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“Pin Ups” In Reverse: Ace Explores The Roots of Ziggy Stardust With “Bowie Heard Them Here First”

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Bowie Heard Them Here First

David Bowie did the unthinkable in this media-obsessed age when, on the date of his sixty-sixth birthday (January 8, 2013), he managed to catch the world off-guard to announce his first new album in a decade.  Bowie and his cohorts had kept The Next Day a secret, proving that the iconoclastic artist could still do things his way.  In six decades, from the 1960s through the present, David Bowie has kept his fans guessing what might come next.  And while Bowie’s sound is one of the most distinctive in popular music, it was shaped from a myriad of influences.  Many of those artists are represented on Ace Records’ recent release Bowie Heard Them Here First.  Following similar volumes for Ramones, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, The New York Dolls, and Dusty Springfield, this compilation features the original versions of songs recorded by Bowie over the years.

Bowie’s status as a songwriter par excellence has rarely been in doubt, so it’s no surprise that he’s felt comfortable enough to pay tribute to his colleagues over the years.  The songs on Bowie Heard Them Here First are presented in the sequence which Bowie recorded them.  The earliest pair of songs on the compilation, however, date from the period before Bowie had blossomed as a songwriter.  The opening cut, Paul Revere and the Raiders’ honking garage rocker “Louie, Go Home,” appeared on the B-side of Bowie’s very first record with his R&B group Davie Jones and The King Bees.  It’s followed by Bobby Bland’s torrid original recording of “I Pity the Fool,” which he had recorded with his second band, The Manish Boys – named, like The Rolling Stones, after a Muddy Waters song.

From there, Bowie Heard Them Here First surprises by addressing just how many of Bowie’s albums have featured cover songs in integral roles.  Though his first three albums – the 1967 self-titled Deram debut, 1969’s David Bowie a.k.a. Space Oddity and 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World – all eschewed others’ songs, Bowie surprisingly opened the second side of his 1971 LP Hunky Dory with a song by Biff Rose and Paul Williams.  The latter had already achieved major fame with smash hits like “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays” (both via The Carpenters) when Bowie interpreted “Fill Your Heart” which co-writer Rose had recorded in 1968.  Rose’s recording is included here, but Tiny Tim also recorded the sweetly twee ballad in 1968 for his debut album and the B-side of “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips.”

Bowie’s glam breakthrough The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars had one choice cover version, too, closing its first side with singer-songwriter Ron Davies’ ‘It Ain’t Easy” (also covered by Three Dog Night, Shelby Lynne and Dave Edmunds.)  Davies’ A&M single from 1969 is featured here.  The cover tradition continued on the Ziggy follow-up Aladdin Sane with The Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which likely was unavailable for licensing to Ace.  Hence, Bowie Heard Them Here First continues with a brace of five tracks representing Bowie’s first and only all-covers album, 1973’s Pin Ups.  Bowie intended the album to celebrate the period of 1964-1967 in London when pop, rock and roll and R&B all merged into a whole thanks to groups like The Kinks (“Where Have All the Good Times Gone”), The Mojos (“Everything’s Alright”), The Pretty Things (“Rosalyn”), The Easybeats (“Friday on My Mind”) and The Merseys (“Sorrow”).  The B-side of Bowie’s single release of the catchy “Sorrow” was from the same period but in a very different style: Jacques Brel’s 1964 chanson “Port of Amsterdam.”  Brel’s French original is included by Ace.  Brel’s louche story-songs also inspired another prime influence on Bowie, the romantic balladeer-turned-avant garde hero Scott Walker.  It took Bowie until 1993 to get around to recording one of Walker’s songs; the dark disco-styled “Nite Flights” from The Walker Brothers’ final album in 1978 is reprised on this collection.

Don’t miss a thing – hit the jump for more including the complete track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Release Round-Up: Week of June 11

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Rockshow NewPaul McCartney and Wings, Rockshow (Eagle Rock)

Macca’s newly-restored live show may not be in the Wings Over America box, but that means you can buy it for that much less now. (DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.; BD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

ZZ Top Rhino boxZZ Top, The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990 (Warner Bros./Rhino)

So not only are you getting all of ZZ Top’s London/Warner-era albums in one convenient box, but you’re getting a fair amount of them in their original mixes for the first time ever on CD. Win? Win. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Motown 12AVarious Artists, The Complete Motown Singles Volume 12A: 1972 (Hip-O Select/Motown)

It’s finally here! The penultimate volume of the long-running series features some of Motown’s most out-there stuff yet. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Pryor boxRichard Pryor, No Pryor Restraint: Life in Concert (Shout! Factory)

Nine discs (seven CDs, two DVDs) of side-splitting, wildly off-color humor from one of the greatest stand-up acts there ever was. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Burt - Anyone Who Had a HeartBurt Bacharach, Anyone Who Had a Heart: The Art of the Songwriter (U.K.-only box set) (UMe)

From the U.K. comes a new six-disc anthology of Bacharach’s best works as a writer or performer – easily more comprehensive than the double-disc set U.S. audiences got recently. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Icehouse 12 InchesIcehouse, The 12 Inches Volume 1 (Repertoire)

Two discs of dance mixes from the Australian hitmakers. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Review: The Four Tops/Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, “50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection” – Part 2: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas

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Martha and The Vandellas Singles CollectionWere there a time capsule emblazoned with the word “MOTOWN,” meant to convey the sound and style of the once-and-always Sound of Young America to future generations, its central artifact just might be Gordy single G-7033, from 1964.  Sure, The Supremes might have had more success, and The Temptations and The Four Tops might have had more endurance.  But the ultimate Motor City anthem could very well be “Dancing in the Streets,” performed by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.  And that’s just one of the 82 tracks present on 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection: 1962-1972.  This new 3-CD box set from Motown Select/UMe (B0017485-02, 2013) captures a decade of Motown magic from Martha Reeves and the girls via the group’s complete singles discography (in their original mono presentations), a smattering of alternates and foreign language singles, and most enticingly, an entire disc of previously unheard Vandellas gold.  This disc alone sets Martha and the Vandellas’ volume apart from the other 50th Anniversary Singles Collections recently issued for Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations and The Four Tops.

William “Mickey” Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter and Marvin Gaye’s song “Dancing in the Street” became more than just a hit single; in the ensuing years, it’s become a cultural touchstone, forever associated with the civil rights movement.  Yet, as revealed in the liner notes, Gaye originally pitched the song to Martha Reeves as a sensual ballad: “Marvin was singing it as if he was singing it to a girl,” Reeves recalled, “so romantic and in a mellow tone.”  Reeves’ instincts were to take the song to a more urgent, forceful place, and her final vocal was informed by an undercurrent of anger when she found that her original recording wasn’t captured on tape.  Yet such is the stuff that legends are made of.

“Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?  Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street!”  Thunderous drums and iconic, exultant horns set the stage for Reeves’ performance of a lyric that’s direct as can be, yet imbued with a subtext that may or may not have been known to its authors.  The song could have been just another party-time ode – “All we need is music/Sweet music/There’ll be music everywhere/There’ll be swingin’, swayin’, and records playin’, dancing in the street!” et cetera.  But – much as Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s “Love Train” would years later – “Dancing in the Street” played up its universality.  This dance craze wasn’t just limited to Detroit.  Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans – all were name-checked in the song.  “It doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there/So come on, every guy grab a girl, everywhere around the world/There’ll be dancin’ in the street!”  At a time when divisiveness at the forefront of the news, Reeves was extending an invitation to all, no strings attached, and with a casual air: “It’s just an invitation across the nation/A chance for folks to meet.”  It’s “just” an invitation – black/white, male/female, young/old – such was the ethos at Motown, being shared by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in a peaceful, exuberant way on the world’s stage.  A Top 10 hit on both the Pop and R&B surveys, “Dancing in the Street” was a message of empowerment being delivered by a young African-American woman (and future Detroit councilwoman) as a message of pride and joy to all in just 2-1/2 minutes, contained on a little slab of black vinyl.

Of course, that’s just one of the songs here.  Hit the jump to dig deep into many more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 24, 2013 at 11:25

Review: The Four Tops/Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, “50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection” – Part 1: The Four Tops

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Four Tops Singles CollectionHappy Friday! We’ve got a special double dose of Detroit for you today: reviews of two of Motown Select’s latest releases – singles box sets devoted to The Four Tops and Martha & The Vandellas, respectively. First, Mike can’t help himself when it comes to the Tops…

Is it right to call one of Motown’s most beloved vocal groups – with over a dozen Top 20 hits and production credits from three of the greatest names not only on the Detroit label, but in all of pop-soul music – underrated?

For reasons I’ve never been able to identify, The Four Tops seem like they’re always gunning for the second tier of male-led vocal groups in the Motown legacy, far behind the gritty diversity of The Temptations and the angelic beauty of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. A dive into Motown Select’s brand-new package honoring the Tops – 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1964-1972 (Motown Select/UMe, catalogue no. TBD) makes it hard to understand how you can undervalue a group like this.

The Four Tops are perhaps most noteworthy for their consistency, both in terms of musical prowess and band aesthetics; Levi Stubbs, Duke Fakir, Obie Benson and Lawrence Payton were the classic lineup that remained unchanged until Payton’s passing in the 1990s. (Today, only Fakir is still alive, and is still active with the group.) Any tension the band felt had less to do with internal affairs and more to conflicts with their label, leading them away from Motown for a spell in the 1970s. There’s plenty of musical consistency on this triple-disc set, thanks largely in part to the production and songwriting efforts of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. From “Baby I Need Your Loving” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” to the impressive Top 5 run of “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love” and “Bernadette,” there’s something like two dozen H-D-H compositions to enjoy here.

And there are surprises for those who know those songs like the back of their hand, from the extra mixes of “I Can’t Help Myself” and “It’s the Same Old Song” to much of the material on the second and third discs of the set. You might have heard “Walk Away Renee,” “It’s All in the Game” or “Still Water (Love),” but these last two discs let fans really dive into the Tops in their post-H-D-H career. (Key finds: the Tops’ collaborations with The Supremes, including rousing takes on “River Deep-Mountain High” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” or rousing deep cuts like “Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)” and “A Simple Game.”) The three Italian versions of key Tops hits that close the package are a trip, too.

If you’re leery of buying another Tops compilation, 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1964-1972 may be the one to get, not only for its comprehension but its look. The 7″ x 7″ package is stuffed with track-by-track liner notes (adapted from The Complete Motown Singles series) as well as beautiful scans of rare photos and picture sleeves from all over the world – a definite reward for the eyes as well as the ears (which will love the mono mixes in action here).

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought or felt that The Four Tops were second bananas during the golden years of Motown. But with this set, it’s definitely not the same old song.

You can order The Four Tops’ 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection here!

Click here for Part 2 of our 50th Anniversary Singles Collection review for Joe’s look at Martha & The Vandellas’ set!

Written by Mike Duquette

May 24, 2013 at 11:24

Losers Weepers! Ace Unveils Rare and Unreleased Songs on “Finders Keepers: Motown Girls 1961-67″

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Motown GirlsThanks to the dedication of labels like Ace Records, it would be impossible to “forget the Motor City.”  Along with the U.S.’ flagship Hip-O/UMG Select imprint, Ace has led the charge in issuing vintage 1960s-era Motown material, much of it unreleased.  The recent release of Finders Keepers: Motown Girls 1961-1967 compiles 24 tracks from girls both famous (The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Mary Wells) and sadly unknown (LaBrenda Ben, Thelma Brown, Anita Knorl) for a potent overview of songs that slipped through the cracks at Hitsville, USA.  Sweetening the pot is the fact that, of the 24 songs, twelve have never been released before.  It’s always cause for celebration when the seemingly endless Motown vaults are dipped into, and this is no exception.

Listen to a track like The Velvelettes’ “Let Love Live (A Little Bit Longer),” cut in 1965 and first released in 1999, and you immediately realize that it has all the elements of Classic Motown.  Why wasn’t it released at the time it was recorded?  Would it have been a hit?  Chart success can hardly be ascribed to one particular factor, and maybe the track just didn’t have that intangible “it.”  But what “Let Love Live” and most of the other tracks here do have is the unmistakable presence of the Funk Brothers, some of Motown’s brightest songwriters and producers, and the frisson of the Sound of Young America in its prime.

Naturally, no Motown Girls compilation would be complete with songs from the label’s top female acts.  The Marvelettes, who made Motown history with the label’s first No. 1, “Please Mr. Postman,” are represented with Holland-Dozier-Holland’s stomping “Finders Keepers.”   Recorded 1964 but not issued until 1980, it makes a welcome reappearance here.  (The Marvelettes are credited with “The Grass Seems Greener,” too, but the notes reveal that this previously unreleased song was actually sung by Bettie Winston.)  Gladys Knight and the Pips’ 1967 “When Somebody Loves You (You’re Never Alone)” has been oft-bootlegged over the years, but has never appeared in the top-notch sound quality it’s presented in here.   And where would any Motown compilation – girls or otherwise – be without an appearance by The Supremes?  Finders Keepers producers Keith Hughes and Mick Patrick have opted for two songs with Florence Ballard in the spotlight.  1961’s “Buttered Popcorn,” written by Berry Gordy and longtime Motown sales manager/veep Barney Ales, is the object of some good-natured derision in Gordy’s book to the now-running Motown: The Musical on Broadway.  “Long Gone Lover” is a track from 1964’s Where Did Our Love Go album, written by another Motown mainstay, the legendary Smokey Robinson.

Smokey’s imprimatur is all over Finders Keepers.  No fewer than six tracks composed by the Miracles man are present.  With its finger-snapping beat, a haunting title refrain, and the slinky bass of James Jamerson, Martha and the Vandellas’ 1966 “No More Tear-Stained Makeup” is a low-key treat.  (Keith Hughes suggests that the group’s other song here, H-D-H’s “Build Him Up,” could have been withheld from release because Gordy might have found it dated compared to “Heat Wave.”  That theory seems to be a good one.  And yes, despite a volume of Motown Lost and Found and an entire disc of previously unissued material on the recent Singles Collection, there’s still more Vandellas in the Motown vault!)

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

Release Round-Up: Week of April 2

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Alexander O'Neal vinylThe S.O.S. Band / Cherrelle / Alexander O’Neal, “Tabu Reborn” Vinyl Editions (Wave 1) (Tabu/Edsel)

The start of a lengthy reissue campaign from Demon Music Group, these are 180-gram vinyl reissues of The S.O.S. Band’s III (1982), Cherrelle’s 1984 debut Fragile, and Alexander O’Neal’s self-titled debut from 1985. Expanded editions of these albums come out on CD next week, followed by a great many more waves of product throughout 2013 and into 2014!

S.O.S. Band: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Cherrelle: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Alexander O’Neal: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Martha and The Vandellas Singles CollectionThe Four Tops / Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collections (Hip-O Select/Motown)

Two new lavish sets collect all the single sides worldwide by two of Motown’s most underrated vocal groups – and in the case of Martha & The Vandellas, there’s a bonus disc of unreleased “lost and found” content to enjoy, too!

Four Tops: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Mad Season - AboveMad Season, Above: Deluxe Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

This short-lived grunge supergroup, featuring Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley and members of Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees, only put out one record, but it’s been expanded as a 2CD/1DVD set featuring unreleased tracks (with vocals by Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan) and live audiovisual content. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Born Under a Bad SignAlbert King, Born Under a Bad Sign: Expanded Edition (Stax/Concord)

One of the Memphis’ label’s most celebrated blues albums is remastered and expanded with five unreleased alternate takes! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

David Gates - Early YearsDavid Gates, The Early Years: The Early Songwriting Genius of David Gates (Rare Rockin’)

Before leading Bread, Gates was a talented singer-songwriter whose early works were covered by a myriad of vocalists – many of which are making their CD debuts on this compilation. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Simple Minds CelebrateSimple Minds, Celebrate: The Greatest Hits (Virgin/EMI)

As the ’80s hitmakers embark on a new tour, this new hits compilation – available in double and triple-disc variants – was made available in the U.K. last week. (A U.S. release is reportedly slated for later this spring.)

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

RKivesRilo Kiley, RKives (Little Record Company)

A collection of rare and unreleased material from the now-defunct L.A. band.

Margaret Whiting - Wheel of HurtChet Atkins with The Boston Pops, The Pops Goes Country/The Pops Goes West / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 24: Cow Palace, Daly City, CA – 3/23/1974 / Tom Jans, Take Heart/Tom Jans / Barbara & Ernie, Prelude To… / Steve Lawrence, Winners!/On a Clear Day / Don Nix, Living by the Days / Eydie Gorme & The Trio Los Panchos, Amor/More Amor / Margaret Whiting, The Wheel of Hurt: Deluxe Edition Maggie Isn’t Margaret Anymore/Pop Country / Alfred Newman, The Diary of Anne Frank: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The latest wares from Real Gone: plenty of two-fers, a rare Alfred Newman soundtrack, a new Dead reissue and expanded works from country-pop singer Margaret Whiting.

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

Mills MercilessJerry Butler, Love’s on the Mend/Suite for the Single Girl / Stephanie Mills, Merciless: Expanded Edition / Donna Washington, Going for the Glow: Expanded Edition / Nancy Wilson, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You/Now I’m a Woman (SoulMusic)

A slew of great titles from SoulMusic are out this week, including a Stephanie Mills album produced by the late Phil Ramone. Check out the above post for details.

Jerry Butler: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Stephanie Mills: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Donna Washington: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Nancy Wilson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Anita WardCaston and Majors, Caston and Majors / Fern Kinney, Groove Me / Arthur Prysock, All My Life / Anita Ward, Songs of Love (Big Break)

And the latest expanded titles from Big Break include some Motown and T.K. rarities, including Anita Ward’s megahit “Ring My Bell.”

Caston and Majors: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Fern Kinney: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Arthur Prysock: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Anita Ward: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Judy Garland CreationsJudy Garland, Creations 1929-1962 (JSP)

A four-disc U.K.-only compilation of “the songs that Judy Garland sang first.” (Amazon U.K.)  U.S. customers may order at CD Universe or Collectors’ Choice Music for April 9 release.

eagles_boxEagles, The Studio Albums 1972-1979 (Elektra/Rhino)

Every one of the California hitmakers’ original studio albums, in a handy slipcase. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Reach Out! Singles Sets for Four Tops, Martha & The Vandellas Due from Hip-O Select

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Four Tops Singles CollectionWe kick off the weekend with not one but two new Motown collections from Hip-O Select. This time, it’s a pair of singles collections from two cornerstones of the classic Motown sound – and one is packed with rarities.

The boutique label (which, if its Twitter feed is any indication, is due for a rebranding of sorts) is releasing two Singles Collection multi-disc sets from The Four Tops and Martha & The Vandellas. The classic lineup of Levi Stubbs, Obie Benson, Duke Fakir and Lawrence Payton, combined with the immaculate writing and production of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, make their The Singles Collection 1964-1972, covering their first stretch on Motown Records in A- and B-sides, a killer addition to your collection. Not only does it feature each side released out of Detroit (including Top 10 hits “I Can’t Help Myself,” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Standing in the Shadows of Love”), but it also features a handful of tracks released on singles in the U.K. as well as the group’s astounding Italian-language versions of three of their hits.

Martha and The Vandellas Singles CollectionThings get even more exciting for the triple-disc The Singles Collection 1962-1972 from Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. “Heat Wave,” the immortal “Dancing in the Street” and “Jimmy Mack” were all major hits, but the group remains one of the most important and underrated of the Motown roster. This set will definitely entice fans: not only does it feature all of their single sides, but a third disc as well featuring a “Lost & Found” 27-track set of rare and unreleased gems from the Motown vaults. Collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Ashford & Simpson and Deke Richards – who mixed six of the rarities on this disc – abound, as do unfamiliar alternate versions of major hits. (The remainder of the work was mixed by engineer Obie O’Brien, working on vintage mixing gear in Sanctuary Studio (owned and operated by one of his most famous collaborators: Bon Jovi).

Featuring the same kind of deluxe packaging as Select’s singles sets for The Supremes and The Tempatations, both sets will be available in stores on April 2. Hit the jump to check out both sets and pre-order your copies!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 15, 2013 at 15:45

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