Archive for July 2nd, 2012
One could certainly make a case that the 1960s was the prime time for the rock instrumental, with The Ventures, The Marketts, Booker T. & The MGs and The Fireballs just some of the groups behind the decade’s hit melodies. Of the music-making individuals who were, well, instrumental in sending wordless tunes up the charts, few are as beloved as Sandy Nelson. Ace Records has previously anthologized the drummer’s explosive work on Rock ‘n’ Roll Drum Beat (Ace CDCHD 586) and Sandy Nelson’s Big Sixties Beat Party (Ace CDCHD 1080). Now it’s time to “let there be drums,” again, for Nelson is the subject of the label’s new Big Sixties Frat Party!!!, currently in stores.
A native of Santa Monica, California, made inroads in the music business from an early age. While attending Los Angeles’ University High School, he made friends and soon formed a band with future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston and hipster par excellence Kim Fowley. Nelson was in on the ground floor of rock and roll. Though he honed his chops while listening to big bands and jazz, Nelson couldn’t keep this burgeoning new music off his mind, and Johnston was a kindred spirit. Nelson played live dates with the Kip Tyler band and “graduated” to session work before joining Phil Spector to play on The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him is to Love Him.” Tyler’s Flips were a proving ground for other soon-to-be influential musicians including Wrecking Crew stalwarts Steve Douglas, Larry Knechtel and Mike Deasy. With Johnston and future Three Dog Night producer Richie Polodor, Nelson recorded “Teen Beat,” and it went gold in 1959, charting in both America and the United Kingdom. (Though the three young men continued to work together, the success of “Teen Beat” strained Nelson’s relationship with Johnston and Polodor when Art Laboe of the Original Sound label didn’t credit them properly.) Two years later, Nelson recorded “Let There Be Drums,” co-written with Polodor, on the Imperial Records label and scored another gold record.
Big Sixties Frat Party!!! presents 24 tracks from Nelson’s Imperial catalogue, drawn from ten LPs recorded between 1965 and 1969. (The prolific drummer recorded 21 albums between 1965 and 1975!) The best of the Los Angeles scene contributed to these albums including Bill Pitman, Barney Kessel, Mike Deasy, Carol Kaye, Lyle Ritz, Steve Douglas, Larry Knechtel and Plas Johnson. (Needless to say, Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine wasn’t on call for Nelson’s sessions.) Al Capps, Rene Hall and Mike Post were some of the arrangers. Production reins were taken by notable figures like Nick DeCaro, Dave Pell and Joe Saraceno.
Hit the jump for much more, including the full track listing with discography, and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »
In today’s reviews, we’re looking at three albums from two true legends of soul. What do they have in common? Each title has been reissued by Big Break Records, and each found its respective artist conquering new terrain: the pop music world of the 1980s!
Aretha Franklin, Jump to It (Arista AL-9602, 1982 – reissued Big Break Records CDBBR 0154, 2012)
Each era of Aretha Franklin’s long and remarkable career has gotten some catalogue love lately, from the artist’s first days at Columbia Records to her oft-overlooked final years on the Atlantic label. Now, following Funky Town Grooves’ 2-CD expansion of Franklin’s 1985 pop smash Who’s Zoomin’ Who, Big Break Records is turning the clock back to her third and fourth albums on Arista with lavish, lovingly annotated reissues.
Following two respectable efforts which reunited Aretha with Atlantic’s Arif Mardin, the Queen of Soul turned to a hot, rising talent to take the producer’s chair. That talent was Luther Vandross, who knew from soul. Despite his great love of the classic sounds made by Franklin, Dionne Warwick, the Sweet Inspirations and others in the 1960s, Vandross chose not to pastiche those records, but rather produce a wholly modern album on Franklin. The result was 1982’s Jump to It. The album lacks the deep soul of her Atlantic years and even the passionate interpretive talent of her Columbia years. Instead, it’s all about the beat – but Vandross also knew from the beat! Jump to It earned Franklin her first Top 40 hit and first gold album in the U.S. in six years, and its overtly “modern” sound also garnered a Grammy Award nomination for the already-legendary singer.
It’s a taut album at just eight tracks, built around the danceable grooves of its title song. “Jump to It” simply doesn’t let up, built around the foundation laid by Doc Powell’s guitar, Marcus Miller’s bass and Yogi Horton’s drums. Vandross and Miller joined another bona fide soul sister, Cissy Houston, as part of the background chorus imploring Aretha, “Jump, jump, jump to it!” while Franklin coos, scats, caresses and wails the simple lyrics with an almighty fire. Miller’s bass is one of the most prominent sounds on the album, and it’s slinky and funky on “Love Me Right.” Just as important to Jump to It are the backing vocals, knowingly crafted by Vandross as a major part of the equation. Vandross’ backing section prominently echoes Franklin’s lead although it soon morphs into a Philly/disco mood with string backup. The second single, “Love Me Right” is every bit as infectious, if not more so, than the hit title track.
Songwriter Sam Dees (“One in a Million You,” Franklin’s “Love All the Hurt Away”) offered up “If She Don’t Want Your Lovin’”: “If she don’t want your lovin’/Give it to me/’Cause I’ll take it!” But Franklin never sounds desperate as she pleads – far from it. It’s another track with seamlessly –integrated background vocals, with Darlene Love now part of the group. The song also gives Aretha a chance to supply her inimitable spoken ad-libs. After the workout of “If She Don’t Want Your Lovin’,” Aretha might rightfully have been crowned the Queen of Sass! (On the Vandross-penned ballad “This is For Real,” she smirks, “Miss Ree ain’t playin’ this time,” and there’s no reason to doubt her.)
Franklin intuitively doesn’t have to unleash the full power of her volcanic voice on every track, preferring to ride the rhythms with an effortless style. A steamy duet with the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs on Aretha’s own “I Wanna Make It Up to You” boasts another Motown connection thanks to Paul Riser’s string arrangement. Another Motown stalwart, Smokey Robinson, contributed the song “Just My Daydream.” Its Latin-accented, subtle, shifting melody adds a seductive vibe to the LP. Less successful is a cover of “It’s Your Thing,” with horn charts from the ubiquitous Jerry Hey, Steve Love on a blazing guitar solo and Erma Franklin on backing vocals. It’s altogether glossier than the truly funky original.
J. Matthew Cobb contributes liner notes to the expanded Jump to It as well as to its follow-up, Get It Right. Cobb’s notes offer particular insight on the often stormy relationship between Vandross and Franklin and the heightened emotions at play when they clashed. When Vandross once put his foot down with a stern “I’m the producer!,” he was met with a steely “Well, I’m the Queen of Soul!” Who could argue with that? Nick Robbins has handled the remastering, and Big Break has added five bonus tracks that will keep you dancing: three single versions and two 12-inch mixes.
After the jump: does Aretha Get It Right? And James Brown shows off his Gravity! Read the rest of this entry »
For a while, they were the biggest names in hip-hop, and their crossover success made many power players of the genre hungry for similar mainstream acceptance. Who else could prompt two eating puns in that sentence but The Fat Boys, whose debut album is coming out next month in a unique deluxe package.
First known as The Disco 3, the Brooklyn-based Fat Boys – Mark “Prince Markie Dee” Morales, Damon “Kool Rock-Ski” Wembley and Darren “Buff Love” Robinson – were at first glance the latest in a line of great clown princes in rap music. The Fat Boys not only tipped the scales, but they embraced it, appearing on the cover of their debut LP joyously considering a pizza. Their genial nature also led to a stunning amount of crossover success, not only with two hit singles, both covers (a 1987 take on The Surfari’s “Wipe Out,” featuring backing vocals by none other than The Beach Boys, hit No. 12 on the Billboard charts; the next year, they duetted on “The Twist” with Chubby Checker and peaked at No. 16), but in film as well (Krush Groove, the cult-classic comedy Disorderlies and the theme to A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, “Are You Ready for Freddy?”).
Gold and platinum records aside, The Fat Boys’ popularity waned as rap turned harder and urban, and they released their last LP, Mack Daddy, in 1991, recorded after Prince Markie Dee embarked on a solo career. Robinson, whose pioneering human beatboxing ranked next to Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie, would die of a heart attack in 1995. But The Fat Boys’ legend never really died – and now, with the first-ever CD reissue of the group’s debut LP in July, there’s some music to rediscover.
And how will this album be served up? Hit the jump to find out!