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Release Round-Up: Week of July 29

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Allman Brothers - Fillmore BoxThe Allman Brothers Band, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings (Mercury/UMe)

The four shows in March 1971 that made up the band’s legendary breakthrough album are presented in full for the first time, along with the group’s closing set at the Fillmore East that following June. The Blu-ray version features the material in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound.

6CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3-BD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
4LP Highlights: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Dream Academy - Morning LastedPeggy Lipton, The Complete Ode Recordings / Gene Rains, Far Away Lands — The Exotic Music of Gene Rains /How to Stuff a Wild Bikini: Original Stereo Soundtrack / Cass Elliot, Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore Plus Rarities – Her Final Recordings / Dee Dee Warwick, The Complete Atco Recordings / The Shirelles, Happy and in Love/Shirelles / The Dream AcademyThe Morning Lasted All Day — A Retrospective (Real Gone Music)

This diverse Real Gone set includes a compilation from underrated ’80s synthpop group The Dream Academy and recordings from Peggy Lipton, star of The Mod Squad; she covers the songs of Carole King, Laura Nyro, Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Jimmy Webb on this release, which has liner notes from our own Joe Marchese!

Peggy Lipton: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Gene Rains: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Wild BikiniAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Cass Elliot: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Dee Dee Warwick: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Shirelles: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Dream Academy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Deep Purple Mark 1Deep Purple, Hard Road: The Mark 1 Studio Recordings 1968-1969 (Parlophone U.K.)

Deep Purple’s first three albums get the box set treatment with bonus tracks and stereo and mono mixes of the first two albums. (Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.)

Get On UpJames Brown, Get on Up: The James Brown Story – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Polydor/UMe)

In honor of the new film opening this week, Universal’s got a new JB compilation, naturally featuring a pair of unreleased live tracks from 1966. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The BreezeEric Clapton and Friends, The Breeze (An Appreciation of J.J. Cale) (Bushbranch/Surfdog)

The legendary bluesman and some famous friends (Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Mark Knopfler, John Mayer) pay tribute to the late blues singer-songwriter on this new album.

Standard Edition: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD Box Set: Surfdog Records
4LP: Surfdog Records

LC CookeL.C. Cooke, The Complete SAR Records Recordings (ABKCO)

This anthology collects the complete recordings of L.C. Cooke for his older brother Sam’s SAR Records label, including one complete shelved album produced and largely written by Sam, plus alternate takes, unreleased tracks, session chatter and bonus recordings from the Checker and Destination labels!  Musicians include Bobby and Cecil Womack, Billy Preston and “Pink Panther” saxophonist Plas Johnson! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

I Hope We Get to Love in TimeSilver Convention, Get Up and Boogie: Expanded Edition / Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., I Hope We Get to Love in Time: Expanded Edition / Phyllis Nelson, Move Closer (Big Break Records)

Big Break has three more R&B classics arriving on CD this week  including the first post-5th Dimension album from Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. featuring their smash “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show).”

Silver Convention: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Marilyn & Billy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Phyllis Nelson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Super ChiefVan Dyke Parks, Super Chief (Yep Roc)

Yep Roc reissues Van Dyke Parks’ 2013 “orchestral fantasy” on standalone CD (previously only available as part of a Record Store Day vinyl package) for the first time! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

GOTG SoundtrackVarious Artists, Guardians of the Galaxy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack/Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (Hollywood Records)

Here’s the only collection approved for listening by The Star Lord! This indeed-awesome all-catalogue mix includes vintage cuts from The Jackson 5, The Raspberries, David Bowie, The Runaways, Blue Swede, Rupert Holmes and more – all but one of which (Norman Greenbaum’s immortal “Spirit in the Sky”) play key roles in the Marvel blockbuster-to-be! Also available as part of a 2CD or 2LP deluxe edition also including the film’s orchestral score by Tyler Bates!

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Essential NSYNC*NSYNC, The Essential *NSYNC (Jive/Legacy)

This two-disc set from the late ’90s/early ’00s boy band lives up to its name for fans, featuring all the great hits (“Bye Bye Bye,” “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” “Pop”) plus a myriad of rarities from compilations, soundtracks and international pressings. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ghostbusters_SoundtrackVarious Artists, Ghostbusters: Original Soundtrack Album (Arista/Legacy)

A sequel of sorts to the Record Store Day single co-produced by our own Mike Duquette, this is a straight reissue of the original soundtrack, newly remastered for vinyl. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ace’s “Girls with Guitars 3″ Features Guitar Rock From Jackie DeShannon, Brenda Lee, Goldie and the Gingerbreads, More

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Girls with Guitars 3Ace Records began its Girls with Guitars CD series in 2004.  That first volume took its inspiration from a 1989 LP issued by the label and featured 24 tracks from lesser-known American girl groups worthy of attention from garage-rock fans.  The music of Girls with Guitars was diverse, encompassing a variety of sixties sounds from garage to pop and soul.  A second volume, Destroy That Boy: More Girls with Guitars, followed in 2009 ramping up the star wattage with a couple of mind-blowing cuts by Ann-Margret.  Now, Volume 3 – entitled The Rebel Kind after Lee Hazlewood’s song famously recorded by Dino, Desi and Billy and surveyed here by New Zealand’s The Chicks – collects 24 more rockin’ girl rarities from the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Japan and beyond.

The most famous names on The Rebel Kind belong to Jackie DeShannon and Brenda Lee.  Jackie has been a fixture on the Ace scene, with the label offering volumes of her complete Liberty and Imperial singles as well as a collection of her work as a songwriter.  (A second such volume is on the way.)  Girls with Guitars naturally indulges the more rocking side of the “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and “What the World Needs Now is Love” chanteuse, featuring her 1964 recording of “Dream Boy,” recording during the same London trip that yielded her folk-rock gem “Don’t Turn Your Back on Me.”  Jimmy Page, then a hot session guitar slinger, joins Jackie on the track.  Nashville queen and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” gal Brenda Lee also found herself in London in 1964 with Jimmy Page at her side and on fire.  With producer Mickie Most (The Animals, Donovan), Lee recorded the version of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” heard here.

Donovan himself is represented with “You Just Gotta Know My Mind” from actress, singer and future David Bowie pal and collaborator Dana Gillespie.  The Donovan tune was Gillespie’s first single for Decca Records, and yup, featured the ubiquitous Page!    Donovan isn’t the only famous name here in the songwriting department.  Bob Dylan’s “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” is heard via a 1966 single by The Honeybeats – in Italian!  Brill Building stalwarts Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Chico’s Girl” was cut in Los Angeles by producer and Wrecking Crew sax man Steve Douglas for a 1966 single reprised here.  L.A. band The Turtles served as the backing group for The Chymes on another sound of ’66 –the Chattahoochee Records single “He’s Not There Anymore,” written and produced by Nita Garfield and her boyfriend, The Turtles’ Howard Kaylan.

Rock on after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 25, 2014 at 10:49

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

Release Round-Up: Week of July 22

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Beatles - Japan BoxThe Beatles, The Japan Box (Apple/UMe)

Stereo remasters, mono remasters, U.S. albums…and now, the first five albums from Japan on CD! What will they think of next? (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Herbie Hancock - WB YearsHerbie Hancock, The Warner Bros. Years: 1969-1972 (Rhino)

UPDATE: This title has been delayed to August 5.  Three Warner Bros. albums (released before Herbie prolifically joined Columbia), each expanded with rare and unreleased promo single versions. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Lost Time in a BottleJim Croce, Lost Time in a Bottle (Cleopatra)

A compilation of rare and unreleased demos and live performances from the celebrated singer, including two sets from 1964 and 1973. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The Power and the GloryGentle Giant, The Power and the Glory (Alucard)

Steven Wilson remixes Gentle Giant’s 1974 album in stereo and 5.1 on a variety of formats!

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
DVD-Audio/CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Blu-ray Audio/CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Roslyn KindRoslyn Kind, Give Me You/This is Roslyn Kind (Masterworks Broadway)

Masterworks brings together the 1969 and 1968 RCA albums from Barbra Streisand’s talented half-sister, Roslyn Kind, on one CD-R or DD – including songs by Harry Nilsson, Jimmy Webb, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and more!

Steve Lawrence Walking ProudSteve Lawrence with Eydie Gorme, Walking Proud: The Teen Pop Sides 1959-1966 (Teensville/Rare Rockin’ Records)

The Australian Teensville label compiles 33 sides from Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, individually and collectively, concentrating on the Brill Building-style pop songs they recorded for the ABC-Paramount, United Artists and Columbia labels! (Amazon U.S.)

Rio VINYLDuran Duran, Rio (Expanded Vinyl) (Parlophone)

This 180-gram, 2LP version of the classic New Wave album (possibly available when the album was expanded in 2009) features the original U.K. album master of Rio with a bonus 12″ featuring five remixes by David Kershenbaum for the original U.S. pressing. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

July 22, 2014 at 07:59

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

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

Oh! Oh! Here He Comes: Herbie Hancock’s “Warner Bros. Years” Revisited On Expanded New Set

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Herbie Hancock - WB YearsHerbie Hancock began his career as a leader with the appropriately-titled 1962 release Takin’ Off on the Blue Note label.  Supported by Dexter Gordon on tenor saxophone, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Butch Warren on bass and Billy Higgins on drums, it was – and is – an electrifying debut for the pianist.  Though rooted firmly in the hard bop idiom, Takin’ Off spawned a pop hit with “Watermelon Man,” first in Hancock’s Top 100 rendition and then in Mongo Santamaria’s Top 10 version.  Hancock remained at Blue Note for seven albums, through 1969, collaborating with legends like Hubert Laws, Willie Bobo, Paul Chambers, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, and his partners in Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet, Tony Williams and Ron Carter.  Hancock departed Blue Note for the Warner Bros. label, where he remained for three albums and roughly three years.  That oft-overlooked period of Hancock’s career will be newly anthologized on July 22 with the release of the 3-CD set The Warner Bros. Years: 1969-1972.

By the end of his Blue Note tenure, Hancock had carved out a post-bop niche, pushing the envelope of melody and improvisation and incorporating textures derived from his groundbreaking work with Davis’ group as well as from rock and soul.  He made his Warner Bros. debut with the December 1969 release Fat Albert Rotunda.  Much of the album’s music derived from Hancock’s compositions for Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert, the NBC primetime special that introduced Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert alter ego.  Fat Albert Rotunda was a leap forward from Hancock’s Blue Note work, emphasizing soul rather than pure jazz and looking forward to his future groundbreaking jazz-funk period.  For the LP, songwriter-leader-producer Hancock was joined by personnel including Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone and alto flute, Johnny Coles on trumpet and flugelhorn, Garnett Brown on trombone, Buster Williams on bass, and Albert Heath on drums, as well as some originally-uncredited players including Joe Farrell (tenor sax), Eric Gale (guitar), Joe Newman (trumpet), and Bernard Purdie (drums).

Mwandishi, released in early 1970 under the aegis of producer David Rubinson, featured just three lengthy compositions.  It was his most pronounced jazz-rock fusion album yet, and he took the Swahili name “Mwandishi” for its recording.  Hancock on the Fender Rhodes electric piano was joined by Buster Williams on bass, Billy Hart on drums, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Bennie Maupin on woodwinds and Julian Priester on trombone, all of whom also adopted Swahili names for this spacey effort.  Rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose of the band Montrose even contributed guitar.  Two of its tracks were composed by Hancock, with the third – the almost 22-minute long “Wandering Spirit” on Side Two – written by Priester.  Employing proto-funk and free-form jazz, Mwandishi felt like a logical extension of Hancock’s work with Davis.

Herbie Hancock’s final Warner Bros. album proved to be 1972’s Crossings, which pushed his exploration of fusion and electronic textures even further into the realm of the avant garde.  He played piano, electric piano, mellotron and percussion on the challenging LP, with Patrick Gleeson on the Moog synthesizer.  A quintet of singers rounded out the line-up, with David Rubinson again producing.  The personnel of Mwandishi returned for another three long tracks, including the nearly 25-minute five-part suite “Sleeping Giant” which occupied the first side of the original vinyl.

After the jump: what extra material will you find on this new collection? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 15, 2014 at 12:44

Release Round-Up: Week of July 15

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AWB BoxAverage White Band, All the Pieces: The Complete Studio Recordings 1971-2003 (Edsel)

Nineteen discs of AWB goodness, including two discs of rarities? Now that’s something to blow your horn over. Full specs will be posted later today. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Coltrane SidemanJohn Coltrane and Friends, Sideman: Trane’s Blue Note Sessions (Blue Note)

Three discs of ‘Trane’s time as a sideman, with performances by Miles and Monk, all in glorious mono. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Garcia Live 4The Jerry Garcia Band, Garcia Live Volume 4: March 22, 1978 – Veteran’s Hall (ATO)

The latest volume in this official vintage live series is an unreleased, double-disc show of Garcia and band (including fellow Dead Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux) in Sebastopol, California. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

July 15, 2014 at 08:08

Review: Real Gone Goes Soulful With Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, Irma Thomas

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Labelle BluebellsDuring its mid- to late-sixties heyday, Atlantic had two “girl groups” on its roster: The Sweet Inspirations and Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. It’s appropriate, then, that SoulMusic and Real Gone has a companion release to The Sweet Inspirations’ singles anthology with Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles’ 2-CD set The Complete Atlantic Sides Plus (RGM-0237/OPCD-8839) featuring Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash and Cindy Birdsong. Like The Sweet Inspirations and Irma Thomas collections, this set premieres some previously unreleased material – four songs, in fact.

Philadelphia’s Bluebelles had much in common with The Sweet Inspirations beyond the fact that they were both soulful African-American foursomes recording for Atlantic within roughly the same timeframe. Like The Sweet Inspirations, one member defected during their time at the label; in this case it was Cindy Birdsong, who decamped in 1967 to become a Supreme. Both groups recorded under the aegis of Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd, both shared access to the same pool of songwriters (Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, Burt Bacharach and Hal David) and both even shared some of the same repertoire (Wexler and Bert Berns’ “I Don’t Want to Go on Without You”). What was different about The Bluebelles? That much is obvious from the very first track here – “Danny Boy,” the 1913 song based on the 19th century Irish melody “Londonderry Air.” Okay, so the group didn’t typically stretch back that far, but the Bluebelles were firmly rooted in the standards and showtunes which occupy roughly half of this set’s first disc. Having mastered the music of the classic songwriters from Harold Arlen to Jule Styne, they were able to bring their interpretive gifts to edgy fare from Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Williams, Jr. a.k.a. “Swamp Dogg,” and eventually morph into the glam-soul Labelle.

Producer David Nathan has sequenced this collection of The Bluebelles’ complete Atlantic recordings (live and in the studio) in the order of recording rather than by albums, singles, etc. The girls first graced the Atlantic label with their performance at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater in 1964 alongside The Drifters, Wilson Pickett and Barbara Lynn. Although only one song from their set made the original LP (“Down the Aisle,” issued in its studio version on the small Newtown label in 1963), five songs appear here. These reflect the group’s artistic diversity – “Danny Boy,” the Jimmy McHugh/Harold Adamson classic “Where Are You,” the smoldering R&B of the then-recent Baby Washington hit “That’s How Heartaches are Made” and the sweet, doo-wop-inflected R&B of “Down the Aisle” and “One Phone Call.” Atlantic snapped the group up and assigned them to hot producer and Wexler pal Bert Berns.

Disc One contains the entirety of the 1966 Berns-produced Over the Rainbow LP as well as the live Saturday Night at the Uptown tracks and half of 1967’s Dreamer LP which was derived from various sessions and producers.  Disc Two picks up with the balance of Dreamer and more singles and unreleased cuts – including many more original songs that attempted to give the group more of an identity.

Berns tried the group on a variety of sides designed to show off their many facets – intense soul (“Patti’s Prayer”), light pop (“Groovy Kind of Love,” previously cut by the duo Diane and Annita and destined for a hit via The Mindbenders and decades later, Phil Collins), contemporary Broadway favorites (“Who Can I Turn To,” “People”), and classics (“Unchained Melody,” “Ebb Tide”). Berns oversaw Patti and the Bluebelles’ recording of his own driving “You Forgot How to Love,” but his most memorable recording with the group might be their shimmering “Over the Rainbow,” still a signature song of Patti LaBelle’s today. These early sides emphasized pop over R&B, but the blend of stirring vocals with sweet orchestral settings doesn’t disappoint. Only minor commercial inroads were made, however. At a peak of No. 20 R&B, “Over the Rainbow” would be the group’s biggest chart success at Atlantic. Jerry Wexler believed that Pam Sawyer and Lori Burton’s “All or Nothing,” with its dramatic strings and powerfully dense production, was a hit record. You’ll think so, too, rediscovering it here.

The vocal blend that would become famous in Labelle had its roots in the Bluebelles’ sound, and while Patti LaBelle’s big voice – alternately playfully coquettish and thunderously soulful – led her to solo stardom, the roles of Birdsong, Dash and Hendryx in the Bluebelles sound can’t be underplayed. Following the Berns sessions, Atlantic tried a variety of approaches on Cindy, Sarah, Nona and Patti with sessions in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and possibly Memphis. Curtis Mayfield’s sensually slow-burning “I’m Still Waiting” should have crossed over in 1966, but had to be content with a Top 40 R&B placing. Its B-side, “Family Man,” showed off a funkier style. The Philly session in September 1966 with arranger Richie Rome and producer Bob FIniz yielded, ironically, another Berns tune (“I Don’t Want to Go on Without You”) and a storming, unusual take on Bacharach and David’s “Always Something There to Remind Me.” Patti and co. returned to Philly in mid-1967 to cut another couple of songs with future MFSB players Norman Harris and Ronnie Baker among the musicians: Lorraine Ellison’s torrid “Oh My Love” and Nona’s own, dynamic “I Need Your Love.”

After the jump: more on The Bluebelles, plus a look at Irma Thomas’ Lost Cotillion Album!

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Written by Joe Marchese

July 14, 2014 at 12:01

Review: The Sweet Inspirations, “The Complete Atlantic Singles Plus”

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Sweet Inspirations - Atlantic Singles PlusReal Gone Music and SoulMusic Records have dug deep into the Atlantic Records vaults for a trio of rarities-packed complete releases from The Sweet Inspirations, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles and Irma Thomas! Right now, let’s take a look at the music made by Cissy Houston and co. as The Sweet Inspirations!

Today, The Sweet Inspirations might be best-remembered as Elvis Presley’s preferred onstage backup group, but The King was just one of a staggering number of artists supported by the group, among them Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett, even Jimi Hendrix. But Atlantic Records rightfully believed in the group as headliners, too – hence, the Real Gone/SoulMusic co-production of The Sweet Inspirations’ Complete Atlantic Singles – Plus (RGM-0263/OPCD-8853).

The classic, pre-“Elvis years” Sweet Inspirations recording line-up of Cissy Houston, Sylvia Shemwell, Myrna Smith and Estelle Brown evolved from the Drinkard Singers/Gospelaires families that also famously included Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick (Houston’s nieces) and Judy Clay (Shemwell’s sister). After backing Atlantic’s soul royalty, Jerry Wexler ushered the girls into Atlantic’s New York studios in 1967 for their very own session. The group recorded five albums and numerous singles for the label between 1967 and 1971; all of those 45s and a smattering of previously unreleased tracks are collected here for the first time. Only one cut made the Top 40 of the Hot 100, though – unsurprisingly – many more of the group’s vividly impassioned, often gritty songs scored on the R&B chart. Though The Complete Atlantic Singles features songs from Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, The Brothers Gibb, Carole King, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David, The Sweet Inspirations turned pop into pure deep soul.

What’s most immediately evident on these 37 tracks (three of which are previously unissued, hence the title’s “Plus”) on 2 CDs is the unusually supple sound for a foursome. Estelle recalls in David Nathan’s superb notes that the group was “famous for…moving harmonies up and interchanging parts so that the background vocals sounded so full, almost like a choir.” Indeed, the members’ gospel roots informed every performance. Jerry Wexler, and later Tom Dowd and the team of Brad Shapiro and Dave Crawford, knew this and supplied the Sweet Inspirations with songs they could plumb for raw emotion.   Bert Berns, a master of desperation in song, co-wrote “I Don’t Want to Go on Without You” with Wexler, first recorded by The Drifters and also by Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. It became the group’s first B-side, supporting a wrenching version of The Staple Singers’ “Why (Am I Treated So Bad).”

Wexler had a knack for importing southern soul sounds to New York (frequently by bringing bands north to Atlantic’s studios) but he sent the Sweet Inspirations directly to the source in Muscle Shoals, Alabama as well as Memphis, Tennessee. Producers Tom Dowd and Tommy Cogbill oversaw their spine-tingling version of Dan Penn and Chips Moman’s “Do Right Woman-Do Right Man” at the same 1967 Memphis session that yielded a dramatic take on Bacharach and David’s “Reach Out for Me.” Penn also scored the group its first and only Top 20 Pop hit with the Spooner Oldham co-write “Sweet Inspiration.” Naturally, the duo wrote it specifically for them.

The Sweet Inspirations’ sound wouldn’t have proven incompatible at Stax, and in fact, the post-Cissy Houston trio line-up recorded an album for the venerable Memphis label. At Atlantic, the girls recorded 45 RPM slices of Stax soul by Otis Redding (an intense “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”), Isaac Hayes and David Porter (“When Something is Wrong with My Baby”), Booker T. Jones and William Bell (“Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday”) and Steve Cropper and the “Wicked” Wilson Pickett (the brassy, up-tempo groover “Don’t Fight It”).

Don’t miss anything – hit the jump to keep reading! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 9, 2014 at 10:02

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