Entering the Culture Factory: New Reissue Label Launches with Robert Palmer, Paul Williams’ “Paradise”
Despite the spurious reports of the “death of the CD,” the reissue biz is still thriving on the little silver platter, offering up all manner of deluxe editions for the discerning customer. (That means you, dear reader!) In 2011, we’ve seen the launch of such heavyweights-to-be as Real Gone Music, Omnivore Recordings and RockBeat Records, and we’re now happy to welcome another name to the fold. Culture Factory USA quietly launched this past September, with releases from Mink DeVille, Moon Martin, Kim Wilde and the Motels. This month brings deluxe audiophile reissues of five consecutive albums from the late rock/jazz/soul giant Robert Palmer as well as a cult classic soundtrack from the pen of Mr. Paul Williams.
Each Culture Factory reissue contains the original album sequence plus a Japanese-style OBI strip and a “vinyl replica deluxe” design. The CD labels are adorned with period label art, and the titles have been remastered using 96 kHz/24-bit technology (although playback in that high resolution is not possible as these are standard “redbook” 44/16 compact discs). Though Culture Factory’s website is currently on the sparse side, to be kind, each title so far has been available from the label itself on Amazon.com at very reasonable prices, especially compared to the high stickers being charged by Amazon proper.
In the heady atmosphere of 1970s Hollywood, the new breed of film auteurs taking the town was finally able to follow some rather radical muses. This impulse of exploration led to the cult classic Phantom of the Paradise, a rock musical written and directed by Brian De Palma. At the time of Phantom’s filming, De Palma was perhaps best-known for his Hitchcock-inspired 1973 thriller Sisters (with a score by no less than Bernard Herrmann!), and films like Carrie (1976) and Scarface (1983) still to come.
Phantom took clear inspiration from early Hollywood horror and most notably the film adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, much as De Palma had channeled Hitchcock in past efforts. The film follows Winslow Leach (William Finley), whose rock treatment of the Faust legend catches the attention of the demonic producer known as Swan, portrayed by songwriter Paul Williams. After getting his head caught in a vinyl press (!), Leach is transformed into the scarred Phantom. But rather than the Paris Opera House, Winslow’s Phantom haunts The Paradise, Swan’s hot new concert palace. In the words of critic Robert Horton, “the movie seems to predict the Studio 54 scene, MTV, and punk rock–the last, especially, in the figure of Beef, a screeching singer played by the unhinged Gerrit Graham. [Williams’] performance is a reminder of his peculiar, self-spoofing presence… Comedy, musical, horror film, ’70s artifact–this movie isn’t quite definable, and that’s what’s wonderful about it.” The original 10-track soundtrack album, released on Williams’ then-home of A&M, preserves his freewheeling score which draws on both pop and glam sounds, with some tracks recalling Alice Cooper’s theatrical horror-rock sound. Williams performs three of the songs himself. The only drawback to Culture Factory’s reissue is that it wasn’t out in time for Halloween!
Hit the jump for information on the Robert Palmer reissue series, plus track listings and discographical information!
The label is turning its spotlight onto Robert Palmer with the mini-LP treatment for Palmer’s third through seventh studio albums, spanning 1976’s Some People Can Do What They Like through 1983’s Pride, all of which originally appeared on Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. That 1976 effort mixed Palmer originals (the title track, “Keep in Touch,” “Gotta Get A Grip On You, Pt. II”) with well-chosen covers (Lowell George’s “Spanish Moon,” Don Covay’s “Have Mercy”). One such cover became an unexpected hit, “Man Smart, Woman Smarter,” also recorded by acts as diverse as Harry Belafonte, The Carpenters and The Grateful Dead. Palmer followed that with 1978’s Double Fun, dabbling in blue-eyed soul, disco and rock. More of the songs were self-written this time around, although Palmer found time for Allen Toussaint’s “Night People” and Ray Davies’ “You Really Got Me” in his eclectic musical stew. He was rewarded with a Top 50 album chart placement, his highest yet.
His fifth solo album, 1979’s Secrets, was no secret when it peaked at No. 19 on the album charts. It offers Palmer’s hit single of “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” which peaked at No. 14, and Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends”, which managed a No. 52 showing. The prolific Brit continued to record at a rapid pace, embracing a glossy New Wave sound for the following year’s Clues. Despite only reaching No. 59 Pop in the U.S., it remains one of Palmer’s most successful albums internationally, hitting No. 1 in Sweden and No. 3 in France. The Palmer originals were joined by a rare cover of Lennon and McCartney’s “Not a Second Time,” and the album’s “Looking for Clues” received a music video that was one of the first to air on the fledgling MTV. Palmer’s eight studio effort, Pride, didn’t arrive until 1983, and lacked the chart momentum of his past releases. For this album, he was joined by Kool and the Gang and producer Rupert Hine (Tina Turner, Howard Jones, Stevie Nicks). Palmer’s next album would assure his place in the pantheon with a little song entitled “Addicted to Love.” But that story is for another day, and perhaps another reissue from Culture Factory USA!
Though Culture Factory’s website promises a release date of November 22, Amazon.com is currently showing December 27 as the street date for these titles. The track listings and pre-order links can be found below, but I’d advise you to wait until the December 27 date passes and Culture Factory is able to sell these directly via Amazon Marketplace at a lower price point. These titles just might be simply irresistible!
Robert Palmer, Clues (Island ILPS-9595, 1980 – reissued Culture Factory USA, 2011)
- Looking for Clues
- Sulky Girl
- Johnny and Mary
- What Do You Care
- I Dream of Wires
- Woke Up Laughing
- Not a Second Time
- Found You Now
Robert Palmer, Double Fun (Island ILPS-9476, 1978 – reissued Culture Factory USA, 2011)
- Every Kinda People
- Best of Both Worlds
- Come Over
- Where Can It Go
- Night People
- Love Can Run Faster
- You Overwhelm Me
- You Really Got Me
- You’re Gonna Get What’s Coming
Robert Palmer, Pride (Island LP 7-90065-1, 1983 – reissued Culture Factory USA, 2011)
- Want You More
- Dance for Me
- You Are In My System
- It’s Not Difficult
- Say You Will
- You Can Have It (Take My Heart)
- What You Waiting For
- The Silver Gun
Robert Palmer, Secrets (Island ILPS-9544, 1979 – reissued Culture Factory USA, 2011)
- Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)
- Too Good To Be True
- Can We Still Be Friends
- In Walks Love Again
- Mean Old World
- Love Stop
- Under Suspicion
- Woman, You’re Wonderful
- What’s It Take?
- Remember to Remember
Robert Palmer, Some People Can Do What They Like (Island ILPS-9420, 1976 – reissued Culture Factory USA, 2011)
- One Last Look
- Keep in Touch
- Man Smart, Woman Smarter
- Spanish Moon
- Have Mercy
- Gotta Get a Grip on You, Pt. II
- What You Can Bring Me
- Hard Head
- Off the Bone
- Some People Can Do What They Like
Paul Williams, Original Soundtrack Recording, Phantom of the Paradise (A&M SP-3653, 1974 – reissued Culture Factory USA, 2011)
- Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye – The Juicy Fruits
- Faust – Bill Finley
- Upholstery – The Beach Bums
- Special to Me (Phoenix Audition Song) – Jessica Harper
- Phantom’s Theme (Beauty and the Beast) – Paul Williams
- Somebody Super Like You (Beef Construction Song) – The Undead
- Life at Last – Ray Kennedy
- Old Souls – Jessica Harper
- Faust – Paul Williams
- The Hell of It – Paul Williams