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Look Up To The Sun: Ruthann Friedman Goes Beyond “Windy” On Now Sounds’ “Complete Constant Companion”

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Ruthann Friedman - Constant CompanionRoughly one year ago, Now Sounds released Windy: A Ruthann Friedman Songbook. Its colorful cover was adorned with a striking photograph of the artist, intense and beautiful, in a verdant setting. The label has now continued the Ruthann Friedman story with The Complete Constant Companion Sessions, and its cover is as to Windy’s as night is to day. Its stark black-and-white line art by Peter Kaukonen appears to depict an angel on a landscape of rolling hills, conjuring cryptic text and an arrangement of branches. The drawing is both spare and intricate, mysterious and inviting. It’s an apropos introduction to the intimate world of Constant Companion. The lush Wrecking Crew-aided pop arrangements as heard on Windy have ceded to delicate voice-and-guitar, folk-style performances, though the individuality of Friedman’s exquisite original compositions is – put simply – the one constant.

Ruthann Friedman is best known, of course, for penning The Association’s 1967 chart-topper “Windy” which was ranked among BMI’s Top 100 songs of the twentieth century. Now Sounds’ 2013 anthology premiered tracks salvaged from an aborted LP intended for A&M Records produced by Tommy LiPuma (George Benson, Diana Krall), as well as sessions with Curt Boettcher (The Association, Sagittarius) and others. It featured guests including Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks and The Beau Brummels’ Ron Elliot on tracks recorded between 1966 and 1973. The centerpiece of this new collection is the 1969 Reprise LP Constant Companion; with the A&M project shelved, it was Friedman’s debut and her only studio release until 2013. To the album’s original twelve tracks, Now Sounds has added twelve more, most from its sessions and all previously unissued.

“Come all you likely people and hear these sounds I wail,” implores the singer as “Piper’s Call” begins. The de facto first track of Constant Companion, following the short, jazzy a cappella “Topsy Turvy Moon,” the beguiling, acoustic psych-folk ballad (co-written with Steve Mann) sets the fragile tone of the album. Friedman’s lyrics are more than occasionally impressionistic, employing timeless, often pastoral images in their storytelling. With Friedman accompanying herself on guitar, there’s nothing to detract from her piercing, expressive vocals on these moody, low-key reflections as produced in understated fashion by Joe Wissert (The Turtles, Boz Scaggs).

Many tracks here feel deeply personal or drawn directly from the artist’s experience, such as the contemplative “Looking Back Over Your Shoulder.” Friedman shares in her candid track-by-track liner notes that “Ringing Bells” (“…and blinking lights/In and after dawns of hard-lived nights”) was inspired by an acid trip, and indeed, it’s an eloquent evocation of the experience: “Here, I’ve found a never place/With shining souls on every face/Around the corner of a sigh/Between the twinkle of an eye.” A vivid snapshot of a particular era, she concludes, “High in constant never time, I dig the workings of my mind.” Similarly, the lovely and hopeful “Peaceable Kingdom” is very much of its time, dreaming of a better place within flight’s reach. “Danny,” written for Friedman’s nephew, is tender and one of the loveliest moments on Constant Companion. Other songs are far darker and more somber, like the hauntingly offbeat “Fairy Prince Rainbow Man,” and the sparse, poetic chronicle of the end of relationship, “Too Late to Be Mourning.”

Friedman, perhaps her own harshest critic, dismisses “People” as “moaning, whining, wimpy bullshit.” But there’s something touching and indeed, universal, hearing her reach a painful moment of self-discovery: “I have spent so many years trying to find myself/Now that I know where I am, I find that I am by myself.” The surrounding lyrics are a bit florid, but her awareness and ability to relate emotional truths can’t be denied. The up-tempo “No Time” is pointedly criticized by its songwriter as “another bullshit song,” and it is of a piece with “People.” Though Friedman is being hard on herself, both songs are directed at those who didn’t understand her. In “People,” she chastises, “People, you know you are just the same as me/The only difference is the lie we see…” and in the latter, it’s “Damn the chaos and down with the fools/And don’t bug me with all your rules.” The artist has certainly matured, but her sentiments still likely ring true for those of a certain age today, in the process of their own soul-searching.

A bluesy melody enhances “Morning Becomes You,” which would have made a great candidate for a harmony-pop rendition by the likes of The Association. (So many of the songs here are so intimate and so personal that it’s hard to imagine other artists tackling them.) The original album’s closing track, “Look Up to the Sun,” is also one of its most sensual. As on “Windy,” Friedman skillfully blends both the celestial and the earthbound into the fabric of her music.

Constant Companion has been expanded with numerous bonus tracks!  Read about them and more after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 24, 2014 at 09:29

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, Ruthann Friedman

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Sumpin Funky Going On: “Country Funk II” Features Willie, Dolly, Bobby, Jackie, Kenny and More

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Country Funk 2Almost two years ago, we reported on Light in the Attic’s Country Funk, an anthology celebrating the hybrid genre of the title.  Back then, LITA described country funk as an “inherently defiant genre” encompassing “the elation of gospel with the sexual thrust of the blues, country hoedown harmony with inner city grit.  It is alternately playful and melancholic, slow jammin’ and booty shakin’.  It is both studio slick and barroom raw.”  Well, if the 16 nuggets on that 2012 release weren’t enough for you, the label has returned to the well with another 17 slabs of soulful country-and-western tunes with Country Funk II.  Whereas the first volume spanned the period 1969-1975, this second installment takes in tracks from 1967 to 1974.

One familiar name has returned for Volume II.  It’s Bob, formerly known as Bobby, Darin, with another track from his Bob Dylan-inspired Commitment album of 1969.  “Me and Mr. Hohner” is about as far-removed from “Mack the Knife” as one can get, but Darin filled the role of hippie-folkie troubadour with the same conviction he had brought to the role of tuxedo-clad showman.  The luminous Jackie DeShannon also crossed over from the world of pop.  The “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and “What the World Needs Now” artist was an early lady of the canyon with her 1969 LP Laurel Canyon, from which Country Funk II has derived her gritty cover of The Band’s immortal “The Weight.”

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton famously teamed up in 1983 for the chart-topping single “Islands in the Stream,” but both artists were by then well-versed in blurring genre lines – so it’s no surprise to see them here.  Rogers is heard with his band The First Edition, best-known for their psychedelic “Just Dropped In,” on the 1971 single “Tulsa Turnaround.”  Parton’s contribution is “Getting Happy” from her still-not-on-CD 1974 album Love is Like a Butterfly.  Willie Nelson had the same deft ability to traverse the worlds of pop and country as Parton and Rogers, and he shows up here with “Shotgun Willie,” the title track of his 1973 Atlantic Records outlaw-country breakthrough album.

The Byrds’ Gene Clark helped that seminal folk-rock band incorporate elements of country, bluegrass and psychedelia into their own music, and in 1968, he teamed up with banjo great Doug Dillard to form Dillard and Clark.  The duo produced two albums for A&M including 1969’s Through the Morning, Through the Night, from which their reinvention of Lennon and McCartney’s “Don’t Let Me Down” is reprised here.  Another duo, Larry Williams and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, created an unusual fusion in 1967 when they teamed with psych-rockers The Kaleidoscope for the Okeh single “Nobody.”  The song was covered by Three Dog Night for that band’s debut album; the original recording is presented on Country Funk II.  Three Dog Night scored a No. 1 hit with “Joy to the World” from the pen of Hoyt Axton; the Oklahoma-born songwriter’s “California Women” from his Joy to the World album appears here.

We have more details – plus the full track listing with discography and order links – after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 23, 2014 at 13:37

Old School: Soul Man Willie Jones Has “Fire In My Soul” On Comeback Album, Welcomes Frank Black, Steve Cropper and Felix Cavaliere

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Willie Jones - Fire In My SoulWe interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a special news bulletin: Willie Jones, vocalist for The Five Jokers back in the early 1960s, has returned to recording for the first time in decades! His new solo album, Fire in My Soul, arrived this week in the U.K. from Cherry Red Records’ Shout! label, and we’re happy to report that it’s a treat for vintage soul enthusiasts!

Much has been made of today’s crop of “neo-soul” artists, fusing organic elements of traditional R&B into more contemporary grooves. But one modern soul revivalist was actually there at the ground floor: “Willie Jones was the first guy to sing rhythm and blues in Detroit,” said soul singer par excellence Bettye LaVette. “Everybody in the world would come down to watch [Willie’s group] The Royal Jokers. They did, and said, ‘I can do that’ and off they went and made a lot of money, and nobody in Detroit offered a kind of leg-up to Willie that he needed to get his career going.” Yet miraculously, nearly 60 years after Jones first appeared on Atlantic Records, the veteran soul man has reappeared with Fire in My Soul via Cherry Red’s Shout! imprint. Its fifteen robust tracks harken back to classic R&B and gutbucket southern soul but with a vibrant edge befitting the 77-years young singer.

The vocal instrument – an expressive tenor – that led Jones to establish himself as a popular recording artist at Atlantic and a host of independent labels in the early days of popular R&B is largely undiminished despite the passage of time. Jones is joined by a core rhythm section of album producer and multi-instrumentalist Jon Tiven on keyboards, saxophone and guitar and Sally Tiven on bass plus a rotating line-up of drummers including Anton Fig, Simon Kirke, Chester Thompson, Harry Stinson, Darrell Peyton, Tariq Snare and Greg Morrow.  “I’ve got a fire in my soul and I just can’t put it out,” he sings on the funky title track, a collaboration with Stax legend Steve Cropper and the Young Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere. Cropper and Cavaliere, who co-wrote the track with Tiven, contribute their signature guitar and keyboards, respectively, to the song as well as to “In the Wind.” (The pair have previously issued two joint albums, 2008’s Nudge It Up a Notch and 2010’s Midnight Flyer. The contemporary blues-soul approach of those projects is echoed here.) Black Francis, a.k.a. The Pixies’ Frank Black, joins Jones on the big, honking soul stew of “Janie, Turn It Over.”

Bettye LaVette, for whom Jones wrote the Atlantic single “Shut Your Mouth” in 1962, pays tribute to her old friend with a typically soul-deep vocal – and even a bit of rap – on “Without Redemption” (“Without redemption, all human goodness fails/Without redemption, there is no peace…”) penned by Jones, Tiven and LaVette with poet-lyricist Stephen John Kalinich, best-known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Kalinich also co-wrote “Janie” and the brassy, up-tempo “Troubled World” on which Jones duels with Tiven’s searing guitar. Another special guest on Fire in My Soul is Jon Auer of The Posies and Big Star. Auer co-wrote and plays both guitar and keyboards on the rueful “Scar B4 I Bruise” (“They gave me a pillow to sleep on/But I had to make my own bed of nails…”). “Reasons” is similarly dark, though the arrangement has an Allen Toussaint vibe to it. “Add It Up” is a slow blues-flecked scorcher that would have fit snugly in the Otis Redding songbook.

Keep reading after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 23, 2014 at 10:28

Posted in News, Reviews, Willie Jones

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Not Soon Forgotten: Deep Purple’s Overlooked “Purpendicular” Gets Reissue From Hear No Evil

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PurpendicularThere’s rarely a lull in activity for the catalogue of Deep Purple, one of the most enduring bands to emerge from the British hard and progressive rock scenes of the late 1960s.  Cherry Red’s Hear No Evil Records imprint has recently continued its reissue series for Deep Purple’s 1990s catalogue with an expanded edition of 1996’s Purpendicular [sic], chronologically following Slaves and Masters (1990) and The Battle Rages On… (1993).

Hear No Evil’s raison d’être for this reissue is simple.  Malcolm Dome lays out the case in his new liner notes: “It’s odd how much of Deep Purple’s recorded output has been ignored.  In fact, anything that came out between 1970 and 1974 is applauded.  The rest is criticized – or even worse – just plain ignored…and 1996’s Purpendicular is certainly one album that deserves more attention and acclaim.”

With Ritchie Blackmore having departed Purple in 1993 during the tour for The Battle Rages On, Deep Purple was faced with a gaping hole when it came time to return to the studio.  Ace shredder Joe Satriani had stepped in for Blackmore on tour, and even signed on for another tour with Purple.  But Satriani’s own obligations prevented him from recording with the group, and so Steve Morse of Kansas and Dixie Dregs was enlisted.  The new Deep Purple Mk. VII line-up of Morse, Roger Glover (bass), Ian Gillan (vocals), Jon Lord (keyboards) and Ian Paice (drums) proved a felicitous one, and remained in place until 2002 when Lord departed to go solo.  Purpendicular was an auspicious debut for the line-up.

All five members were credited with the album’s twelve original songs.  Dome quotes Roger Glover: “There was a great feeling, great vibe in the band, so we did all those tunes in the first few weeks.”  Glover added that the album felt like an artistic rebirth after the band’s final days with Blackmore had turned sour: “I’m playing, probably for the first time in my life, like a bass player.  I feel like a bass player.  Before, I always felt there was no control of what I did.  What I did had to sort of fit, and there was always this struggle to find a space where I could work.  Now, I have all the space in the world.  Anything can happen.”

Deep Purple settled at Greg Rike Productions’ studio in Orlando, Florida to record Purpendicular, with the band taking production credit.  Morse’s effect on the band was heard immediately on the album’s first track, “Vavoom: Ted the Mechanic.” The new guitarist employed the technique of pinch harmonics in which the player’s thumb or index finger on the picking hand slightly catches the string after it is picked thereby canceling the fundamental frequency of the string, and letting one of the harmonics dominate, often resulting in an unusual, high-pitched squeal.  Morse’s bandmates were so impressed with his creative sounds that “Vavoom” entered the band’s live set also as its opening number.

After the jump: what extras will you find here?  Plus: the full track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 22, 2014 at 09:09

Posted in Deep Purple, News, Reissues

From Muscle Shoals to Music City, Ace Mines Lost R&B Gold On New Collections

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Complete Fame SinglesAce Records continues to mine the rich legacy of American R&B with recent releases dedicated to a trio of the finest independent labels in soul music: Fame, Music City, and Doré.

Late in 2011, Ace curated the definitive chronicle of Rick Hall’s Fame Studios with The Fame Studios Story, a 3-CD box set including performances recorded at the storied Muscle Shoals, Alabama studio by artists including Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Otis Redding, Irma Thomas and Aretha Franklin. The label has also expanded the Fame story with Hall of Fame volumes of previously unissued material and single-artist compilations dedicated to the likes of Clarence Carter, George Jackson, James Govan and Dan Penn. A new 2-CD set has just launched a three-volume series of The Complete Fame Singles.

This initial volume covers the period between 1964 and 1967 over 52 chronologically-sequenced A- and B-sides in original mono. Rick Hall opened Fame Studios in 1961, scoring a quick hit with Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” on the Dot label. In the early years, Hall issued records on the Fame and R and H labels, licensing out other Fame-recorded masters to larger national labels. But when Hall couldn’t find a buyer for the pivotal slice of southern soul “Steal Away” by Jimmy Hughes, he started a full-fledged record label of his own. That 1964 single, Fame catalogue number 6401, kicks off The Complete Fame Singles. Hall’s gamble paid off when “Steal Away” was picked up by Vee-Jay; that label, in turn, then agreed to distribute the new Fame label’s releases. Distribution was later famously picked up by Atlantic Records’ Atco division.

These two discs trace not just the development of the Muscle Shoals sound, but of the songwriting team of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham; individually or collectively, Penn and Oldham are responsible for 22 songs here. A full eleven of these 45s were recorded by Fame’s first star Jimmy Hughes, whose complete Fame singles output is included here. Other tracks come from Penn solo, Oldham as Spooner and The Spoons, Arthur Conley, and Clarence Carter, whose commercial breakthrough will arrive on the next volume of the series. Though most of the tracks fit in the smoldering southern soul bag, there are unexpected treats like the pop-rock of future Motown producer Terry Woodford, or Florida band The Villagers. The latter’s 1966 single encompassed Roy Whitley’s “Laugh It Off” backed with a cover of Lennon and McCartney’s “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl.”

Co-producers Dean Rudland and Tony Rounce’s comprehensive track-by-track liner notes in the generously-illustrated color booklet fill in the details on both the artists and the history of Fame. Nick Robbins has remastered all of the tracks.

After the jump: travel to California with Music City and Doré Records! Plus: track listings and order links for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 21, 2014 at 12:28

Posted in Compilations, News

Kritzerland Celebrates “Summer” With Jerome Kern and Alfred Newman, Goes “Hollywood” With Neal Hefti

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Centennial Summer OSTAt first blush, Kritzerland’s two new releases don’t have much in common – though one celebrates the Golden Age of Hollywood and one is actually from The Golden Age of Hollywood. But both titles hail from celebrated and influential composers, and both of these scores are making their first-ever appearances on soundtrack albums. The composers are the legendary Jerome Kern and the big band great-turned-swinging sixties theme titan Neal Hefti, and the films are Centennial Summer and Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, respectively. And since two Heftis are better than one, the label is pairing the latter title with another treat from his pen: his score to the screen adaptation of (are you ready?) Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad.

1946’s Twentieth Century Fox musical Centennial Summer turned out to boast the final score by Jerome Kern (1885-1945). By the time of the film’s production, Kern had already advanced the art of the musical theatre with his groundbreaking work on musicals such as Show Boat. His work on Broadway and in Hollywood with a variety of talented lyricists turned out a catalogue of standards still performed today, including “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Ol’ Man River,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “I Won’t Dance,” “A Fine Romance,” “Pick Yourself Up,” and “All The Things You Are.” Though the first part of his career was largely dominated by writing for the stage, Kern had spent several years in California before permanently settling there in 1937 and concentrating on motion pictures. He penned his final Broadway score in 1939 with Very Warm for May but continued to write for the movies.

Centennial Summer, based on Albert E. Idell’s novel, was intended to capitalize on nostalgia in much the same escapist manner as MGM’s Meet Me in St. Louis had two years earlier, in 1944. Otto Preminger directed Jeanne Crain, Cornel Wilde, Walter Brennan, Linda Darnell and William Eythe in the story of one Philadelphia family’s exploits at the city’s 1876 Exposition. Kern was tapped to write the score, with lyrics from luminaries Oscar Hammerstein II, E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, and Leo Robin. He died in November 1945 the age of 60, but not before completing a score that would net him a posthumous Academy Award nomination for the song “All Through the Day,” written with Hammerstein. The film’s underscore and musical direction were both handled by the studio’s chief music man, Alfred Newman, who also received an Oscar nomination for his work on the picture.

Kritzerland’s Centennial Summer, featuring both Newman’s score and Kern’s songs including “Cinderella Sue,” “In Love in Vain” and “Up with the Lark,” is the first authorized release of the Centennial Summer soundtrack. The score has been transferred from original ¼” elements housed at Fox and newly restored by Mike Matessino. Kritzerland’s release is limited to 1,000 units, and is scheduled to ship by the first week of September, though pre-orders placed directly through the label usually arrive three to five weeks early.

Won Ton Ton OSTNeal Hefti (1922-2008) didn’t come to Hollywood from Broadway but rather from the big band world. Serving in the mid-1940s in Woody Herman’s First Herd, trumpet player Hefti became a prolific composer and arranger, moving on to the Count Basie band in 1950. With Basie, Hefti came into his own. He composed and arranged Atomic Basie, considered the great pianist’s finest record, and scored at the Grammy Awards for the album. Hefti’s great gift during this period was the ability to tailor inventive arrangements to the identities and skills of the band’s members, and earned the praise of Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra for his ingenious work. Hefti diversified his efforts working on television with stars like Kate Smith, and when The Chairman enlisted him to arrange and conduct at his Reprise label, he answered. By the mid-1960s, Hefti was in demand in Hollywood as a soundtrack composer, turning out his arguably his two most memorable themes – for the soon-to-arrive-on-home-video Batman television show and for both the movie and sitcom The Odd Couple.

Kritzerland has the first-ever soundtrack release of Hefti’s final film score, for Paramount’s 1976 satire Won Ton Ton, or the Dog Who Saved Hollywood. The label’s Bruce Kimmel explains, “Won Ton Ton seems almost the end of an era. The cast included a huge number of cameos by an amazing array of Hollywood veterans, over fifty of them. The leading cast featured Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr and Art Carney, and a brilliant performance by Augustus von Schumacher as Won Ton Ton. To the filmmakers, it must have seemed like a film that could not lose. The film came out, received middling reviews, and disappeared until the advent of home video and cable allowed people to find it and enjoy it for what it was – a fun, celebrity-filled lark with some truly amusing sequences. And the producers could not have made a better choice of film composer than the great Neal Hefti.”

After the jump: more on Won Ton Ton, plus the full track listings and pre-order links for both CDs! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 21, 2014 at 10:22

Call Him The Breeze: Clapton and Friends Celebrate Music of J.J. Cale On New Album, Exclusive Box Set

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Eric Clapton - The BreezeIn 2006, Eric Clapton teamed with singer-songwriter J.J. Cale for the collaborative album The Road to Escondido.  The guitar god had long been a fan and patron of Cale’s; he included “After Midnight” on his 1970 solo debut and took “Cocaine” to the Top 30 in 1977.  Escondido earned both men a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album, and it would prove to be among Cale’s final recordings.  He released the album Roll On in 2009, featuring Clapton on its title track.  Then, in 2013, Cale passed away at the age of 74.  On July 29, Clapton pays homage to his old friend with The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale.  In the spirit of The Road to Escondido, Clapton has called on pals and admirers alike to celebrate Cale’s legacy, among them Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, Willie Nelson, Derek Trucks and John Mayer.  The Bushbranch/Surfdog Records release is being paired in a special online-exclusive box set with a disc of Cale’s original songs as covered on the new record, including three previously unissued tracks, as well as a special USB stick and more special content.

The Breeze takes its title from “Call Me the Breeze,” which Cale first recorded on his own solo debut, 1972’s Naturally.  The song was picked up by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash, Bobby Bare and John Mayer; Clapton tackles it himself on The Breeze.  Mayer joins Clapton on the new album for another Naturally tune, “Magnolia,” as well as for “Lies” (from 1973’s Really) and “Don’t Wait” (from 1982’s Grasshopper).  Tom Petty, whose latest album with The Heartbreakers also arrives this summer, handles “Rock and Roll Records,” “The Old Man and Me” and “I Got the Same Old Blues,” all from 1974’s Okie.  (Petty and his band covered the Okie track “I’d Like to Love You Baby” in concert, leading to its inclusion on their 2009 Live Anthology.)  Cale’s country-blues style also appealed to Willie Nelson, who appears on The Breeze with “Starbound” from Okie and the previously unheard “Songbird.”  Willie is supported on the former by The Allman Brothers Band’s Derek Trucks, who also is represented by “Crying Eyes” from Naturally.

Another guitar virtuoso, Mark Knopfler, is featured on two more previously unreleased Cale songs, “Someday” and “Train to Nowhere” with Don White.  Cale helped White form his first band and played guitar in that unit; White pays tribute to his friend and mentor with two more tracks, as well – “Sensitive Kind” and “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me),” from 5 and Okie, respectively.

After the jump, we have full specs on the box set plus track listings, order links and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 18, 2014 at 11:55

Masterworks Goes “On the Town” With Roslyn Kind’s RCA Albums, Bernstein Musical’s London Cast

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Roslyn Kind - Give Me You Two-FerMasterworks Broadway has announced the balance of its summer slate of CD-Rs/DD reissues from the Sony Music archives with both releases making their debut in the digital domain.  Next week, the label will reissue for the very first time both RCA albums by vocalist and cabaret star Roslyn Kind – not only a talented artist in her own right but also the half-sister of one Barbra Streisand.  Then, on August 19, Masterworks will bring to CD-R and DD the original 1963 London Cast Recording of Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s On the Town, just in time for its Broadway revival this fall.

Masterworks describes the unusual circumstances behind Roslyn Kind’s 1968 debut album Give Me You: “On a late spring morning in 1968, seventeen-year-old Roslyn Kind graduated from high school in Brooklyn and immediately began a new job later the same day.  ‘I graduated to ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ in the morning,’ she recalls, ‘and that evening I was in RCA Studio B, down around 23rd Street in Manhattan, making my first recording.’  The young singer remained at RCA for two albums and a handful of singles, and now both of those albums will be available once more.

Give Me You, primarily helmed by composer and arranger Lee Holdridge, featured Kind wrapping her expressive, big pipes around an array of contemporary songs beginning with the title track by the Broadway team of Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady (Play It Again, Sam, Minnie’s Boys, Goodtime Charley) and continuing with material from Jimmy Webb (the Bacharach-esque “If You Must Leave My Life”), John Lennon and Paul McCartney (“The Fool on the Hill”), future Holdridge collaborator Neil Diamond (“A Modern-Day Version of Love”), Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“The Shape of Things to Come”) and Holdridge himself (“Who Am I?”).

Following this auspicious debut, Kind returned to RCA’s studios for 1969’s This is Roslyn Kind.  She returned to the Mann and Weil songbook with “Make Your Own Kind of Music” (which Barbra Streisand would later perform) and also surveyed tunes by the likes of The Association’s Larry Ramos (“It’s Gotta Be Real”) and Harry Nilsson (“I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City”).  Roslyn remained on RCA for a 1970 single with “Foresight” from the musical Gantry backed with Grossman and Hackady’s “Rich Is” from Minnie’s Boys, and eventually moved on to Streisand’s label, Columbia, where she recorded songs by Paul Williams and Peter Allen, among others.  She’s appeared on Saturday Night Live and The Nanny, headlined at The Plaza’s Persian Room, and returned in 1994 with another full-length LP.  Today, Kind is a draw in concert, most recently performing a hot-ticket engagement at New York’s 54 Below nightspot.

Give Me You/This is Roslyn Kind will be released exclusively for purchase via MasterworksBroadway.com on July 22 as MOD CD-Rs, as well as for digital download.  The CD-Rs will be available through Arkiv Music on August 19, plus streaming and downloads via digital service providers the same day. After the jump: details on On the Town, plus full track listings for both titles and more!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 17, 2014 at 13:48

Relight Their Fire: BBR Compiles Hits, Rarities For Loleatta Holloway, Skyy and Evelyn “Champagne” King

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Loleatta AnthologyIt’s no secret that Big Break Records, an imprint of Cherry Red Group, has mastered the art of the reissue when it comes to vintage R&B, soul and disco. But the label has expanded its horizons recently with a new series of deluxe 2-CD artist anthologies combining hits, rarities, remixes and key album tracks into one package. Three such titles are available now from the label, dedicated to the sensational Loleatta Holloway, “Shame” diva Evelyn “Champagne” King and the band Skyy.

Though Chicago-born Loleatta Holloway (1946-2011) only released four albums on Salsoul Records’ Gold Mind imprint between 1976 and 1980, the gospel-trained singer with the powerful, passionate voice made her mark by putting the soul in Salsoul. During her tenure at the label, Holloway not only headlined her own albums – with productions from R&B legends Norman Harris (also Gold Mind’s chief) and Bobby Womack as well as her husband Floyd Smith – but her voice graced tracks by The Salsoul Orchestra (the galvanic “Run Away” and “Seconds”) and Bunny Sigler (the romantic “Only You”). Dreamin’: The Loleatta Holloway Anthology (1976-1982) begins with Holloway’s arrival at Salsoul following a brief but pivotal tenure at Atlanta’s Aware Records where she charted with the single “Cry to Me.” Salsoul transitioned Holloway into the disco market, but with Harris primarily at the helm, she never lost sight of her deep soul roots.

The chronologically-assembled Dreamin’ selects highlights from Holloway’s four Gold Mind releases (all of which are available in expanded editions from BBR). From label debut Loleatta, you’ll hear six songs including the defiant roar of Allan Felder, Ron Tyson and Norman Harris’ R&B and Disco chart single “Hit and Run,” arranged and produced by Harris in pull-out-all-the-stops mode. “Dreamin’,” which gives this compilation its title, afforded Holloway spoken monologues to which she committed the same level of fervor as she did singing. T.G. Conway arranged the sassy Philly soul update of a girl group record – with prominent backup vocals – with Holloway confronting another woman with eyes for her man. “Dreamin’” should have gotten Loleatta to the top of the pops, but alas, the track only hit No. 72 on the U.S. Pop chart. Before completing her second LP Queen of the Night, Loleatta joined The Salsoul Orchestra’s leader Vince Montana Jr. for “Run Away,” an effervescent opus that reached No. 3 on the Disco chart with an impossibly catchy hook and a deliciously elaborate production.

Five songs have been reprised from Queen of the Night including the sensual Bunny Sigler duet “Only You” and Walter Gibbons’ 12-inch mix of “Catch Me on the Rebound” showcasing Holloway’s forceful vocal style, and co-writer/producer Harris’ array of liquid guitar licks, swelling strings, funky bass, nonstop percussion and punchy horns.  1979’s self-titled album yields another four cuts here including a funky reworking of Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Luther Dixon’s “Baby It’s You” as a duet with its producer Bobby Womack, and Floyd Smith’s production of the anthem “The Greatest Performance of My Life.” Loleatta’s final Gold Mind platter, 1980’s Love Sensation, earned Holloway a Disco No. 1 with its Dan Hartman-helmed title song, one of four songs from the LP heard here.

Hartman figures prominently on Dreamin’. Not only is “Love Sensation” here in Tom Moulton’s mix, but this is the very first Holloway compendium ever to include “Vertigo/Relight My Fire,” Hartman’s sizzling smash featuring Holloway which also reached No. 1 on the Disco chart in 1979. Other highlights include “Seconds,” a reunion with The Salsoul Orchestra from their 1982 Patrick Adams-produced collection Heat It Up, and Walter Gibbons’ 12-inch remix of “Hit and Run.” Wayne A. Dickson and Malcolm McKenzie have produced this beautiful set (housed in a Super Jewel Box) which features remastering by Nick Robbins, a fine, concise essay by Christian John Wikane and an appreciation from such luminaries as Tom Moulton, Bobby Eli, Bob Esty, Bunny Sigler, Patrick Adams and the late Bobby Womack. Loleatta Holloway might not have reached the pop stardom of her contemporaries – Eli opines in his note that she “should have been just as big or even bigger than Aretha Franklin” – but her scorching brand of soulful disco hasn’t aged a day.

After the jump: the full track listing and order links for Dreamin’, plus the scoop on the releases from Skyy and Evelyn “Champagne” King! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 17, 2014 at 10:28

The Allman Brothers Band’s “Fillmore East” Goes Super Deluxe In New Box Set

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Allman Brothers - Fillmore Box

2014 has been a year of upheaval for The Allman Brothers Band.  Following word that Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks would be departing the venerable group at year’s end, Gregg Allman confirmed that he, too, would stop touring after 2014 – effectively ending the band that bears his name.  Despite his claims that “this is the end of it,” Allman has left the door open to reunions down the road. “Who’s to say?,” he pondered in the pages of Relix.  “We may get together every five years and just do one play at a time.”  In the meantime, there could hardly be a better time to celebrate not the end, but the beginning, of The Allman Brothers Band’s live legacy.  On July 29, Universal will release The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings, a 6-CD or 3-BD complete sets  or 4-LP highlights set expanding the band’s first, landmark live album.

The original At Fillmore East – the 1971 album that was the group’s third release overall – was recorded during the band’s three-night stand in March ’71 at Bill Graham’s sadly-departed New York rock palace.  The double-LP set introduced those who hadn’t seen the band live to its epic improvisational abilities, featuring just seven songs on four sides of vinyl.  Producer Tom Dowd captured Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Jai Johanny Johanson and Butch Trucks on a set of originals and covers including Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” T Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday,” Gregg’s “Whipping Post” and Betts’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”  Two more tracks from the March Fillmore gigs premiered on Eat a Peach, the 1972 studio-live hybrid album released by the band in the wake of Duane Allman’s tragic October 1971 death.

These thunderous blues-rock jam sessions have been revisited on numerous past releases.  The Duane Allman Anthology volumes unearthed tracks, as did the 1975 compilation The Road Goes On Forever (itself expanded on CD in 2001) and 1989’s Dreams box set.  1992’s The Fillmore Concerts combined tracks from the original At Fillmore East and Eat a Peach with one track from a June Fillmore performance, remixed and re-edited by Tom Dowd.  2003’s Deluxe Edition of At Fillmore East added six previously issued tracks from both the March and June stands – including “Drunken-Hearted Boy” performed with support act Elvin Bishop – to recreate a complete concert experience.  More previously unheard material from June premiered on the 2006 Deluxe Edition of Eat a Peach.

What’s on the new box set?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 16, 2014 at 10:32

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