Susan Kay Quatro, a.k.a. Suzi Quatro, has sold 55 million singles and LPs, scored five U.K. Top 10s and twelve Top 50s including two chart-toppers, followed in the footsteps of Ethel Merman onstage, appeared on television’s Happy Days, and influenced a “Who’s Who” including Joan Jett and The Go-Go’s. Quatro is billed as The Girl from Detroit City on her first-ever retrospective box set which has been recently released by Cherry Red Records. This 4-CD, 82-song book-style box is packed with unreleased material. It tracks Quatro’s singular career as a rock-and-roller from her first release, at 14 years old, as a member of the all-girl band with the provocative name of The Pleasure Seekers, all the way through the present day. The first three discs trace a chronological arc, while the fourth rounds up various rarities and never-before-heard recordings dating as far back as the beginning of her solo career.
For most, Suzi Quatro’s story begins when Mickie Most (The Animals, Lulu, Donovan) saw her in Detroit in 1971. The producer’s discovery paved the way for the transatlantic crossing that made the singer-songwriter as much a product of England as her native America. But The Girl from Detroit City starts earlier, with 1965’s “What a Way to Die” and the fourteen-year old Suzi, credibly rocking out in proto-punk garage style. Her throaty drawl was already well in place as well as her talent on the bass. But when the band (also including her sisters Arlene and Patti) was signed to Mercury Records, studio players were called in to augment their sound. Two Mercury-era tracks show the versatility of The Pleasure Seekers, however. George Fischoff and Carole Bayer (later to add Sager to her surname) supplied the brassy girl-pop of 1967’s regional hit “Light of Love.” Two more veteran songwriters, Jerry Ross and Mort Shuman, penned the following year’s uptempo “Locked in Your Love,” which never made it past the test pressing stage but happily is included here.
This collection hits all of the high points of Quatro’s impressive career including her 1973 solo debut single, “Rolling Stone,” produced by Most and featuring Peter Frampton on guitar, and its follow-up, “Can the Can,” which just happened to be her first U.K. No. 1. Written and produced by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, “Can” – as well as follow-ups like “48 Crash,” “Glycerine Queen,” and the No. 1 “Devil Gate Drive” – fit snugly into the glam rock ethos. The Elvis-inspired, black leather-clad Suzi didn’t particularly identify with the glitzy likes of Alvin Stardust, Bowie and Bolan, but the crunchy guitars, stomping beat and high-pitched vocals of her most successful singles had the self-assured swagger of glam’s greatest. A particular treat are the pre-“Rolling Stone” cuts produced by Most which premiere on Disc Four of the box, in which both artist and producer are searching for a sound. When Most paired Quatro with Chapman and Chinn, they certainly found it!
Quatro developed her distinctive and identifiable style early on, but she wasn’t averse to sonic experimentation, either. “Roman Fingers” (the B-side of the glammed-out rock of U.K. Top 20 hit “Daytona Demon”) has a “Stuck in the Middle with You”-esque, country-influenced vibe. Quatro co-wrote “Roman Fingers” as part of the agreement that saw her writing her own flips when Chapman and Chinn were churning out A-sides. Quatro had a clear grasp on her sound, as evidenced by “In the Morning,” another worthy B-side that could easily have been on the other side of the 45.
But even with such a well-defined sound, Quatro knew when it was time to expand her horizons. As it progresses chronologically over its four discs, The Girl from Detroit City showcases the singer’s mastery of other styles. The funky bassline of 1975’s “Your Mamma Won’t Like Me” augured for a new sound as did the smoking, insinuating horns of “I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew.” From the Your Mamma Won’t Like Me album of the same year, the singer embraced a big string sound on “Michael.”
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Holiday Gift Guide Review: Judy Garland, “The Garland Variations: Songs She Recorded More Than Once”
Judy Garland opens JSP Records’ new 5-CD box set The Garland Variations: Songs She Recorded More Than Once (JSP 975) with “Everybody Sing,” the kind of rousing showstopper she was practically born to sing. Sessions for the song from MGM’s Broadway Melody of 1938 began when Garland was on the cusp of just fifteen years old, but the power of her vocal instrument was already in place. But even when belting with a force to rival the mighty Merman, there was always something unfailingly intimate – or personal – about a Judy Garland performance. There’s plenty of that intimacy, as well as that power, on this illuminating new set produced by JSP’s John Stedman and compiled and annotated by Lawrence Schulman.
As with so many of her peers, it wasn’t uncommon for Judy Garland to revisit repertoire over the years; after all, these are the recordings through which many of these songs entered the standard American songbook. An arrangement might vary, in great or small ways, and so, of course, would the artist’s interpretation. The Garland Variations presents songs she recorded in the studio on multiple occasions between 1937 and 1962, with 115 tracks (three of which are new to CD) and over 6-1/2 hours of music, These tracks include such signature songs as “The Man That Got Away,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and of course, “Over the Rainbow,” which is included in five distinct renditions. A number of the most renowned composers and lyricists of popular song are represented, such as Harold Arlen, E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane, Johnny Mercer, and Harry Warren. There’s also a good amount of so-called “special material,” much of it courtesy MGM’s Roger Edens, one of the more influential music men in Garland’s life.
As she was inarguably the greatest female song stylist to remain best-known for her work on the silver screen, it’s easy to forget that Garland was actually a recording artist before she was a movie star. Her first long-lasting recording affiliation was with Decca Records. Following some abortive test records made in 1935 by the twelve-year old singer (released by JSP on the label’s Lost Tracks set), Decca released two sides by Garland in 1936 and signed MGM’s up-and-coming star the following year. Garland remained at Decca through 1947, and her tenure there yielded 90 recordings from 30 sessions between 1936 and 1947. Her departure from Decca coincided with MGM’s entering the young soundtrack LP market, and so she no longer had the need to re-record movie favorites for Decca as had been her standard practice. With MGM having first right of refusal for her work, she didn’t make any further studio recordings until after her departure from the Hollywood giant in 1950.
Naturally, Garland’s recordings for MGM play a major role here. Not that Garland’s venerated recordings and celebrated onstage performances aren’t all crucial parts of her legend, but her indelible cinematic portrayals informed every aspect of her career. The first lady of the movie musical, Garland brought her visual and dramatic gifts to other avenues of performance, including the recording studio. Cinema brought out her singular blend of the earthy and the larger-than-life.
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We’d like to extend a big welcome to the newest member of our Second Disc family, author Ted Frank. Ted, a self-described “power pop-a-holic,” kicks off his contributions to The Second Disc with a review of the latest collection from the fine folks at The International Pop Overthrow Festival. The Festival’s seventeenth volume (yes, seventeenth – congratulations, IPO!) of pure pop for now people is just the latest in a smashing line of releases designed to introduce you to the best bands you’ve never heard of – and won’t soon forget. Produced by David Bash and designed by Steve Stanley of the Now Sounds label, IPO Volume 17 is available for order through Pop Geek Heaven or from the Amazon Marketplace – and take it from us, it makes the perfect stocking stuffer! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; take it away, Ted!
What is pop?
As anyone reading this knows, pop music takes many forms. Perhaps you have a hankering for the sweet pop sound as found on Jeff Tweedy and Wilco’s recent invasion of “essential tracks” What’s Your 20? or the 20-years-in-the-making rarities box set Alpha Mike Foxtrot. Or perhaps you’re craving the sixties style of The Monkees, the timeless cool of Frank Sinatra, or the earthy jazz of Joni Mitchell. Well, here comes the latest entry in a compilation series nearing the 20 year mark itself. The International Pop Overthrow Volume 17 just might fulfill all of your pop needs, however diverse.
Back in the grunge-filled days of the late 1990s, Not Lame Recordings, onetime home of power pop icons like Dwight Twilley, Jellyfish and The Posies, released a single-disc CD compilation that would soon become an annual tradition. A number of the bands featured on that first compilation would appear at the annual International Pop Overthrow Festival which began in Los Angeles in 1998 and continues to tour numerous U.S. and foreign cities alike. (IPO hit 15 cities in 2014 alone, from Los Angeles to Liverpool!) David Bash, the founder and CEO of IPO, originally named the festival and compilation album in honor of Material Issue’s critically acclaimed 1991 album of said title. In 2011, Not Lame founder Bruce Brodeen transitioned his independent label into a power pop-oriented website, Pop Geek Heaven, but he continues to distribute the annual IPO compilation via this medium.
This year’s compilation has all those pop elements which Material Issue packed into its 1991 album (produced by power pop pioneer Jeff Murphy of the band Shoes – who, along with his Shoes bandmates, played an excellent set at this past May’s Power Pop Festival at Brooklyn’s Bell House). Material Issue’s International Pop Overthrow, a Billboard 200 entry at No. 86, just flat-out reminded the masses what made music popular in the first place. Those uninitiated with IPO, power pop, and/or Material Issue need look no further than the band’s lyrics for proof of this music’s timelessness:
And all these other boys they’re just makin’ noise
They don’t know rock and roll, they just need someone
To have their picture taken with and I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout you
Tell me what do I do, come on where do I go?
I don’t need a girlfriend, I need an accomplice/It’s an International Pop Overthrow!
Although timelessness tends to be a rather subjective term, some things are certainly undeniable: With such a straightforward, earnest message, and through such sheer enthusiasm, this kind of music has ability to reach nearly anyone. One of the songs on IPO 17, “Skip A Beat (Everything’s Alright)” by Dot 22, only reinforces the notion that this is a kind of music whose main intention is to make the heart “skip a beat.” Twenty-three years since Material Issue’s release and numerous IPO Festivals and compilation albums later, The International Pop Overthrow’s music consistently tugs at the heartstrings of its listeners through what Bash refers to as IPO’s “two-fold” purpose: “…to give every worthy band who’d like to play their music in a festival atmosphere the chance to do so, and … to bring pop music the attention it so richly deserves.”
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The latest crop of titles from Cherry Red Group’s él label criss-cross the globe from the U.S.A. to Mexico to Italy with releases from American legend Henry Mancini, bandleader Esquivel, and composer Piero Piccioni.
Fans of Henry Mancini’s cool jazz and lounge stylings are the target audience for Playboy Themes, a collection of the great maestro’s music recorded between 1958 and 1962. This 28-track compilation takes in both Mancini’s own compositions as well as those he recorded by others. The title is derived from the Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity, Barnum) song interpreted by Mancini on his 1960 Combo! album featuring such jazz greats as Art Pepper, Shelly Manne, Pete Candoli, Dick Nash and Ted Nash, as well as the young Johnny (later Academy Award-winner John) Williams on piano and harpsichord! In addition to Coleman, Mancini brings his distinctive touch to songs by Claude Thornhill (“Snowfall”), Nino Rota (“Drink More Milk”) and Mikis Theodorakis (“Love Theme from Phaedra”), but the emphasis is on his own classic music from the television series Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky, and the films Touch of Evil, High Time, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Bachelor in Paradise, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, The Days of Wine and Roses and more. Both sides of his RCA single from the film The Great Impostor are also here. A couple of tracks are actually covers of Mancini songs, such as the sublime guitarist Laurindo Almeida’s “Moon River” and “Baby Elephant Walk” from another guitar great, Al Caiola. Brief liner notes round out the package. You can further explore Mancini’s groundbreaking film music on a new box set from RCA Victor and Legacy Recordings, The Classic Soundtrack Collection.
Tracks like “Playboy’s Theme” and “A Cool Shade of Blue” are perfect accompaniment for a groovy bachelor pad; and so is the music you’ll find on the two-for-one expanded reissue of Latin-Esque and Exploring New Sounds in Stereo from bandleader Juan Garcia Esquivel (1918-2002). The King of Space Age Pop made his name on these early records, migrating from RCA Victor’s Mexican division to its American label with his “exotica” records featuring trademark cocktail piano, quirky and lush, often Latin-inspired instrumentation, wordless vocals (like his famous “zu-zu-zu”) and a futuristic sound. On these albums, he pushes the envelope of stereo separation; there’s even a “Guide to Listening” in the booklet explaining the exaggerated, frequently striking stereo effects used. Recording in Hollywood, Esquivel used many of the same musicians as Henry Mancini, including Bud Shank, Ted Nash, Plas Johnson, and Vincent De Rosa; Laurindo Almeida sat in on guitar. This set pairs 1962’s Latin-Esque with 1959’s Exploring New Sounds in Stereo, and adds selections from both volumes of Infinity in Sound (1960 and 1961) for a swinging overview of Esquivel’s early period at RCA. Standards like “My Blue Heaven,” “Lazy Bones,” “All of Me” and “Take the A Train” – all of which were featured alongside Esquivel originals and traditional tunes – never quite sounded the same!
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Queens Boys Make Good, a headline might have read of young Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel when “The Sound of Silence,” a bleakly beautiful, acoustic snapshot of disillusionment and isolation, sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 on New Year’s Day 1966. Simon and Garfunkel were unlikely candidates for pop stardom. Neither English major Simon nor fine arts (later architecture) major Garfunkel hid their cerebral, intellectual tendencies. As the era of the singer-songwriter blossomed in the wake of Bob Dylan’s ascendancy, Garfunkel was, vocally speaking, the anti-Dylan. His pristine high tenor would have found him gainfully employed as a singer in any era. Yet these two articulate young men were also relatable. Fusing a street corner doo-wop sensibility with social consciousness, their music existed at the crossroads of folk, rock and pop, a product of beautiful harmony and well-publicized tension. Roughly six years together yielded just five proper studio albums, plus nine competitive Grammy Awards, seven Top 10 hits, and over ten standards not just of the rock era but of American popular song – not a bad track record at all. Simon & Garfunkel: The Complete Albums Collection, a new box set from Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings, brings together those five studio albums, the duo’s chart-topping soundtrack to The Graduate, their first, 14x Platinum-selling Greatest Hits album, and four live recordings to create an overview of these old friends’ remarkable career.
Paul Simon met Art Garfunkel in the halls of Queens, New York’s P.S. 164 in the sixth grade, with both young men cast in a school production of Alice in Wonderland. They soon bonded over a mutual love of music, and by 1956, Simon and Garfunkel were performing locally as “Tom and Jerry,” modeling themselves on the Everly Brothers, with whom they would later collaborate. Though he and Simon briefly split in the early 1960s, they reunited for 1964’s Wednesday Morning 3 AM, the album which opens the new box set. This low-key, acoustic collection of folk songs included originals by the precociously-talented Simon, covers of Bob Dylan, Ian Campbell and Ed McCurdy, and even traditional tunes like “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Despite the already-apparent magic of their vocal blend, Wednesday Morning was lost in the shuffle of the British Invasion. Simon retreated to England and Garfunkel resumed his studies. When Columbia Records and producer Tom Wilson decided to reissue the album’s “The Sound of Silence” with electric overdubs in September 1965, however, Simon and Garfunkel were presented with ample reason to reform: the song was climbing its way to No. 1. Bob Dylan had gone electric on July 25, 1965, plugging in at the Newport Folk Festival and igniting a revolution. Why shouldn’t have Simon and Garfunkel?
Sophomore LP Sounds of Silence was recorded with producer Bob Johnston in December 1965 during that heady time when “Silence” was making waves in the music industry. Simon’s incisive songwriting was becoming sharper by the day as both his musical and lyrical palettes expanded – taking in gently romantic paeans (“Kathy’s Song”), unconventional character studies (“Richard Cory,” “A Most Peculiar Man”) and an anthemic statement of emotional detachment and alienation (“I Am a Rock”). Many of these songs had first appeared Simon’s solo The Paul Simon Songbook, recorded during his time in London and unavailable for decades, but Garfunkel’s participation took them to the next level.
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Joni Mitchell wasn’t yet 25 when she first gifted the world her song “Both Sides Now.” Judy Collins made its first commercially-released recording; soon artists were lining up to record it, including Frank Sinatra. The 25-year old Mitchell herself released it in 1969. In what might be her most famous song, she asserted, “I really don’t know love at all.” Flash-forward to the present day, and the 71-year old singer-songwriter-artist seems well-acquainted with the vagaries of that most universal subject. Mitchell has curated a retrospective of her career in the form of a new 4-CD box set appropriately entitled Love Has Many Faces. Subtitled A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced, the box finds Mitchell eschewing a traditional approach to create a new creative arc based on her music, assembled in four acts.
Love Has Many Faces doesn’t present its acts as traditional narratives, but rather as thematic suites. Together, they challenge listeners to view Mitchell’s music and career in a new context. Only a rough one-third of the set is drawn from the 1970s, during which she thrived as a leading light of the “singer-songwriter” movement. As a result, favorite songs like “Help Me,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Chelsea Morning,” “Free Man in Paris” and “Woodstock” are nowhere to be found, discarded in favor of lesser-known work from the 1980s and onward. Stylistically, the box also emphasizes the jazz that has long been a vital part of her creative palette. If the resulting compilation of songs drastically underrepresents the folk-rock artist with whom so many of her fans first fell in love, it’s still a sharp, compelling, reflective and deeply personal journey through love and the ways we make contact.
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When the album simply entitled Byrds arrived on David Geffen’s Asylum label in 1973, it had been only about a year-and-a-half since the last record from the California folk-rock heroes. But the original line-up of Gene Clark, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke hadn’t recorded a complete album together since 1965. Byrds would be the group’s first long-player for a label other than Columbia Records – and the final Byrds album to date. Australia’s Raven Records label has recently remastered and reissued Byrds, with two bonus tracks from the solo Gene Clark which also featured the complete five-piece band.
Following the defection of Gene Clark from the band in February 1966, The Byrds’ line-up had been fluid, to say the least. Eleven members had passed through the ranks between 1964 and 1972 with only Jim (later Roger) McGuinn as the constant. The group’s sound had also shifted considerably from folk-rock to psychedelia to country-rock and every style in between. The Byrds’ final Columbia album, 1971’s Farther Along, featured McGuinn, Clarence White, Skip Battin and Gene Parsons (no relation to another former Byrd, Gram Parsons). In July 1972, with no new album in the works, Parsons was let go from the band, replaced on drums by John Guerin. Session pro Guerin remained with the live band through January 1973, though he was never considered a full-fledged member of the band. Skip Battin was next to go, dismissed after a February 10, 1973 show. Roger McGuinn asked Chris Hillman of the original band to step in for two more shows later that month and then called it a day on The Byrds’ touring line-up. But by that time, the original Byrds had already reunited and completed the album that would become Byrds.
McGuinn was still fronting the touring band when he and his four original bandmates entered Los Angeles’ Wally Heider Studios in October 1972, the hatchet having apparently been buried with David Crosby, who was named producer of the upcoming album. Impresario Geffen was the catalyst for the reunion, as he desired for the reformed Byrds to have a place of honor on his label’s impressive roster of SoCal rockers also including Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and Eagles. With Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on indefinite hiatus at that point, it was also perceived that the reformed Byrds could fill their void. By the end of sessions in November 1972, eleven songs had been laid down for Byrds.
With rich, recognizable harmonies in abundance, Byrds naturally featured songs by all four songwriters in the band: McGuinn, Clark, Crosby and Hillman. Clark supplied the mission-statement opener “Full Circle” and another one of the LP’s strongest tracks, “Changing Heart.” (“Full Circle” wasn’t written for The Byrds, per Clark, but might as well have been.) McGuinn co-wrote the haunting folk ballad “Sweet Mary” with Bob Dylan’s sometimes-collaborator Jacques Levy as well as the upbeat, likely autobiographical “Born to Rock and Roll.” (He would return to the song on his 1975 album Roger McGuinn and Band.) Chris Hillman penned two songs, both with his ex-Manassas bandmates. “Things Will Be Better” was written with drummer Dallas Taylor, and “Borrowing Time” with percussionist Joe Lala. (Lala had ever so briefly played with the Byrds in February 1973.) Crosby brought “Laughing,” an original Byrds-era song which he had previously recorded on his solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name, as well as the acerbic music biz commentary “Long Live the King.”
Three covers rounded out Byrds. “For Free” was plucked from the songbook of Asylum label mate Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon; Crosby provided the lead vocal. Gene Clark urged his fellow Byrds to include two compositions by Crosby’s CSNY bandmate Neil Young: “Cowgirl in the Sand,” from Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, and “(See the Sky) About to Rain,” which Young hadn’t yet recorded. We have more after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »