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Ace Soul Round-Up, Part One: Label Unveils Lost Treasures From Sounds of Memphis, Mary Love

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More Lost Soul GemsWhen it comes to vintage soul, no stone is left unturned by the team at Ace and Kent Records.  A number of recent releases hit points from Miami to Memphis, and just about everywhere in between.  In today’s Part One of our Ace Soul Round-Up, we’ll look at releases from the Sounds of Memphis label and vocalist Mary Love!

Memphis is a long way from Hollywood, but the famous MGM lion adorned the releases of the Sounds of Memphis label, subject of Kent’s new More Lost Soul Gems from Sounds of Memphis.  The SOM story began in the early 1960s with entrepreneur Gene Lucchesi, whose family of independent labels struck gold in 1965 with a little song called “Wooly Bully.”  The Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs track caught the attention of the Hollywood giant, who picked the record up and guided it straight to the top of the charts.  Within the next couple of years, the massive success of the danceable garage-rocker had paid for Lucchesi’s Sounds of Memphis studio.  Top quality soul sounds were de rigeur for the studio; its house band was even lured away by Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler to become The Dixie Flyers.  Lucchesi’s studio right-hand man Stan Kesler used SOM as a home base for outside productions, and Lucchesi brought Dan Greer on board as the in-house producer and A&R man.    When Lucchesi and MGM entered into a deal in the early 1970s to team up, the Sounds of Memphis label took flight with releases from The Minits, Barbara Brown, the Ovations, Spencer Wiggins, and others.  When SOM and MGM went their separate ways, the label continued to issue smoldering southern soul from George Jackson, Billy Cee and The Ovations.

More Lost Soul Gems continues Kent’s definitive series reissuing (and in many cases, issuing for the first time) music from Lucchesi’s labels including XL and Sounds of Memphis.  Of its 22 tracks, all but four are previously unissued.  Those four tracks, of course, are genuine rarities: both sides of Carroll Lloyd’s Memphis-recorded single released on Capitol’s Tower subsidiary including a bluesy cover of Johnny Rivers’ chart-topping “Poor Side of Town”; Tommy Raye (later Tommy Tucker)’ s “You Don’t Love Me” as released on XL 101 in 1964; and Willie Cobbs’ 1973 “Hey Little Girl” from the Bracob label. The unreleased material – all recorded in the 1960s and 1970s – includes tracks from George Jackson and the group he produced, The Jacksonians (named for their hometown, not for George, on the Marvin and Tammi classic “If I Could Build My World Around You”), as well as Dan Greer, Stax and Hi veteran keyboardist Art Jerry Miller, and Barbara and the Browns (like George Jackson, subject of their own SOM anthology).  Billy Cee and the Freedom Express’ “Don’t Matter if It’s in the Past” is an Al Green-esque find.  The Donald O’Connor here is, of course, not the MGM star of days gone by, but a soulful singer with “You Don’t Understand Me.”  Dean Rudland has compiled and annotated this collection of deep soul treasures, which has been remastered by Duncan Cowell and includes a 12-page booklet.

After the jump: the scoop on Mary Love, plus track listings and order links for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 28, 2014 at 10:21

Look Through Any Window: The Hollies Mark “50 At Fifty” For Golden Anniversary

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Hollies - 50 at FiftyThe rich harmonies of 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Hollies will be celebrated by the Parlophone label on September 22 in the U.K. and October 21 in the U.S. with the release of 50 at Fifty, a new 3-CD career-spanning anthology of 50 songs originally released between 1963 and the present day (including one previously unissued recording).

The new anthology, officially announced on The Hollies’ website, includes material from the band’s various lineups as originally released on the Parlophone, Polydor, EMI, WEA and Columbia labels. The first disc handily chronicles the band’s classic line-up of Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, Bobby Elliott and Tony Hicks with bassists Eric Haydock and Bernie Calvert, with the remaining two CDs spotlighting the important contributions of future Hollies like Terry Sylvester and Mikael Rickfors. The collection kicks off with every one of the group’s U.K. A-sides between 1963’s debut single “(Ain’t That) Just Like Me” and 1974’s “The Air That I Breathe” save one: 1966’s quirky Burt Bacharach/Hal David film theme “After the Fox,” a duet with Peter Sellers released on the United Artists label. The first six A-sides are presented in mono; every other track on this set is in stereo.

“The Air That I Breathe” was the band’s final U.K. Top 10 hit until 1988, when the reissued “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” reached the chart’s zenith. So from that point on, 50 at 50 offers a selection of key A-sides, flips, live versions and album tracks including a 1976 live performance of “Too Young to Be Married,” Tony Hicks’ hit which wasn’t even released as a single in the U.K.; the reunion single “Stop! In the Name of Love” with Graham Nash and its comparatively rare New Zealand B-side “Let Her Go Down”; tracks from two recent albums featuring current (since 2004) lead vocalist Peter Howarth; and one brand new song, “Skylarks.”

After the jump, we have more details including the complete track listing with discographical annotation and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 27, 2014 at 13:58

Review: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, “Riding Your Way: The Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music 1946-1947″

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Bob Wills - Tiffany Transcriptions“Pull another chair at the table,” comes the invitation that opens Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys’ Riding Your Way, the new deluxe 2-CD set from Real Gone Music (RGM-0244). “Make room in your heart for a friend,” goes the second song on this collection featuring 50 of the never-before-released Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music circa 1946-1947. You’ll want to pull up that chair, and make room for Wills, with this remarkable (and remarkably entertaining) historical find filled with good, old-fashioned cowboy music. Real Gone has given the royal treatment to the King of Western Swing.

Songwriter, fiddler and bandleader Bob Wills carved out his niche in the realm of western swing, playing the music before it even had a name and continuing to do so until his death in 1975. Wills and his band The Texas Playboys flourished in the era of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Sammy Kaye, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. They fused acoustic and electric country-and-western guitars, fiddle and banjo with prominent steel guitar, drums, piano, horns and reeds to create music that combined the excitement of urbane big-band with the rural, downhome charm of country and folk – and above all, was danceable.

1940’s “New San Antonio Rose,” written by Wills, propelled his group to widespread fame.   A recording by Bing Crosby – onetime band singer for Paul Whiteman – sold over one million copies. Wills and the Playboys travelled to Hollywood to star in films like Take Me Back to Oklahoma opposite singing cowboy Tex Ritter, and challenged conventions by bringing horns and drums onto the hallowed stage of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1946 and 1947, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys recorded almost 400 full songs for Tiffany Music, Inc., a body of work that came to be known simply as “the Tiffany Transcriptions.” (Wills was a partner in Tiffany Music.) These recordings were distributed only to radio stations on 16-inch transcription discs, intended for airplay as part of a syndicated radio program featuring Wills and his band.

Recorded by the busy band on Mondays in between tour stops, these recordings consisted of largely on-the-spot arrangements of a wide variety of material from familiar Wills hits to standards, ballads, blues and swing instrumentals. In addition, the 16-inch, 33 1/3 rpm recording format allowed the arrangements room to breathe beyond the standard, three-minute limitation of the era’s typical 10-inch, 78 rpm commercial records. Many of these “Tiffany Transcriptions” were uncovered over the years. Vinyl LPs arrived from the Kaleidoscope label, followed by CDs from Kaleidoscope and Rhino. Then, all of the material on those discs was released in box set form by Collectors’ Choice Music in 2009. The 10-disc box, the label’s first, has since become so rare that a second-hand copy can’t even be found on the usually-redoubtable Amazon.com!

Before 2014, however, less than half of Wills’ transcriptions had been released. For Record Store Day 2014, producers Gordon Anderson, Patrick Milligan and Mike Johnson unveiled a limited-edition EP with ten never-before-released sides – yes, its tracks were never even pressed on transcription discs! Six of those songs appear on Riding Your Way, plus 44 more, drawn from thirteen sessions in 1946 and 1947. (Four songs remain exclusive to the EP, at least for now.) All are sequenced chronologically and grouped by session, with the sessions having taken place between March 25, 1946 and December 30, 1947.

Swing along with us after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 26, 2014 at 10:38

Posted in Bob Wills, Compilations, News, Reviews

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Turn It On Again: New Genesis Anthology Features Greatest Hits, Solo Tracks From Collins, Gabriel, More

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Genesis - R-Kive

Earlier this year, the BBC confirmed plans for the feature-length documentary film Genesis – Together and Apart, chronicling the ups and downs of the 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.  On the heels of that project which featured the cooperation of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett, Rhino (for North America) and Universal (for the rest of the world) have announced the September release of R-Kive, a 3-CD collection continuing the “together and apart” theme.  R-Kive will present a selection of Genesis’ greatest cuts alongside solo and band tracks from each member.  If you were ever looking for one compilation with “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” alongside “Easy Lover,” this is the release for you.

R-Kive is culled from a 42-year period (1970-2012) in which the members of Genesis racked up 14 No. 1 albums in the U.K. alone, and some 300 million records sold worldwide.  The chronologically-sequenced anthology is the first to combine band and solo tracks, but the third overall for the band following 1999’s Turn It on Again: The Hits (reissued and expanded in 2007) and 2004’s three-disc Platinum Collection.  (Mention should also be made of Starbucks’ career-spanning Opus Collection volume, 14 from Our Past, which arrived in 2007 to coincide with the Banks/Collins/Rutherford reunion tour.)  It surveys the band’s entire prog-to-pop journey.

In addition to 22 songs pulled from all of Genesis’ studio albums, each member is represented with three “side” tracks.  From Collins, you’ll hear the hit Philip Bailey duet “Easy Lover” plus “In the Air Tonight” and more surprisingly, “Wake Up Call” from 2002’s Testify.  Gabriel’s solo catalogue has yielded “Solsbury Hill” plus “Biko” and “Signal to Noise.”  Hackett is represented with “Ace of Wands” (1975), “Every Day” (1979) and “Nomads” (2009); Banks with “For a While” (1975), “Red Day on Blue Street” (1991) and the collection’s most recent track, “Siren” (2012); and Rutherford with three songs from Mike and the Mechanics: “Silent Running,” “The Living Years” and “Over My Shoulder.”

Hit the jump for more details including the complete track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 25, 2014 at 11:25

Review: Nils Lofgren, “Face the Music”

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Nils Lofgren - Face the Music Contents

I. See What a Love Can Do

Nils Lofgren was just seventeen years old when Neil Young called upon him to play piano on his third solo album, After the Gold Rush. The guitarist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and onetime child prodigy joined Jack Nitzsche and the men of Crazy Horse – Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina – on an instrument which was largely unfamiliar to him. He added the understated, stark and raw piano parts that Young and producer David Briggs were looking for, and also supplied harmonies and acoustic guitar to the Top 10 album. Young had discovered Lofgren with his band Grin, and Lofgren would parlay his credits with Young into a deal for the band. Though Grin disbanded in 1974 after just four albums, Lofgren’s prolific career hasn’t let up since. Over 20 solo records have followed, as well as guest appearances, soundtrack recordings and various one-offs, not to mention membership in Bruce Springsteen’s legendary E Street Band since 1984. The Detroit native hasn’t yet penned an autobiography, but as a chronicle of the story of his life, chances are one wouldn’t top the massive new box set from Concord Records dedicated to his singular career. Face the Music encompasses 9 CDs and 1 DVD, all in service of an artist whose own music has long taken a supporting role to higher-profile music with the likes of Young and Springsteen. The limited, numbered edition, compiled and annotated by Lofgren, is a quirky yet personal journey with a true musician’s musician.

By the numbers, Face the Music features 169 audio tracks, 40 of which are previously unreleased, and 20 video clips, along with a 132-page softcover book – in other words, a whole lotta Lofgren. It’s far too sprawling to serve as an effective introduction to Lofgren’s art and career, but then, that isn’t the point, is it? For longtime fans who have followed his career, with and without Grin, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, Face the Music is manna. Those fans should carve out the time to explore this set in depth, as it’s not designed for casual listening and is best experienced in chunks, one disc at a time. Following Dave Marsh’s introduction, Lofgren provides comprehensive liner notes – blending autobiography (“I was born in Chicago, on the south side, June 21, 1951,” they begin) with recollections about each and every album represented, plus track-by-track commentary. Testimonials from Lofgren’s famous friends – many of whom are, of course, present on Face the Music – are also included.

Sensibly, the set is organized in chronological fashion beginning with a disc of 21 prime cuts from Grin. (This would be the most comprehensive single-disc Grin compilation available, though there’s one notable omission.) The second CD chronicles the beginning of his solo career and collaborations with producers Briggs, Al Kooper and Andy Newmark from 1975-1977, with the third CD covering 1979-1983 and notable works with co-writers Lou Reed and Dick Wagner, producer Bob Ezrin, and even a guest appearance by Del Shannon. Disc Four commences in 1985, around the time Lofgren began his tenure with E Street, and continues through his two Rykodisc albums from 1991 and 1992; Young, Springsteen, Levon Helm and Ringo Starr all drop by. The next three discs feature the least well-known material, recorded independently of the major labels between 1993 and 2011. Lofgren was completely free to follow his muse, releasing film soundtracks, live albums, and studio efforts including a tribute to Neil Young. Bonnie Bramlett, Willie Nelson, Paul Rodgers, Lou Gramm, Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave) and the duo of David Crosby and Graham Nash show up along the way. The final two discs are dedicated to completely unreleased music – “songs, demos, obscure tracks left behind from recording sessions, back rooms and basements,” as Lofgren describes it. These odds and ends date as far back as the Grin days and feature oddities like tributes to Yankee Stadium and The Washington Bullets from the longtime sports fan, and a song inspired by Lofgren’s close pal, the author Clive Cussler. As is always the case with anthologies, it’s not inconceivable that a favorite track might be missing, but Face the Music admirably covers all of the bases.

Plug in with us after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 21, 2014 at 13:32

Gentlemen, Please! Croydon Collects “Mid-Century Minx,” “Soho Blondes” and Other Pop Pleasures

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Mid Century MinxBob Stanley’s Croydon Municipal label has carved out a niche as part of Cherry Red’s label roster with its eclectic compilations and album reissues from the 1950s and early 1960s focusing on dusty corners of classic American pop ripe for reevaluation.  Three of Stanley’s latest projects continue that mission with the compiler’s usual flair for the unexpected.  The anthology Mid Century Minx focuses on many of the lesser-known ladies of vocal jazz along with some still-beloved (if underrated) performers like Jo Stafford, Anita O’Day and Broadway’s Dolores Gray.  Soho Blondes and Peeping Toms lives up to its subtitle of “Saucy Vocals and Piquant Pop from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” while Croydon’s reissue of Corky Hale reintroduces listeners to the titular harpist and the jazz sextet she led for one “lost” album.

Stanley, whose wonderfully ambitious Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop surely contains enough opinions to delight and anger most readers of this site, begins his notes for Mid Century Minx with a truthful admission: “Some days, it isn’t hard to see why rock ‘n’ roll pissed off so many people.  Here is a collection from an era of urbane, sophisticated music, taken from a bunch of captivating albums by female jazz singers made in the 1950s and the early ’60s, after which time this luscious American art form was swept aside by self-sufficient guitar bands.”  Indeed, rock and roll gave a shot of adrenaline to popular music and empowered the burgeoning youth culture – but at what cost?  Mid Century Minx answers that question with 20 well-chosen tracks from an eclectic array of the ladies of vocal jazz.   The likes of Jeri Southern, Stafford, O’Day and Gray are still known to many, but most of the women here are ripe for rediscovery.

There are collaborations with other famed musicians such as Miles Davis’ great orchestral collaborator Gil Evans on Lucy Reed’s “No Moon at All” and Marcy Lutes’ “Travelin’ Light,” Oscar Peterson on Toni Harper’s “Can’t We Be Friends” and “Mack the Knife” arranger Richard Wess on Sallie Blair’s “Better Luck Next Time.”  These cool, smoky tracks bring to mind the urbane soundtrack to a cocktail party for the swells; the only major liability here is the complete lack of songwriter, producer and arranger credits along with any kind of discographical annotation.  (Stanley does provide biographical details in his entertaining essay.)   Alas, the lack of credits extends to our next title, as well.

Soho BlondesSoho Blondes and Peeping Toms! takes listeners back to the Soho described by Stanley as “the bohemian epicenter of London,” the place which writer Colin Wilson once boasted had “the futile fascination of forbidden fruit, the heady intoxication of a bogus Baudelairean romantic evil.”  Today, Soho is rather less seedy, though some licensed sex shops still flourish among the trendy restaurants and clubs, fashionable retail, record shops, West End theatres, LGBT-friendly venues, and the like.   This 25-track compilation follows up Stanley’s It’s a Scandal! Songs for Soho Blondes, released on the Fantastic Voyage label.  Whereas that release “explored the songs and saucy instrumentals built to accompany strip shows in clubs where the champagne tasted like cherry cola,” this sequel focuses instead on pop songs that conjure up the patrons of such establishments.

Personnel here are expectedly eclectic.  A few American artists have made their way into this mixture including Peggy Lee and her onetime husband Dave Barbour on “Sweetheart” and “Bu Bam,” respectively, as well as Kay Starr (“Bossa Nova Casanova”).  Famed Brit arranger Johnnie Spence (Matt Monro, Tom Jones) is represented with “Sugar Beat.”  Johnnie Scott, who played saxophone for Goldfinger and flute on The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” appears here on the George Martin-produced “Hi Flutin’ Boogie.”  Welsh singer Ricky Valance’s “Lipstick on Your Lips” was written by Sherman Edwards (1776, “See You in September”) and Hal David, while Bob Hilliard – another Burt Bacharach collaborator – co-wrote The Friday Knights’ “Don’t Open That Door” with future Tonight Show and Gong Show bandleader Milton DeLugg.  Campy, jazzy, and brassy, the music of Soho Blondes and Peeping Toms might leave you asking the question performed by Kenny Day on a 1960 Top Rank single included here, “Why Don’t We Do This More Often?”

After the jump: the scoop on Corky Hale, plus track listings and order links for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 21, 2014 at 10:32

Ziggy Played Guitar: David Bowie’s “Sound + Vision” to Be Reissued

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Bowie - Sound and Vision CoverGround control to Major Tom: Sound and Vision is back for a third go-round.

As part of the breakup of EMI that left most – but not all – of the former monolith controlled by Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group acquired the venerable Parlophone label, founded in 1896 and onetime home to The Beatles. Though Universal kept the Fab Four, Warner obtained current artists like Coldplay and the back catalogues of classic ones like The Hollies and Matt Monro…and a certain David Bowie. Parlophone hasn’t announced any major plans for Bowie’s albums as of yet; in-print titles such as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars were simply repressed with the new label logo (replacing that of EMI label Virgin Records, now controlled by Universal). Parlophone has also offered a number of Record Store Day vinyl exclusives bearing the Bowie imprimatur. On September 23, the label has a repackaged version of the artist’s out-of-print, 4-CD Sound + Vision anthology returning to stores.

Named for the track on Bowie’s album Low, Sound + Vision was first issued in 1989 by Rykodisc. That independent label, now also controlled by Warner, had just gained the rights to the Bowie-controlled masters of his pre-1983 albums formerly available on RCA. Housed in an LP-sized box, the original Sound + Vision boasted three CDs (or six LPs or three cassettes) spanning the period between Bowie’s second, self-titled album in 1969 and 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). It blended familiar songs and rare or previously unissued alternate versions of familiar songs with rarities, and also included a CD-Video disc with three previously unreleased recordings and the video of “Ashes to Ashes.” This impressive set won a Grammy Award for Best Album Package and racked up staggering sales for an expensive box set, eventually being certified Gold in the U.S. (and entering the Top 100 of the Billboard 200), Platinum in the U.K., and 4x Platinum (!) in Canada.

Rykodisc reissued Sound + Vision in 1995, streamlining the packaging and replacing the disc in the defunct CD-V format with a standard CD-ROM. The next iteration of the set came in 2003, by which time Bowie had moved his catalogue from Rykodisc to EMI’s Virgin Records label. This version of Sound + Vision dropped the “Vision” (the CD-V/CD-ROM!), added a fourth CD to cover the period of 1982-1997, and moreover, tweaked the original track listing. Though the original’s 50 tracks (including the bonus video disc) had grown to 67, a few of the original tracks were replaced with alternate versions of the same songs (“The Wild-Eyed Boy from Freecloud,” “London Bye Ta-Ta,” “Round and Round,” “Fascination”) and all four performances from the CD-V were dispensed with entirely.

What can you expect on the new version?  Hit the jump for details including the complete track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 19, 2014 at 09:44

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