Archive for the ‘Features’ Category
Look! Up in the sky! It’s the return of the Friday Feature!
When a mad scientist threatens Metropolis, it’s Superman to the rescue…right? What if Superman wasn’t there? What if the Man of Steel was otherwise occupied, being honored for his heroic deeds by a group of local kids at the very moment City Hall was being blown up? Faced with his inability to save the day, would the Last Son of Krypton finally be pushed over the edge?
That’s not a story you’ll find in any DC Comic, however, now or then. Rather, it’s the plot of the 1966 Broadway musical It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, currently being revived in New York for a limited run through March 24 as part of City Center’s Encores! series. Years before Julie Taymor and Bono infamously brought Spider-Man to Broadway, producer-director Harold Prince, songwriters Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, and writers Robert Benton and David Newman saw the potential in bringing Clark Kent, Lois Lane and company to the musical stage. The team devised a plot about a revenge-crazed scientist and expanded the traditional Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Superman love triangle by adding Jim Morgan, a paramour for Lois, and Sydney, a suitor for Clark. Yet Superman folded after just 129 performances, despite three Tony-nominated performances and a deliciously enjoyable score that’s endured thanks to the Columbia Records cast album produced by the label’s chief, Goddard Lieberson. With Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s timeless creation once again taking down the bad guys on a New York stage, the time has never been better to revisit this oft-forgotten part of the Superman mythos.
Are you able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Okay, just “jump” to keep reading! Read the rest of this entry »
Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we spotlight notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Thirty years ago today, one of the best synth-rock bands of the 1980s released their first full-length album – as good a time as any to champion the career of Tears for Fears!
“Is it an horrific dream?
Am I sinking fast?”
- “The Hurting,” Tears for Fears
From the beginning of the first side of Tears for Fears’ debut LP, it’s honestly kind of hard to predict where they’d end up. Maybe that’s the secret to their intrigue all these years later – if not the catchy melodies and dense lyrics of their body of work.
On March 7, 1983, Phonogram Records in the U.K. issued the band’s first full-length record, The Hurting, and further pushed them down the path to international success. That said, TFF still don’t truly get their due as a group – which brings us to this revisitation of the record that started it all, so to speak.
Of course, the TFF story actually begins much earlier, somewhere in the late 1970s in the sleepy town of Bath, England. Teenagers Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith meet and decide to pool their mutual interests in making music. They first join a local group called Neon, who become known far more for what their members would accomplish after the group broke up. (Drummer Manny Elias and guitarist Neil Taylor would work with Tears for Fears throughout the next decade, while principal members/songwriters Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher formed the successful synth-pop duo Naked Eyes.)
Their first fully-formed group, a mod-cum-New Wave group called Graduate, nicks the lowest dregs of the charts and break up during the sessions for their second album. By that point, Orzabal and Smith are far less interested in making straightforward pop/rock and, despite their proficiency with stringed instruments (Orzabal on guitar, Smith on bass), experiment with synthesizers and more overt New Wave styles of production.
Also notable alongside the tonal shift is an increasing interest in psychology and its thematic effect on the duo’s songwriting. Orzabal, in particular, whose family life is decidedly non-traditional (his father managed local entertainers before suffering a nervous breakdown), becomes attracted to the works of Arthur Janov, whose primal scream therapy was championed by John Lennon in the immediate aftermath of The Beatles’ breakup. Directly inspired by a passage in The Primal Scream, Orzabal and Smith change their band name from History of Headaches to Tears for Fears, and pen songs full of drama and angst but with surprisingly deft musical chops to back it up, combining gurgling keyboard riffs courtesy of keyboardist Ian Stanley with muscular rock hooks and distinctive vocals from the full-throated tenor of Orzabal as well as the more introspective Smith. Elias’ strong drumming rounded out the initial lineup, although Orzabal and Smith have long been considered the major nucleus of the band, particularly after Stanley and Elias departed in the late ’80s.
Tears for Fears were signed to Phonogram in 1981 and get to work on several singles – none of which you’ll easily find on CD. The history behind those tracks – and the ones you know – are after the jump!
Vinny Vero is everywhere. I don’t mean this in just a literal sense – as of this posting, he’s currently in Australia playing several DJ sets – but he’s also had a multifaceted career in the music business, be it as a marketer, producer, remixer or writer. “This year is my 25th anniversary in the music business,” he told The Second Disc with a laugh. “All of a sudden I feel very experienced!”
Vero parlayed his passion for music into a plum gig as a research manager for prominent New York radio station WHTZ-FM. From there, he spent five fruitful years doing marketing and catalogue work for EMI, working with such artists as Roxette, Blondie, and the Pet Shop Boys. After leaving the company, he continued to hone his marketing skills, but never strayed too far from records, independently producing compilations and “reswizzling” tunes for dance clubs. Last year, Vero began producing reissues for the U.K.’s Cherry Red Group; their first collaboration, a two-disc expansion of Breathe’s hit LP All That Jazz, was released in Europe this week.
Last year, as he was putting the finishing touches on All That Jazz, Vero took time out of his busy schedule to talk to The Second Disc about his work and career. I think you’ll find it a fascinating and informative read about what it’s like to work in an ever-changing industry, all the while working hard and loving what you do – easily the best way to survive in the catalogue music game.
After the jump, we talk to Vinny about all his work, great and small!
Fanny, Fanny / Freddie King, The Complete King Federal Singles (2-CD Set) / Rod McKuen, Sold Out at Carnegie Hall (2-CD Deluxe Edition) / Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm (Deluxe Edition) / Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys, The Street Giveth…and the Street Taketh Away / The Hello People, Fusion / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks 25 – May 10, 1978 New Haven, CT / May 11, 1978 Springfield, MA (4-CD Set) (Real Gone Music)
Much to enjoy from Real Gone today: four discs of live Dead, deluxe editions from beloved songwriter/poet Rod McKuen, Freddie King’s A’s and B’s for King and Federal and Cat Mother and The All Night Newsboys’ The Street Giveth…, produced by Jimi Hendrix.
Breathe, All That Jazz: Deluxe Edition (Cherry Pop)
The underrated, dreamy debut album that spawned some major international hits in “Hands to Heaven” and “How Can I Fall” is expanded by Cherry Pop as a two-disc set with many B-sides and remixes. Check back later this week for a special interview with Vinny Vero, the veteran compilation producer/remixer who produced this reissue! (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)
Kirsty MacColl, A New England: The Very Best of Kirsty MacColl (Salvo)
A brand-new Kirsty MacColl compilation (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.), featuring many of her non-LP singles. An Amazon U.K. edition features exclusive art cards and a DVD of music videos along with the standard package.
From Ace comes a nice tribute to one of the best songwriting duos of the century. Features hits like “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “On Broadway” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)
Chita Rivera, Chita! / And Now I Sing! (Stage Door)
Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Today, two decades after its release, we imagine an expanded edition of an album that sent an iconic ’80s band flying into the new decade – and back toward the top of the charts.
The bizarre narrative that seems to plague pop music is that, with each new decade, the trends of the last 10 years should be relegated to the past as soon as possible. The psychedelic sounds of the ’60s weren’t immediately swept away in the ’70s, but acts had to adapt considerably, lest they be drowned out by harder-edged rock, glam, disco and eventually punk rock. Those rawer styles (and even – or especially – disco) would find themselves out in the cold come the ’80s, a decade of synthesizer-based New Wave and big-haired metal.
Ironically, the secret to Duran Duran’s monolithic success in the 1980s hinged on their ability to take several trends that peaked the decade before and put a new spin on them, namely the cleanly-mixed, bottom-heavy disco overtones of groups like CHIC and the minimalist, keyboard-assisted rock approach of Roxy Music. Add a dollop of modern sensibility (namely a focus on physical appearance, served to perfection in scores of music videos for the nascent MTV), and it’s no surprise even Rolling Stone gave in to their charms, dubbing them “The Fab Five.”
That didn’t make Duran’s journey through a decade they largely owned any easier, though. By 1986, the quintet was reduced to a trio – vocalist Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor – and struggling to create music that was both artistically satisfying and commercially successful. (The criminally underrated Notorious (1986) and Big Thing (1988) did have several hit singles, including Notorious‘ title track and the latter album’s Chicago house-call “I Don’t Want Your Love.”)
Though Duran was anxious to start the decade off right – going so far as to hire touring guitarist Warren Cuccurullo (formerly of Frank Zappa’s band and Missing Persons) and touring drummer Sterling Campbell to the lineup, creating another five-piece outfit – they were tripped up by not only their inability but anyone’s inability to know which direction to move. Neither grunge nor hi-NRG dance nor Britpop had set in as musical trends, and the lack of general musical direction was twice as harmful to bands struggling to find their footing in the first place.
Whatever the cause for Duran Duran, 1990′s Liberty failed to post any hit singles, and the band’s decision to forego a tour did them no favors, either. Campbell would drift out of the lineup, and even Taylor – still battling drug addiction and testing out a marriage with model Amanda de Cadenet, who was carrying his first child – debated exiting the band.
The secret to their impending second wind was a most unexpected one, but the rewards were rich indeed. We tell that story – and imagine a reissue to celebrate that era – after the jump!
It’s the statement few in the Internet age expected to type: today, Adam Ant releases his first album in nearly 20 years. Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunnar’s Daughter (try saying that three times fast) features brand-new original compositions by Ant with longtime collaborators/guitarists Marco Pirroni and Boz Boorer, and is the first album on his new label, the eponymous Blueblack Hussar Records.
Early critical notes indicate an album that’s weird and urgent – fair descriptors of the best of Ant’s work. The man born Stuart Leslie Goddard in London back in 1954 has had a long, unpredictable and at times erratic career (all of which he’s been incredibly candid about as the years have gone on), but the five (now six) albums he’s released have been occasionally brilliant and always catchy. And fortunately for music geeks, there has been plenty of attention to his catalogue, so fans old and new have plenty to collect.
Goddard’s serious musical career began in November 1975, when, as bassist for the pub rock band Bazooka Joe, he watched in amazement a set by the band’s support act: The Sex Pistols. It was their first gig; so taken was Goddard that he soon quit his own band and pursued the punk sound. It was around the same time that, following a depressive episode that left him in the hospital with a pill overdose, Goddard declared himself “dead,” instead naming himself Adam Ant.
Forming a band with guitarist Matthew Ashman, bassist Andy Warren and drummer David Barbarossa, Adam and The Ants secured a management deal with iconic Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren.
The rest, which is certainly history, is after the jump.
Wow! Was it just over a year ago when a rather dubious report began circulating (that, shockingly, was picked up by many otherwise-reputable publications) that proclaimed the death of the CD was secretly scheduled by the major labels for 2012? Well, 2012 has come and (almost) gone, and it might have been the most super-sized year in recent memory for reissues, deluxe and otherwise, from labels new and old. Here at the Second Disc, we consider our annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards a companion piece to Mike’s own round-up over at Popdose, and we endeavor to recognize as many of the year’s most amazing reissues as possible – over 80 worthy, unique titles. We also hope to celebrate those labels, producers and artists who have raised the bar for great music throughout 2012. As we’re literally deluged with news around these parts, these ladies and gentlemen prove, week after week, the strength and health of the catalogue corner of the music world. We dedicate The Gold Bonus Disc Awards to them, and to you, the readers. After all, your interest is ultimately what keeps great music of the past alive and well.
With that in mind, don’t forget to share your own thoughts and comments below. What made your must-have list in 2012? Without further ado, let’s celebrate 2012′s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!
Which releases take home the gold this year? Hit the jump below to find out! Read the rest of this entry »
Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on classic music and the reissues they may someday see. With 50 years of on-screen action and a new film in theaters, the name is Bond…James Bond, and the music is plentiful!
What else is left to say about Ian Fleming’s blunt, British secret agent James Bond? Our 007, licensed to kill, is an international icon of print and, since Sean Connery suavely stepped into Bond’s tuxedo in 1962′s Dr. No, the big screen. Today, the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall – the third to star Daniel Craig as a rougher-hewn 007 and, by nearly all accounts, one of the greatest films in the series – opens in American theaters, guaranteeing the legacy that film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli created a half-century ago remains as shaken (not stirred) as ever.
Bond soundtrack fans have had much to enjoy in that time period. From Monty Norman and His Orchestra’s brassy, immortal main theme (punctuated by session guitarist Vic Flick’s staccato electric guitar licks), to lush scores by John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch, Bill Conti, Michael Kamen, David Arnold and Thomas Newman, to name a few, to the 23 title themes of varying quality but with boundless cultural currency, music is as vital a part of the Bond experience as martinis, girls, cars and guns. And fans have been lucky: in the 1990s, Rykodisc acquired the rights to much of the Bond soundtrack catalogue (in most cases, controlled by Capitol/EMI). In the 2000s, Capitol itself expanded and/or remastered many of those albums anew. And compilations, from 1992′s rarity-packed double-disc The Best of James Bond 30th Anniversary Collection to this year’s Bond…James Bond: 50 Years, 50 Tracks, have been plentiful as well.
But short of another, even more comprehensive pass at expanding the soundtrack albums to completion (one that seems increasingly like a pipe dream, thanks to the climate of the industry and the varying physical and financial statuses of the scores themselves), one could certainly find worth in a multi-disc box set that would provide the definitive dossier on Bond music. With that in mind, Second Disc HQ’s latest mission file is just that – and you can expect us to talk after the jump!
Special EPCOT 30th Anniversary Reissue Theory: “The Official Album of Walt Disney World – EPCOT Center”
Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Epcot at Walt Disney World with a look back at its first and only Official Album!
“There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow/Shining at the end of every day/There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow/Just a dream away…”
Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman may have written those words, but Walt Disney lived them. Less than two months before his untimely death in late 1966, Walt Disney took his place in front of the cameras for a short, promotional film describing his vision for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. EPCOT was designed as a utopian city of the future which 20,000 residents would call home as a PeopleMover or monorail whisked them to the workplace. It would anchor Disney’s “Florida Project,” and its creator intended, in every way, to make tomorrow today. Following Disney’s unexpected death, his brother Roy O. Disney shepherded the newly-christened Walt Disney World to the opening of the Magic Kingdom and two resort hotels in 1971. But EPCOT remained on the back burner without its chief visionary.
Today, October 1, 2012, marks the 30th anniversary of EPCOT Center, known today simply as Epcot. Though EPCOT the city never became a reality, the theme park that opened on October 1, 1982 sought to embody the ideals of Disney’s planned community in an immersive, interactive campus. EPCOT’s “Future World” area embraced and celebrated technology and innovation, while “World Showcase” brought nine countries (later expanded to eleven) to Florida with indigenous dining, retail and educational experiences.
Music, of course, was a major part of the EPCOT experience. Walt Disney had always sought to give his theme parks a musical identity, much as he had given his films. Though songwriters such as Robert Moline, Buddy Baker, Xavier Atencio and the Academy Award-winning team of Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn all penned songs for EPCOT Center, the heart and soul of the project’s musical side may have been the team of Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman. The composer-lyricists of “It’s a Small World,” “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” and “It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” supplied a number of songs for EPCOT Center, returning to the Walt Disney Company at the behest of legendary Disney imagineer Marty Sklar. The Sherman brothers, Sklar intuited, would be able to bring their universal touch to tell the stories behind the very different pavilions being intended for EPCOT, both in Future World and World Showcase. A handful of their contributions, as well as those by the above-named individuals, could be heard on a 1983 Disneyland Records release that is, to date, the only album released solely to consist of the music of EPCOT Center. It was only released on LP and cassette, and never reissued or updated for commercial CD release, though a number of its tracks survived to later Walt Disney World compilation albums.
Hit the jump to explore The Official Album of Walt Disney World – EPCOT Center! Read the rest of this entry »