Archive for August 7th, 2012
Who’s Bad? Epic, Legacy Celebrate 25th Anniversary of Michael Jackson Milestone (UPDATED WITH TRACK LIST)
Following the colossal success of Thriller, Michael Jackson waited roughly five years before releasing another album. Rumors swirled around the album that became known as Bad, which would turn out to be the third and final collaboration between Jackson and producer Quincy Jones. Bad marked the end of an era, too, as Jackson’s final album designed to the constraints of standard LP length; future projects would become more sprawling. Bad, however, was tightly packed with wall-to-wall hits and has sold over 30 million copies. It yielded five Billboard Hot 100 number ones, the first album to do so. A sixth single hit the Top 10 and a seventh made the Top 20. Out of six Grammy nominations, the album picked up two. Although some critics were quick to dismiss the chart-topping Bad for failing to live up to the impact of Thriller, such a task might have been too formidable even for a King of Pop at the height of his powers.
Viewed 25 years later, Bad has emerged from the shadow of its predecrssor, and remains one of the most potent statements made by one of history’s most influential artists. On September 18, Sony’s Legacy Recordings will celebrate the original August 31, 1987 release of Bad with BAD 25. Though the centerpiece of the BAD 25 celebration is a 3-CD/1-DVD box set, the reissue program will encompass a variety of formats. The box set will include three CDs, two collectible booklets, and the first authorized DVD release of a concert from Jackson’s triumphant Bad tour.
Hit the jump for the full details on the BAD 25 reissue campaign! Read the rest of this entry »
There’s been a lot of talk around these parts about A&M Records’ 50th anniversary celebration, and why not? The label founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss virtually defined the sound of AM radio in the 1960s before embracing cutting-edge new wave , rock and R&B sounds in the ensuing decades. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When one thinks of the A&M Sound, however, those bright and breezy sixties pop songs just might be the defining style. With the phenomenal success of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass paving the way, A&M delivered gem after gem from groups like Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 and Julius Wechter’s merry band of faux Mexicans, The Baja Marimba Band. The Kritzerland label has just announced the release of two titles from the Wechter discography.
Despite the goofy oversize sombreros and fake moustaches, the sounds within the grooves of the Baja Marimba LPs were genuinely filled with impeccable musicianship. Wechter, the main marimba man, had played on Alpert’s TJB records, and composed the hit “Spanish Flea” for his A&M boss. Alpert soon encouraged him to form his own group, and the Baja Marimba Band was born. Wechter was supported by session pros including Pete Jolly, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell and Tommy Tedesco, and arrangers like Nick DeCaro. Alpert himself was the chief producer, especially in the early years, and all told, The Baja Marimba Band released some ten original albums on A&M between 1964 and 1971. The band’s departure from A&M didn’t close the book on the Baja Marimba Band, however, and certainly not on the career of Julius Wechter. A 1973 album for Bell Records proclaimed The Baja Marimba Band’s Back, and another LP arrived on the Applause label in 1982. The final album to bear the Baja Marimba name arrived in 1990 on the Bay Cities label. Credited to The Baja Marimbas and featuring Wechter fronting a new group of musicians, New Deal offered a new chapter in this musical story. It was a bit jazzier than the old days, but every bit as delightfully infectious and instantly recognizable. Now, New Deal is back from original producer Bruce Kimmel’s Kritzerland label in an expanded and remastered edition, retitled Lazy Days.
Lazy Days includes all ten tracks from New Deal. Most were originals from Wechter and collaborator Jules “Julie” Greenberg, though the album led off with a sprightly run through “We’re Off to See the Wizard” from The Wizard of Oz, and also featured the George and Ira Gershwin standard “But Not for Me.” Five bonus tracks have been added: “Green Bird,” “Nine on a Match,” a commercial spot for the Santa Anita Racetrack (“Daily Double”) and two from 1982’s Naturally, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” and “Theme from Deep Throat.” Yes, there was apparently something musically worthwhile among that notorious film’s attributes!
A limited edition of 1,000 copies, Lazy Days is scheduled to ship the first week of September, though pre-orders from Kritzerland usually arrive earlier. And that’s not all. Hit the jump for the pre-order link and track listing for Lazy Days, plus the lowdown on Julius and David Wechter’s Junior High School! Read the rest of this entry »
What’s that sound? Is that…a plane buzzing low overhead? Not this time: it’s the sound of Bernard Herrmann’s classic score to Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, the benefactor of a beautiful new expansion by Intrada!
The 1959 thriller, written by Ernest Lehman as “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures,” stars Cary Grant as an ad exec entangled in an incredible espionage plot, full of misdirection, mistaken identity, beauty (courtesy of Eva Marie Saint as the femme fatale), a violent biplane and a whiz-bang climax along Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock’s by-now traditional flourishes were in full effect: Saul Bass designed a thrilling title sequence, and Herrmann – in his fifth collaboration with Hitch – supplied a score to match the thrills onscreen, with a notable theme reused to stunning effect in one of The Simpsons’ many “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween episodes.
As befits a collaboration so iconic, this is hardly the first release of the score, often re-recorded throughout the years and given a CD premiere in 1995 on Rhino. However, that release utilized some cues that were damaged or substandard, sonically – a problem that was thought to plague the score for all time until newly-discovered masters used for the film’s 50th anniversary video restoration in 2009 were worked on by score mavens Lukas Kendall and Neil S. Bulk. The result is a stirring score that’s never sounded better on disc.
This limited edition soundtrack is yours to order today; find a link and a track list after the jump.
It was late in September 2010, on the campus of Los Angeles’ UCLA, where the esteemed composer had been working on a revised production of his 1979 musical They’re Playing Our Song. He and I were both on our cell phones in the lobby a few minutes before the show was about to start. As if by serendipity, we hung up at the same time. As we both were headed back into the auditorium, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to extend my hand to one of the men whose work had inspired me to pursue a career in music journalism and in musical theatre. He graciously accepted my words of thanks, signed a program, and disappeared into the crowd. Still, I couldn’t help but sneak a glance at him at his seat throughout the show, supporting Jason Alexander and Stephanie J. Block onstage as Vernon Gersch and Sonia Walsk. The character of Gersch is a neurotic, self-obsessed composer with an otherworldly gift of melody, embroiled in a tempestuous romance with a free-spirited lyricist. In other words, Marvin Hamlisch was watching his own one-time relationship with Carole Bayer Sager comically unfold. He appeared to be enjoying every moment of it.
Marvin Hamlisch died yesterday at the age of 68. It’s hard to imagine that the day has come where we won’t hear more Marvin Hamlisch melodies. The EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) and Pulitzer Prize winner seemed to perform magic each time he got behind the keys of a piano. He composed the ultimate melodic expression of a long-gone love with “The Way We Were,” channeled the nostalgic joy of ragtime with his adaptation of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” and taught the world “What I Did For Love” about an artist’s passion against all odds. He bottled pure pop exultation with songs like “California Nights” and “Sunshine, Lollipops and Roses,” and captivated with film scores from his first, The Swimmer, to the last, The Informant!. No, Hamlisch didn’t do it all alone, collaborating with lyricists such as Alan and Marilyn Bergman (“The Way We Were”), Ed Kleban (A Chorus Line), Bayer Sager (They’re Playing Our Song, “Nobody Does It Better”), Craig Carnelia (the stunningly mature musical Sweet Smell of Success) and Howard Ashman (Smile). He had only recently completed work with Rupert Holmes on a new musical adaptation of Jerry Lewis’ film The Nutty Professor, currently playing in Nashville with an eye to Broadway. Holmes described his friend’s new score as “Hamlisch at his best, with a number of deeply touching and timeless ballads.” That’s what Marvin Hamlisch excelled at: creating open-hearted melodies that stuck in the brain but pierced the heart.
Around 1976, Hamlisch and Tim Rice wrote a song called “The Only Way to Go” for the television film The Entertainer. “Don’t dig any deeper, what you get is what you see,” Bing Crosby insouciantly sang in one of his last-ever recordings, in the persona of a carefree soul nearing the end of his days. There wasn’t a need to dig any deeper to understand the universal, emotional, heart-on-its-sleeve music of Marvin Hamlisch; we were gifted – and lifted – with we saw, and what we heard, from this versatile composer, conductor, producer and performer.
Rest in peace, Mr. Hamlisch. Nobody did it better.
Heaven On Their Minds: Remastered “Jesus Christ Superstar” Coming From Verve, with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, Yvonne Elliman
“Nothing could convince me that any show that has sold two and one-half million copies of its album before the opening night is anything like all bad,” wrote The New York Times’ Clive Barnes on October 13, 1971 upon the Broadway debut of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar. Indeed, the original Jesus Christ Superstar was a bit of a revelation, a true hybrid of rock and theater, introduced as a record but destined for the world’s stages. And it’s returning in a new, remastered edition.
That 1970 concept album starred Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan as Jesus, Murray Head as Judas Iscariot, Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene and Manfred Mann’s Mike d’Abo as King Herod, and featured equally impressive talent among its musicians (Chris Spedding, Mike Vickers, Wings’ Henry McCullough) and supporting vocalists (P.P. Arnold, Madeline Bell, Lesley Duncan). Gillan recently recalled Superstar with fondness to Phil Sutcliffe in MOJO, describing it as “top-notch stuff” and a “career highlight.” He even described being greeted on a 1980s tour of the USSR by fans who had “certainly never heard of Deep Purple, but they knew all about Jesus Christ Superstar!”
Though it’s been oft-reissued over the years, that 1970 Superstar is seeing another release, overseen by composer/orchestrator/producer Lloyd Webber. He’s remastered it for superior sound on CD, long having felt that the original British vinyl was “much better and brighter than the American.” Though the original masters have been lost, according to Lloyd Webber (along with the possibility of previously unreleased material), he was able to source the new issue from a copy of the masters found in his personal archives. The result was made available in the U.K. last month, with an American release arriving today on Universal’s Verve label.
The new Jesus Christ Superstar coincides with an arena tour also being shepherded by Lloyd Webber. Despite skepticism from lyricist Tim Rice, Lloyd Webber cast the role of Jesus via a television program, and actor/singer Ben Forster was announced on July 25 as the winner. The tour, also starring former Spice Girl Melanie C as Mary Magdalene, begins at London’s O2 Arena on September 25. Directed by Laurence Connor, it’s completely unrelated to the recent Broadway staging by Jersey Boys’ Des McAnuff which closed on July 1, 2012 after 116 performances at New York’s Neil Simon Theatre. The U.K. edition of the remastered cast album is housed in a slipcase featuring the colorful artwork of the upcoming tour; the enclosed booklet cover uses the familiar brown logo rather than the psychedelic yellow art from the 1970 U.K. album. The U.S. version lacks the slipcase, but is otherwise identical.
We’ve got more details after the jump, including the track listing and order link! Read the rest of this entry »
The Beach Boys, Japanese 2012 Remasters (EMI)
Released last week across the sea, these new Japanese remasters of 12 of the boys of summer’s first LPs (spanning from 1963 to 1971 but, alas, incomplete) should be hitting our shores around now. Has anyone had the chance to hear them yet?
Roxy Music, The Complete Recordings 1972-1982 (Virgin)
This 10-disc set, kicking off a planned 40th anniversary celebration of the iconic New Wave pioneers, features new remasters of the band’s first eight albums and two bonus discs of non-LP B-sides and mixes, several of which are making their CD debut.
Johnny Cash, The Greatest: The Number Ones / Country Classics / Gospel Songs / Duets (Columbia/Legacy) / Various Artists, We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash (Legacy)
Lots of love for The Man in Black today: four themed compilations collecting some 60-plus Cash classics (a deluxe edition of The Number Ones features a bonus DVD of performances from The Johnny Cash Show), and a CD/DVD of an all-star 2012 tribute concert featuring Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams and more.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Sexmix (ZTT/Salvo)
A new double-disc set collating many of the U.K. popsters’ cassette singles and other rare mixes. (It should be noted that ZTT has apologized for the use of an alternate mono master of the “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” cassingle – buyer beware and all that.)
Two new compilations from the diverse pop duo: one compiling the band’s second wave of chart hits in Europe, and another collating those songs and singles in their extended and remixed forms.
Bob’s classic first hits set, presented on gold disc.
Various Artists,Jesus Christ Superstar (Verve)
A new remaster of the original rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that became an iconic Broadway hit. Featuring vocals from Ian Gillan, Murray Head and Yvonne Elliman.