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        1. All valid points — and you could argue the same thing about the Hip and Blue Rodeo too. If Blue Rodeo hit it big in the US, would they be touring with Big & Rich?

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