Archive for the ‘News’ Category
When I was about to listen to his tape, I remember clearly I was thinking, “Gee, if he has the mom’s musicality and smarts, and the dad’s smarts and voice, that’d be nice”…Then I put it on and I said, “Oh, my God, this is stunning.”
-Lenny Waronker on Rufus Wainwright
The scope and longevity of Rufus Wainwright’s career is almost underserved by his own historic musical lineage. The eldest child of folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle (who would divorce when Rufus was three), his music is at times evocative of both but in a completely more adventurous direction. Rufus’ style is considerably more baroque than either of his parents, with a style that recalls theatrical tradition (Wainwright recently announced a second opera for performance in 2018) and a songbook overflowing with beautiful, yearning compositions.
After some 15 years of recording and touring, Wainwright will release Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright this spring in standard and two-disc deluxe editions. The standard edition covers 18 tracks, including songs from nearly all of his studio albums between his critically-acclaimed self-titled debut for DreamWorks Records in 1998 and 2012′s Out of the Game for Decca Records. That disc is augmented by a non-LP track (and arguably one of Wainwright’s most famous recordings) – a piano-driven cover of Leonard Cohen’s now-immortal “Hallelujah,” released on the hit soundtrack to the animated film Shrek in 2001 – and a new track, the perhaps-appropriately named “Me and Liza.” (Wainwright’s love for Liza Minnelli’s mother, Judy Garland, hit a fever pitch in 2006 when he performed a pair of shows in tribute to Judy’s acclaimed live set at Carnegie Hall in 1961; a resultant live album was released the following year.)
The deluxe edition, meanwhile, features even more rare and unreleased content, including soundtrack songs (“La Complainte de la Butte” from Moulin Rouge!, ”The Maker Makes” from Brokeback Mountain, a stunning take on The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” for the film I Am Sam), several exclusive bonus cuts (such as “WWIII” from the Out of the Game sessions, making its physical debut here); another new track, “Chic and Pointless” and a host of unreleased live content, including tracks from a celebrated gig at London’s Kentwood House in 2010. (At least one of those tracks was released on House of Rufus, Universal U.K.’s mega complete box set of Wainwright’s career up to 2011.)
Both versions of Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright hit stores in the U.S. on March 4. Hit the jump for pre-order links and full track lists!
Though the catalogue of Johnny Cash has been mined numerous times, for acclaimed Bootleg volumes and even a Complete Album Collection box set, there’s still more of the story of the Man in Black yet to be told. A crucial part of that story will be revealed on March 25, 2014 when Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings release Out Among the Stars, a “lost album” comprised of twelve recently discovered studio recordings made by Cash between 1981 and 1984.
Produced by Nashville legend Billy Sherrill (Charlie Rich, George Jones, Tammy Wynette) and recorded at that city’s Columbia Studios and 1111 Sound Studios, Out Among the Stars is a rare closer look at the music being created during one of the lowest ebbs in Cash’s personal and professional lives. His long tenure at the label was coming to a close, with albums like The Baron (1981), The Adventures of Johnny Cash (1982) Johnny 99 (1983) and Rainbow (1985) all failing to ignite the charts despite some fine material worthy of rediscovery. The recordings on Out Among the Stars were made before he departed Columbia for Mercury, where he began his next chapter with 1987’s Johnny Cash is Coming to Town.
On these songs – which are not demos or alternate versions of previously released material – Cash is joined by his wife June Carter Cash and fellow Highwayman Waylon Jennings for duets. He’s supported by a distinguished ensemble of musicians including the young Marty Stuart on guitar and mandolin plus first-call session vets like Jerry Kennedy (guitar), Pete Drake (steel guitar), Hargus “Pig” Robbins (piano) and Henry Strzelecki (bass). Two of the songs, “Call Your Mother” and “I Came to Believe,” are original Cash compositions.
The material that will premiere on Out Among the Stars was discovered in 2012 when John Carter Cash joined the Legacy team to catalogue his parents’ archives in Tennessee and at the Sony Music Archives. Cash states, “When my parents passed away, it became necessary to go through this material. We found these recordings that were produced by Billy Sherrill in the early 1980s…they were beautiful.” He told The Associated Press that “Nashville at the time was in a completely different place. It was the Urban Cowboy phase. It was pop country, and dad was not that. I think him working with Billy was sort of an effort by the record company to put him more in the circle of Music Row and see what could happen at the heart of that machine.” Sherrill, after all, was an architect of the crossover countrypolitan sound that dominated so much of the country music coming from Nashville.
After the jump, we have more details plus the full track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »
It’s T. Rextasy at the Cherry Red Group, with two recent titles exploring the music of T. Rex’s Marc Bolan. The Grapefruit imprint has collected two discs’ worth of material from Bolan’s early band John’s Children, while RPM has reissued two albums from Gloria Jones on one CD including the Bolan-produced Vixen.
By the time Marc Bolan joined the ranks of John’s Children in 1967, the British band had already established quite a reputation. Encouraged by manager Simon Napier-Bell to engage in outrageous antics, Andy Ellison (vocals), Geoff McClelland (guitar), John Hewlett (bass) and Chris Townson (drums) were known for their high-octane live shows. The band might trash their instruments, spill fake blood or engage in fisticuffs. But record buyers cottoned to the group’s music, too. First single “Smashed Blocked” cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.; it was retitled “The Love I Thought I’d Found” in the U.K. due to the drug connotation of “blocked,” or high on amphetamines. Their second single “Just What You Want – Just What You’ll Get,” with a guitar solo from guest Jeff Beck, hit the British Top 40. “Not the Sort of Girl (You’d Like to Take to Bed)” was intended as the group’s third single, but the U.K. Columbia label rejected it for rather obvious reasons. The band moved to Track Records, home of The Who, and carried on, but still more controversy was to come. In March 1967, McClelland was replaced by Marc Bolan, who penned John’s Children’s next 45: “Desdemona.” The BBC banned that one, unhappy with the “lift up your skirt and fly” lyric. Marc and co. couldn’t get a break; their U.S. label, White Whale, rejected their album, too. The reason why? It was entitled Orgasm.
The mod-psych rockers went on to further fame (infamy?) when they were booted off a Who tour for being “too loud and violent.” (That said, drummer Chris Townson subbed for Keith Moon for a few days at the end of The Who’s 1967 tour.) A long life wasn’t in the cards for John’s Children, however. Bolan departed the group after a mere four months, unhappy with Napier-Bell’s production of his song “Midsummer Night’s Scene,” a June 1967 single. Bolan went on to form Tyrannosaurus Rex. The remaining members briefly soldiered on, with Chris Townson switching to guitar and Chris Colville handling drums. A couple more singles were issued including a version of Bolan’s “Mustang Ford” (as “Go-Go Girl”) recorded after he left the line-up, but John’s Children broke up in 1968, not reuniting until the mid-1990s.
Grapefruit’s A Strange Affair: The Sixties Recordings features 52 tracks on two CDs. The first disc, Singles and Rarities, includes a number of Andy Ellison solo tracks along with all of the band’s U.K. 45s. The second disc is built around Orgasm (which was finally released in 1970, after the split) plus bonus tracks such as alternate versions, mixes and instrumentals. (Most of these have been previously released on various hard-to-find compilations over the years.) The new liner notes in the 24-page booklet have been written by Ellison, including track-by-track annotations. Nick Watson has remastered, and a note indicates that as the original master tapes have been “mislaid or lost,” Watson has “for the most part gone back to the original records rather than using existing CD source[s].” As this is the most comprehensive John’s Children-related anthology yet, it’s the perfect chance to discover the band that was “louder than The Who.” It’s available now from Grapefruit!
After the jump, we flash-forward to 1976, and Gloria Jones’ Vixen! Read the rest of this entry »
Happily for fans, Omnivore Recordings has willfully ignored the unwritten rule that reissue labels wind down for a bit toward the end of the calendar year. They’ve just announced the latest catalogue projects of what is already shaping up to be a busy 2014, with rare and unreleased recordings due from Paisley Underground group The Dream Syndicate, country-rockers Lone Justice and legendary ex-Hüsker Dü member Bob Mould.
Omnivore announced yesterday the expansion of Workbook, Mould’s 1989 solo debut, as a 2CD or 2LP set. Released a year after the Minnesota punk band’s acrimonious split, the album saw Mould exploring intensely personal and furiously proficient songcraft (critics and fans have called Mould’s guitar playing on Workbook some of his best), more than a little removed from the noisy power-pop bliss of his follow-up band Sugar. The two-disc Workbook 25 features the remastered album and non-LP B-side “All Those People Know” on one disc, and a mostly-unreleased live show from Chicago’s Cabaret Metro, just two weeks after the album’s original release. (Mould will also embark on seven tour dates to commemorate the album, commencing with a special set at San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival in February.) A double-vinyl version will add “All Those People Know,” as well.
Mere weeks before The Dream Syndicate convened in the studio to record their full-length debut, The Days of Wine and Roses, they took to a studio inside the offices of KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, playing a rapturous set of new and old originals (from their self-titled EP released earlier that year) and covers of Donovan (“Season of the Witch”), Bob Dylan (“Outlaw Blues”) and Neil Young (“Mr. Soul”) to a receptive audience that included members of R.E.M. and The Bangles. First released nearly a decade after the band’s split, The Day Before Wine and Roses captures the live spirit of this seminal band – a spirit which audiences recently got to experience in California for a special set of reunion shows alongside fellow Paisley Underground bands The Three O’Clock, Rain Parade and The Bangles. This reissue features both new liner notes by band frontman Steve Wynn and vintage ones from producer Pat Thomas.
Finally, a spate of unreleased tracks by L.A. rockabilly/roots group The Lone Justice, will be released by Omnivore. Recorded two years before their debut LP for Geffen (which featured an all-star supporting cast including producer Jimmy Iovine, songs co-written by Tom Petty and Steven Van Zandt and session work by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ own Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench) with engineer David Vaught, the aptly-named This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes is a successful snapshot of the band’s raucous spirit as a then-primarily live act. In addition to its 12 tracks, nine of which are unreleased, the CD or red-vinyl LP package features a host of liner notes and essays, from guitarist Ryan Hedgecock and bassist Marvin Etzioni, Billboard‘s Chris Morris and even longtime fan Dolly Parton.
Expect This is Lone Justice on January 14, The Day Before Wine and Roses on February 4 and Workbook 25 on February 25. Hit the jump for full track listings for all of them!
When Herbert Buckingham “Tiny Tim” Khaury, 37, married Victoria May “Miss Vicki” Budinger, 17, on December 17, 1969 before Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, The Rev. William Glenesk and a studio audience filled with 268 of the happy couple’s closest friends, roughly 40 million people were watching. It was a high point for Carson’s Tonight Show, and some 44 years later when TV Guide counted down television’s 60 Greatest Talk Show Moments, the wedding of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki made the Top 15. Indeed, Tiny Tim fascinated the nation from his first appearance on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Introduced as “The Toast of Greenwich Village,” the 6’1” jacketed figure with the mane of long hair entered, pulled a ukulele out of a shopping bag, and proceeded to warble “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop” in perhaps the strangest falsetto ever. The audience roared at both Tim’s performance and co-host Dick Martin’s comically dumbfounded glare at his new discovery. A star – of a kind not seen before and not likely to be seen again – was born.
An early fan of this most peculiar man was Peter, Paul and Mary’s Peter Yarrow. He introduced Reprise Records’ legendary honcho Mo Ostin to Tim, and Ostin signed the former “Larry Love, The Singing Canary” to The House That Frank Built. Tiny Tim recorded three albums for Reprise, and now, his 1968 Top 10 debut LP God Bless Tiny Tim has just been reissued in a deluxe expanded mono edition from Now Sounds. The late singer-comedian-enigma died in 1996, aged 64, but his outsized personality and outré, time-displaced style live on here. Even those who own the 2006 Rhino Handmade stereo box set God Bless Tiny Tim: The Complete Reprise Studio Masters…and More will find much new to discover.
Dear friends, join us after the jump for more, won’t you?
Maybe it’s his catalogue in the hands of a new owner, with Parlophone now being managed by Rhino/Warner Music Group. Maybe it’s the rushing wave of acidic nostalgia that came with publishing his hit Autobiography. Or maybe it’s just been too long since the last reissue. Whatever the reason, Morrissey’s 1992 album Your Arsenal is getting remastered and expanded for a February release.
Featuring a new band anchored by guitarists Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte – still Moz’s chief collaborators to this day – and a rockabilly-inspired production by the late Mick Ronson, Your Arsenal was the first of many Morrissey albums hailed as a return to form for the ex-Smiths frontman. While it was not without its share of controversy (the war on Morrissey waged by NME had perhaps hit a fever pitch at this time, thanks to their perception of some of the album’s lyrics as glorifying of hooliganism and far-right English politics), it nonetheless did well on both sides of the Atlantic, with audiences embracing songs like “Glamorous Glue,” “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” and “Tomorrow” on the U.S. modern rock charts.
It wouldn’t be a Morrissey reissue without a little bit of original album tweaking, and while this is perhaps his most subtlest reconfiguration yet, it is indeed a reconfiguration: “Tomorrow” is featured in its U.S. single mix version. But this “Definitive Master” edition will include perhaps more bonus material than ever before seen or heard on a Moz re-release: a DVD featuring a complete show from the previous year’s Kill Uncle tour, recorded at California’s Shoreline Amphitheater on Halloween 1991. This set not only featured the band that would record Your Arsenal, but includes two new tracks that would be recorded at that time: “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” and non-LP B-side “Pashernate Love.”
Your Arsenal: Definitive Master is out on February 24 and 25 as a CD/DVD or vinyl remaster (the latter featuring a new gatefold sleeve). Hit the jump for the full specs and pre-order links!
When Screaming Lord Sutch promised the presence of some “Heavy Friends,” he wasn’t messing around. The cover of 1970’s Lord Sutch and Heavy Friends boasts some of the heaviest hitters in rock and roll: guitarists Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, drummer John Bonham, pianist Nicky Hopkins and Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding. It’s recently been remastered and reissued by Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint, and certainly qualifies for release on a label called Esoteric!
David Edward Sutch (1940-1999) was a showman through and through, whether rocking-and-rolling in his horror-themed stage act or sending up politics as founder of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. (And yes, the Monster Raving Loonies have actually won elections!) Though he wasn’t much of a singer, “Screaming” Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow, made a splash with the Joe Meek-produced, banned-by-the-BBC single “Jack the Ripper” in 1963. (His nickname was inspired by Screaming Jay Hawkins, and he wasn’t really an Earl…but no matter!) That was the same year he stood in his first election, representing the National Teenage Party. Always a colorful character, Sutch and his manager Reginald Calvert even formed a pirate radio station, inventively named “Radio Sutch.” Sutch was known to emerge from a coffin onstage, and could be found offstage tooling around in his Union Jack-adorned Rolls Royce.
Until 1970, however, Sutch had never released an LP. He called on some of his very famous friends to participate in sessions for the album that would become Heavy Friends, though most subsequently disowned it when Sutch emblazoned their names on the cover of the LP rather than allowing them the reportedly-promised anonymity. Recorded at Hollywood’s Mystic Sound Studios in 1969, Heavy Friends has a loose, off-the-cuff feel, as if the recorders had been turned on during a late-night jam session. Sutch resisted the temptation to record a batch of oldies, instead bringing self-described “modern rock ‘n’ roll with the real Zeppelin sound” to the table. Though it’s debatable whether he quite achieved that, one couldn’t deny Sutch’s understated assertion that “John Bonham is a tremendous drummer.” Jimmy Page ended up with a co-producer credit (“very nice of [Sutch],” he commented in 1970) and as co-writer of six of the album’s twelve songs. Sutch and co. were joined by Daniel Edwards, Martin Kohl and Rick Brown on bass, Kent Henrey on guitar, and Carlo Little and Bob Metke on drums.
Malcolm Dome, in his new liner notes, persuasively makes the argument for this “oddball yet strangely charismatic” and “weird and effective” album, but reaction upon its release was hardly so kind. Rolling Stone called it “absolutely terrible” and Page insisted the album was no more than a joke that “became ugly.” But Heavy Friends today plays like a primal early exercise in what would become punk, with musical nods to blues-rock and rock-and-roll. Sutch’s distinctive, if not particularly musical, vocals may not be to everyone’s tastes, but Beck’s guitar shines on “Gutty Guitar,” and Page and Bonham’s interplay on a number of tracks is particularly worthwhile. In addition, tracks like “Union Jack Car” and “L-O-N-D-O-N” are offbeat but memorable and very much of the period. Stripped-down, wild and woolly, and certainly original, Heavy Friends is certainly one of the strangest records to have been created by an all-star supergroup. Page and Bonham appear on seven songs, with Beck on one track, and Hopkins and Redding on three each (Redding supplies the “Thumping Beat” on the song of the same name).
After the jump: more on Heavy Friends, including the track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »
Kritzerland has just jumped headfirst into the holiday season with three exciting releases on the soundtrack front. Continuing the label’s commitment to the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond, the label has just made these three titles available for pre-order:
- John Wayne at Fox: The Westerns – Two CDs and three scores for the price of one CD! This double-disc anthology brings together three classic scores from films featuring The Duke: Elmer Bernstein’s The Comancheros (1961), Lionel Newman’s North to Alaska (1960) and Hugo Montenegro’s The Undefeated (1969)! Though all three titles have been previously released, they have been fully remastered for Kritzerland’s release. North to Alaska features vocal performances from Johnny Horton and Fabian. A 1,000-unit limited edition, John Wayne at Fox is available for $19.98 from Kritzerland.
- Sabrina / We’re No Angels – Following Intrada’s recent release of Henry Mancini’s original soundtrack to Blake Edwards’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Kritzerland premieres another memorable score from an Audrey Hepburn film from an iconic director. This time, the film is 1954’s Sabrina and the director is Billy Wilder. Frederick (The Blue Angel) Hollander’s score to Sabrina is paired with another Hollander treat: his score to the 1956 Humphrey Bogart Christmas comedy We’re No Angels! As a special bonus, the disc is rounded out with vintage Hollander cues from a number of his other films. This 1,000-unit limited edition is available from Kritzerland at $19.98.
- Finally, Kritzerland re-presses its sold-out release of Bernard (Psycho, Taxi Driver) Herrmann’s scores to two vintage television specials: a 1954 adaptation of A Christmas Carol starring Fredric March and Basil Rathbone; and the next year’s A Child is Born starring Nadine Conner and Theodor Uppman of the Metropolitan Opera. These two scores show another side of the renowned suspense composer’s immense talent. This 1,000-unit limited edition is available at the low holiday price of $14.98 from the label.
Kritzerland indicates that “our hope is that CDs will ship by the last week of December or hopefully even sooner, but this is the busiest time of year for pressing plants, so there is the off chance that it could be early January. But the hope is to have them out the door before Christmas.” In addition, the label’s annual Christmas sale is on! You can sample the many bargains right here!
After the jump, we have the full contents of Kritzerland’s press release, plus track listings and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »
Among the leading lights of what would eventually become known as “alternative rock,” few groups made as great a mark as Camper Van Beethoven. The California band, which had its beginnings in 1983 and coalesced in 1985, incorporated elements of rock, punk, folk, ska and world music into its own style of “surrealist absurdist folk.” Three indie albums arrived before Camper signed with Virgin Records for its major-label debut, 1988’s Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. On February 4, Omnivore Recordings will revisit that alt-rock landmark as well as its follow-up, 1989’s Key Lime Pie, in deluxe expanded editions available on CD and produced in cooperation with the band members. The same date, the original LPs will also be reissued on 180-gram vinyl in lavish Omnivore fashion.
Dennis Herring, who would go on to produce albums by Elvis Costello, Ben Folds and Counting Crows, helmed Camper’s two Virgin albums. Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart assuaged the usual fears that a brave and adventurous indie band had “sold out” in signing to a mainstream label; as Omnivore’s press release puts it, “As it turned out, the first three tracks on Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart were a pop song, an instrumental and an adaptation of a dirge about death. Heck, the release even had a love song for Patty Hearst. No, Camper Van Beethoven hadn’t sold out. They just had better distribution now!” Though Sweetheart was an accessible record which earned the band an even greater fan base, it didn’t whitewash the band’s more outré sensibilities or simplify the wide-ranging, varied instrumentation. The album’s line-up included David Lowery on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Jonathan Segel on violin, mandolin, keyboards, guitar and backing vocals, Victor Krummenacher on bass and backing vocals, Greg Lisher on lead guitar, and Chris Pedersen on drums. (Sweetheart was the first Camper Van Beethoven album not to feature founding guitarist/drummer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Molla.) Omnivore’s CD reissue adds a whopping 10 bonus tracks to the album’s original 14 songs, including live tracks, non-LP songs and the edit of “Eye of Fatima Pts. 1 & 2.”
Camper returned in 1989 with Key Lime Pie, its final album before (temporarily) breaking up in 1990. The band’s line-up was somewhat altered here, with the departure of Jonathan Segel before the album’s recording commenced. Hence, the album was crafted by Lowery, Krummenacher, Lisher and Pedersen, with the violin parts played by Don Lax and Morgan Fichter. Somewhat darker and more Americana-oriented than its predecessor, Key Lime Pie featured a noteworthy cover of Status Quo’s psychedelic “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and a track about another notorious American figure, “Jack Ruby.” Nine bonus tracks add up to the tastiest Key Lime Pie yet, including live tracks, rare edits and demos.
After the jump: more on both albums, including full track listings and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »
Holiday Gift Guide Spotlight: Diamond, Streisand, Williams, Cash, Jones, Wynette and More Join “Classic Christmas Album” Roster [UPDATED]
Last year brought volumes from a variety of artists across the rock, pop, country and R&B spectrum including Barry Manilow, Luther Vandross, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Kenny G and Elvis Presley. For 2013, another eight seasonal anthologies have arrived under the Classic Christmas Album umbrella from Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Alabama, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Martina McBride.
Christmas is the one time of the year you’re guaranteed to hear the voice of the late, great Andy Williams on the radio. In fact, thanks to Andy, you just might think of Christmas as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And that 1963 Edward Pola/George Wyle standard is just one of the sixteen favorites you’ll hear on Williams’ Classic Christmas Album, newly remastered by Tim Sturges. Selections have been drawn from all three of Andy’s Columbia Christmas recordings: 1963’s timeless The Andy Williams Christmas Album, 1965’s equally-impressive follow-up Merry Christmas, and the far lesser-known, low-key 1975 Christmas Present. On the latter, Williams mainly limited his repertoire to traditional hymns, and the new compilation features five of them (“Joy to the World,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “What Child is This,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Ave Maria”) tenderly sung in the vocalist’s pristine tone. Highlights from the first two, perennial Christmas albums include “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells” and “The Christmas Song” (1963) and “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and the haunting reading of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” (1965). One simply can’t go wrong with any anthology of Andy Williams’ holiday recordings, including The Classic Christmas Album. But one would be better advised to check out Real Gone Music’s new 2-CD anthology The Complete Christmas Recordings. This set, licensed from Columbia, includes the entirety of Williams’ three Columbia Christmas LPs plus three singles and two previously unreleased tracks. As every track is essential listening, it’s one-stop shopping for Andy’s Columbia-era holiday music.
Another Columbia Records mainstay, Barbra Streisand, released her first Christmas album, simply entitled A Christmas Album, in 1967, not recording another holiday-themed set until 2001 and Christmas Memories. Barbra’s Classic Christmas Album reprises nine titles from the first LP and seven from its belated sequel. Naturally, among the 1967 tracks is Streisand’s iconic reinvention of “Jingle Bells,” along with other staples such as “The Christmas Song,” “My Favorite Things” and “White Christmas.” From 2001, you’ll hear standards like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as well as more contemporary material including Ann Hampton Callaway’s “Christmas Lullaby,” Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Don Costa’s “Christmas Mem’ries,” the Bergmans and Johnny Mandel’s “A Christmas Love Song,” and Streisand’s seasonal reinterpretation of Stephen Sondheim’s haunting “I Remember,” written for the 1967 television musical Evening Primrose. This is an intelligently-compiled sampler, but both complete original Streisand albums are essential. Tim Sturges has again remastered.
Streisand’s fellow Brooklynite and onetime duet partner Neil Diamond is the subject of his own Classic Christmas Album. Diamond’s twelve-track compilation is drawn from his first two massively successful Columbia Christmas releases, 1992’s The Christmas Album and 1994’s Volume Two. (Diamond returned to Christmas music for 2009’s A Cherry Cherry Christmas, which blended five new songs with nine returning favorites, but its new songs – among them the self-referencing title track and a cover of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song” – have been overlooked here.) Classic Christmas Album makes room for Neil’s very own holiday standard “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” (originally recorded on 1984’s Primitive but remade for The Christmas Album) alongside Diamond-ized renditions of songs both spiritual (“Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night”) and secular (“The Christmas Song,” “Silver Bells,” “Sleigh Ride”). Don’t let Neil’s country-western attire on the cover artwork fool you; The Classic Christmas Album features 12 tracks of traditional holiday pop, even if selections from A Cherry Cherry Christmas would have made this Christmas dish even sweeter. (An extra bonus: whereas most titles in this series have no liner notes, Diamond has penned an introduction for his volume.) Diamond’s preferred mastering engineer Bernie Becker has handled those duties here.
After the jump: we cross over to the country side of town and beyond! Plus: we have full track listings with discographical annotation, and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »