Label Profile: Water Records

water-logobitMAGNET examines the recent output of a record label we love—or one that is at least temporarily in our good graces. For the inaugural edition, we examine Water Records, the mysterious San Francisco-based reissue imprint.


Flipper’s “Sex Bomb” from 1982’s Generic Flipper:

The Walker Brothers’ “Make It Easy On Yourself” from 1965’s Take It Easy With:

For those not familiar with the process of how music is submitted for coverage in publications, usually one or more of the following happens: A record label may send an email alerting us to the future release of an album. A press sheet or “bio” is sometimes sent along with a CD in the mail. Said press sheet might specify a release date or indicate a publicity contact. A record label may have a website with more information about the album. Often, the telephone rings and a person tells us about upcoming releases.

None of this mumbo jumbo applies to the Water label. Every month or so, we get a package in the mail containing two to four shrinkwrapped CDs. Look, it’s three Lee Hazlewood reissues and a new version of a Japanese-only Ornette Coleman album! It’s Tim Hardin’s 1966 debut and a two-CD Judee Sill set with new mixes by Jim O’Rourke! It’s Christmas morning for music nerds, and Santa didn’t leave a note, a release date or a web address. There’s just a PO Box listed on the back of the CDs. (Some information is online via distributor Forced Exposure and Water’s own oddly structured page at parent distributor Runt.)

So while the Water releases don’t get a lot of press for obvious reasons—even online publications have to plan in-depth coverage weeks and months in advance—the label’s recent output is worth detailing. Here are some reissues from the past year or so. We really don’t know exactly when they came out—how could we? More important, does it matter?

Generic Flipper
Gone Fishin’
Public Flipper Limited: Live 1980-1985
Sex Bomb Baby!

San Francisco art-punk outfit Flipper is seemingly easier to namedrop than listen to. The band is publicly worshiped by Thurston Moore and Krist Novoselic (who joined the latter-day lineup on bass) but is an acknowledged love-or-hate proposition with the catchphrase: “Flipper suffered for their music. Now it’s your turn.” Water gives us Generic and Gone Fishin’ (studio albums from 1982 and 1984, respectively), the live disc and Sex Bomb Baby! (a collection of early singles and b-sides). Read our profile of Flipper here.

Take It Easy With The Walker Brothers
You don’t have to be a glutton for punishing avant-garde sounds to enjoy Scott Walker’s elegant, sweeping croon. Take It Easy, the 1965 debut that made the Walker Brothers teen idols in England, features mostly lightweight covers of tunes by the likes of Bacharach/David and Leiber/Stoller. Arranged in ornate, classic-bandstand style, the songs here are a charming AM-radio portrait of Walker—now infamously experimental and reclusive—as a young man. Read our in-depth feature on Walker here.

Only Life
While not as classic as 1980’s Crazy Rhythms, chances are if you’re a Feelies fan, it’s a no-brainer to own the New Jersey band’s 1988 major-label debut. Only Life actually appeared on modern-rock radio charts at the time and beat out R.E.M.’s Green in the Village Voice’s year-end critics’ poll.

Read our Q&A with Lee Hazlewood here and our feature on Ornette Coleman here.