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Out of the Shadow(s): Morton’s Story Features Shangri-Las, Vanilla Fudge, New York Dolls

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Shadow Morton StoryA scrappy street fighter with a knack for teenage melodrama, George “Shadow” Morton lived with a “self-invented mythology,” in the words of Jerry Leiber.  But his work with The Shangri-Las, Janis Ian, The New York Dolls and many more solidified Morton’s place as a real-life “leader of the pack.”  Ace’s new anthology Sophisticated Boom Boom: The Shadow Morton Story (CDTOP 1369) brings the songwriter and producer out of the shadow and into the (spot)light.

In a 1968 Time Magazine blurb:, Morton once claimed, “I am the greatest producer in the business.  I am also an egomaniac.”  But whether it was ego or a pure creative spark driving him, Morton was responsible for some of the most vivid records to emerge out of the 1960s.  Expertly compiled and annotated by Mick Patrick, Sophisticated Boom Boom plucks 24 tracks from Morton’s career as a producer, a songwriter or both.  Presented chronologically and accompanied by nearly 40 pages of Patrick’s liner notes, this is the definitive account of the man’s musical history.

Think of Shadow Morton and the group that usually comes to mind is the Shangri-Las, so it’s no surprise that four tracks from the Mary Weiss-led quartet feature here.  What is surprising, however, is that “Leader of the Pack” isn’t one of them.  The 1964 No. 1 hit – perhaps the epitome of the “death disc” – forever established the Shangri-Las as the toughest gals in town with a series of remarkable records for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s Red Bird label.  With spoken introductions, sound effects, dramatic vocals and a rather foreboding atmosphere, The Shangri-Las’ records as produced and written by Morton were true mini-movies.

So although Patrick opted to leave out that crucial part of The Shadow Morton Story, the sweeping, melodramatic style of Morton and the girls is represented with the equally-powerful “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand)” (heard here in a previously unissued alternate version), ebullient “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” lesser-known Mercury side “I’ll Never Learn,” and the Red Bird record that perhaps was the team’s zenith: “Past, Present and Future.”  This unusual psychodrama recited by Mary Weiss over a Beethoven-inspired backdrop of theatrical strings unsurprisingly stalled at No. 59 on the U.S. Pop chart, but today stands apart for its completely singular quality.  In the liner notes, Billy Joel offers memories of playing on the session for “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand).”

There’s more on Shadow after the jump, including the complete track listing with discography and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 10, 2013 at 10:10

A Dozen “Playlist” Sets Due in May

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Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the various budget compilations that come from the major labels are quick, easy ways to get catalogue material out to the masses. Universal’s ICON and Sony’s Playlist series are probably the highest-profile of these series, but the latter is arguably the more beloved of the two, thanks to a concerted effort by some of the producers at Legacy to get rarer tracks on the Playlist discs, whether it’s a rare single version or bonus track from a previous reissue.

Legacy has 12 new Playlist titles ready to go for next month, and we have the track lists for all but one of them (a compilation for Dionne Warwick). As usual, the selection runs the gamut between genres, from ’80s indie rock (The The, The Psychedelic Furs) and blues (Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters – who ironically has an ICON release due out next month, too), soul (Teena Marie, recently also honored in the ICON series; early Philly-soul band The Intruders), power-pop (Matthew Sweet), jazz (Dave Brubeck) and even older country (Marty Robbins). There’s also a multi-artist ’80s metal compilation with a title (Now Hair This!) that someone at Sony better have gotten promoted for. (It certainly makes up for the fact that not all the tracks on said set are from the ’80s!)

It’s also nice to see the label group license a few tracks from other places; Janis Ian’s debut single for Verve and long latter-day indie career is represented on her Playlist entry, while Motown contributes one early track for Teena Marie’s set. All these sets will be available May 10; pre-order links can be found here and almost all the track lists can be found after the jump (we’ll post the Dionne one as soon as we have it!). Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

April 14, 2011 at 15:13

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