Archive for the ‘Box Sets’ Category
Susan Kay Quatro, a.k.a. Suzi Quatro, has sold 55 million singles and LPs, scored five U.K. Top 10s and twelve Top 50s including two chart-toppers, followed in the footsteps of Ethel Merman onstage, appeared on television’s Happy Days, and influenced a “Who’s Who” including Joan Jett and The Go-Go’s. Quatro is billed as The Girl from Detroit City on her first-ever retrospective box set which has been recently released by Cherry Red Records. This 4-CD, 82-song book-style box is packed with unreleased material. It tracks Quatro’s singular career as a rock-and-roller from her first release, at 14 years old, as a member of the all-girl band with the provocative name of The Pleasure Seekers, all the way through the present day. The first three discs trace a chronological arc, while the fourth rounds up various rarities and never-before-heard recordings dating as far back as the beginning of her solo career.
For most, Suzi Quatro’s story begins when Mickie Most (The Animals, Lulu, Donovan) saw her in Detroit in 1971. The producer’s discovery paved the way for the transatlantic crossing that made the singer-songwriter as much a product of England as her native America. But The Girl from Detroit City starts earlier, with 1965’s “What a Way to Die” and the fourteen-year old Suzi, credibly rocking out in proto-punk garage style. Her throaty drawl was already well in place as well as her talent on the bass. But when the band (also including her sisters Arlene and Patti) was signed to Mercury Records, studio players were called in to augment their sound. Two Mercury-era tracks show the versatility of The Pleasure Seekers, however. George Fischoff and Carole Bayer (later to add Sager to her surname) supplied the brassy girl-pop of 1967’s regional hit “Light of Love.” Two more veteran songwriters, Jerry Ross and Mort Shuman, penned the following year’s uptempo “Locked in Your Love,” which never made it past the test pressing stage but happily is included here.
This collection hits all of the high points of Quatro’s impressive career including her 1973 solo debut single, “Rolling Stone,” produced by Most and featuring Peter Frampton on guitar, and its follow-up, “Can the Can,” which just happened to be her first U.K. No. 1. Written and produced by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, “Can” – as well as follow-ups like “48 Crash,” “Glycerine Queen,” and the No. 1 “Devil Gate Drive” – fit snugly into the glam rock ethos. The Elvis-inspired, black leather-clad Suzi didn’t particularly identify with the glitzy likes of Alvin Stardust, Bowie and Bolan, but the crunchy guitars, stomping beat and high-pitched vocals of her most successful singles had the self-assured swagger of glam’s greatest. A particular treat are the pre-“Rolling Stone” cuts produced by Most which premiere on Disc Four of the box, in which both artist and producer are searching for a sound. When Most paired Quatro with Chapman and Chinn, they certainly found it!
Quatro developed her distinctive and identifiable style early on, but she wasn’t averse to sonic experimentation, either. “Roman Fingers” (the B-side of the glammed-out rock of U.K. Top 20 hit “Daytona Demon”) has a “Stuck in the Middle with You”-esque, country-influenced vibe. Quatro co-wrote “Roman Fingers” as part of the agreement that saw her writing her own flips when Chapman and Chinn were churning out A-sides. Quatro had a clear grasp on her sound, as evidenced by “In the Morning,” another worthy B-side that could easily have been on the other side of the 45.
But even with such a well-defined sound, Quatro knew when it was time to expand her horizons. As it progresses chronologically over its four discs, The Girl from Detroit City showcases the singer’s mastery of other styles. The funky bassline of 1975’s “Your Mamma Won’t Like Me” augured for a new sound as did the smoking, insinuating horns of “I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew.” From the Your Mamma Won’t Like Me album of the same year, the singer embraced a big string sound on “Michael.”
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Holiday Gift Guide Review: Judy Garland, “The Garland Variations: Songs She Recorded More Than Once”
Judy Garland opens JSP Records’ new 5-CD box set The Garland Variations: Songs She Recorded More Than Once (JSP 975) with “Everybody Sing,” the kind of rousing showstopper she was practically born to sing. Sessions for the song from MGM’s Broadway Melody of 1938 began when Garland was on the cusp of just fifteen years old, but the power of her vocal instrument was already in place. But even when belting with a force to rival the mighty Merman, there was always something unfailingly intimate – or personal – about a Judy Garland performance. There’s plenty of that intimacy, as well as that power, on this illuminating new set produced by JSP’s John Stedman and compiled and annotated by Lawrence Schulman.
As with so many of her peers, it wasn’t uncommon for Judy Garland to revisit repertoire over the years; after all, these are the recordings through which many of these songs entered the standard American songbook. An arrangement might vary, in great or small ways, and so, of course, would the artist’s interpretation. The Garland Variations presents songs she recorded in the studio on multiple occasions between 1937 and 1962, with 115 tracks (three of which are new to CD) and over 6-1/2 hours of music, These tracks include such signature songs as “The Man That Got Away,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and of course, “Over the Rainbow,” which is included in five distinct renditions. A number of the most renowned composers and lyricists of popular song are represented, such as Harold Arlen, E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane, Johnny Mercer, and Harry Warren. There’s also a good amount of so-called “special material,” much of it courtesy MGM’s Roger Edens, one of the more influential music men in Garland’s life.
As she was inarguably the greatest female song stylist to remain best-known for her work on the silver screen, it’s easy to forget that Garland was actually a recording artist before she was a movie star. Her first long-lasting recording affiliation was with Decca Records. Following some abortive test records made in 1935 by the twelve-year old singer (released by JSP on the label’s Lost Tracks set), Decca released two sides by Garland in 1936 and signed MGM’s up-and-coming star the following year. Garland remained at Decca through 1947, and her tenure there yielded 90 recordings from 30 sessions between 1936 and 1947. Her departure from Decca coincided with MGM’s entering the young soundtrack LP market, and so she no longer had the need to re-record movie favorites for Decca as had been her standard practice. With MGM having first right of refusal for her work, she didn’t make any further studio recordings until after her departure from the Hollywood giant in 1950.
Naturally, Garland’s recordings for MGM play a major role here. Not that Garland’s venerated recordings and celebrated onstage performances aren’t all crucial parts of her legend, but her indelible cinematic portrayals informed every aspect of her career. The first lady of the movie musical, Garland brought her visual and dramatic gifts to other avenues of performance, including the recording studio. Cinema brought out her singular blend of the earthy and the larger-than-life.
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Queens Boys Make Good, a headline might have read of young Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel when “The Sound of Silence,” a bleakly beautiful, acoustic snapshot of disillusionment and isolation, sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 on New Year’s Day 1966. Simon and Garfunkel were unlikely candidates for pop stardom. Neither English major Simon nor fine arts (later architecture) major Garfunkel hid their cerebral, intellectual tendencies. As the era of the singer-songwriter blossomed in the wake of Bob Dylan’s ascendancy, Garfunkel was, vocally speaking, the anti-Dylan. His pristine high tenor would have found him gainfully employed as a singer in any era. Yet these two articulate young men were also relatable. Fusing a street corner doo-wop sensibility with social consciousness, their music existed at the crossroads of folk, rock and pop, a product of beautiful harmony and well-publicized tension. Roughly six years together yielded just five proper studio albums, plus nine competitive Grammy Awards, seven Top 10 hits, and over ten standards not just of the rock era but of American popular song – not a bad track record at all. Simon & Garfunkel: The Complete Albums Collection, a new box set from Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings, brings together those five studio albums, the duo’s chart-topping soundtrack to The Graduate, their first, 14x Platinum-selling Greatest Hits album, and four live recordings to create an overview of these old friends’ remarkable career.
Paul Simon met Art Garfunkel in the halls of Queens, New York’s P.S. 164 in the sixth grade, with both young men cast in a school production of Alice in Wonderland. They soon bonded over a mutual love of music, and by 1956, Simon and Garfunkel were performing locally as “Tom and Jerry,” modeling themselves on the Everly Brothers, with whom they would later collaborate. Though he and Simon briefly split in the early 1960s, they reunited for 1964’s Wednesday Morning 3 AM, the album which opens the new box set. This low-key, acoustic collection of folk songs included originals by the precociously-talented Simon, covers of Bob Dylan, Ian Campbell and Ed McCurdy, and even traditional tunes like “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Despite the already-apparent magic of their vocal blend, Wednesday Morning was lost in the shuffle of the British Invasion. Simon retreated to England and Garfunkel resumed his studies. When Columbia Records and producer Tom Wilson decided to reissue the album’s “The Sound of Silence” with electric overdubs in September 1965, however, Simon and Garfunkel were presented with ample reason to reform: the song was climbing its way to No. 1. Bob Dylan had gone electric on July 25, 1965, plugging in at the Newport Folk Festival and igniting a revolution. Why shouldn’t have Simon and Garfunkel?
Sophomore LP Sounds of Silence was recorded with producer Bob Johnston in December 1965 during that heady time when “Silence” was making waves in the music industry. Simon’s incisive songwriting was becoming sharper by the day as both his musical and lyrical palettes expanded – taking in gently romantic paeans (“Kathy’s Song”), unconventional character studies (“Richard Cory,” “A Most Peculiar Man”) and an anthemic statement of emotional detachment and alienation (“I Am a Rock”). Many of these songs had first appeared Simon’s solo The Paul Simon Songbook, recorded during his time in London and unavailable for decades, but Garfunkel’s participation took them to the next level.
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Joni Mitchell wasn’t yet 25 when she first gifted the world her song “Both Sides Now.” Judy Collins made its first commercially-released recording; soon artists were lining up to record it, including Frank Sinatra. The 25-year old Mitchell herself released it in 1969. In what might be her most famous song, she asserted, “I really don’t know love at all.” Flash-forward to the present day, and the 71-year old singer-songwriter-artist seems well-acquainted with the vagaries of that most universal subject. Mitchell has curated a retrospective of her career in the form of a new 4-CD box set appropriately entitled Love Has Many Faces. Subtitled A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced, the box finds Mitchell eschewing a traditional approach to create a new creative arc based on her music, assembled in four acts.
Love Has Many Faces doesn’t present its acts as traditional narratives, but rather as thematic suites. Together, they challenge listeners to view Mitchell’s music and career in a new context. Only a rough one-third of the set is drawn from the 1970s, during which she thrived as a leading light of the “singer-songwriter” movement. As a result, favorite songs like “Help Me,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Chelsea Morning,” “Free Man in Paris” and “Woodstock” are nowhere to be found, discarded in favor of lesser-known work from the 1980s and onward. Stylistically, the box also emphasizes the jazz that has long been a vital part of her creative palette. If the resulting compilation of songs drastically underrepresents the folk-rock artist with whom so many of her fans first fell in love, it’s still a sharp, compelling, reflective and deeply personal journey through love and the ways we make contact.
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Producer Andrew Sandoval (the recent The Monkees: Super Deluxe Edition) helms this kink-sized 5-CD kollection of hits, demos, interviews, alternate mixes, session outtakes, 25 previously unavailable tracks, an exclusive 7-inch single and copious, new liner notes!
This 2-CD edition of Warwick’s 1985 album features a bonus disc with 12 additional tracks – three rare single versions and nine previously unreleased recordings, including the Barry Gibb-produced Heartbreaker outtake “Broken Bottles” and two alternate versions of the Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager title track featuring Dionne joined by Luther Vandross!
FTG adds a staggering 19 bonus tracks to create a 2-disc edition of The Queen of Soul’s 1986 album featuring “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” – including rare remixes of five songs as well as the Aretha Megamix! It appears that the companion disc – an expanded edition of Through the Storm – won’t be available until next month.
The Manhattans, Black Tie / Forever by Your Side (Columbia/Funky Town Grooves)
FTG continues its series of reissues from The Manhattans’ catalogue with expanded editions of the legendary vocal group’s 1981 and 1983 albums of silky R&B!
Trip Shakespeare, Applehead Man / Are You Shakespearienced? (Omnivore)
Applehead CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Applehead Translucent Red Vinyl & Download Card: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Are You... CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Are You… Translucent Green Vinyl & Download Card: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Omnivore remasters and expands the first two albums from Minnesota band Trip Shakespeare – the training ground for John Munson and Dan Wilson, two members who would later go on to form Semisonic!
Just two months ago, on October 3 and 4, 2014, Foreigner took the stage at Atlantic City’s Borgata. Now, highlights from those concerts are being released on one budget-priced ($5.99 as of this writing!) CD including the hit songs from 1981’s landmark Foreigner 4 and other favorites. Tracks include “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Cold as Ice,” “Hot Blooded” and “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
Okay, this isn’t a reissue, but we’re looking forward to it all the same. This week, Walt Disney Records releases the original soundtrack to the new film version of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1987 Broadway musical Into the Woods, featuring Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and future Late Late Show host James Corden. The 2-CD edition features all of Sondheim’s songs plus the film’s orchestral underscore.
Sting recently stepped into his Broadway musical The Last Ship for a limited run through January 24; here’s a chance to experience his songs for the musical as performed by the original cast of Michael Esper, Jimmy Nail, Fred Applegate and others. Sting himself is heard on a bonus track singing “What Say You, Meg?” from the show’s impressive score.
It was ambitious, even for Sinatra.
His sixth studio album on his own Reprise label – and one of five full-length LPs released in 1962 alone – would be recorded in Great Britain with a British musical director, producer and personnel, and would feature only songs from British composers. For the quintessentially American singer, it must have been a formidable challenge. But Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain proved that The Voice was up to the task. Over time, it became a highly-regarded album in a considerable canon, and also a “lost” album as American release eluded it until the compact disc era. Now, a remastered and expanded Great Songs is at the heart of a new 3-CD/1-DVD box set from UMe and Frank Sinatra Enterprises under the new Signature Sinatra imprint. Sinatra: London follows 2006’s New York and 2009’s Vegas in celebrating a city near and dear to the late artist via his various performances there over the decades, in this case 1953-1984. The set premieres over 50 previously unreleased tracks on CD and DVD – both live and in the studio – and is a timely reminder on the eve of his 100th anniversary year of Sinatra’s enduring, universal power.
Arranger/conductor Robert Farnon, an accomplished composer of “light music” and a four-time Ivor Novello Award winner, wisely kept Sinatra’s voice front and center on this collection of rich ballads. His gentle a cappella tone opens the album with the title lyric of “The Very Thought of You,” kicking off an understated, dreamy collection. Recording at CTS Studios in Bayswater in June 1962, Farnon provided a lush setting for Sinatra on such classic British songs as Novello’s “We’ll Gather Lilacs,” “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” “We’ll Meet Again” (the wartime anthem so closely associated with Dame Vera Lynn) and Noel Coward’s “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart.” Two songs on the album, “London by Night” and “If I Had You,” marked the third time Sinatra had recorded them, in each case previously at both Columbia and Capitol Records, but Farnon’s orchestrations (as played by a 40-strong orchestra including Sinatra’s regular accompanist, Bill Miller) stand the test of time as the definitive ones.
There’s not a lot of ring-a-ding-ding on Great Songs, just a lot of impeccable singing despite Sinatra’s own belief that his voice was strained. Despite experiencing vocal stress, he used any roughness in his voice in service of the songs. Though Farnon’s evocative string arrangements are most prevalent throughout, the arranger evoked a smoky milieu with brass for “If I Had You,” the sweetly devotional lyrics of which Sinatra embodied with seeming effortlessness and a light swing. On “Now Is the Hour,” Sinatra tempered the sadness of the lyric with just the right note of hope; indeed, some of the vocalist’s most pure singing can be heard as he caresses “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” or conjures up the vivid, romantic imagery of “London by Night.” The London box adds the previously-released outtake “Roses of Picardy” – a haunting performance that would have fit comfortably on the original album – as well as brief but illuminating spoken introductions to each of the original ten songs by Sinatra from an October 21, 1962 BBC radio broadcast of the album.
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For The Monkees, the third time’s the charm. The 1966 debut album from Davy, Micky, Peter and Mike has been expanded twice before on CD – first in 1994 on one CD and then in 2006 as a two-CD set. Rhino Handmade has recently unveiled the third and most comprehensive release of this album yet, and with 45 previously unreleased bonus cuts among its 100 songs, The Monkees: Super Deluxe Edition (R2-543027) is not just Monkee mania, but Monkee manna. The story of this American fab four has been told numerous times on CD, DVD and the printed page over the years, but producer Andrew Sandoval has unearthed plenty of new discoveries on this stellar set which, in a fun touch, is told in reverse chronological order on these three CDs: CD 3 has the pre-Monkees recordings of Jones and Nesmith, CD 2 has the album sessions, and CD 1 has the album as released and the television versions.
Though The Monkees didn’t organically come together as a band, they doubtlessly ended up as one – a triumphant rock-and-roll story. While The Monkees features Jones, Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith primarily as vocalists, the LP boasts songs written and produced by Nesmith, plus instrumental contributions from Tork. Producers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and entrepreneur/mastermind Don Kirshner, weren’t yet ready to hand over creative freedom to their charges, but they certainly surrounded The Monkees with the best. Boyce provided seven compositions – six with Bobby Hart and one with Steve Venet, including “(Theme from) The Monkees,” “I Wanna Be Free” and the No. 1 hit “Last Train to Clarksville.” The album also has tunes from Nesmith (“Papa Gene’s Blues”) David Gates (“Saturday’s Child”), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“Take a Giant Step,” “Sweet Young Thing,” co-written with Nesmith) and Goffin and Russ Titelman (“I’ll Be True to You”). The cream of the crop from the L.A. Wrecking Crew brought their considerable skills to the album, too, including Glen Campbell, James Burton, Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Jim Gordon, Al Casey and Mike Deasy. Upon its release, The Monkees spent 78 weeks on the Billboard chart – thirteen of those at No. 1. It’s still one hell of a record.
The Monkees is presented in mono and stereo on the first disc of this release, with twelve bonuses added including previously unissued mono television versions of many of the tunes, promo spots and jingles. The album successfully showed off The Monkees’ many facets but especially their facility for raw rock. “Saturday’s Child” is a charged, aggressive riff-rocker from future Bread frontman David Gates; country-rock and light psychedelia tinged a number of the songs like Nesmith’s stomping Goffin/King co-written “Sweet Young Thing,” and Boyce and Hart’s ironically rollicking “This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day.” Even Goffin and King were modernizing their style, with Dolenz imploring listeners to “take a giant step outside your mind…” Of course, Tommy and Bobby synthesized their pop mastery with rock-and-roll urgency on the unforgettable Dolenz-sung chart-topper “Last Train to Clarksville.” Of his lead vocals, Davy Jones shone brightest with his tender reading of Boyce and Hart’s “I Wanna Be Free,” which tapped into the zeitgeist of the era with eloquence and emotion. (The “fast version” for TV, with Jones sharing the lead with Dolenz, premieres here in its mono mix. Fascinating though it is, especially with Michel Rubini’s burbling organ part, the producers clearly made the right choice in selecting the touching ballad version for the LP. Other takes of the “fast version” are included on Disc Two.) Even the least enduring songs on The Monkees – like the decent garage-rocker “Let’s Dance On” and the goofy “Gonna Buy Me a Dog” – have charm in abundance.
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