Despite the fact that EO 255 is still in the process of being fully implemented, interest in OPM recordings is curiously on the rise. OPM enthusiast and Wired State (i.e., an online audiophile forum) moderator Jon Agner attributes it to nostalgia, the drive to create one’s own OPM library and the psychic reward of owning a rare OPM recording. Agner’s perception is reinforced by online discussions and exchanges in social media devoted to OPM singles and albums most of which are out of print. New Haven for OPM Collectors which was put up by Bennjude De Castro and Pinoy Music Then and Now maintained by Rene Rivo are just two of the growing number of sites devoted to OPM-related posts and updates. The global resurgence of the vinyl format had the net effect of firing up interest in OPM albums even more. Interestingly, that was, in fact, the intent of Richard Calderon when he led the vinyl project of Polyeast Records. “With OPM vinyls, it (the vinyl format) will make people go back and appreciate more the local talents and music,” he wrote back when pressed for how he thinks their project would impact OPM. Despite the flak that came his way from concerned local audiophiles who complained about the disparity between the sonic quality and album art of the latest releases versus their counterparts when vinyl was the dominant storage medium in the 80s, that is exactly what has been happening.
Joey Albert is one OPM icon who received renewed interest from OPM collectors and long-time fans and followers in 2013. The release of The Hits Collection on vinyl last year sent OPM enthusiasts scouring for her vinyl releases at the height of her fame in the 80s. Depending on the condition of the vinyl, a Joey Albert album could easily fetch Php 1,000 says Ronald De Castro, a long-time vinyl collector and seller. Joey’s self-titled debut commands a Php 2,000 price tag according to Bob De Leon, owner of Bebop Records. One of the most ardent OPM vinyl collectors at Wired State with over 800 albums and counting is Edward Cruz who practically has all her vinyl albums. Cruz agrees with De Castro that a near mint vinyl album by Joey Albert could easily set you back by a thousand bucks. Among his Joey Albert albums, the self-titled debut is his personal favourite. Unfortunately, his friends and the friends of his friends shared his preference which led to his prized collector’s item getting lost in the process. This is why he is thankful to Polyeast for including “Tell Me,” the carrier single of Joey’s debut album, in her Hits Collection. This, he says, would do for now as he continues to try his luck in search of his lost Joey debut album in vinyl swap meets and analog sale events.
Such interest in Joey Albert’s recordings may be best explained in the context of her place in OPM history in the 80s. A place that was secured for her by over a dozen Pinoy love songs that most of us grew up with in the 80s. It is remarkable that a number of these songs continue to hold their own when played alongside contemporary OPM hits in the 21st century. “Tell Me” which earned her first Gold Record Award in 1984 was reimagined by Side A in 1995 eventually endearing the song all the more to Filipino romantics. It has, in fact, been covered by Regine Velasquez, Lea Salonga, and Zsa Zsa Padilla. “IIsa Pa Lamang” became the theme song of an award-winning movie of the same title in 1992. It was revived as the theme song of a 2008 telenovela of the same title. Erik Santos rerecorded it in 2012. The same is true of “Sa Yo Lamang” which was rerecorded by Juris in 2010. “Ikaw Lang ang Mamahalin” (1986) recently found its way to Martin Nievera’s Off the Record vinyl album in 2013. One other incontrovertible proof of the relevance of her body of work in this century is the 2001 release of The Story of Joey Albert, the Ultimate Videoke Collection. Featured in this anthology are 16 of her greatest hits guaranteed to cater to the “senti” side of Pinoys and their unquenchable need to sing along. Among them are “Over and Over Again” (1984), “Million Miles Away” (1984), “Say You’re Mine” (1984), “Memories” (1984), “Points of View” (1984), “Yakapin Mo Ako” (1985), “I Remember the Boy” (1985), “It’s Over Now” (1985), “Na Sabihin Mo” (1985), “Without You” (1986), You Threw it All Away” (1986), “Porma ng Porma” (1988), “Back in My Arms” (1988), and “Mixed Emotions” (1988.) And these are only from her studio albums with Polyeast. In her 30-year career as a musician, she has released a total of 24 albums.
Thanks to the fortuitous mix of the fluid connectivity of social media and her naturally kind and friendly nature, we were able to recently catch up with Joey Albert to ask her about the vinyl treatment accorded to her OPM legacy, what she has been busy with since leaving Manila and her future plans as a musician.
What was your reaction when you learned that your greatest hits were coming out on vinyl in 2013?
Ecstatic! I myself am a vinyl record fan and have again started a new collection. I fortunately kept some of my dad’s LPs.
Any songs which you wish they’d included?
It would’ve been nice to see the hit songs recorded with Dyna like “Iisa Pa Lamang” and “Sa ‘Yo Lamang” but I understand why not so given that, the selection is good!
What do you think of a second vinyl anthology?
Oh… that would be even more awesome like the unreleased songs of Joey Albert. There are a few that merit good exposure and were never released as singles… like “Say You’re Mine.”
Which among your many hits are your personal favourites and why?
“Million Miles Away”…. it’s simply beautiful.
“Tell Me”… short and to the point… legendary…
“Iisa Pa Lamang”… I love watching the first few bars disarm my audience even before I sing the first note…(same with “Tell Me”)
“Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin and Yakapin Mo Ako”… I feel connected with my late father and sister every single time I sing those songs… they were written for them.
“Brief Encounter”… in another time and place, I know this would have taken off… it’s cool…
“Roses In The Rain”… I always thought this was going to fly too…touches my heart every time
“Just For Awhile”… Gino Padilla was brilliant here… a better duet than “Points Of View”, personally.
“Say You’re Mine”… this should’ve been released… beautiful melody.
“Ngayon Wala Ka Na”… I still think this would be a great movie theme.
“It’s Over Now”… looooove the Bob Aves guitar solo in this one
“Sa ‘Yo Lamang”… because of the hope it gave me…This was the last song I released before I sadly left. I thought my career was over. Then a month after I left I received word from sister/manager in Canada… the song had won Best Theme Song for the movie entry of the same title in a film festival…My heart swelled with hope… a voice inside said it is not over…
When did you leave Manila?
Was there a compelling reason to migrate at that time? Was it in any way related to your illness?
In a way, it was…My husband had applied for Canadian immigration… it was to obtain international educational opportunities for our children… but I didn’t expect it so soon. I was very hesitant at first. Then in February 1995, I was diagnosed with my first bout with cancer which served as a wake-up call of some sort. It made me realize my career was not more important than the chance of being a full-time mother… so I left.
You have been cancer-free for more than 10 years already. To what do you attribute your remarkable recovery?
God’s love and mercy – it is true when they say His grace is sufficient… my family and friends…the sea of prayers… the gift of an unwavering faith… a good health system and the cancer research facility here in British Columbia…
What insights and realizations did your illness evoke in you which you consider of value to those who follow you?
I know how Filipinos love music… I will answer that by way of a song which has become the soundtrack of my life since… it’s called “The Last Day”…
What do you make of the current OPM scene both in the country and in Canada where you have resided permanently?
There isn’t much of an OPM scene here (in Canada) and I’ve not kept myself abreast with it there, too but it doesn’t seem like it was in the 80’s which I fondly refer to as the golden age of OPM…
Do you have plans of recording a new album? If yes, could you kindly share with us what the motif of the album would be? Do you already have a tracklist in mind?
I do have one more record album contract with Viva and I have an idea of what I would like to do except that it doesn’t seem feasible at this time as it involves another artist who we can’t get into a commitment yet… hahaha! I’ll keep you guessing : )
Would you have any plans to mount a solo concert anytime soon?
No…. not a solo concert… it would require my being there a longer time than I usually stay. In the far future, perhaps.
Would you have any idea as to the kind of following you have at this time?
Actually, no… you know… I’ve never had a clear idea of the following I ever had. Sometimes, I still get overwhelmed when I do a concert and hear a thousand people singing my song with me… every lyric, every swoon… how does that happen?
How are things with you in Canada? How often do you perform in public?
I don’t perform in public very often here… I’ve chosen to lead a semi-private life here to give my children the focus and normal life they deserve. I do most of my performances abroad… mostly, the States, Europe and of course, there in the Philippines. Here, I’m primarily a mom, a wife and a daycare teacher and owner. I run a Catholic daycare/preschool called The Good Shepherd DayCare here in Coquitlam where I live. Google it! : )
What would be your singular message to those who listen to your music both here and abroad in 2014?
Just thank you… thank you for keeping my music in your hearts. I was always a fervent recording artist… industriously promoting my singles… climbing the stairs to every radio booth in Ortigas… and do you know why? Because somehow I always had this innate sense of an ending… this persistent purpose of wanting to be remembered… and remembered well at the end of my life. It would be my music that would achieve that.