With the October 11 release of metal band Riot’s classic 1981 album FIRE DOWN UNDER, Audio Fidelity launches its new Target Series imprint, designed to broaden the company’s audience beyond its longstanding and loyal audiophile base. Audio Fidelity, via the affordably-priced Target Series, will be reissuing a number of classic albums in the coming months on both CD and vinyl formats, meticulously re-mastered by the company’s acclaimed audio engineers, Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray.
FIRE DOWN UNDER, considered by many hard-rock fans to be the New York-based band’s best, will be reissued on traditional vinyl with its original artwork and will be available at both online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Riot, founded in 1976 by guitarist and songwriter Mark Reale, has now spent more than three decades as a hard-rock institution. But FIRE DOWN UNDER, the group’s third album and its commercial breakthrough, achieved iconic statue by almost not making it out of the gate. The record was deemed unsatisfactory for release by Capitol Records, Riot’s original home label. Only when contractual differences were ironed out between Capitol and the band’s next label, Elektra Records, did FIRE DOWN UNDER see release, in February of 1981.
Some have cited the album as one of the more impressive metal offerings of the ’80s-the decade when the genre made its heaviest creative and commercial impact. A tight program of first-rate songs (all Riot originals) performed at an unrelenting pace, the album was recorded immediately following the band’s barnstorming tours with AC/DC and Molly Hatchet. Standout tracks include “Swords and Tequila,” “Outlaw,” “Altar of the King,” “Feel the Same” and the breakneck title song. Reale’s and Rick Ventura’s fiery guitar work provide most of the album’s punch, though singer Guy Speranza lends much to the terse, powerful proceedings, as do drummer Sandy Slavin and bassist Kip Leming-all of whom contribute to the songwriting. Producer Steve Loeb’s credits also include engineering Public Enemy’s best-selling Fear of a Black Planet album.
FIRE DOWN UNDER was chosen as the Target imprint’s initial release, says Audio Fidelity founder and president Marshall Blonstein, because it fits with the direction the company plans to take in expanding its market beyond the audiophile community it has served since 2001. ”Over the years,” he explains, “many music fans have contacted us to suggest we put out various records that, for one reason or another, didn’t make sense as releases aimed exclusively at the audiophile market. The idea behind Target allows us to answer their requests by issuing these titles as conventional CDs and on traditional vinyl at a more favorable price.” Generally, Target releases will retail for between $14.99 and $19.99 and will be available just as widely at the same outlets as Audio Fidelity’s 24K Gold CD and 180-gram virgin vinyl audiophile releases.
Blonstein emphasizes that Target Series titles will meet the same high standards that have earned Audio Fidelity its distinctive reputation. ”Our audio engineers, Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray, will do the mastering,” he says, “just as they do on Audio Fidelity releases, which guarantees top audio quality.” A full release schedule for the Target imprint is currently being firmed up.
Founded in 2001, Audio Fidelity specializes in deluxe reissues of classic popular-music recordings for the audiophile and collector markets. The Camarillo, California-based label is best known for its 24-Karat Gold CDs and its 180-gram virgin-vinyl album editions, as well as a line of popular DVD titles.
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