by KC Carlson
After the mention of Archies music in the post about Archie getting drafted, I thought I’d offer a quick little guide to your best bets, just in case anybody wants to track down more of The Archies music on CD, as it is a musical minefield out there.
The Archies’ hits on CD have been anthologized to death (over 20 different “greatest hits” CDs over the years), and there’s a a whole lot you should avoid due to their inferior quality. The best way to tell if you’re looking at a good one is if the actual Archie characters are on the cover. If the CD label actually took the extra step to license the character rights, they probably did the music right as well.
The best US Archies “hits” CD is Fuel 2000’s Absolutely the Best of The Archies which originally came out in 2001 and is also available on iTunes. All of the hits are here (including the oft-forgotten non-album single “Who’s Your Baby?”), as well as several great album tracks (“Melody Hill” is a bubblegum classic) and a couple of themes from the cartoon shows. There are well-researched liner notes in the 8-page booklet, which also features lots of Dan DeCarlo artwork.
Also of note is Sugar, Sugar… The Archies, a European compilation on the Repertoire label. This one might be OOP (out of print), but it is still available at Repertoire’s website, and used copies can be easily found. The biggest advantage to this one is that it’s 24 tracks (as opposed to Absolutely‘s 16), so you get 8 more great album cuts like “Love Light,” “Over and Over,” and “Seventeen Ain’t Young.” The downside is that it’s an import, so you might have to pay a little more than you would for Absolutely. (And the liner notes are short and generic — but they’re also available in German!) Great sound and lots of good art, though!
If you’re an Archies fanatic (and who isn’t?) and want to collect the original albums on CD, then you are mostly out of luck. Out of the original 5 albums (I’m not counting the original Greatest Hits album), only the first album (The Archies) is available on CD, and only as an expensive (thank you declining US dollar!) import from Repertoire. It offers up the original album (with the original Dan DeCarlo cover — also available as a mini-poster!) and includes as bonus tracks the original mono single versions of the first Archies single (“Bang-Shang-A-Lang” and “Truck Driver”). The CD also features informative liner notes and excellent sound quality.
The second and third Archies albums (Everything’s Archie and Jingle Jangle) were released on CD a few years ago (by lead singer Ron Dante, no less). However, the first was renamed The Archies and the latter became Archie’s Party. They are both kind of a mess — the packaging leaves much to be desired, with lots of typos, and the songs are not presented in the original running order — but they are still worth seeking out because the sound quality is excellent, they feature all the original songs, and they’re the only versions of these two albums that are currently available. Technically, both are out of print, but used copies can be found (and The Archies is also available on iTunes).
Sadly, the fourth and fifth Archies albums, Sunshine and This is Love, are not available on CD at all. Sunshine really needs to be released as it has some classic tracks, including “Who’s Gonna Love Me?,” “Over and Over,” “Comes the Sun,” the bizarre “Waldo P. Emerson Jones,” and “Sunshine” — my favorite Archies single.
It does have its clunkers as well, including the aforementioned “A Summer Prayer for Peace” and “Mr. Factory.” The album as a whole provides an incredible time capsule of the era (The All-Music Guide refers to it as “being like The Monkees’ Head“) as well as the opportunity to listen to the powers behind-the-scenes trying to evolve the Archies “sound” into something more mature. Unfortunately, this reached its nadir with This Is Love, the final Archies album. The glistening title track is really the only thing worth hearing here, and fortunately it is included on both Absolutely and Sugar Sugar….
One final note: in your search for Archies music, you will most likely come across a group called The Gothic Archies. An interesting group, they play a mixture of gothic rock and bubblegum (!?), but they have no real connection to The Archies, other than their deliberately ironic name. Happy searching!