ABKCO stands for Allen and Betty Klein Co., which establishes that Allen Klein is a devoted family man. He's also a music-industry legend, and has been for decades. His particular specialty has been finding hitherto unpaid royalties for acts under his wing, a task he has performed for acts from Sam Cooke to the Beatles.
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As a record-company owner, of course, he seems to have somewhat different priorities. Klein owns the US rights to the EMI recordings of the Animals and Herman's Hermits, originally released here on MGM, and he has kept best-of albums of those two groups available, both on LP and CD, though in fairly blah sound quality. ABKCO also owns the US rights to the Rolling Stones' Decca/London catalogue, and while this material continues to be available, it too suffers from indifferent sonics. Phil Spector's extensive Philles catalogue is distributed by ABKCO - a box set, the Christmas album, and best-ofs for the Crystals and the Ronettes have been released - and while the current releases sound just as murky as Phil's original 45s, clearly this is the intention of the producer.
Then there is the material that ABKCO keeps locked up. Sam Cooke's later recordings for RCA Victor were licensed from Cooke's Tracey Limited, which was administered by Allen Klein. When RCA issued a Cooke compilation in 1998, they left off all the Tracey tracks - except for "Another Saturday Night", which drew a threat of litigation from ABKCO. RCA responded by reissuing the compilation without the offending song. Meanwhile, "Ain't That Good News" and "Shake" and "A Change Is Gonna Come" remain in the vaults. ABKCO has released, however, a very good box set of material from Sar Records, a label owned by Cooke.
And it's not just Sam Cooke. Allen Klein became a record-company owner when his management firm merged with Cameo-Parkway, the home of Chubby Checker, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, Bobby Rydell, and lots of other American Bandstand regulars. Almost none of the C-P material is available; ABKCO's licensing policy makes it impossible to get these tracks for most compilations, and none of this material is in current release. ABKCO has been promising a Cameo-Parkway box set about as long as there have been CDs, yet so far nothing has turned up. Why not? Speculation is rampant in the collector community, but nobody seems to know for sure.
The really excruciating aspect of all this is that ABKCO could, if it so desired, do wondrous things with the extensive catalogues under its control. That desire, for whatever reason, just doesn't seem to exist.
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