Welcome Back: Edsel Reissues John Sebastian’s Reprise Catalogue, Adds Previously Unreleased Live Concert DVD
Edsel is saying “welcome back” to John Sebastian with the recent release of a quartet of albums in one deluxe package: John B. Sebastian, The Four of Us, Tarzana Kid and Welcome Back. Edsel has bundled these releases, representing the Lovin’ Spoonful founder’s complete Reprise studio recordings, with a live concert DVD making its very first appearance anywhere. In Concert: John Sebastian Sings John Sebastian was broadcast by the BBC in October 1970, months following the release of John B. Sebastian.
New York native Sebastian fused pop and folk when he joined with Zal Yanovsky, Steve Boone and Joe Butler as The Lovin’ Spoonful, and as their chief songwriter penned the era-defining hits still in rotation on oldies radio today: “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Daydream,” “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” (with Boone), “Summer in the City” (with brother Mark Sebastian and Boone). A solo career might have seemed inevitable, and indeed, in 1968, Sebastian left the group. He didn’t remain idle for long, though. He wrote songs for Murray Schisgal’s Broadway play Jimmy Shine starring Dustin Hoffman and Rue McClanahan, and in 1969, his impromptu solo set at Woodstock became a festival highlight. But few at Woodstock knew that Sebastian’s first solo album was already completed and awaiting release.
A contractual snafu led MGM Records to claim ownership of the album, and in fact MGM released a version of the John B. Sebastian album in 1970. Reprise, to whom Sebastian felt he was rightfully signed, was forced to sue MGM. When the smoke cleared, the Reprise edition of John B. Sebastian prevailed, eventually becoming Sebastian’s best-selling solo record. On the album, Sebastian revisited his first solo single “She’s a Lady” as well as The Spoonful’s “You’re a Big Boy Now,” and welcomed a variety of guests including all three members of Crosby, Stills and Nash as well as CSN drummer Dallas Taylor, Buzzy Linhart on vibes and The Ikettes on backing vocals.
Another studio recording arrived in 1971, The Four of Us. It was a concept album chronicling Sebastian’s meeting with, courtship of, and marriage to his wife Catherine, culminating in the 16-minute epic title track. Produced like its predecessor by Paul A. Rothchild of Doors fame, Sebastian enlisted Dallas Taylor, Mountain’s Felix Pappalardi, CSNY bassist Greg Reeves, The Turtles’ Johnny Barbata and the Esso Trinidad Steel Band to play on The Four of Us. In addition to his new songs, the album featured a traditional tune (“Well, Well, Well”) arranged by Josh White and a cover of Clifton Chernier’s “Black Snake Blues.”
Following a hiatus to raise a family, Sebastian returned to Reprise with 1974’s Tarzana Kid. The LP also reunited him with Lovin’ Spoonful producer Erik Jacobsen. Jacobsen and Sebastian co-produced this set featuring contributions from Toto’s David Paich, Little Feat’s Lowell George, Ry Cooder, Buddy Emmons, Emmylou Harris, David Lindley, The Pointer Sisters and even Phil Everly. On Tarzana Kid, Jacobsen and Sebastian revisited The Spoonful’s “Sportin’ Life” and “Wild About My Lovin’,” both of which had appeared on the Spoonful’s first long-player, as well as Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken.” Alas, Tarzana failed to chart, and Sebastian found himself at odds with Reprise. That would soon change.
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By the point The Mills Brothers’ new anthology Cab Driver: The Dot and Paramount Years: 1958-1972 begins in 1958, Herbert, Harry and Donald Mills had already been superstars for nearly thirty years. Known for their tight harmonies and sophisticated scatting as much as for their ability to mimic musical instruments with their voices, The Mills Brothers scored their first U.S. No. 1 hit in 1931 on the Brunswick label with “Tiger Rag,” an oldie from 1917 (!). Hollywood stardom followed at Paramount and Warner Bros., and the brothers broke a barrier for African-American entertainers when they played a command performance before the King and Queen of England in 1934. Tragedy threatened to derail the group in 1936 when founding member John Jr. died of pneumonia, but they pressed on with father John Sr. until 1957, singing with luminaries like Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong along the way. Through this entire period, The Mills Brothers were Top 40 mainstays. In late 1957, they left the venerable Decca label for relative upstart Dot, which is where this new 28-track compilation from Cherry Red’s Poker Records imprint picks up.
Cab Driver: The Dot and Paramount Years: 1958-1972 explores in depth this rarely-anthologized period of The Mills Brothers’ long recording career. This is the period in which the jazz/swing vocal greats came to terms with rock and roll, sometimes addressing it and other times ignoring it, but always remaining true to their singular vocal sound. Cab Driver concentrates on the group’s Dot single releases rather than on the albums which were frequently themed by concept: an album of re-recorded old hits (some things never change!), a country album, a Hawaiian album, a Latin album, etc. On singles, the brothers had more of an opportunity to stretch and show their vocal versatility. They flirted with doo-wop (a cover of The Silhouettes’ “Get a Job” which opens this collection), country (a fine cover of Skeeter Davis’ melancholy “The End of the World”), Broadway (the title song from Bob Merrill’s musical comedy Take Me Along), pop (a reworking of Nat “King” Cole’s hit “Dance, Ballerina, Dance”) and jazz (the Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh standard “Don’t Blame Me”), and even created a blues-bossa hybrid (!) with Fats Waller’s (!!) “Honeysuckle Rose Blues Bossa Nova” in 1966.
As of 1968 – the year of The Graduate, White Light/White Heat, Music from Big Pink and The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) – The Mills Brothers hadn’t seen a chart hit since 1959. That changed with the release of “Cab Driver,” from “Something Stupid” songwriter (and brother to Van Dyke) C. Carson Parks. The twangy, country-meets-classic pop ballad struck a chord, going all the way to the Top 25 of the Pop chart and Top 5 Adult Contemporary. The Mills Brothers went “once more ‘round the block” with its follow-up, “My Shy Violet” from the team of Earl Shuman and Leon Carr (“Hey There, Lonely Girl”). Its barbershop quartet-inspired harmonies earned the brothers another Top 5 AC hit, and a none-too-shabby No. 73 Pop placement. “Cab Driver” and “My Shy Violet” started a run of chart hits on the Pop, AC and Country charts for the still-eclectic trio.
After the jump: more on Cab Driver, including the complete track listing with discography, and order links! Read the rest of this entry »
Creedence Clearwater Revival are taking it back to the year it all started – sort of – for a new compilation to be released on Record Store Day.
To those who were paying attention, Creedence Clearwater Revival were pretty active before 1969. Singer-songwriter-guitarist John Fogerty, older brother/rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford had been performing and recording together in their native San Francisco since 1959, first under the name of The Blue Velvets (in which Tom wrote and sang while Cook played piano instead of bass) and then The Golliwogs, the latter of which saw them move to local jazz label Fantasy Records. When the lineup crystallized around John’s distinctive vocals and southern/roots-inspired songwriting prowess, CCR was born, issuing their first self-titled album in 1968 and enjoying their first hit, the Top 20 single “Susie Q.”
But it was that next year, 1969, that solidified their reputation as one of the defining rock bands of the ’60s. That year saw them touring incessantly, including a headlining spot at the Woodstock festival. And amazingly, they found time in their schedules to release not one, not two, but three albums between January and November of that month. Bayou Country, Green River and Willy and The Poor Boys were all Top 10 hits on Billboard‘s albums chart (with Green River topping that chart), and they spun off four iconic singles: the now-standard “Proud Mary” (No. 2) backed with “Born on the Bayou”; the rollicking “Bad Moon Rising” (No. 2) coupled with “Lodi” (No. 52); “Green River” (No. 2) and its B-side “Commotion” (No. 30) and the irresistible “Down on the Corner” (No. 3), coupled with the anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son” (No. 14).
CCR enjoyed several more years of success, with two albums in 1970 and a final LP in 1972 (without Tom Fogerty), plus several more Top 10 hits (never, however, a No. 1 hit). They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and their catalogue is still widely available, thanks to several compilations and remasters and endless licensing (mostly executed by Fantasy Records without the approval of Fogerty).
In addition to a new 10″ white-vinyl compilation, The ’69 Singles, including all eight sides the band released in that year, dropping into all participating indie retailers on Record Store Day, Fantasy and CCR are keeping the spirit of ’69 alive with vinyl reissues of those three albums (Bayou Country was repressed this year, while Green River and Willy and The Poor Boys are expected August 5 and November 4, respectively), a new compilation and “high-resolution audio releases.”
The ’69 Singles (Fantasy FAN-35329-01, 2014)
- Proud Mary
- Born on the Bayou
- Bad Moon Rising
- Green River
- Down on the Corner
- Fortunate Son
Tracks 1-2 from Fantasy single 619 Bayou Country (Fantasy 8387, 1969)
Tracks 3-6 from Fantasy singles 625 and 634 and Green River (Fantasy 8393, 1969)
Tracks 7-8 from Fantasy single 622 Willy and The Poor Boys (Fantasy 8397, 1969)
Everybody Loves Somebody: Legacy Acquires Dean Martin’s Reprise Catalogue, Launches Reissue Campaign
Dean Martin is said to have once observed that the two smartest decisions he ever made were partnering with Jerry Lewis…and breaking up with Jerry Lewis. When the split occurred, Martin was 39 years old, but convinced that a successful solo career was still ahead of him. Was he ever right! The former Dino Paul Crocetti was among the lucky few to have a successful second act in showbiz, and his career as just Dean Martin even eclipsed the first act as one-half of the beloved Martin and Lewis team. Martin first took flight as a singer at Capitol Records beginning in 1948, eight years before dissolving his partnership with Lewis. He remained at the Tower through 1961, making his final recordings there in December of that year. On February 13, 1962, he entered United Western Recorders on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard to begin his tenure alongside pal Frank Sinatra as one of the flagship artists for the Chairman’s Reprise Records label. Over the years, Martin’s Reprise catalogue has changed hands numerous times, and last week, it was officially announced that its new home will be Sony’s Legacy Recordings.
In partnership with The Dean Martin Family Trust, Legacy has begun remastering titles from Martin’s Reprise (1962-1974) and Warner Bros. (1983) periods for an ongoing reissue campaign. The first title to emerge under the Legacy deal was the recent Playlist: The Very Best of Dean Martin, which was newly remastered by Vic Anesini. The Reprise period, of course, includes many of Martin’s most enduring hits. He famously took on The Beatles – and triumphed! – in 1964 when Ernie Freeman’s contemporary arrangement of “Everybody Loves Somebody,” a 1947 song by Sam Coslow, Irving Taylor and Martin’s frequent collaborator Ken Lane, knocked the Fabs’ “A Hard Day’s Night” right off the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 at the height of Beatlemania! Despite Dino’s protestation that “I do not like rock singers, rock is out with me, I can’t stand rock,” Freeman’s heavy rock-influenced backbeat gave Martin the edge to introduce his laid-back croon to a new generation.
More major hits followed including “I Will,” “The Door is Still Open to My Heart” and Lee Hazlewood’s “Houston,” and by the beginning of 1966, Martin had notched seven Top 40 pop hits and six Top 40 albums – in addition to juggling the demands of his popular variety show! Dino remained with Reprise for most of the rest of his recording career. Even considering the seismic shifts in musical styles as the sixties continued, Martin’s hits hardly waned, with “In the Chapel in the Moonlight” and “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me” both going Top 40 in 1967. When Reprise issued two greatest-hits collections in 1968, both achieved gold status. In 1971, he re-signed with the label for another three-year contract, and in 1974, he would record his final music for the House That Frank Built although legal wrangling would prevent the songs’ release until 1978. Martin gracefully bowed out of the recording business, smartly refusing to subject himself to disco and other styles that affected the music of so many of his contemporaries. Not that Martin completely avoided pop and rock in his years at Reprise; quite to the contrary. He recorded songs by Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, The Bee Gees, Kris Kristofferson, John Hartford, Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and even Smokey Robinson. Martin also built up a considerable catalogue of country music at Reprise.
Dino continued to appear on television and onstage during his retirement from the recording studio, and in 1980 purchased back his Reprise recordings from the label (which had itself purchased fourteen albums from Dean in 1971). Yet most of these albums remained incredibly difficult to find in the CD era until the release of Bear Family’s definitive complete Dean Martin series of box sets (four, in total, with two each dedicated to Capitol and Reprise) and Collectors’ Choice’s series of Reprise two-fers.
In 1983, Martin was coaxed by his longtime producer Jimmy Bowen, head of Reprise parent Warner Bros.’ Nashville division, to record one more album. My First Country Song became a respectable No. 49 entry on the Country Albums chart, and its title track – a duet with Conway Twitty – also became a Top 40 country hit. Though the album would turn out to be Martin’s last, he did record one last song, “L.A. is My Home,” which was released in 1985 on the MCA label. (It was also the closing theme song to the television show Half Nelson on which Dean appeared.) There’s no mention of whether “L.A.” is included in the current Legacy deal.
What can you expect from Legacy’s Dean Martin series? Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »
Venerable jazz label Blue Note Records celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and they’re celebrating well into the next year with an ambitious campaign that will see parent company Universal Music Group reissue dozens of titles on vinyl through 2015.
Founded in 1939 by mogul Alfred Lion and musician Max Margulis, Blue Note started as your average traditional jazz label before 1947, at which point the company started to focus on innovations in the genre, namely bebop and hard bop. Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Art Blakey, Fats Navarro, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock are just a few names that recorded for the label at some point in their storied careers. The label began to fade by the late ’60s, when it was acquired by Liberty Records, which was in turn acquired by United Artists (the conglomerate of which was bought by EMI in 1979). However, an early CD-era reissue program saw the name revived in the mid-’80s, and the label became associated with many of Capitol-EMI’s jazz ventures since – most notably Come Away with Me, the Grammy-winning 2002 debut album by Norah Jones.
Of the ambitious venture to release classic albums from the Blue Note repertoire on vinyl, five at a time, between this March and October of 2015(!), label president and noted producer Don Was issued this statement:
Two years ago, we decided to begin remastering the jewels of the Blue Note catalog in hi-def resolutions of 96k and 192k. In order to develop a guiding artistic philosophy for this delicate endeavor, we donned our lab coats, ran dozens of sonic experiments and carefully referenced every generation of our reissues. Ultimately, we decided that our goal would be to protect the original intentions of the artists, producers and engineers who made these records and that, in the case of pre-digital-era albums, these intentions were best represented by the sound and feel of their first-edition vinyl releases. Working with a team of dedicated and groovy engineers, we found a sound that both captured the feel of the original records while maintaining the depth and transparency of the master tapes…the new remasters are really cool!
While these new versions will become available in Digital Hi Def, CD and the Mastered for iTunes formats, the allure of vinyl records is WAY too potent to ignore. This year, Blue Note – along with our friends at Universal Music Enterprises – is launching a major 75th Anniversary Vinyl Initiative that is dedicated to the proposition that our catalog should be readily available at a low cost – featuring high quality pressings and authentic reproductions of Blue Note’s iconic packaging. Beginning in March 2014, we’ll start rolling out five remastered vinyl reissues every month. Although this program begins in celebration of Blue Note’s 75th Anniversary, our catalog runs so deep that we will faithfully be reissuing five albums a month for many years to come!
The first two batches will be available in stores March 25 and April 22, featuring titles by Coltrane, Rollins, Hancock, Adderley, Wayne Shorter and more. Pre-order links for these vinyl reissues are after the jump; click here for the full list of planned titles!
Rock’s back pages are littered with “creative differences.” Such differences split Paul Revere and the Raiders into two warring factions – Paul Revere and Mark Lindsay on one side; Phil “Fang” Volk, Mike “Smitty” Smith and Drake “The Kid” Levin on the other. The Volk-Smith-Levin triumvirate bristled at the more pop direction that the onetime garage band had been taking, and were none too pleased with the studio musicians being enlisted to beef up the Raiders’ recordings. In early 1967, the trio departed the band, leading to litigation and acrimony. But both parties soldiered on. Revere and Lindsay were joined in The Raiders by Freddy Weller, Joe Correro, Jr. and Keith Allison, and Volk, Levin, and Smith formed The Brotherhood. But while Revere continued to notch hits, The Brotherhood wasn’t quite so lucky. Its small three-album discography for RCA has gone all but forgotten in the ensuing years. Luckily, Real Gone Music has found this missing link in Raiders history. Brotherhood’s The Complete Recordings (RGM-0220, 2014) brings together all three of these fascinating LPs in one deluxe 2-CD set.
With a new label and newfound autonomy, bassist Volk, guitarist Levin and drummer Smith took few cues from their old band when they formed Brotherhood. Organist Ron Collins rounded out the group which tried to live up to its name; on the first album, every songwriting credit was shared by the three core members. Brotherhood’s first, self-titled long-player from 1968 began hopefully with the sound of applause, but despite the wealth of possibilities in its twelve tracks, a listener could be forgiven for wondering, “Just who are these guys?” The versatile talents of Brotherhood failed to create a cohesive album for their debut, but succeeded in showing off the many musical styles they had mastered, gleefully jumping from genre to genre – at times in the same song! The opening track “Somebody” veers from snarling garage rock to showbiz brassiness with a dash of reggae for good measure, but it gets even stranger from there. Levin’s “Pastel Blue” is a gently wistful bossa nova tune, while “Lady Faire” is a decidedly Parisian cabaret jaunt. “Box Guitar” is a slightly twee soft-shoe vaudeville track with enjoyable tack piano from Collins, but none of these tracks could have satisfied expectations of a new band built around the talents of the Raiders’ rhythm section.
Despite the smiling faces on the album cover, darkness permeates much of Brotherhood, too. One rocking track pleads to “Close the Door” (“before they find us…”), and the specter of Vietnam looms over the tense, slow and lysergic “Doin’ the Right Thing (The Way),” featuring Levin on sitar. (Volk’s brother Capt. George Francis Volk of the U.S. Army was killed in Vietnam in 1967.) “Love for Free” begins on an ominous note before ceding to harmony-psychedelia. The band indulged its baroque, impressionistic sensibilities on “Seasons” (with a guest cello spot) and the lyrically-cryptic “Ice Cream.” Brotherhood was an album in search of a single, as the band was aware. They settled on “Jump Out the Window,” with the LP’s most straightforward and enjoyable pop-rock melody. The lyric urges the title act as a kind of liberation, and most of it is innocuous enough: “I’m a hip Mary Poppins/I fly so naturally/I go where the wind blows/And the wind knows I’m free…” But the plea to jump out the window likely didn’t help it climb the pop charts. Bill Kopp’s comprehensive liner notes find Phil Volk confessing that he found the song’s message “irresponsible.” By the time of the album’s finale, the hypnotic, Moog-splashed “Forever” as sung by Levin, it was still difficult to discern what kind of band Brotherhood was, and wanted to be.
Where did the band head next? Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »
In past years, Numero Group’s Wayfaring Strangers series has taken adventurous listeners along to hear Ladies from the Canyon, Guitar Soli and Lonesome Heroes, drawing on rare or privately-pressed folk music and casting it in a new light. With its latest release, however, Numero is traversing even more unexpected territory. The punningly-titled Warfaring Strangers volume entitled Darkscorch Canticles will immerse listeners in a world of mystics and mages, devils and demons, and yes, dungeons and dragons. The 16-track anthology, due in stores today on CD, LP and MP3, is a first-of-its-kind compilation of fantasy-based hard rock from the 1970s. But more unbelievably, it will soon also become available in one of the most unusual box set configurations we’ve seen in our four-plus years here at The Second Disc: as a bona-fide role playing game!
If you’ve never heard of Triton Warrior, Stone Axe, Stoned Mace, Hellstorm, Medusa, or (doing Medusa one better) Gorgon Medusa, you’re not alone. But you might not forget them after spinning Darkscorch Canticles. “This music hails from an occluded realm, somewhere just beyond the pot-addled minds of its creators,” Numero explains. Those young minds were likely listening to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin – and maybe Camel or even early, pre-glam Tyrannosaurus Rex – while exploring new worlds in Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing game that first appeared in 1974 to spearhead the RPG genre. “In this collection,” Numero states, “medieval Bonham thunk and febrile Iommi guitar leads crowd out the bluesy Americana that foregrounded [Zeppelin and Sabbath], replacing hippie pastoralism with mythology, armored conflict, sorcery, and doom.” This is garage rock from a world in which wizards, elves, dwarves, monsters and wizards might be hiding next door to the garage in question.
Hit the jump for much more on Darkscorch Chronicles – the CD and the role-playing game – including the complete track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »