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We love to buy records and Monsieur Aznavour loves to make them - again and again ...

Research carried out on albums and singles released this year shows that the number of recordings put on to the market reached an all-time high. There are also some startling statistics, for example the artist with the most album releases in 1996 was discovered to be French crooner Charles Aznavour. He was responsible for no fewer than 28 albums, including re-releases and compilations.

There was a big increase in spoken-word albums, the highest number of which featured various journalists interviewing the The Beatles.

And the welter of releases gave plenty of scope for confusion. For instance there was little similarity between Shirley Bassey Sings The Movies, a budget album of vintage recordings on the Music For Pleasure label, and Shirley Bassey Sings The Movies, a full-price album by Polygram with new recordings.

But even this was less confusing than rock and roller Carl Perkins, who was the subject of three different compilations on different labels, all at different prices but all entitled Blue Suede Shoes.

The research, by Entertainment Research & Analysis and published in Music Week magazine, shows that the number of albums released in 1996 was 16,148 - 26 per cent up on 1995's previous record number of 12,845. Releases of singles increased 16 per cent to 6,939. There were an average of 311 albums and 133 singles released each week.

Much of the increase in singles production was due to the continuing popularity of dance music, which accounted for 56.4 per cent of the year's output.

In the albums market, the researchers recognised 138 genres, though by far the most popular fields were rock, with 27 per cent of releases, jazz, with 13 per cent, and dance with 10 per cent - dance music showing up as notably less popular on albums than singles. However, the huge increase in the number of releases by hopeful record companies is not mirrored by actual sales.

Singles and albums are, in fact, selling fewer copies than ever before. The average 1996 album sold 12,000 copies and the average single only 10,644 copies, both all-time lows.

The most prolific artist was Charles Aznavour, with jazz musicians Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington close behind. Frank Sinatra, who was 1995's most prolific artist with 21 releases, just missed the top 10 this time. He had a paltry 15 titles out during the year.

The number of spoken-word releases more than doubled to account for 4 per cent of the albums market with most still released on cassette - the BBC in particular being notably reluctant to make the move to CD.

The corporation's landmark Radio 4 History of Britain, This Sceptered Isle was spread over 20 cassettes. Readings of poetry, fiction and biographies increased markedly with John Le Carre topping the table with eight cassettes, all of his own material. - but still lagging behind the 13 CDs of Beatles interviews.

Interview discs seems to be increasingly popular. In addition to The Beatles, there were six titles featuring The Rolling Stones, five of Queen and three each with Nirvana and Oasis.

Artists with most

album releases

Charles Aznavour: 28

Charlie Parker: 25

Duke Ellington: 23

Billie Holliday: 21

Tangerine Dream: 20

Black Sabbath: 19

Glenn Miller: 19

Ella Fitzgerald: 19

Edith Piaf: 19

Gregory Isaacs: 17

Benny Goodman: 17

Miles Davis: 17