Archive for April 10th, 2012
Though the band formed in 1970 and found a home on Burbank’s famed Warner Bros. label with a debut album produced by L.A. stalwart Russ Titelman, Little Feat always stood apart from its California rock brethren. Still, the blues/rock/funk outfit attracted the attention of some important members of the Laurel Canyon crowd. “Willin’,” written by Feat’s de facto leader and chief songwriter Lowell George, found a home on Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel album. The song was reportedly despised by the notoriously anti-drug Frank Zappa, George’s former employer, for its celebration of “weed, whites and wine,” and it may actually have led to George’s departure from Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. But once Lowell George formed Little Feat with Richard Heyward, Bill Payne and Roy Estrada, he pursued a singular musical path incorporating strains of Southern rock, boogie-woogie, greasy funk, R&B, folk and even jazz. Lowell George died in June 1979, aged just 34, the victim of a heart attack likely related to drug abuse. He left behind a great legacy, however, and the Edsel label is celebrating that legacy with a 2-CD set collecting George’s final two albums with the band he founded.
Time Loves a Hero/Down on the Farm includes the 1977 and 1979 studio albums that marked the end of Little Feat until the band regrouped with some new personnel in 1988. Both were recorded by the lineup of George (who died before Down on the Farm could be completed), Hayward, Payne, percussionist Sam Clayton, guitarist Paul Barrere and bassist Kenny Gradney. (Clayton, Barrere and Gradney all joined the band as of its third LP, 1973’s Dixie Chicken.) Time Loves a Hero was produced by Ted Templeman, who had helmed the band’s second album. By the time he returned to the Feat fold, he was flush with the success of the Doobie Brothers, who made a guest appearance on the album. Though Templeman’s undeniably slick sound is present, and Nick DeCaro contributes subtle string arrangements, the album is filled with diverse sounds typical of Feat.
Paul Barrere stepped up to the plate as the primary songwriter, with George on the sidelines. The guitars-meets-brass of “Hi Roller” contrasts with the fusion jazz-influenced jam session that is “Day at the Dog Races,” while “Old Folks Boogie” (co-written by Paul and Gabriel Barrere) is straightforward R&B/funk. “Missin’ You” is a tender acoustic country ballad. The Doobies, with Michael McDonald a prominent voice, show up on Bill Payne and Fran Tate’s “Red Streamliner,” and threaten to steal the song. Lowell George’s only solo composition on the album is “Rocket in My Pocket,” not a rockabilly song as the title might suggest but rather another return to funky Feat form.
The Payne/Barrere/Gradney title song could have been written about George from today’s vantage point: “Well, they say time loves a hero/But only time will tell/If he’s real, he’s a legend from heaven/If he ain’t, he was sent here from hell.” Indeed, George raised a lot of hell but delivered music straight from heaven.
Hit the jump to head Down on the Farm, plus full track listings and pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »
Though the A&M stands for (Herb) Alpert and (Jerry) Moss, A&M Records has meant a great many things to a great many people since its founding in 1962. Those who came of age in the 1980s may think of the famous logo adorning records by Sting, Janet Jackson or Bryan Adams. In the 1970s, the label was home to The Carpenters, Cat Stevens and Joe Cocker. In the 1960s, A&M was not only a label but a “sound.” That sound was a certain, beguiling style of sophisticated adult soft-pop epitomized by founder Herb Alpert as well as Burt Bacharach, Sergio Mendes, Chris Montez and Roger Nichols. Though Alpert and Moss sold their label (at one point the largest and most successful independent record company in the world) to PolyGram in 1989 and it is now a unit of Universal Music Group, its classic artists and albums have never fallen out of favor.
Universal Music Japan has launched an A&M 50th Anniversary Collection as well as a series of releases under the Nick DeCaro Posthumous 20th Anniversary umbrella. A prolific arranger, composer and producer, DeCaro (1938-1992) was a mainstay of the early A&M era. Among the titles already released in the series are albums by The Sandpipers, Chris Montez, Tijuana Brass offshoot The Baja Marimba Band, and DeCaro himself. (Many of these titles are making their CD debuts.) One new compilation has emerged, though, that celebrates DeCaro as well as some legendary artists from the A&M roster and elsewhere.
Nick DeCaro: Works is a 23-track anthology of DeCaro’s output as a producer and arranger between 1967 and 1982, and if it proves anything, it’s just how eclectic and adaptable the man’s style was. Though he largely toiled behind the scenes in America, DeCaro became a star in Japan thanks to his 1974 solo effort Italian Graffiti, so it’s only fair that Japan is celebrating him with this diversely curated new release.
Mel Carter’s 1965 “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” on the Imperial label was Nick DeCaro’s first major hit as a producer and arranger, but it was the tip of the iceberg of his work at Imperial. He produced records for studio groups like The Sunset Strings and a pre-Philadelphia O’Jays, and befriended young staff songwriter Randy Newman, who would later enlist him to write arrangements for his Good Old Boys album in 1974. When he decamped for A&M, he became a primary architect of the label’s pop style, producing and/or arranging six albums for Claudine Longet, four for Chris Montez and six for the Sandpipers. His work with Longet naturally brought him to the attention of her husband, Columbia Records artist Andy Williams, for whom DeCaro produced and arranged three LPs. DeCaro also amazingly found time to arrange at Warner Bros. and Reprise, and he reunited with his old friend Newman writing charts for Harpers Bizarre’s renditions of Randy’s songs.
His own fitful solo career was less successful than his work for others, particularly when his 1969 solo debut Happy Heart went head-to-head with Andy Williams’ own version of its title song. Williams had wanted his friend DeCaro to produce and arrange his recording, but DeCaro demurred, and Williams created a successful record of the song without DeCaro’s participation. 1974’s Italian Graffiti earned him cult status in Japan, but DeCaro continued to make his biggest hits for others. Just a few of the names on the arranger’s client list reads like a “Who’s Who” of popular music: Gordon Lightfoot (If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown), James Taylor (Gorilla, In the Pocket), Little Feat (Time Loves a Hero), Neil Diamond (Beautiful Noise), Helen Reddy (I Don’t Know How to Love Him), Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were, Barbra Joan Streisand, Wet), Rickie Lee Jones (Rickie Lee Jones, Pirates), Dolly Parton (Here You Come Again). DeCaro was also in demand for his abilities on the accordion and concertina, adding the instrument to recordings by everyone from The Rolling Stones to renowned multi-instrumentalist Prince! Before his passing in 1992, DeCaro returned to solo recording in Japan, toured the country twice and produced Japanese artists, as well. But The Works focuses on some of his most renowned American work, with an emphasis on his productions during the golden years of A&M.
Hit the jump for the full run-down on Works, including the track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »
HoJo’s last set of remasters is a five disc set featuring his last three Warner-era albums from 1986 to 1992, plus two generous discs of B-sides and remixes. Parts of this era are really underrated, and if this box is as loving as the last one was, it may well earn your everlasting love.
Various Artists, Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Mixes (Harmless)
This gorgeous four-disc set, coming from the U.K., features some of PIR’s greatest hits and deepest cuts, all mixed (or newly remixed) by disco master Tom Moulton. There’s a whole hard-to-find vintage remix album in here, along with some other great 12″ single masters.
World Party, Arkaeology (Seaview/Fontana)
Five discs of unreleased goodies from Karl Wallinger’s famed band, plus diary packaging for you to create with. (Sorry, U.K. fans, we’re actually getting this one first; the international release date is later.)
The electronic icons first put their last eight remastered albums into a box in 2009. Now, to coincide with a weeklong residency at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, they’re reissuing that box through the MoMA exclusively, with new artwork.
Gilbert O’Sullivan, I’m a Writer Not a Fighter: Deluxe Edition (Salvo)
Released in the U.K. last week, Gilbert’s third album comes expanded with four additional tracks from single sides and includes the hit “Get Down.”
Bette Midler, Live at Last (Friday Music)
The Divine Miss M’s first live album (and a double, at that!) gets the red-carpet remaster treatment from Friday Music.
Madness, Forever Young: The Ska Collection (Salvo)
A compilation for everyone who might already know “Our House,” with a small helping of unreleased material for hardcore fans.