Archive for October 10th, 2011
By the numbers, Randy Newman is the recipient of six Grammys, three Emmys and two Oscars (the latter out of a stunning 20 nominations). Mr. Newman created “something new under the sun” with the 1968 release of his self-titled Reprise debut, after years honing his craft on staff at Metric Music. At Metric, he wrote with Jackie DeShannon and in this early period provided songs for Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Nina Simone, Alan Price, Peggy Lee and so many others. Ambitious concept albums and tight collections of witheringly witty pop songs marked his seventies output, with 1977’s “Short People” a misunderstood surprise hit. Not content to rest on his considerable laurels, Newman took up the family business, devoting more time to the composition of film scores. In perhaps his most surprising career move, the man behind such potent attacks on racism, greed, imperialism and hypocrisy became a family-friendly icon with his contributions to Pixar films such as Toy Story, with its now-standard “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” (You can revisit Newman’s entire catalogue to date in our Back Tracks feature!)
One thing Randy Newman hasn’t done in 40 years, however, is release a live album. Randy Newman Live, issued in June 1971, captured just under half an hour of highlights from his solo stand at New York’s Bitter End in September 1970. But now, Newman’s hiatus from live recording has come to a bitter end itself. On November 8, Nonesuch will release the deluxe CD/DVD set, Live in London, featuring Newman accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra. The June 22, 2008 concert features Newman on piano and vocals, and Robert Ziegler conducting the orchestra. It was recorded at LSO St. Luke’s, an 18th-century Anglican church that has been restored by the orchestra for use in its community and music education programs. The concert was originally televised by the BBC.
Just two songs are reprised from that 1971 album, “Mama Told Me Not to Come” (a hit for Three Dog Night) and “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” one of Newman’s most perennial classics. The other 20 tracks run the gamut through an impressive career. From that 1968 debut, you’ll hear (and see) “Love Story,” with Newman’s classic musing, “We’ll have a kid/Or maybe we’ll rent one, He’s got to be straight/We don’t want a bent one.” A quintet of songs comes from 1972’s Sail Away. There’s the stirring title track in which a slave trader admonishes his human quarry to “sail away” to America, land of the “sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake,” where they’ll find themselves as happy as a “monkey in a monkey tree.” Just as pointed are foreign policy credo “Political Science” (“They all hate us anyhow/Let’s drop the big one now!”) and “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind),” sung by a not-so-benevolent god. “You Can Leave Your Hat On” took on a completely new dimension when covered by Tom Jones and Joe Cocker, but is another raised-eyebrow character study as sung by its writer. The charming “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear” addresses prejudice in its own way: “Oh, who would think a boy and a bear could be well accepted everywhere? It’s just amazing how fair people can be!”
What else will you find on Live in London? Just hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »
Many alumni associated with the heyday of the Rhino label (still active and producing some remarkable releases under the Handmade banner, by the way) have recently launched new labels, among them James Austin and Rockbeat Records, and Cheryl Pawelski and Omnivore Recordings. Omnivore, founded by Pawelski and partners Greg Allen and Brad Rosenberger, announced an impressive and diverse slate with releases by Leon Russell, The Motels, and Jellyfish. The young label has also launched a partnership with its European distributor, Ace Records. Both the logos of Omnivore and Ace’s BGP (Beat Goes Public) label adorn an exciting title coming your way tomorrow. The Two Things In One’s Together Forever: The Music City Sessions brings together the band’s recording output during their 1971-1973 period with the Bay Area-based Music City label. The 16-track CD compilation includes the band’s three local hit singles, “Silly Song,” “Together Forever,” and “Overdose (Of Your Love),” and some well-selected covers including the Allman Brothers’ “Dreams,” CSNY’s “Ohio,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love Her” and Bacharach and David’s “Walk On By.” A vinyl edition of10 tracks will receive a first pressing limited to 1,500 pieces on translucent red vinyl, followed by an unlimited edition on standard black vinyl.
Together Forever turns the spotlight on a precociously talented quintet, with an average age of sixteen, who followed in Sly Stone’s footsteps in blending soul, jazz, funk, pop and rock into a groovy whole. Michael Jeffries (vocals), Michael Griggs (guitar), Kevin Burton (keyboards), Johnnie Tucker (bass) and Marciel Garnier hailed from Richmond, California, just across the bay from San Francisco. KDIA radio deejay Bob James became an early patron of the band, introducing the group to Ray Dobard of the Music City shop and label. Dobard believed in the band’s Stevie Wonder-meets-the-Meters sound, and succeeded in procuring them bookings around the Bay Area. The group’s taste was eclectic (“By the Time I Got to Phoenix” even made it to its live repertoire) and they shared stages with Earth Wind & Fire, War, Bill Cosby, the Sylvers, the Whispers and Funkadelic. You’ll hear not only the 10-minute-plus funk jam “Cantaloupe Island,” but smooth shoulda-been-a-hit single sides including “Close the Door,” “Together Forever” and “Silly Song.”
You’ll find much more about The Two Things in One after the jump, including the full track listing of Omnivore’s new release! Read the rest of this entry »