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!