Archive for the ‘James Brown’ Category
With those words by emcee Fats Gondor on the stage of The Apollo Theater in New York City on October 24, 1962, history was made. James Brown was set to take the stage at the famed Harlem theater – but what could have been just another show on Brown’s breakneck touring schedule became a flashpoint for not only Brown’s career but for the entire pop, rock and soul canon, thanks to Brown’s insistence on recording and, the following May, releasing the show (at his own expense!).
Now, 50 years after the release of the acclaimed Live At The Apollo LP, UMe is releasing a new compilation, Best of Live at The Apollo: 50th Anniversary.
Live performance was, of course, an accepted fact of the genre; millions would gasp at Elvis Presley’s hip-swiveling dance moves on network variety shows, and Beatlemania spread to America the second the Fab Four graced the stage on The Ed Sullivan Show. But releasing a live album? It hadn’t really been done before.
But even Mr. Dynamite himself couldn’t be accurately represented through his deeply funky sides on wax. And not only did Live At The Apollo seal the deal for plenty of cratediggers that Brown was truly the hardest working man in show business, it established a symbiotic bond between performer and venue – one of the first, and perhaps most notable, of its kind in pop history.
James Brown released three live albums recorded at The Apollo during his prime years as a recording artist: the 1963 original and 1968′s Live At The Apollo Volume II (both released on King Records) and 1971′s Revolution of the Mind: Recorded Live At The Apollo Vol. III, released by Polydor Records. Best of Live At The Apollo will feature the highlights of those three original Apollo LPs, and two tracks from another, ultimately shelved fourth LP, recorded in September 1972. (That album, Get Down At The Apollo with The J.B.’s: Live At The Apollo Vol. IV, was to feature not only Brown’s new band, created in 1970, but also The Female Preacher herself, Lyn Collins.)
Both of those new tracks - the instrumental “Hot Pants Road” and “There It Is” – have been remixed just for this disc; this live take of “There It Is” previously appeared on the 1988 compilation Motherlode, and the original LP mix of the track appeared on a Record Store Day single last year.
Best of Live At The Apollo: 50th Anniversary hits stores on June 25. Hit the jump to place your order and check out the track list!
In today’s reviews, we’re looking at three albums from two true legends of soul. What do they have in common? Each title has been reissued by Big Break Records, and each found its respective artist conquering new terrain: the pop music world of the 1980s!
Aretha Franklin, Jump to It (Arista AL-9602, 1982 – reissued Big Break Records CDBBR 0154, 2012)
Each era of Aretha Franklin’s long and remarkable career has gotten some catalogue love lately, from the artist’s first days at Columbia Records to her oft-overlooked final years on the Atlantic label. Now, following Funky Town Grooves’ 2-CD expansion of Franklin’s 1985 pop smash Who’s Zoomin’ Who, Big Break Records is turning the clock back to her third and fourth albums on Arista with lavish, lovingly annotated reissues.
Following two respectable efforts which reunited Aretha with Atlantic’s Arif Mardin, the Queen of Soul turned to a hot, rising talent to take the producer’s chair. That talent was Luther Vandross, who knew from soul. Despite his great love of the classic sounds made by Franklin, Dionne Warwick, the Sweet Inspirations and others in the 1960s, Vandross chose not to pastiche those records, but rather produce a wholly modern album on Franklin. The result was 1982’s Jump to It. The album lacks the deep soul of her Atlantic years and even the passionate interpretive talent of her Columbia years. Instead, it’s all about the beat – but Vandross also knew from the beat! Jump to It earned Franklin her first Top 40 hit and first gold album in the U.S. in six years, and its overtly “modern” sound also garnered a Grammy Award nomination for the already-legendary singer.
It’s a taut album at just eight tracks, built around the danceable grooves of its title song. “Jump to It” simply doesn’t let up, built around the foundation laid by Doc Powell’s guitar, Marcus Miller’s bass and Yogi Horton’s drums. Vandross and Miller joined another bona fide soul sister, Cissy Houston, as part of the background chorus imploring Aretha, “Jump, jump, jump to it!” while Franklin coos, scats, caresses and wails the simple lyrics with an almighty fire. Miller’s bass is one of the most prominent sounds on the album, and it’s slinky and funky on “Love Me Right.” Just as important to Jump to It are the backing vocals, knowingly crafted by Vandross as a major part of the equation. Vandross’ backing section prominently echoes Franklin’s lead although it soon morphs into a Philly/disco mood with string backup. The second single, “Love Me Right” is every bit as infectious, if not more so, than the hit title track.
Songwriter Sam Dees (“One in a Million You,” Franklin’s “Love All the Hurt Away”) offered up “If She Don’t Want Your Lovin’”: “If she don’t want your lovin’/Give it to me/’Cause I’ll take it!” But Franklin never sounds desperate as she pleads – far from it. It’s another track with seamlessly –integrated background vocals, with Darlene Love now part of the group. The song also gives Aretha a chance to supply her inimitable spoken ad-libs. After the workout of “If She Don’t Want Your Lovin’,” Aretha might rightfully have been crowned the Queen of Sass! (On the Vandross-penned ballad “This is For Real,” she smirks, “Miss Ree ain’t playin’ this time,” and there’s no reason to doubt her.)
Franklin intuitively doesn’t have to unleash the full power of her volcanic voice on every track, preferring to ride the rhythms with an effortless style. A steamy duet with the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs on Aretha’s own “I Wanna Make It Up to You” boasts another Motown connection thanks to Paul Riser’s string arrangement. Another Motown stalwart, Smokey Robinson, contributed the song “Just My Daydream.” Its Latin-accented, subtle, shifting melody adds a seductive vibe to the LP. Less successful is a cover of “It’s Your Thing,” with horn charts from the ubiquitous Jerry Hey, Steve Love on a blazing guitar solo and Erma Franklin on backing vocals. It’s altogether glossier than the truly funky original.
J. Matthew Cobb contributes liner notes to the expanded Jump to It as well as to its follow-up, Get It Right. Cobb’s notes offer particular insight on the often stormy relationship between Vandross and Franklin and the heightened emotions at play when they clashed. When Vandross once put his foot down with a stern “I’m the producer!,” he was met with a steely “Well, I’m the Queen of Soul!” Who could argue with that? Nick Robbins has handled the remastering, and Big Break has added five bonus tracks that will keep you dancing: three single versions and two 12-inch mixes.
After the jump: does Aretha Get It Right? And James Brown shows off his Gravity! Read the rest of this entry »
If you prefer your soul with a twist of funk, the Ace family of labels has two offerings that should get your fingers clicking and your feet dancing. Both Royal Grooves: Funk and Groovy Soul from the King Records Vaults (BGP CD BGPD250) and Nobody Wins: Stax Southern Soul 1968-1975 (Kent CDKEND 370) cover roughly the same turbulent period of music history, with the former compilation drawing on tracks recorded between 1967 and 1973, and the latter taking in the “Second Golden Age” of Stax Records between 1968 and 1975. This is the period when King, the Cincinnati-based label that was home to James Brown, was following in the Godfather’s funky footsteps, and Stax was reinventing itself with a new roster of artists that could follow the legendary likes of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Booker T and the MGs.
Though King Records was founded in 1943 by consummate record man Syd Nathan and made its name emphasizing country-and-western, it was successful in the decision to move into the R&B field. But Nathan was unprepared for the revolution that one of those R&B artists, James Brown, would create. Nathan and Brown’s relationship had become strained when Brown, his star in the ascendant, signed with Mercury’s Smash label while still under contract to King. But he returned to King in 1965 with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and by 1967, when this anthology picks up the story, the label’s roster was largely dedicated to Brown, his associates or sound-alike records, some of which were released under the “James Brown Productions” banner. Nathan died in 1968, but the company continued to thrive until Brown’s departure in 1971, at which time he took his back catalogue to Polydor with him. New owners (including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) attempted to revive King’s fortunes, but the label eventually reconciled itself with its fate as a strictly back-catalogue operation.
Royal Grooves covers this tumultuous period for the label in detail. James Brown’s presence is heavily felt, and he’s represented with productions from Wendy Lynn (“I Can Remember”), Kay Robinson (“The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow”), Leon Austin (“Steal Away”) and Carlton “King” Coleman (“The Boo Boo Song”). He’s also a co-writer of The Brownettes’ “Baby, Don’t You Know” and Clay Tyson’s “Clay Tyson (Man on the Moon).” The Brownettes, formerly the Jewels, performed with the James Brown Revue and frequently sang background vocals on his recordings. Tyson was another performer in the Revue, a comedian who rapped over the backing track to Brown’s “I Got the Feeling” for “Man on the Moon,” one of this set’s truest curiosities. Hank Ballard, the writer of “The Twist” who was signed to King in 1953, joined Brown’s revue in 1967. “Unwind Yourself” from that year’s You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down LP is heard here.
From the post-Brown period, Royal Grooves includes a Leiber/Stoller-produced revival of “Cool Jerk” by The Coasters, and Gloria Edwards’ “(Need Nobody to Help Me) Keep Up with My Man” produced by Huey Meaux’s Crazy Cajun Productions. Collectors might thrill most to a track from Barbara Burton and the Messengers. As The Messengers Unlimited with Sonny Morrison as lead singer, they released the rare Soulful Proclamation album. For their lone single on DeLuxe, Barbara took the lead for “Love’s Sweet Water.” This lost funk workout is so rare, it’s possibly that the single was never actually released, but Ace has liberated the 1972 cut for inclusion here.
Hit the jump for a trip to Memphis! Read the rest of this entry »
It’d be wrong to say that the fine folks at Universal Music Enterprises are doing it to death when it comes to James Brown; there’s been a solid two decades of box sets, compilations and reissues to enjoy, and that list is only going to get longer with the news that a Live at The Apollo box set is coming out later this year.
But there is one brief, substantial period of the Godfather of Soul’s career that’s often not as focused on: a brief but bright pop crossover in the mid-’80s on Scotti Bros. Records with a cheesy but fun hit single that inadvertently paved the way for his critical reappraisal. The song was “Living in America,” from the film Rocky IV, and the album was 1986′s Gravity, now due for an expanded reissue from Big Break Records.
By 1985, James Brown had more than his share of ups (some of the greatest funk and soul singles throughout the 1960s and early 1970s) and downs (the expiration of his contract with Polydor in 1981 and subsequent reduction of his touring schedule). He turned in a great performance of the gospel standard “The Old Landmark” for 1980′s The Blues Brothers, and he guested on Afrika Bambaataa’s “Unity” – arguably, one of the first singles to acknowledge the Godfather’s influence on the nascent genre of hip-hop – but things were quiet for awhile, with a few independent releases coming and going.
“Living in America” was an out-of-nowhere opportunity, reportedly requested personally by Rocky IV star/writer/director Sylvester Stallone. The song was performed by Brown himself within the movie, to introduce retired champ Apollo Creed’s exhibition bout against fearsome Soviet boxer Ivan Drago. The song’s writers were Charlie Midnight and Dan Hartman, both well known for their work on soundtrack hits, notably Hartman’s Top 10 hit “I Can Dream About You” for the Streets of Fire soundtrack in 1984. The duo would receive a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Song for “America.”
Midnight and Hartman would serve as writer-producers for all of Gravity, enlisting a stunning stable of backing talent, including Brown’s longtime horn player Maceo Parker, lead keyboardist Steve Winwood, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and backing vocals from Alison Moyet. Key tracks included Top 40 R&B single “Gravity” and Top 10 R&B hit “How Do You Stop,” later covered by Joni Mitchell and Seal in 1994.
In true BBR form, this new edition includes a heap of bonus tracks, effectively doubling the album to 16 tracks. Remixes of “Living in America,” “Gravity,” “How Do You Stop” and album cut “Goliath” all appear, along with single edits and an instrumental of “America.”
The expanded disc is out in the U.K. May 21. Hit the jump for the full track list!
Well, Record Store Day is finally upon us! Tomorrow, Saturday, April 21, music fans and collectors will descend upon their local independent record stores to celebrate both the sounds on those black platters and the cherished physical shopping environments alike. As Record Store Day 2012 will offer a typically eclectic array of limited edition releases (primarily on vinyl but also some on CD, too!) from many of our favorite artists here at Second Disc HQ, we thought we would take a moment to count down the titles to which we’re most looking forward! I’ll take my turn first, and then after the jump, you’ll find Mike’s picks for some of the finest offerings you might find at your local retailer! And after you’ve picked up your share of these special collectibles, don’t hesitate to browse the regular racks, too…you never know what you might find!
You’ll find more information and a link to a downloadable PDF of the complete Record Store Day list here, and please share your RSD 2012 experiences with us below. Happy Hunting!
5. Miles Davis, Forever Miles (Columbia/Legacy)
This five-track collection spotlights various eras of the legendary trumpeter via alternate takes and rare mixes new to vinyl plus a previously unreleased live recording. It adds up to a sonic journey through the many iterations of jazz itself. From the fifties comes a 1956 take of “Dear Old Stockholm” with John Coltrane and the first take of 1957’s “Blues for Pablo” with Gil Evans. “Hand Jive” is an alternate from the Miles Davis Quintet box chronicling Davis’ “Second Great Quintet” of 1965-1968. A new mix of “Early Minor” from the In a Silent Way box (1969) rounds out the set along with a previously unreleased “Directions” from 1970 at The Fillmore East.
4. David Bowie, Starman (Virgin)
Remember the picture disc? Virgin Records brings it back with this 45 RPM single containing two versions of David Bowie’s “Starman,” off The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, soon to be celebrating its 40th anniversary with a new CD/DVD edition. Bowie, in his most far-out garb, adorns the vinyl, on which you’ll hear both the original song and a live Top of the Pops performance!
3. The Mynah Birds, It’s My Time/Go On and Cry (Motown)
It might be difficult to resist an offering from Neil Young or Rick James, but how about a 45 RPM single from a band which counted both gentlemen among its members? The single “It’s My Time” b/w “Go On and Cry” was slated for 1966 release on Motown’s V.I.P. imprint, but was shelved until 2006’s Complete Motown Singles Volume 6 box set arrived. Now, six years later, the single comes full circle and finally gets its intended vinyl pressing. Get it while you can!
2. Various Artists, Never To Be Forgotten – The Flip Side of Stax 1968-1974 (Light in the Attic)
Light in the Attic has pulled out all of the stops for this Record Store Day crown jewel: a 7” vinyl box set containing ten singles from the Stax library circa 1968-1974! Artists include Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Mable John, Melvin Van Peebles and the Mad Lads, and their singles are housed in a stunning 10 x 7” magnetic flip-top box which also contains an 84-page book. Though a digital edition was released last week, no CD version has been announced, so vinyl is truly the best option to experience these seldom-heard Stax sides. And who could resist that book? You might also want to check out LITA’s new Lee Hazlewood compilation, The LHI Years! It arrives soon on CD, but is making an early appearance on vinyl as part of the RSD festivities!
1. Buck Owens, Coloring Book and Flexi Disc (Omnivore)
Were there prizes awarded for Most Creative and Most Fun Releases this year at Record Store Day, the top honors would surely go to the team at Omnivore Recordings! They’ve given nostalgia a new meaning with the release of the Buck Owens Coloring Book and Flexi Disc. The country star and Hee Haw host planned to release his official coloring book in 1970, but instead, the books languished in a warehouse. Omnivore to the rescue! The clever label has bundled one of these original Owens treasures with a newly-pressed flexi-disc (available in red, white or blue, natch). The coloring book tells the story of Buck and his Buckaroos, with the grand finale a concert performance that can be heard on the flexi-disc. “Act Naturally,” “Together Again,” “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” and “Crying Time” are all mentioned in the coloring book and can be played by you, the reader! All four songs come from Owens’ White House performance on September 9, 1968 before President Lyndon B. Johnson. A digital download card also contains all four songs, and the full concert will be released later this year on CD from Omnivore. In the meantime, this unique offering just might make you join me in shouting, “Hee haw!”
Hit the jump for Mike’s top picks! Read the rest of this entry »
We’re just three weeks away from Record Store Day on April 21, and following individual announcements from fantastic labels like Omnivore Recordings, Concord Records, Sundazed Music and Rhino/Warner Bros., we can finally reveal the full line-up of RSD-related goodies!
These limited editions, available at independent music retailers across the U.S. and even internationally, are primarily vinyl releases in various formats (7-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, etc.) and range from replicas of classic albums to EPs and singles premiering exclusive content. Some of our favorite artists here at TSD HQ are represented, including David Bowie, James Brown, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Lee Hazlewood, Janis Joplin, Buck Owens, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Bruce Springsteen, and even the “odd couple” pairing of Neil Young and Rick James as members of Motown’s The Mynah Birds! All told, there’s plenty for fans of rock, pop and jazz on offer this year!
Without further ado, hit the jump for our exhaustive list of RSD releases related to the catalogue artists we celebrate each and every day here at The Second Disc. For those in need of a checklist, you can find a downloadable PDF here of the complete list, and this official Record Store Day list also includes all of the releases of a more recent vintage. Sound off below on which title you are most eagerly awaiting, and thanks for supporting your local independent record retailer! Read the rest of this entry »
One of the many, many criticisms of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is their occasional neglect of certain bands in favor of other artists. From the first year of induction in 1987, when Smokey Robinson was inducted instead of all of The Miracles, it’s been a legitimate concern.
Today, the Hall attempted to alleviate some of that concern by announcing five such bands would be inducted alongside the five previously-announced members of this year’s class. The additional bands are:
- The Blue Caps: Tommy Facenda, Cliff Gallup, Dickie Harrell, Bobby Jones, Johnny Meeks, Jack Neal, Paul Peek, Willie Williams (Gene Vincent)
- The Comets: Fran Beecher, Danny Cedrone, Joey D’Ambrosio (a.k.a. Joey Ambrose), Johnny Grande, Ralph Jones, Marshall Lytle, Rudy Pompilli, Al Rex, Dick Richards, Billy Williamson (Bill Haley)
- The Crickets: Jerry Allison, Sonny Curtis, Joe B. Mauldin, Niki Sullivan (Buddy Holly)
- The Famous Flames: Bobby Bennett, Bobby Byrd, Lloyd Stallworth, Johnny Terry (James Brown)
- The Midnighters: Henry Booth, Cal Green, Arthur Porter, Lawson Smith, Charles Sutton, Norman Thrasher, Sonny Woods (Hank Ballard)
- The Miracles: Warren “Pete” Moore, Claudette Rogers Robinson, Bobby Rogers, Marvin Tarplin, Ronald White (Smokey Robinson)
A deserved congratulations to the inductees and a “took you long enough” to the RRHOF. What other backing bands do you think should be inducted?
We’re nearing the Top 20 of our 100 Greatest Reissues list, taking Rolling Stone‘s list of the greatest albums of all time and investigating their many pressings and expansions as the catalogue industry has grown. Today, journey to the past with a quintet of California rock heroes, one of rock-and-roll’s early pioneers and the once-and-always Mr. Dynamite! Plus: a Beatle and a star of the Motown stable make intensely personal statements on their own!
25. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (Warner Bros., 1977)
If any one record could be said to encapsulate an entire era, it might be Fleetwood Mac’s towering 1977 Rumours. This is the album that turned a solid blues-rock band into the biggest pop giant of the decade, immortalizing the group’s internal strife and romantic intrigues in one made-for-radio package. Rumours established Lindsey Buckingham as a writing and production force, although Rumours was very much a group effort for Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, as well. Its four singles (Nicks’ “Dreams,” Christine McVie’s “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun,” Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way”) are as immortal today as the album itself, which sold over 40 million copies. Taking in sex, drugs, and rock and roll with the idyllic California sun as the backdrop, Rumours remains one of the most successful LPs of all time.
Rumours was, of course, issued early in the CD age, arriving in 1984 (Warner Bros. 3010-2). The label’s 2001 DVD-Audio issue “(9 48083-9) featured the album in advanced resolution surround sound as well as stereo, and added one track to the original 11-song line-up. “Silver Springs,” a B-side of “Go Your Own Way,” replaced “Songbird” as the album’s sixth track, and “Songbird” was relegated to the 12th slot. In 2004, Warner Bros. and Rhino reissued Rumours as a remastered 2-CD set (R2 73882). Disc 1 was dedicated to the album, with “Silver Springs” again added, this time in the slot between the reinstated “Songbird” (Track 6) and “The Chain” (Track 8). Disc 2 premiered 11 roughs and outtakes, five demos and two jam sessions, making the most comprehensive edition yet of the album. After a 2008 SHM-CD (Super High Material CD) edition from Warner Japan (WPCR-13249), that country’s label issued Rumours as an SHM-SACD in 2011 (WPCR-14171), making the long out-of-print surround mix available once again.
24. James Brown, Live at the Apollo (King, 1963)
Nobody could accuse James Brown of not having faith in himself. When Brown approached King Records’ Syd Nathan about recording his upcoming October 1962 stand at the Apollo, Nathan balked. Brown went ahead anyway, funding the record out of his own pocket. Mr. Dynamite intuitively knew that his live performances transcended anything he was capable of turning out in the studio, thanks to the unbreakable, palpable rapport between performers and audience. The vocal interplay is part and parcel of the magic of Live at the Apollo, as exciting a document of musical pandemonium as you’ll ever hear. And Brown’s faith paid off; his performance with the Famous Flames was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2004.
Live at the Apollo didn’t arrive on CD until 1990 (Polydor 843-479-2), and three years later it arrived as a Mobile Fidelity gold disc (UDCD 583, 1993). In 2004, Universal revisited the album as B0001715-02, expanding it with four additional single alternates (“Think,” a shortened medley of “I Found Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad,” “Lost Someone” and “I’ll Go Crazy”) and a deluxe 20-page booklet with new essays and photos. For Brown and the Flames at their frenetic, electrifying best, this is the place to start.
Hit the jump for three shots of raw rock and soul! Read the rest of this entry »
Neil Diamond, The Very Best of Neil Diamond (Columbia/Legacy)
A new single-disc greatest hits compilation that unites classic Columbia stuff with early works for Bang and Universal and the excellent, newer stuff he’s been doing with producer Rick Rubin. The E.T. song, though? Not here. Watch for Joe’s review later today!
Amy Winehouse, Lioness: Hidden Treasures (Universal Republic)
The late, lamented neo-soul singer memorialized with a posthumous album.
Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s, The Lost Album featuring Watermelon Man (Hip-o Select/Polydor)
James Brown catalogue titles don’t necessarily have to be chock full of James Brown, as this lost album from the early ’70s proves.
Elvis Costello and The Imposters, The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook!!! Super Deluxe Edition (Hip-O/UMe)
Which Elvis Costello box set? Oh yeah, that one.
Doris Day, My Heart (Arwin Productions)
Doris Day’s first album of original material in seventeen years hits stores in the U.S. after notching a chart success in the U.K.! The American edition contains one previously unreleased bonus track, “Stewball.”
Bee Gees, Main Course (Rhino Flashback)
Barry, Robin and Maurice’s 1975 smash introduced the world to “Jive Talkin’,” “Nights on Broadway,” “Fanny (Be Tender with My Love)” and “Wind of Change.” Long out-of-print, Main Course makes a budget-priced comeback thanks to our friends at Rhino!
It’s almost the weekend, and we’ve got the perfect set of tunes to rock your Saturday and Sunday! It’s Part 5 of our first-ever official Second Disc Buyers Guide, in which we look at the 100 greatest albums of all time, as selected by Rolling Stone in 2003, through the filter of when and how these classic albums have been reissued, remastered and repackaged. If you’ve ever wondered to yourself which versions of these albums to buy for certain bonus tracks and the like, we’re your one-stop shop.
80. The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle (CBS/Date, 1968)
It’s always the time of the season for Odessey [sic] and Oracle, the original studio swansong of The Zombies. Rod Argent described the album in the liner notes to Rhino’s 1987 CD reissue: “In 1967, The Zombies, after only three professional years, had already decided to break up. Chris White and I, however, wanted to make a parting gesture. We wanted to make a very personal final album, controlling every step of the process from writing to final cut, from production of the music to production of the album cover. We knew the record would be released after the break-up of the group, so we didn’t attempt to bow to the pressures of the marketplace. The songs were inspired by a variety of influences, but they were songs which came from our hearts. They were not the result of a producer or record company imposing their views of what a hit single might be. Some of the songs were romantic, others sparked by literature (‘Butchers Tale,’ ‘Brief Candles’) – ‘A Rose for Emily’ was inspired by a Faulkner short story. Chris reflected on his experience growing up near Beechwood Park in his song of that name. ‘Time of the Season’ was actually influenced by Smokey Robinson’s ‘The Tracks of My Tears.’ I misunderstood the line ‘If you look closer it’s easy (to trace the tracks of my tears)’ as ‘It’s the close of the season.’ I thought it was a great phrase, and when I found out that’s not what he sang, I wrote ‘Time of the Season.’” Argent wrote five tracks while White contributed seven, and every song was brought to life by those gentlemen (Argent on organ, piano, Mellotron and vocals; White on bass and vocals) plus Colin Blunstone (vocals), Paul Atkinson (guitar, vocals) and Hugh Grundy (drums, vocals).
The record label, CBS, wasn’t as enthusiastic about the album as The Zombies, however. According to Argent, he and White even had to draw against their songwriting royalties to have a stereo mix created. The U.K. release finally came on April 19, 1968. Clive Davis, of the U.S. Columbia/CBS office, initially passed on releasing the album in America. Enter Al Kooper. On a trip to the United Kingdom, the songwriter/producer heard Odessey and Oracle, and returned home raving to the top brass at the label. Kooper felt strongly that there was great potential for hit singles off the album. Although the first single “Butcher’s Tale” didn’t resonate on the charts, another track certainly did: “Time of the Season” was issued as a single in the U.S. nearly two years after it was recorded, and a year after the Zombies had split. (White and Argent had already formed the band Argent!) It hit No. 3 on the chart and remains a radio staple today. But that iconic single, written by Rod, is just one small part of the Odessey tapestry. The album is a lush, psychedelic journey that encompasses soul, tough rock and orchestrated baroque pop in a song cycle that’s as uniquely British as contemporary efforts by The Kinks and as ambitious as the best of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Pink Floyd.
Odessey and Oracle (its misspelling intentional, according to Argent) may have the most convoluted reissue history of any title in our Top 100. We’ll attempt to make it (somewhat!) clear here. Read on at your own risk! The album first appeared on CD in 1986 with vastly inferior cover art, courtesy the Rock Machine label (MACD 6). The next year brought Rhino’s reissue (RNCD 70186, 1987), which added the 1969 single “Imagine the Swan” (with only Argent remaining from the original band) and the Argent/White co-write “I’ll Call You Mine” to the line-up. Here’s where one needs a scorecard to follow. Due to vagaries of ownership, The Zombies’ catalogue has been reissued multiple times on multiple labels, with Odessey leading the pack in various editions with unique bonus tracks. The 2004 edition on Fuel 2000 was advertised as “the first official North American release in 15 years” (Fuel 2000, 302 061 413 2) and adds ten bonus tracks including alternate stereo mixes, overdubbed versions and the U.K. mono mix of “Time of the Season.” Greg Russo remastered. Repertoire Records has reissued the album as REP-4214 in 1992, REP-4940 in 2001, REP-5089 in 2009 and finally, REP-5182 in 2011. The 2001 edition retains the stereo album plus sixteen bonus tracks. The “40th Anniversary Edition” from 2009 offered the mono album on Disc 1 plus five bonus tracks (“I’ll Call You Mine,” “Imagine the Swan,” “Conversation Off Floral Street,” “If It Don’t Work Out,” “I Know She Will” and “Don’t Cry For Me”) plus the stereo album on Disc 2. The 2011 iteration, subtitled The CBS Years 1967-1969, includes the original mono album plus “I’ll Call You Mine” on Disc 1, and the original stereo album plus an alternate take of “A Rose for Emily” and the unreleased R.I.P. album on Disc 2. Jon Astley (The Who) remastered this edition.
As part of its comprehensive Zombies campaign, Ace’s Big Beat division has reissued Odessey more than once on CD, as a vinyl replica (CDHP 025) and also as a deluxe expanded edition (CDWIKM 181) for the album’s thirtieth anniversary in 1998. The latter edition, considered by most to be the definitive one, offers both the mono and stereo versions on one CD plus three bonus tracks: alternates of “A Rose for Emily” and “Time of the Season” plus the backing track to “Prison Song (Care of Cell 44).” Big Beat has also reissued Odessey on vinyl (LP WIKM 181) and as part of the Zombie Heaven “complete” box set for the group (ZOMBOX 7, 1997). Japan’s Imperial/Teichiku label has also reissued the album with frequency, including TECI-26537, 2008, in the SHM-CD format. All of this can become mighty intimidating to a first-time buyer, or heck, even to a seasoned one! In conclusion, suffice to say that Big Beat’s expanded edition is the way to go, boasting solid sound quality, both the mono and stereo mixes, and a tight brace of three related bonus tracks. Those of you who wish to explore the Zombie minutiae further can seek out any and all of the above mentioned releases to take an odessey, er, odyssey of your own.
79. James Brown, Star Time (Polydor, 1991)
James Brown was many things, but foremost among them was certainly a star. When the four-disc box set Star Time was released in 1991, it was at the dawn of a halcyon era of archival releases and collectors’ boxes. In the CD’s 1980s infancy, few releases had put an artist’s career into perspective with lavishly annotated, expanded reissues. Star Time was one of the titles that literally set the standard. Although further releases have explored various avenues of the legacy of the “hardest working man in show business,” including Hip-o Select’s fantastic complete singles series, Star Time remains the set to top for its well-curated, selective-yet-comprehensive “all-killer, no-filler” approach. In fact, this box might just as well have been called The History of Funk. Brown was so keyed into the present that his transition from early R&B to soul to funk (and all its own iterations) mirrored that of the larger musical culture. At 71 tracks, Star Time never burned so brightly. The original box set (Polydor 849 108) hasn’t been expanded, retooled or otherwise reissued; why tamper with perfection? With its greasy, danceable grooves, you’ll want to get on the good foot, for sure, and start referring to yourself in the third person! Owwww!
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