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David Foster Makes Christmas “Merry and Bright” With Rod Stewart, Celine Dion, More

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Merry and Bright

In a career spanning five decades, producer-musician-songwriter David Foster has virtually become a brand name in himself. After making his name in bands like Skylark and Airplay, the Canadian multi-hyphenate contributed as sideman, writer and arranger to albums by George Harrison, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and Earth Wind and Fire; he won one of his sixteen Grammy Awards for co-writing that band’s “After the Love is Gone.” Beginning in the 1980s, he launched a solo career and also established himself as a marquee producer for artists as diverse as The Tubes, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Chicago. Today, he heads up the venerable Verve Music Group. The Foster oeuvre, ranging from R&B to AOR and MOR, has been anthologized in the past, but Starbucks is putting a spin on a “Foster’s greatest hits” CD with a new, exclusive holiday compilation. Merry and Bright samples the holiday music recorded by producer Foster over the years with contributions from artists including Celine Dion, Michael Bublé and Rod Stewart.

Unsurprisingly, Merry and Bright leans heavily on the adult contemporary balladeers that have become Foster’s stock in trade. Michael Bublé kicks off the compilation with Meredith Willson’s classic “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” from the fellow Canadian’s chart-topping 2011 holiday release. Mel Tormé and Robert Wells’ standard “The Christmas Song” is rendered by Celine Dion from her 1998 Grammy-nominated These Are Special Times. Dion shared a duet on that album with Italian crossover tenor Andrea Bocelli, who is featured on two songs here: “O Tannenbaum” and a duet on “Jingle Bells” with Jim Henson’s famous Muppets. A major break for Josh Groban was subbing for Bocelli on a rehearsal of his Dion duet, “The Prayer,” for the 1998 Grammy Awards. Groban became another associate of Foster’s. “Little Drummer Boy” is heard here from Groban’s 2007 quintuple-platinum release Noël, the best-selling album in the U.S. for the entire year.

After the jump: more details including the complete track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 26, 2014 at 15:06

Klaatu Rising: Bernard Herrmann’s “The Day The Earth Stood Still” Returns To CD

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Day The Earth Stood StillKlaatu barada nikto. With those three words, Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) saved the world from certain destruction at the hands of the eight-foot robot Gort in the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Director Robert Wise’s film remains one of the most chilling and effective Cold War-era films, wrapping its plea for peace in a compelling, documentary-style sci-fi narrative. Chief among its assets was a score by maestro Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Taxi Driver). Herrmann’s intense, exciting themes will soon be reissued on CD by Kritzerland in a newly-remastered edition which is currently available for pre-order.

Reissue producer Bruce Kimmel notes, “It’s no surprise that every fantasy filmmaker—including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Carpenter, Peter Jackson, James Cameron and Christopher Nolan—has cited the influence of this picture upon their own. The film did everything right – from a superb screenplay by Edmund H. North (from a story by Harry Bates), to the beautiful cinematography by Leo Tover, to the stellar cast of Michael Rennie [as humanoid alien Klaatu, whose name later inspired a cult band – JM], Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe and Billy Gray (having a cast of great actors playing the reality of the story is what helps ground the film and make it timeless). The Day the Earth Stood Still, simply put, is a masterpiece and one of the most important science fiction films ever made. “

To accompany the film, Herrmann crafted his score to utilize unusual instrumentation – and most notably for the composer renowned for Psycho, no traditional strings. Instead, Herrmann employed electric violin, cello, and bass, Hammond and pipe organs, various percussion instruments (including vibes, glockenspiels, marimbas, timpani and gongs) and brass (such as trumpets, trombones and tubas), and most notably – two theremins. Herrmann also eschewed woodwinds to create a score unlike any other.

Hit the jump for details on what to expect on this new CD! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 26, 2014 at 13:16

Better Be Fierce: Real Gone Reissues Two From Ronnie Dyson On “Phase 2/Brand New Day”

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Ronnie Dyson - Brand New and PhaseIn the annals of underrated R&B vocalists, Ronnie Dyson (1950-1990) was among the greatest. A versatile singer equally comfortable with smooth soul, pure pop and showbiz pizzazz, Dyson left behind a small but rich catalogue for the Columbia and Cotillion labels. With the recent release of Phase 2 and Brand New Day from 1982 and 1983, respectively, Real Gone Music and SoulMusic Records have filled in two of the major holes in Dyson’s CD discography (RGM-0294). With the release of this stellar two-on-one disc, 1979’s If the Shoe Fits remains the late soul man’s lone album not yet on CD. (Dyson’s first and highest-charting album, 1970’s (If You Let Me Make Love to You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You?, will be included on SoulMusic’s Lady in Red: The Columbia Sides, Plus, now available from Cherry Red.  Watch for our full report soon.)

Ronnie Dyson was already a seasoned performer before he turned 20 years old; at the age of 18, he was selected to lead the company of Broadway’s groundbreaking Hair in introducing the future standard “Aquarius.” The Washington, DC-born actor/singer soon turned his attention to recording, scoring a Top 10 hit with a song from another rock musical (“(If You Let Me Make Love to You) Then Why Can’t I Touch You” from 1969’s Salvation) and inking a deal with Columbia Records. In 1973, Columbia sent Dyson to Philadelphia to work with Thom Bell in the hopes that Bell’s lush productions would prove a match with Dyson’s silky-smooth yet powerful falsetto vocals. Bell composed and produced a number of sides for the album that became One Man Band, and the LP was rounded out with remixed versions of past recordings including Barry Mann’s “When You Get Right Down to It” from 1971. Among Bell and lyricist Linda Creed’s contributions to One Man Band were the irresistible title track (No. 28 Pop, No. 15 R&B) and the wistful “I Think I’ll Tell Her,”) both as strongly melodic and lyrically memorable as the team’s best for the Stylistics and the Spinners. Thanks to the Bell/Creed productions, One Man Band remains one of the most criminally unknown albums in the R&B canon.

One of the Bell-produced tracks was written by the team of Bobby Eli, Vinnie Barrett and John Freeman. “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” earned Dyson a No. 60 Pop/No. 29 R&B hit, and years later, Dyson turned to Eli for the production of his Cotillion debut album, appropriately entitled Phase 2. Guitarist-arranger Eli, of course, was a member of MFSB, the veteran crew of Sigma Sound house musicians so frequently utilized by Bell for his majestic productions. In addition to his dynamic session work for Philadelphia International, Salsoul and other labels, Eli had also come into his own a producer for such artists as Atlantic Starr and Keith Barrow. Recording at studios in New York and Philly and splitting the arrangement chores with fellow Philly veteran Richie Rome, Eli crafted a set for Dyson that subtly updated his sound for a new decade.

On Phase 2 as well as its follow-up LP included on this disc, Dyson’s voice is a bit rougher around the edges than on his earlier Columbia recordings, but it’s still a recognizable and powerful instrument. The brassy uptempo dancer “Bring It on Home,” written by Eltesa Weatherby, Frank Fuchs and Gavin Spencer, opens Phase 2. It adds a 1980s production sheen to the classic Philly soul formula; its opening drum pattern echoes that of The Spinners’ “One a Kind Love Affair,” and elsewhere Don Renaldo’s Horns and Strings swing as female backing vocalists coo sensually. A similar sound with then-modern keyboard flourishes and big drums is achieved on a contemporary makeover of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Soul Survivors oldie “Expressway to Your Heart.”

Dyson was always comfortable with ballads, and Eli – co-writer of Blue Magic’s stunning “Side Show,” among other songs – naturally knew his way around softer material. Eban Kelly and Charles Williams’ “Heart to Heart” is a slickly insinuating mid-tempo groove, and Dyson pleads with intensity on Samm Culley’s “Say You Will.” He conjures similar vocal fire on Allee Willis and Patrick Henderson’s “Now” and keeps things smooth and romantic on the album’s closing track, Timothy Wright’s “I Found Someone.”

After the jump: more on Phase 2, plus a look at Brand New Day! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 25, 2014 at 13:38

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, Ronnie Dyson

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Don’t Walk Away: Hear No Evil Label Expands Terraplane’s Debut “Black and White”

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Terraplane - Black and WhiteBefore Thunder, there was Terraplane.  Thunder, the British hard-rock act that notched a No.2 record on the UK charts in 1992 with Laughing On Judgment Day had previously existed as Terraplane.  Under that incarnation, the band released two albums in the 1980s.  Cherry Red imprint HNE Recordings recently released an expanded edition of Terraplane’s debut effort, Black and White.

Hailing from South London, Terraplane’s membership was initially made up of Danny Bowes (vocals), Luke Morley (guitars), Gary James (drums) and Nick Linden (bass and piano).   The group formed out of Bowes and Morley’s college band Nuthin’ Fancy and recorded a single for independent label City Records.  In addition, they performed at many venues around London including numerous gigs at the Marquee Club which helped to garner the attention of Epic Records.  Terraplane signed with Epic in February of 1984 and began work on their debut.

Finding a producer proved to be difficult but one was eventually decided upon: Liam Henshall, who had previously worked with the band King.  Several guests were brought in for the album, including Jools Holland on “I’m The One” and Ruby Turner on “Couldn’t Handle the Tears.”  Henshall would take the band to 10 different studios during the recording process and the production time for the album began to grow.  During that period, they became a support act for Meat Loaf’s tour in 1985 and brought in an additional member: guitarist Rudi Riviere who contributed to “Talking to Myself” on the record.

The album was finally finished and ready for release but Terraplane and Epic could not agree on a title.  The band members wanted to name the album Talking to God Down the Great White Telephone, but Epic found the title too obscure and called the album Black and White.  This disagreement between band and label would prove to be an omen of things to come.

When Black and White was released in 1985, it only hit No. 74 on the U.K. charts.  The singles which followed did not fare well, either.  In Malcolm Dome’s new liner notes for this edition, Morley, Bowes and Henshall are interviewed.  They candidly recount the tensions between the band and Epic, who wanted Terraplane to go in a more pop direction.  A second album, Moving Target, was released in 1987, but fared even more poorly on the charts than its predecessor.  After that, Terraplane was over.  Bowes, Morley and James regrouped and reformed with two new members as Thunder, signing to EMI in 1989.  Their first album under the new name, Backstreet Symphony, was released in 1990, hitting #21 in the U.K. and #114 in the U.S.

What will you find on the new Terraplane reissue?  Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 24, 2014 at 11:17

Posted in News, Reissues, Terraplane

Step by Step, Heart By Heart: Martika’s Debut Expanded by Cherry Pop

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MartikaFor decades, The Disney Channel has served as a launching pad for the pop stars of tomorrow, from Justin Timberlake to Britney Spears to Selena Gomez and many more.  One of the earliest shows to have stars emerge was Kids Incorporated which aired on The Disney Channel from 1986-1994 (after having moved there from syndication).  Kids introduced audiences to, among others, Fergie and Jennifer Love Hewitt.   But it was another cast member from the show who had early success stemming from her time on the program:  Marta Marrero, or as she was billed on her self-titled debut album, Martika.  This album has recently been reissued by Cherry Red imprint Cherry Pop in an expanded edition.

After having gotten her big break playing an orphan in 1982’s movie musical Annie, Martika played Gloria on Kids Incorporated for the show’s first three seasons from 1983-1987.  During that time, she met producer/songwriter Michael Jay (Five Star).  He recognized her talent and approached her about collaborating.  Martika signed a record deal with Columbia in 1987 with Jay inked as the producer.   Her debut recording for the label was the song “We Are Music,” issued only in Japan as a promotional release.

Martika and Michael Jay began work on what would become Martika.  Jay wrote or co-wrote 6 of the 10 songs on the album.  He was joined as a co-writer on two of the songs by Martika herself, who Jay had encouraged to begin writing. (She also co-wrote two other songs on the album.)   The album was released in October of 1988 with the lead-off single “More Than You Know” coming in November.  It hit No. 18 in the U.S. and No. 21 in the U.K.   The next single would prove to be an even bigger success and become the song most associated with Martika:  “Toy Soldiers.”   Released in 1989, the single climbed to No. 5 in the U.K. but reached pole position in the U.S., going gold.  The album itself also went gold, peaking at No. 15 in the U.S. and No. 11 in the U.K.  Two other singles were released: the Carole King cover “I Feel the Earth Move” (No. 7 U.K.) and “Water” (No. 59 U.K.).

After the jump, we have more on Martika including the complete track listing with discography and order links!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 21, 2014 at 09:29

Posted in Martika, News, Reissues

Bring the Noise! Public Enemy’s Landmark “It Takes a Nation of Millions” to Be Expanded

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PublicLast year, UMe demanded that listeners “Respect the Classics” with a new series of multi-format reissues dedicated to landmark hip-hop albums from the vaults of labels including Def Jam, Interscope, Priority and Virgin.  One of last year’s releases was an LP reissue of Public Enemy’s 1988 release It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.  On November 24, Def Jam will revisit that title once again with a 2-CD/1-DVD expanded reissue.

The second album by hip hop group Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions only peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard 200, but has since been recognized as one of the most influential albums in the hip-hop genre.  With lead MC Chuck D ratcheting up the group’s social commentary via his pointed lyrics, It Takes a Nation took a cue from Marvin Gaye’s seminal What’s Going On and attracted attention from the mainstream that Public Enemy’s 1987 debut failed to receive.  It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Black Albums list and made a Top 10 placement in the U.K. pop chart, as well.  The LP has since been declared platinum and has been considered in some quarters to be the greatest hip-hop album of all time.

It Takes a Nation of Millions was the result of extensive preproduction.  Rather than touring with the rest of the group Eric “Vietnam” Sadler and Hank Shocklee remained in the studio shaping the material for the Nation of Millions album, readying tracks for Chuck D and Flavor Flav’s return.  Produced by production team The Bomb Squad (including Chuck D) under the auspices of executive producer Rick Rubin, the sixteen tracks on It Takes a Nation blended rap with funk, electronica, pop, soul and rock influences to create a singular aural assault.  Music from the album has since been sampled by artists of various genres such as The Beastie Boys, The Game, Jay Z, Jurassic 5, Madonna and My Bloody Valentine.

After the jump, we have details on what you can expect from this set, plus pre-order links and the full track listing with discography!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 20, 2014 at 10:32

Posted in DVD, News, Public Enemy, Reissues

Ace Super Soul Round-Up, Part Two: The “One in a Million” Songs of Sam Dees, The New Orleans Sound of Cosimo Matassa

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Sam Dees - One in a MillionWelcome to Part 2 of our two-part series exploring a recent crop of amazing soul and R&B from the Ace and Kent labels!

Birmingham, Alabama native Sam Dees has worn many hats in a long and illustrious career – producer, singer, songwriter, among them.  But it’s a songwriter that Dees has received his greatest acclaim.  He’s gifted music to George Benson and Aretha Franklin (“Love All the Hurt Away”), Atlantic Starr (“Am I Dreaming”), Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Save the Overtime (For Me)” and Loleatta Holloway (“The Show Must Go On”) – as well as Larry Graham, whose No. 1 R&B/No. 9 pop hit “One in a Million You” lends its title to One in a Million: The Songs of Sam Dees.

This 22-track compilation draws upon Dees’ vast catalogue of soulful compositions, originally issued between 1970 and 1983.  Dees himself kicks off the anthology with his own 1977 recording of “My World,” one of his strongest ballads.  It goes on to feature a “Who’s Who” of soul royalty including The Spinners’ John Edwards (“Stop This Merry-Go-Round,” 1973), The Chi-Lites (the exclusive U.K. remix of “Vanishing Love” from 1977 – a song first recorded by…John Edwards!), Loleatta Holloway (the aforementioned “The Show Must Go On” from 1975), Esther Phillips (“Cry to Me,” from 1981 – first recorded by Loleatta!), Jackie Wilson (“Just as Soon as the Feeling’s Over,” from 1975), and Johnnie Taylor (“Seconds of Your Love,” from 1983).  The latter was co-written by Dees and Philadelphia’s Ron Kersey, and also recorded by artists including Holloway, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Wilson Pickett and Jackie Moore.  The Kersey/Dees partnership is also represented with The Temptations’ 1983 “What a Way to Put It,” featuring Dennis Edwards on lead vocals.  Another Philly soul great, Bobby Martin, produced 1980’s “Where Did We Go Wrong” for LTD, co-written by Dees and LTD’s Jeffrey Osborne.  The set, with track-by-track annotations from compiler Tony Rounce and remastering from Duncan Cowell, ends with Larry Graham’s “One in a Million You,” appropriate for a one-in-a-million solid gold songwriter.

Cosimo CodeThe death earlier this year of Cosimo Matassa at the age of 88 truly marked the end of an era.   Born in New Orleans in 1926, Matassa opened his first recording studio in 1945.  He moved to a larger facility in 1955, and as studio owner and engineer, he became one of the most significant figures in New Orleans’ musical history – and therefore, the history of R&B.  Cracking The Cosimo Code: ‘60s New Orleans R&B and Soul draws on the rich music recorded by Matassa at Cosimo Recording Studios, 521-525 Governor Nicholls Street, New Orleans.  Matassa had been around to witness the changing of the guard in N’awlins R&B, from Fats Domino and producer Dave Bartholomew to younger production talents like Allen Toussaint, Wardell Querzegue and Harold Battiste and their stable of artists including Lee Dorsey, The Meters, Ernie K-Doe and The Neville Brothers.  Though much else of the sound of the city changed, Matassa was a constant, presence and a constant innovator.

After the jump: more on Cosimo, order links and track listings for both titles!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 19, 2014 at 10:23

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