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Best Buy Series

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RCA budget series was introduced July, 1980 - Please don't state any earlier date !

Quote from Billboard 5. June 1982: RCA introduced its "Best Buy" series in July 1980. The catalog now has about 300 pop albums and 20 more are sheduled for August.

In 1975, RCA licensed certain titles from its RCA Camden label to Pickwick. Shortly before that, RCA created a midline LP series: the "Pure Gold" series - see Pure Gold (2). Records in this series were mostly reissues of older, out of print LP's, but also newly-created compilations of older material. The difference between these and the Camden albums were the extra $1 or $2 in price and rather than cut two or three tracks, the entire original album was presented. In many cases, artwork was altered, and, for the most part, the back cover was black & white, with the contents of the album and ads for other RCA "Pure Gold" LP's!

By 1980, RCA had an idea: why not reissue regular albums at budget prices? Thus the "Best Buy" series was born. A special slot in RCA's prefix matrix was reserved: AYL1-. The first Waylon LP to be part of this group of albums was "Are You Ready For The Country". Rather than edit its then-current catalog number (AFL1-1816), it was issued yet another (AYL1-3663). And there were other changes. The gatefold sleeve was scrapped in favor of a single-sleeve design, but the most upsetting was the "Best Buy" logo. At approx. two inches round, it took up a good portion of the sleeve. Both consumers and artists cried "foul!" and the logo soon found itself on a sticker on the album's shrinkwrap. After RCA Records was merged with BMG, the Best Buy series was extended to other BMG labels as well, notably Arista. It was not uncommon to see the new "Best Buy" sticker on catalog Arista releasaes by Barry Manilow or The Monkees.

In 1983, RCA started issuing edited versions of older albums in the "Best Buy" series. In general, albums that originally had 10-12 tracks were reduced to 8 tracks. Five years later, BMG/RCA carried this practice over to CD's and cassettes as well. For example, Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson - WWII, originally with 11 cuts, was slashed to 8. So was Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser - Wanted! The Outlaws. These releases were issued with a "Sound Value CD" sticker. But soon it became well known that any CD with a "Sound Value CD" sticker was a butchered version of the original LP.

Oddly enough, when RCA began issuing Compact Discs in 1984, they utilized not only the complete album, but used the original LP catalog number. (For example, RCA issued Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow" on CD with the catalog number PCD1-3766 [the original LP number was LPM/LSP-3766] while the vinyl version retained its "Best Buy" number of AYL1-3738.

In the mid-1990's, BMG replaced the "Best Buy" series with the "Wise Buys" series, with apparently no special numbering system, the only indicator being a lowered retail price. Today, under Sony ownership, many former "Best Buy" and "Sound Value" titles became part of Sony's "Best Value" series, with many retaining their original catalog number but with a new UPC barcode.

Parent Label:RCA

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