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Back Tracks: Scott Walker, Part 2 (1975-2014)

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Scott-Walker-b01Where Part 1 of our Back Tracks feature left Scott Walker, he was in a creatively barren period, cranking out albums of AM pop and country, a far cry from the Brel songs and even the Brill Building tearjerkers that characterized his best work. Having left the sublime pop symphonies and edgy chansons behind, he found inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. In 1975, The Walker Brothers reformed, much to the surprise of many. The group recorded the LP No Regrets, which they followed up with 1976’s Lines and 1978’s Nite Flights, all three for the GTO label. (All three titles were reissued in one compact box set by Sony U.K. in 2010.) The first two LPs were both distinguished by quality material from outside songwriters, including songs by old stalwarts Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman and Mickey Newbury, and strong contributions by Boz Scaggs, Kris Kristofferson, Jesse Winchester and Janis Ian. But nobody could have been prepared for the third album.

Nite Flights was entirely self-written by the Walker Brothers, a dark, disquieting album that augured for Walker’s future recordings and set aside any notions of their former pop stardom. Scott’s four Nite Flights songs were strange, indeed: “Shutout,” “Fat Mama Kick,” “Nite Flights” and especially the morbid “The Electrician” all dispensed with traditional song form and any pretense of literal lyrics. Combining nightmarishly odd words with instrumentation ranging from wailing, feedback-laden guitar to even disco-style backing, Walker had discovered a new voice that would lead to the most polarizing, provocative part of his career.  He wouldn’t re-emerge as a recording artist, though, until 1984. Back Tracks follows Scott Walker’s unbelievable journey and transformation after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 23, 2014 at 13:45

Posted in Features, Reissues, Scott Walker

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Back Tracks: Scott Walker, Part 1 (1967-1974)

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Scott WalkerThis week, Scott Walker released his latest studio album, Soused, a predictably unpredictable collaboration with drone-metal band Sunn O))). To mark the occasion, we’re reviewing the musical iconoclast’s complete discography in this two-part Back Tracks series originally presented in June 2010 and freshly updated!

The music business is famous for hyperbole, but it’s no exaggeration to say that few have had a career anything like that of Scott Walker. An American who skyrocketed to fame on British shores in the heady time that was the mid-1960s, Walker (born Noel Scott Engel in 1943) turned his back on the world of a pop idol. He became one of the first major performers to embrace and champion the dark musical melodramas of Jacques Brel but that, too, didn’t last long. After some largely-undistinguished albums recorded during his self-described “lost years” and a period of relative seclusion, Walker emerged, creating provocative soundscapes that dispensed with any traditional notions of melody or songwriting. Whatever other labels may be used to describe him, Scott Walker remains an artist true to himself. Back Tracks takes a look at the solo recordings of one of music’s true eccentrics, just one click away. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 22, 2014 at 13:30

Posted in Features, Reissues, Scott Walker

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The Nashville Sound: New Set Spotlights Chet Atkins’ Collaborations

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Chet Atkins - Master ClassFourteen-time Grammy winner Chet Atkins (1924-2001) was a man of many hats. At RCA Victor between 1947 and 1982, as a performer, producer and executive, he was a key player in the creation of the “Nashville Sound” which made country palatable to crossover audiences.  Indeed, though the style has changed, the pop influence on the country genre certainly hasn’t, and fans of Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood all owe something to Chet Atkins.  Also one of Nashville’s most pioneering and virtuosic guitarists, Atkins notched a number of hit singles while at RCA and embarked on a series of collaborative albums with other guitar greats including Les Paul, Mark Knopfler, Jerry Reed and Tommy Emmanuel – all four of which are represented on a new 2-CD set from Australia’s Raven Records. Chet Atkins – Four Master Class Albums 1978-1997 collects four Atkins LPs originally released on the RCA and Columbia labels and continues Raven’s series of Atkins reissues.

The earliest album here, 1978’s Guitar Monsters, was the second full-length collaboration of Atkins and Les Paul following 1976’s Grammy-winning Chester and Lester.  Though Atkins pioneered the “countrypolitan” sound of Nashville, the tracks on Monsters are stripped-down and tight with no strings anywhere in sight.  Randy Goodrum (piano) and Larrie London (drums) returned from Chester, and were joined by Paul Yandell (rhythm guitar), Buddy Harman and Randy Hauser (drums) and Joe Osborn (bass).  As on that first duo album, a loose, informal atmosphere prevailed on Guitar Monsters.  You’ll want to turn your volume up to hear the faint in-studio comments preserved.  Sometimes the gents are calling out chord changes; other times, they’re just laughing or making wry observations.  But of course, the main attraction here is the music – standards like “Over the Rainbow,” “I Want to Be Happy,” “Limehouse Blues” and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa classic “Meditation.”  There’s plenty of breathing room for tasty solos from both men over these eleven tracks, with friendship as well as competition likely keeping Chet and Les at the top of their respective games.

The set then jumps to 1990 with Atkins’ Mark Knopfler collaboration, Neck and Neck.  The elder statesman and the hotshot Dire Straits leader/axeman picked up two Grammy Awards for this joint effort, on which they were joined by Guy Fletcher on drums, bass and keyboards, Edgar Meyer and Steve Wariner on bass, Larrie Londin on drums, Mark O’Connor on fiddle and mandolin, and Paul Franklin on steel, with guest spots from legendary Nashville pianist Floyd Cramer and vocalist Vince Gill.  Knopfler supplied the original song “The Next Time I’m in Town,” with other repertoire coming from the classic country (Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams” and “Just One Time”), pop (Gus Kahn and Isham Jones’ “I’ll See You in My Dreams”) and jazz (Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt’s “Tears”) songbooks.

There’s more after the jump including the full track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 21, 2014 at 12:32

Release Round-Up: Week of October 21

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Ghostbusters Stay Puft

Ray Parker Jr. & Run-DMC, Ghostbusters: Stay Puft Edition Super Deluxe Vinyl (Legacy)

The Marshmallow Man is back!  The Stay Puft Super Deluxe Edition Vinyl is a limited edition collectible that every Ghostbusters fan will want to take home!  Co-produced by The Second Disc’s Mike Duquette, this set contains the No. 1 hit single “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. and the “Ghostbusters” rap by Run-DMC for the film’s hit sequel, with both tracks on a white 12” single in a deluxe, puffy, package that smells like marshmallows!

Suzi

Suzi Quatro, The Girl from Detroit City (Cherry Red) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Cherry Red has a 4-CD, 82-track overview of the glam rock icon (and Happy Days star)’s career, including her early, 60s pop sides, her prime hitmaking period, and even her forays into musical theatre!  Joe will have a full review up soon!

Hollies - 50 at Fifty

The Hollies, 50 at Fifty (Parlophone/Rhino) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

This new 3-CD Hollies anthology, marking the harmony purveyors’ 50th year of recording, arrived in the U.K. last month but today gets its American release from Rhino.

Oldfield Box

Mike Oldfield, The Studio Albums 1992-2003 (Rhino) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Rhino boxes up eight Oldfield albums in one CD box set, including three Tubular Bells variations.

Spandau

Spandau Ballet, The Very Best of Spandau Ballet: The Story (Rhino)

The New Romantic hitmakers behind “True” look back on their career with this set, available in 1-CD and 2-CD iterations.

1-CD: Amazon U.S.  / Amazon U.K.

2-CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. 

Ian Hunter - All American

Ian Hunter, All-American Alien Boy (Varese Sarabande) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Varese is restoring the second solo album from Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter to print in the U.S. with the six bonus tracks first appended to the 30th anniversary edition.  The 1976 album features personnel including Jaco Pastorius, David Sanborn, Lew Soloff, Auyn and the members of Queen!  Watch this space for an exciting opportunity to WIN a copy of this reissue!

Gavin DeGraw

Gavin DeGraw, Finest Hour: The Best of Gavin DeGraw (RCA) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The singer-songwriter and Dancing with the Stars contestant has an 11-track compilation, featuring producer Max Martin’s previously unreleased version of “In Love with a Girl” and a new version of “Finest Hour.”

Melody Road

Neil Diamond, Melody Road (Capitol) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Neil Diamond returns with his 32nd studio album and first for Capitol, and its 12 songs in the artist’s vintage style add up to a warmly nostalgic trip for longtime fans.  Target has an exclusive edition with two bonus tracks which may be outtakes from his 2010 covers project Dreams: renditions of George Harrison’s “Something” and Harry Nilsson’s”Remember,” and this edition is also available as an import at this link.  Look for my review of Melody Road soon!

EWF - Holiday

Earth, Wind & Fire, Holiday (Legacy) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The venerable R&B outfit offers its first-ever holiday album, with favorites like “Winter Wonderland” and “Sleigh Ride” alongside reworked versions of “September” (yup, it’s “December”!) and “Happy Feelin'” – which this joyous celebration just might give you!

Scott Walker - Soused

Scott Walker and Sunn O))), Soused (4AD) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The sixties pop crooner-turned-avant garde hero Scott Walker teams up with California drone metal band Sunn O))) for a 5-track, 50-minute record that pushes the envelope for both artists.  We’re marking this unusual release this week with a look back at the entirety of Walker’s career in a special two-part Back Tracks retrospective beginning tomorrow!

Aretha - Diva

Aretha Franklin, Sings the Great Diva Classics (RCA) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The Queen of Soul reunites with Clive Davis for her latest studio album, a tribute to her fellow divas – then and now – including Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dinah Washington and Adele!

Billy Idol - Kings and Queens

Billy Idol, Kings and Queens of the Underground (Kobalt) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Billy Idol is back with his rebel yell and sneer intact on his first album since 2005, produced by Trevor Horn and Greg Kurstin!

Annie Lennox - Nostalgia

Annie Lennox, Nostalgia (Blue Note) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Annie Lennox usually hasn’t been one to bask in nostalgia, but here she is, bringing her own spin to such Great American Songbook standards as “Summertime” and “God Bless the Child.” The Amazon U.S.-exclusive edition has a bonus disc featuring a Lennox interview and a live version of blues staple “I Put a Spell on You.”

O-o-h Child! Real Gone’s December Line-Up Features Five Stairsteps, Grateful Dead, B.J. Thomas and More

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Five Stairsteps - Two-ferO-o-h Child! Real Gone Music has announced its December 2 release slate, and following the label’s holiday offerings set for November 4, it’s packed with rare soul, classic rock and folk!

The Real Goners have a complete collection of Linda Jones’ recordings for not one, not two, but three labels – Warner Bros., Atco and Loma –marking the most comprehensive collection yet for the “Hypnotized” songstress, including tracks new to CD! Joining the Linda Jones set is a two-for-one release of two Buddah albums from The First Family of Soul, The Five Stairsteps: 1968’s Our Family Portrait and 1970’s Stairsteps, the latter of which introduced the Top 10 hit “O-o-h Child.”

On the rock front, you’ll find two collections from western-themed bands! Real Gone continues the story of Cowboy with 5’ll Getcha Ten, the band’s 1971 album featuring the legendary Duane Allman sitting in; and the label adds a couple of tracks to the lone album from the 1980s’ wild roots-rockers The Unforgiven!  And speaking of roots-rock of a kind, the ongoing Dick’s Picks reissue series for Grateful Dead continues with two 1973 shows from the Boston Music Hall!

The legendary Theodore Bikel makes his first appearance on Real Gone with a long out-of-print collection originally issued on Rhino Handmade. Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk and Theatre Songs contains 26 tracks from Bikel’s seminal Elektra recordings made between 1958 and 1964 at a time when popular music was rapidly changing, and will remind listeners, even today, of the enduring power of Bikel’s classic repertoire.

BJ2These six titles will be joined by two more releases originally scheduled for November 4. In the mid-1970s, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” icon B.J. Thomas became one of the most successful artists ever in the field of contemporary Christian music, recording a series of record-breaking, Grammy Award-winning albums for the Myrrh label that reflected the style and high production values of his pop material but with a spiritual emphasis.  Home Where I Belong/Happy Man and You Gave Me Love/Miracle, with two albums on each CD, reveal a major chapter in the career of B.J. Thomas.  I’ve written new liner notes for both titles, with fresh contributions from B.J. himself!

After the jump, we have the contents of Real Gone’s full press release plus pre-order links for all eight releases! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 20, 2014 at 10:24

Got To Be Real: SoulMusic Reissues Cheryl Lynn, Labelle and Johnnie Taylor

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LabelleWith a trio of recent releases from Labelle, Cheryl Lynn and Johnnie Taylor, Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint turns its attention once again to bona fide R&B royalty.

When Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles transformed into Labelle, the change was more than merely cosmetic.  The quartet was reduced to a threesome when Cindy Birdsong headed to Hitsville USA to replace Florence Ballard in The Supremes.  Moreover, under the direction of British manager, producer and songwriter Vicki Wickham, the girls ditched their traditional repertoire to pursue a gutsy new direction.  Their first album as Labelle, a 1971 self-titled effort for Warner Bros., had songs written by all three members – Patti LaBelle, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx – as well as Carole King, Laura Nyro and The Rolling Stones.  1972’s Moonshadow saw Hendryx’s songwriting talent blossom alongside compositions from Dash, Pete Townshend (a searing cover of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”) and Cat Stevens (the title track).  Post-Moonshadow, Wickham and Labelle decamped for RCA.  SoulMusic has just reissued Labelle’s first and only RCA album, 1973’s Pressure Cookin’.

Nona Hendryx continued to shine on seven of the album’s nine tracks, and she was particularly concerned with social issues of the day. In A. Scott Galloway’s fine essay which accompanies this reissue, Hendryx relates, “I was inspired by artists…like Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Stills and Joni Mitchell.  There was so much racism, sexism, drugs…there needed to be a revolution of the mind.”  Hendryx and Labelle provided one with the scorching title song, and even the album’s cover material reflected that raised consciousness.  A medley melded Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air” with Gil Scott-Heron’s spoken-word “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” with all three women taking raps. Hendryx found room for the personal, too.  “(Can I Speak to You Before You Go to) Hollywood” took aim at the people who might later have been deemed poseurs: “There were many people we knew who went from being new to major stars, i.e. divas, and things went to their heads…These were the same people that at one time you’d shared dressing rooms and chicken legs with on the chitlin circuit!”  (Some have suggested Cindy Birdsong was a possible inspiration for the song.)  On “Mr. Music Man,” Hendryx addressed the rapidly-changing musical climate, specifically the marginalization of certain artists from Top 40 radio.  (The more things change…!)  The funky “Goin’ on a Holiday” was co-produced by Wickham and an uncredited Stevie Wonder, and Wonder also wrote “Open Up Your Heart” for Labelle.

After the jump: more on Pressure Cookin’, plus Cheryl Lynn and Johnnie Taylor! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 17, 2014 at 10:44

From “Last Christmas” To “Blue Xmas”: Legacy’s Black Friday Slate Features Wham!, Miles Davis, Hendrix, Kinks, Elvis, More

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black_friday_logo

It’s that time of year again!

Announcements are finally coming in for Record Store Day’s annual Black Friday event happening on Friday, November 28. Rather than storming malls and big box stores, maybe you’ll want to pay a visit to your favorite local independent record store for an assortment of exclusive vinyl goodies.  Legacy Recordings certainly hopes you will; the label’s roster for Black Friday’s RSD event includes titles from heavy-hitters including David Bowie, Joe Satriani, Miles Davis, Dave Matthews Band, Elvis Presley, The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix!

And that’s not all! Longtime readers know that Christmas is our favorite time of the year at Second Disc HQ!  We’ve already filled you in on Joe’s two holiday-themed projects due on November 4 from Real Gone Music – Robert Goulet’s Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings and the long-awaited reissue of The Williams Brothers Christmas Album featuring Andy and his brothers – and today, it’s Mike’s turn!  Fresh from his work on a pair of exciting Ghostbusters-related projects – the sold-out glow-in-the-dark EP of Ray Parker Jr.’s immortal title song and a brand-new, Stay Puft super deluxe marshmallow-scented (yes, you read that right!) vinyl release from Ray Parker, Jr. and Run-DMC – Mike is delivering a little Wham! for the holidays as co-producer of a 12-inch red and green vinyl single featuring both the classic “Last Christmas” and a previously unreleased instrumental mix!  Trust me – no Christmas party will want to be without this one!

Hit the jump to explore Legacy’s full slate of Black Friday Record Store Day titles, all of which will be available at a participating RSD retailer on Friday, November 28! And watch this space for more announcements coming soon! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 16, 2014 at 13:38

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