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Ooh Baby Baby: New “Opus Collection” Celebrates Linda Ronstadt

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LR OpusStarbucks has unveiled the latest addition to its Opus Collection library, and the subject artist is one who’s always beat to a “different drum”: Linda Ronstadt.  Throughout her career, Ronstadt has rocked to Buddy Holly and Warren Zevon, performed Gilbert and Sullivan on Broadway, sang out front of Nelson Riddle’s orchestra, made sweet country harmonies with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, celebrated her rich Mexican heritage, and explored folk and Cajun traditions.  In short, Ronstadt’s remarkable – and remarkably diverse career – can’t possibly be encapsulated on one compact disc, but the new Opus Collection does offer 16 tracks displaying the breadth of Ronstadt’s vocal talents.  It follows other recent releases for the artist including Rhino’s volume of Duets and Universal’s budget-priced ICON compilation.

This Opus Collection spans the period between Ronstadt’s second solo album, 1970’s Silk Purse, and 2006’s Grammy-nominated studio farewell, Adieu, False Heart, a collaborative LP with Ann Savoy.  Following the usual template of this series, Ronstadt’s edition includes a number of hits but eschews others in favor of lesser-known gems.  That the earliest track is Gary White’s ballad “Long, Long Time” is appropriate; with its No. 25 placement on the Billboard Hot 100, it was a milestone for Ronstadt that also earned her a Grammy nomination.  (“Different Drum,” from The Stone Poneys, had reached No. 13 in 1967 but “Long, Long Time” marked Ronstadt’s first major solo hit.)

Compilation producer Steven Stolder has selected some of Ronstadt’s most beloved hits from her amazing streak in the 1970s produced by Peter Asher: “You’re No Good” (No. 1, 1975, from Heart Like a Wheel), “Blue Bayou” (No. 3, 1977, from Simple Dreams), “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” (No. 31, also from Simple Dreams), and “Ooh Baby Baby” (No. 7, 1979, from Living in the U.S.A.)  Anna McGarrigle’s title track to 1974’s chart-topping album Heart Like a Wheel, featuring an understated piano/string quartet arrangement and the harmony vocals of Maria Muldaur, is also a selection.

Ronstadt’s natural affinity and ability to blend with her fellow singers has never been in doubt.  Opus Collection draws on the Grammy-winning Trio II album from Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris for the traditional “Lover’s Return,” first popularized by the Carter Family in the 1930s, and on Adieu False Heart for Ronstadt and Ann Savoy’s delicious reinvention of The Left Banke’s pop hit “Walk Away Renee.”   Another favorite duet partner of Ronstadt’s is the great New Orleans soul man Aaron Neville; he’s heard on Tom Snow, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Don’t Know Much,” a No. 2 Pop/No. 1 AC hit in 1989 from the multi-platinum album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind.  From that same LP, this collection reprises Jimmy Webb’s poignant “Adios,” featuring the angelic, multi-layered harmonies of Brian Wilson, and the Eric Kaz-written title track.  Kaz also co-wrote the beguiling title song to Ronstadt’s acclaimed 1993 album Winter Light, heard here, with Ronstadt and film score composer Zbigniew Antoni Preisner.

The final quartet of tracks represents Ronstadt’s varied forays into standards.  Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Bobby Capó’s “Piel Canela” is derived from Ronstadt’s Grammy-winning Frenesí.  Two tracks are taken from Ronstadt’s series of albums with the legendary arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle – “What’ll I Do” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”  Opus Collection closes with “Cry Me a River,” another venerable standard from the Great American Songbook.  Ronstadt recorded it not with an orchestra, but with a jazz combo, for her 2004 Verve album Hummin’ to Myself.

After the jump, we have more on this set including the complete track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 18, 2014 at 13:55

Listen to the Nyah-Rock: Cherry Red Expands Cymande’s First Three Albums

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CymandeOn September 25, 2014, Cymande will appear at the Koko in London. The gig will be the first time that all of its original members have performed together in the U.K. since 1974. The group, named for the Calypso word for Dove and pronounced “sah-mahn-day,” blends together funk, jazz, calypso, African tribal music and reggae into a sound of music the group dubbed “Nyah Rock.” Due to the sampling of some their songs in recent times, Cymande’s reputation has grown larger and Cherry Red Records have recently reissued expanded edition of their three LPs:   1972’s Cymande, 1973’s Second Time Around and 1974’s Promised Heights.

In 1972, John Schroeder (a producer who wrote Helen Shapiro’s “Walking Back to Happiness” and also discovered the band that became Status Quo) walked into a Soho nightclub to discover new talent and found Cymande.   The group (all hailing from islands in the Caribbean) had been founded a year earlier by Patrick Patterson (guitar) and Steve Scipio (bass). The pair was joined by Mike Rose (sax, flute, percussion), Sam Kelly (drums), Derek Gibbs (alto sax) and Pablo Gonzales (congas, bongos). A little later, vocalists Ray King and Joey Dee, plus saxophonists Peter Serreo and Desmond Atwell came onboard.

Cymande - Second TimeSchroeder took them into the studio to record their songs (most written by Paterson and Scipio but with contributions from others in the band; vocals alternated but predominantly featured Joey Dee) on what became their self-titled debut LP. He got them signed to Janus in the U.S., an imprint of Chess Records. A single of “The Message” was released and it climbed to the Top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 20 on the R&B Chart. They began an American tour supporting Al Green and becoming the first British band to perform at the famed Apollo Theater.

Ironically, Cymande’s U.S. success didn’t translate to their U.K. home. In Britain, they mostly booked shows in clubs and their second LP in 1973 did not even get a British release. It did better in the U.S. and lead to another American tour where the band had reverted to its core of Patterson, Scipio, Rose, Kelly, Gonzales, Dee and Gibbs.

Cymande released a third and final record in 1974 (which did get issued in the U.K. on Contempo) but it fared poorer than its predecessors. The Nyah-rockers broke up in 1975 with a final single from their last recording session being released in 1976. The members went their separate ways, some into music and others into other pursuits. Some have formed together for various Cymande tributes over the years. In 1981, Paterson produced what was called “a new Cymande project” entitled Arrival, but it is not considered part of the band’s official release canon.

After the jump: more on Cymande, including the complete track listings for all three titles plus order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 18, 2014 at 10:43

Posted in Cymande, News, Reissues

Everybody Out There: Paul McCartney Expands “New” In October As 2-CD/1-DVD Set

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newThe week before hotly-anticipated Archive Collection releases arrive of Venus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound, Paul McCartney is looking to a more recent title for a deluxe reissue.  On October 28, McCartney will revisit New, first released in October 2013.  The 2-CD/1-DVD set expands the album that entered both the U.K. and U.S. album charts at No. 3 and has since sold nearly a quarter of a million copies in the U.S. in addition to having earned platinum and gold certifications elsewhere in the world.

This new edition of New presents the original album on its first CD, followed by a 7-track CD of bonus tracks including outtakes (one previously released as a Japanese exclusive, two never before released) and live material.  The DVD, with a running time of nearly two hours, may be the most impressive component of the package, featuring a New documentary, an interview and music videos in addition to “making of” featurettes for the videos plus eight promotional appearances from Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon’s television shows as well as appearances in Las Vegas, Times Square, and even HMV’s venerable Oxford Street, London shop.

For New, McCartney famously collaborated with a variety of producers including Academy Award-winning songwriter Paul Epworth (Adele’s “Skyfall,” 21) and Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black), as well as two producers with impressive credits whose fathers just happened to have had Beatle pedigrees – Ethan Johns, son of Glyn, and Giles Martin, son of Sir George and co-sonic architect of The Beatles’ Love stage show.  Rolling Stone praised McCartney’s efforts with the fresh production team as “the music of eternal youth… energized and full of joyous rock & roll invention.”  Both McCartney and his producers comment on New in “Something New,” the Don Letts-directed documentary included on the DVD.

Among the new audio material on New are the previously unissued tracks “Hell to Pay” and “Demon Dance” plus the Japanese bonus track “Struggle.”  The second disc also includes live performances of “Save Us”, “New”, “Queenie Eye” and “Everybody Out There” from McCartney’s November 2013 gig at the Tokyo Dome.

After the jump: more details including the complete track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 17, 2014 at 13:18

Make It Fast, Make It Urgent: Foreigner Box Up Atlantic Albums

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Foreigner - Complete

You’ve been waiting for a box like this.

On October 14, Rhino will unveil the 7-CD collection from Foreigner, The Complete Atlantic Studio Albums 1977-1991.  As the classic rock band’s discography has amounted to just three albums since its departure from Atlantic in 1991, this box brings together Foreigner’s prime material including five U.S. multi-platinum smash LPs and hits like “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold as Ice,” “Hot Blooded,”  and “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

Foreigner, founded by vocalist Lou Gramm, guitarist Mick Jones, drummer Dennis Elliott, bassist Ed Gagliardi and multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald, was a hot property from the time of its very first release.  1977’s 5x platinum Foreigner reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and yielded the hit singles “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold as Ice” and “Long, Long Way From Home.”  The album began an unabated string of hits for the British/American band, straight through 1987’s Inside Information.    By the time of Foreigner’s Atlantic swansong Unusual Heat (1991, and the last CD in this box set), only Jones and Elliott remained from the original line-up.  Rick Wills had replaced Gagliardi as of the group’s third album, 1979’s Head Games, while Unusual Heat marked the debut of Wild Horses singer Johnny Edwards, replacing Lou Gramm.  (Gramm returned to the fold in 1992, and was with Foreigner for its 1994 Arista debut, Mr. Moonlight.)

Rhino expanded Foreigner’s first four albums in 2002, fleshing out each release with demos, live tracks and outtakes.  Happily, this box will replicate the contents of those four releases, adding a total of nine bonus tracks to the original album sequences.   Typical of this program of complete albums from Rhino, it doesn’t appear that The Complete Atlantic Studio Albums 1977-1991 will include a booklet with any liner notes or additional credits beyond those which appeared on the original LP sleeves.  All albums will be presented in replica mini-LP jackets and retain the most recent prior masterings.

After the jump, we have more information including the complete track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 17, 2014 at 10:32

Moments in Time: First Whitney Houston Live CD/DVD Announced

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Whitney Live

It’s not often that music mogul Clive Davis takes to The Today Show to make a special announcement, but that’s exactly what the former Columbia President, Arista founder and current Chief Creative Officer at Sony Music Entertainment did this morning to unveil his latest passion project.  Five-time Grammy winner Davis was on hand to present the first-ever live album from one of his most famous discoveries, the late Whitney Houston.  “This is her legacy,” said Davis of Whitney Houston Live – Her Greatest Performances, the new CD and CD/DVD release coming from Arista and Legacy Recordings on November 10.

“She was without question the greatest vocalist in the world,” Davis said this morning of Houston, yet amazingly, she never officially released a live album during her lifetime. The new Whitney Houston Live traces her career from one of her breakthrough moments – the 1983 Merv Griffin Show performance during which Davis introduced the 19-year old to the world, belting Charlie Smalls’ showtune “Home” from The Wiz – through her 2009 appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show singing Diane Warren’s “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” from her final studio album, I Look to You.

After the jump: what will you find on both editions of this new set? Plus: the full track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 16, 2014 at 13:03

Wonderful, Wonderful: Johnny Mathis’ “Complete Global Albums” Box Coming From Legacy

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Mathis - Global Box Set

Chances are, Johnny Mathis fans are going to be counting down until November 17.

On that date, Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings will release The Complete Global Albums Collection, a first-of-its-kind set compiling the entire recorded output of Mathis during his Mercury Records period. A Columbia artist since 1956, Mathis departed his label home just once – recording some eleven albums (ten of which were released) under the imprimatur of his own Global Records production company between 1963 and 1967, at which time he returned to Columbia. Legacy’s new clamshell-design box set collects all eleven LPs plus two discs of singles and previously unissued rarities, plus a booklet containing album-by-album notes from Mathis.

The Complete Global Albums Collection features these ten LPs originally released on Global/Mercury, all remastered and in mini-LP jacket replicas:

  • The Sounds of Christmas (1963) – first-time reissue on CD in its original, unaltered form
  • Tender is the Night (1964)
  • The Wonderful World of Make-Believe (1964)
  • This Is Love (1964)
  • Olé (1965)
  • Love Is Everything (1965)
  • The Sweetheart Tree (1965, also contains all unique tracks from international edition, Away From Home, for first time on CD)
  • The Shadow of Your Smile (1966)
  • So Nice (1966)
  • Johnny Mathis Sings (1967)

The box then adds:

  • Broadway (a “lost” album largely consisting entirely of previously unreleased covers of classic Broadway showtunes, recorded 1964-1965 and first released in 2012 by Real Gone Music as part of Real Gone’s landmark series of first-time Global reissues); and
  • The Global Singles and Unreleased (2 CDs and 28 tracks: non-album singles and unreleased songs)!

After the jump, we have much, much more on The Complete Global Albums Collection including the track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 15, 2014 at 16:07

In Memoriam: Bob Crewe (1931-2014)

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Bob CreweFrom you’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off you to voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?, some of the most memorable phrases in popular music came courtesy of Bob Crewe. The multi-hyphenate talent – a songwriter, producer, singer, entrepreneur, artist, philanthropist, activist, and candidate for the title of “Fifth Season” – passed away yesterday at the age of 82, but not before leaving behind a rich legacy guaranteed to endure for decades to come. Crewe’s songs were built around big, powerful emotions, packed with drama and filled with heart.

Newark, New Jersey-born Stanley Robert Crewe dreamt big. His early years saw him studying architecture at Parsons School of Design, working successfully as a fashion model, and trying his luck as a singing star and potential teen idol. But Crewe, despite his good looks, found his truest calling behind the scenes of the music business. With writing partner Frank Slay, he gifted “Silhouettes” to The Rays and “Tallahassee Lassie” to Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon. Then, he formed arguably his most felicitous creative partnership with fellow Jersey boy Bob Gaudio. “[Gaudio] brought the finished song [“Sherry”] to Bob Crewe, independent hit record producer,” read the liner notes of the Seasons’ debut platter Sherry and 11 Others. “One listen was all Bob (Crewe) needed to be sold on the idea. The song was recorded and released immediately. An unknown group only a couple of months ago, today the whole music business and public alike are talking about the ‘different sound’ of The 4 Seasons.” They still are.   Jersey Boys, chronicling the group’s rocky road to stardom and beyond, has been breaking records on Broadway since 2005. A film adaptation directed by Clint Eastwood premiered in 2014. Though the film was critically dismissed, Mike Doyle earned praise for his touching, funny and multilayered portrayal of Bob Crewe.

Sherry and 11 Others, of course, bore production credit for Crewe. A renaissance man, he was also credited with arrangements, conducting the orchestra, and even designing the cover artwork! The album ended with “Sherry,” but began with “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” heralding the arrival of the Bob Gaudio/Bob Crewe writing team. With Crewe primarily supplying lyrics to Gaudio’s melodies, the pair created that “different sound.” Though rooted in doo-wop and street-corner harmonies honed on the mean streets of northern New Jersey, Crewe and Gaudio’s fresh songs and immaculate, elegant productions exploded from AM radios. Valli’s ethereal falsetto soared above a youthful, vibrant and contemporary beat imbued with rock-and-roll attitude. The artful songs the team crafted throbbed with urgency and grit. Crewe’s gutsy words had universal appeal but remained honest to the group’s working-class backgrounds: “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Man’s World,” “Rag Doll,” “Ronnie,” “Save It for Me,” “Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye).” The ballads were just as impressive as the stomping rockers, and were similarly drawn from the heart: the shimmering “Silence is Golden,” the aching “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

We continue our Bob Crewe tribute after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 12, 2014 at 11:59

Posted in Bob Crewe, News

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