Warren-based label 75orLess Records has done an enormous amount for music in Rhode Island and Southern New England since it started back in 2006.
Before it was a label, 75orLess was a music review site conceived in 2001 by Mark “Slick” MacDougall. Its concept? That contributors would write about a particular album in using just a few dozen words – 75 or less, in fact.
With the review site ceasing to be in 2013, MacDougall’s vision has solely evolved into being an outlet for musicians locally and nationally to put out their music. He’s done so with hundreds of albums, EPs and singles under the imprint.
75orLess’ latest release is a dual compilation titled “Smash Hits Vol. I & II,” with both installments being released on Oct. 15.
75orLess tries to put out a compilation on a yearly basis, and MacDougall was motivated to do one thanks to a few friends of his who also contributed some tracks. It ended up becoming a lot bigger than he expected, hence why it’s split up into separate volumes.
“I try to do a compilation for the label every year or so, but even I had the COVID-19 blues and my mind was on other things,” MacDougall says on the making of “Smash Hits.” “Luckily, there were some people like Mark Cutler, Ray Memery, and Kraig Jordan to light a fire under my butt and get me motivated to knock this out in just a few weeks. Fred Galpern worked quickly to deliver some killer artwork for it, but all credit goes to the bands for quickly assembling their tracks and getting them to me. The songs come from a few different local places. There’s a couple from Newport, a few more from New Bedford, a bunch from Providence and the surrounding suburbs and there’s even one from Western Massachusetts musician Dennis Most.”
“Sequencing a compilation is always hard to do,” he adds. “It’s tough to have a flow that is easy for the listener to go from track to track. Instead of having one giant compilation, I broke this up into two shorter volumes. I basically made the first volume for the mellower stuff and the second volume for the harder stuff. There’s a few tight turns along the way, but I think that overall the sequencing is as good as it can be when dealing with so many songs. With gigs largely put on hold, for many of the bands this was the first opportunity for them to get together and work on a project together since the pandemic hit. In some cases, they had already done some recording, but not enough for an EP or an album, so the compilation was perfectly timed for almost everyone to participate.”
Rhode Island Music Hall of Famer and current Cranston resident Mark Cutler has three songs on Vol. I, including his solo song “Queen Of The Dive.” His bands, The Sorry Boys and Gladhouse, contributed their songs “Way Out Now” and “Mine All Mine” to the compilation. He got involved simply because he enjoys taking part in projects with his friends.
“I love my friends from 75orLess and I’m always eager to be part of their projects and compilations,” Cutler says about how he got involved. “The Sorry Boys is a project that I’m working on with Ray Memery, Jimmy Berger and Bob Giusti. Our plan is to put out an EP and hopefully do a few shows. The song ‘Way Out Now’ was written by Ray, and we all played and helped with the arrangement. Gladhouse is a project that Ray and Paul Everett are doing, I helped write the song ‘Mine All Mine’ and played some guitar. ‘Queen of the Dive’ was written and recorded a few years ago and it finally found a home here on this compilation. I feel lucky to be on this record with so many good friends.”
On Vol. II, Providence alternative rock act Jets Can’t Land contributed a rousing rendition of “Bulldog Skin,” which was originally done by the Dayton, Ohio, indie rock band Guided By Voices for their 1997 album “Mag Earwhig!” The cover has become part of the local act’s setlist for the past couple of years and the compilation seemed like the perfect chance to release the recording of it.
“If it rips and we can incorporate some harmonies, it’s for us,” drummer Keith Swist says about the inclusion of the song. “We’ve covered a few Guided By Voices songs but I’m not sure if they’ve all made it to the stage. We have a hard time finding covers that we all agree on, I guess no one vetoes it when a song by them gets suggested.”
“Everyone in the band have been big fans of Guided By Voices since the early ’90s,” lead guitarist Kyle Jackson adds. “We started playing it live a while back and decided to record it when we were recording our last EP, but then we decided not to release it. So, it was perfect when Mark asked us for a song that we hadn’t released yet for the compilation.”
75orLess Records plans on releasing a third volume of “Smash Hits” on Oct. 23, and MacDougall says it’ll be “the weirder material.”
To give the entire compilation a listen and download the whole thing for free, log on to the label’s Bandcamp page at failedtributebandscomp.bandcamp.com. To check out everything else the label has going on, visit 75orlessrecords.com.