Our mini-Power Pop Festival begins here! Next, look for our reviews of new reissues from The Posies and Game Theory!
O My Soul! Big Star is back! Despite an amazingly small catalogue – four studio albums, a handful of live releases, an even bigger handful of compilations, a key soundtrack, and one stunning box set – there never seems to be a shortage of releases for the biggest band that never was. Two of the most recent have arrived from Stax Records and Concord Music Group, and they’re back to basics. The label has recently reissued the band’s first two albums, 1972’s # 1 Record and 1974’s Radio City, as stand-alone CD releases after years of being twinned on a two-for-one album. (Similar standalone reissues arrived in the U.K. in 2009.) For Big Star completists, these simple reissues allow both original LPs to stand on their own; for those not yet acquainted with the magic of singer-guitarists Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens, these provide a happy and affordable entrée to the world and mystique of Big Star.
Big Star frontman Alex Chilton’s closest turn as a “big star” came in his youth, as he led The Box Tops through a series of southern-soul-flecked pop hits including “The Letter,” “Cry Like a Baby” and the aptly-titled “Soul Deep.” 1972’s optimistically-titled # 1 Record, as perfect a record as any, was recorded in Memphis, and though Chilton’s voice had the smoky grit of a Memphis soul man, it was aglow with the sounds of Los Angeles and London. # 1 Record – largely written by the team of Chilton and Chris Bell – was a textbook example of power-pop. Pete Townshend coined the term circa 1967 to describe “what the Small Faces used to play, and the kind of pop The Beach Boys played in the days of ‘Fun, Fun, Fun.” Power-pop was bold, melodic, guitar-driven, catchy and pulsating, all words which describe Big Star’s debut. It should have galvanized listeners. Yet it went all but unheard.
A California record made in Memphis – a touch of the Byrds here, a dash of the Beach Boys there, a dollop of San Francisco heaviness a la Moby Grape – all by way of The Beatles, # 1 Record brims with energy, abandon, joy, vulnerability and a hint of recklessness. It also augured for a new, important team in Chilton and Bell. Bell’s high, punky voice filled with a near-glam swagger that contrasted with Chilton’s burnished pop tones on this ebullient set of sing-along, take-home tunes. It had to be intentional that the album almost strictly alternated between Chilton’s and Bell’s lead vocals, culminating in a pair of tracks on which they shared the lead. And whenever the group harmonies kick in, as they frequently do, the album soars into the stratosphere.
The Byrds’ influence might be the strongest on # 1 Record, best captured in the defiant, not to mention defiantly melodic “The Ballad of El Goodo.” Its bizarre title masked a gorgeous, anthemic melody and Roger McGuinn-inflected lead from Chilton; it’s followed on the original LP sequence by “In the Street,” with the vibrantly snarling vocals of Chris Bell. Never has the mundane sounded so exciting (“Hanging out, down the street/The same old thing we did last week/Not a thing to do/But talk to you!”). Nearly every track on # 1 Record could have been selected as a single, making its initial lack of success even more utterly puzzling – whether the perfect pop of “When My Baby’s Beside Me” or the unbridled, simple rock and roll of “Don’t Lie to Me.”
After the jump: more on # 1 Record plus Radio City! Read the rest of this entry »
In 2006, Frank Sinatra Enterprises took listeners to New York with a 4-CD/1-DVD box set chronicling many of the legendary entertainer’s greatest performances in the city that never sleeps. In 2009, Vegas was the destination for a similar set recorded at iconic venues like Caesars Palace, the Golden Nugget and The Sands. On November 25, you can set your GPS to London for the latest stop on Ol’ Blue Eyes’ trip around the world. This deluxe box set, coming from FSE and Universal Music Enterprises, is a 3-CD/1-DVD swingin’ affair spanning 1953-1984 with over 50 previously unreleased tracks on CD and DVD. (This set will also be available in digital format.) At its heart is a newly remastered edition of Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain, the Chairman’s only studio album recorded outside of the United States.
This deluxe new collection’s more than 50 previously unreleased audio recordings include session alternates from the Reprise album, a 1962 BBC “Light Programme” radio special with introductions to each song by Sinatra, a 1953 live session for BBC Radio’s “The Show Band Show,” and a Royal Albert Hall concert from 1984. The collection’s DVD features a previously unreleased filmed 1962 concert from another venerable venue, Royal Festival Hall, plus a 1970 concert from the same venue with a never-before released performance George and Ira Gershwin’s standard “A Foggy Day.”
Unlike that foggy day, however, this set shouldn’t have you low or have you down. The first disc features Great Songs from Great Britain, arranged and conducted by Robert Farnon, four-time Ivor Novello Award winner and renowned composer of so-called “light music.” Recording at CTS Studios in Bayswater in June 1962, Farnon provided a lush setting for Sinatra on such classic British songs as “The Very Thought of You,” “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” “We’ll Meet Again” (so closely associated with Dame Vera Lynn) and Noel Coward’s “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart.” Two songs on the album, “London by Night” and “If I Had You,” marked the third time Sinatra had recorded them, in each case previously at both Columbia and Capitol Records, but Farnon’s orchestrations may well stand the test of time as the definitive ones. The London box adds the previously-released outtake “Roses of Picardy” as well as spoken radio introductions to each of the original ten songs by Sinatra.
The second CD features never-before-released outtake versions of six of the Great Britain songs plus Sinatra’s earlier, 1953 BBC recordings of “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “Day In-Day Out” and “London by Night,” which he revisited a decade later on Great Songs from Great Britain. The third CD features Sinatra’s September 21, 1984 concert at Royal Albert Hall in which he brought “New York, New York” and “L.A. Is My Lady,” among many others, to London. The DVD has two earlier concerts from Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank of the Thames. The 1962 show, conducted by Sinatra’s longtime pianist Bill Miller, has a staggering 33 tracks including a couple of introductions and two tracks of bows; the second, a television broadcast from 1970 which has previously been available on DVD, has thirteen songs including one more Great Song from Great Britain – George Harrison’s “Something.” (As noted above, “A Foggy Day” from this concert special is new to DVD.)
What else will you find on this set? Hit the jump for more, including the complete track listing! Read the rest of this entry »
In the midst of the usual catalogue activity for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint has a new treasure for fans of keyboardist Keith Emerson. The 3-CD box set Keith Emerson at the Movies collects Emerson’s scores for seven motion pictures originally released between 1980’s Inferno and 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars. The set was originally released in 2005 on the Castle label, but has since gone out-of-print. This version features the same tracks, but adds new packaging and a fresh remastering.
Following the (first) break-up of Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1979, Keith Emerson made his solo debut with the soundtrack to the Italian film Inferno, and the transition into the world of film scoring wasn’t much of a stretch for Emerson. With ELP, he had already been working on a widescreen canvas as a musical storyteller, incorporating orchestral and conceptual elements into the group’s brand of progressive rock. In Malcolm Dome’s fine essay accompanying At the Movies, Emerson recalls his first exposure to the power of the cinema, when his parents took him as a youngster to see Walt Disney’s Bambi. Then The Magnificent Seven, so memorably scored by Elmer Bernstein, opened his eyes (and ears) to the power of music on the big screen. Certain ELP compositions – such as “Tank” and “The Three Fates,” both from the group’s 1970 debut – were even conceived by Emerson as having “a very soundtrack type of appeal.”
After nearly landing assignments for such high-profile pictures as Chariots of Fire (he turned it down) and The Elephant Man (he “didn’t get the gig,” in his own words), Emerson landed his first scoring gig for Inferno. For the Dario Argento-directed horror film, Emerson enlisted conductor-arranger Godfrey Salmon who had worked with ELP on their 1977 American orchestral tour. The presentation here adds a track of “Inferno Extras.” Soon, he was able to bring his talents to American cinema, as well, nabbing the composer slot for the Sylvester Stallone/Rutger Hauer action film Nighthawks in 1981. He even performed a cover of The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man” at the request of his record label, taking lead vocals himself! This edition replicates the sequence of the long out-of-print LP version of the Nighthawks soundtrack. For the 1984 movie Best Revenge starring John Heard and The Band’s Levon Helm, Emerson provided a title song featuring Helm on vocals and Helm’s Band-mate, Garth Hudson, on accordion. Alas, the LP’s Levon Helm showcase track, “Straight Between the Eyes”, has been replaced here by “For Those Who Win.”
In addition to those pictures, Keith Emerson at the Movies also features his scores to two more Italian horror flicks – 1984’s Murderock and 1989’s La Chiesa (The Church) – and two Japanese films: 1983’s animated Harmagedon and 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars.. Ben Wiseman has remastered all of the scores contained in this set produced by Mark Powell for Esoteric. Each disc is housed in the clamshell box in a paper sleeve.
After the jump, we have more, including the complete track listing and links to order! Read the rest of this entry »
When The Temptations departed Berry Gordy’s historic Motown label in 1977, the Motown roster was in the midst of dramatic change. The Tempts followed in the footsteps of their onetime labelmates like The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Spinners and even The Jackson 5, all of whom had departed Motown. The Tempts – Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Richard Street, Glenn Leonard and newest recruit Louis Price – signed to R&B powerhouse label Atlantic, where they remained for two albums collected on one CD from Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint – Hear to Tempt You (1977) and Bare Back (1978).
Hear to Tempt You should have been a match made in soul Heaven, for it paired the great vocal group with three of the hottest musician-producers out of Philadelphia – Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young. B-H-Y had helped shape The Sound of Philadelphia for Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International label before defecting to Salsoul and creating some of the greatest, most soulful disco records of all time. At Atlantic, B-H-Y graced records by Blue Magic and The Trampps (of which drummer/vocalist Earl Young was a member), among others. For The Temptations, B-H-Y provided nine original songs, working with their frequent collaborators T.G. Conway, Allan Felder and (future Temptation) Ron Tyson. Tracks were laid down at Philly’s Sigma Sound with the A-team including Harris, Bobby Eli and T.J. Tindall on guitar, Ron Kersey on keyboards, Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman on bass, Young and Keith Benson on drums, Larry Washington on congas and Don Renaldo with his Horns and Strings. The vocals for Hear to Tempt You were laid down in Atlantic’s New York studios, which might have been a sign; Glenn Leonard tells Kevin Goins in his exceptional essay that “It was clear that Atlantic really didn’t know what to with us once we were signed…the chemistry just wasn’t there with [B-H-Y].” Despite showcasing those familiar Temptations harmonies on sweet, lush soul grooves – both uptempo dancers (“Think for Yourself,” “Read Between the Lines”) and inimitable Philly ballads (“Let’s Live in Peace,” “I Could Never Stop Loving You” – that compared favorably to B-H-Y’s other hit production work of the era, the LP only reached a peak of No. 38 on the R&B Top 40 Albums Chart, and No. 113 on the Top 200.
We have more after the jump including the complete track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, Bruce Springsteen celebrated his 65th birthday. Here in New Jersey, the birth date of The Boss might as well be considered a state holiday; the occasion was marked by various events including a video presentation by Springsteen’s longtime collaborator Thom Zimny at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. (Springsteen was, of course, born in Long Branch and wrote “Born to Run” in a Long Branch cottage.) But today, Springsteen’s fans are the ones receiving a gift for his birthday. The official announcement has arrived confirming that, on November 17, the artist and icon’s first seven albums – most with new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The E Street Band – will be collected in one 8-CD or vinyl LP box set as Bruce Springsteen: The Album Collection Vol. 1 1973-1984.
The release of The Album Collection builds on February’s announcement that Springsteen’s first ten albums had been remastered by Bob Ludwig for digital-only release; speculation, of course, ran high that physical issues would follow. While Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town were both sonically upgraded for remastered box sets in recent years, this box set marks the first time that remasters have been made available for the remaining albums in Springsteen’s catalogue through 1984 since their initial releases on CD. The box includes:
- Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)
- The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle (1973)
- Born to Run (1975)
- Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
- The River (1980, 2 CDs)
- Nebraska (1982)
- Born in the U.S.A. (1984)
We have more details after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »
In 1979, Dionne Warwick was at a crossroads. Her unprecedented string of pop and R&B hits written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David at Scepter Records were in the rearview mirror. Bacharach and David had bitterly split after just one album with Warwick at Warner Bros. Records, leaving their muse feeling high and dry. One more dynamic success followed for Dionne in 1974 with the Thom Bell-produced Spinners duet “Then Came You,” unbelievably her first-ever No. 1 Pop single. But other than that one smash, Warwick’s studio career was commercially floundering. Her expressive voice was as strong as ever, maybe even stronger than before, but producers including Jerry Ragovoy, Michael Omartian and all Holland/Dozier/Holland had all been unable to rekindle the magic she had with her “triangle marriage.” Enter Clive Davis. The Arista honcho believed that Dionne’s best days weren’t all behind her. Davis’ gamble paid off when 1979’s Dionne, produced by Barry Manilow, became Warwick’s first platinum LP and spawned two massive, Grammy-winning hit singles in “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and “Déjà Vu.” Warwick became the first-ever artist to take home Grammys in the same night for her pop and R&B vocals. She remained at Arista through 1994, recording eleven studio albums and one live set. Three of those LPs – No Night So Long (1980), How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye (1983) and Finder of Lost Loves (1985) – are set for expanded reissues from Funky Town Grooves this fall.
No Night So Long, Dionne’s second Arista LP, was built around the title track written by “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” tunesmiths Richard Kerr and Will Jennings. Isaac Hayes and Adrienne Anderson, the team responsible for “Déjà Vu,” also returned with “We Never Said Goodbye.” Crucially, however, Manilow didn’t return for No Night So Long; instead, production duties were handled by Steve Buckingham (Dolly Parton, Alicia Bridges). The album very much continued the classy, smooth pop style of its predecessor, however, with the sweeping title ballad scoring Warwick her third No. 1 AC single and a No. 23 Hot 100 success. Other songs on the LP came from such talents as Peter Allen, Melissa Manchester. Peabo Bryson, Steve Dorff and the team of Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster (“It’s the Falling in Love,” also recorded by Michael Jackson). A 2010 reissue from Expansion Records added three bonus tracks – “Dedicate This Heart” from Hot! Live and Otherwise (a cut that was omitted from that album’s CD release), the Michael Masser-produced Hot! Live B-side “This Time is Ours,” and “Only Heaven Can Wait” from the same sessions. Funky Town drops those three songs, as none are actually related to No Night So Long, and instead adds four never-before-released outtakes from the album: “This Is What I’ve Wanted All My Life” in two distinct versions, “Now That the Feeling’s Gone” and “Starting Tomorrow.”
After the jump: full details on the Luther Vandross-produced How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye plus Finder of Lost Loves, with productions from Barry Manilow, Burt Bacharach and Stevie Wonder! Read the rest of this entry »
“Silence often says much more/Than trying to say what’s been said before/But that is all I want to do/To give my love to you…”
Those lyrics, penned by George Harrison for his song “That is All,” could be directed to a female lover or to a higher power, but the sentiment rang true for the artist in any circumstance. Harrison’s lifetime of work was marked by its forward thinking, a trajectory that is eloquently expressed on the new box set The Apple Years 1968-1975. Over the six albums contained in this small box of wonders, the onetime “Quiet Beatle” eschewed the virtues of silence to speak volumes through his music. He also refused to “say what’s been said before,” experimenting with various sonic palettes during this creatively fertile period which saw the collapse of the most important band in music history and the birth of a solo artist who struggled to find his place “living in the material world,” and made that struggle a major part of his life in song.
This new cube-style box set, designed to complement 2004’s Dark Horse Years 1976-1992 collection, includes new, beautifully-remastered digipak editions of Harrison’s six Apple LPs beginning with 1968’s Wonderwall Music – the very first solo album by any Beatle – and continuing with the even more experimental Electronic Sound as issued on the Zapple label (1969), the acclaimed triple-LP All Things Must Pass (1970), Living in the Material World (1973), Dark Horse (1974) and Harrison’s Apple swansong Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975). The all-star Concert for Bangla Desh is not included; it last saw a deluxe reissue in 2005. All of the individual CDs are also available as standalone releases, though a DVD of bonus material will remain exclusive to the box. Whether purchased individually or as one package, these discs offer a fresh perspective on Harrison’s most prolific years.
The Beatles established Apple Records with lofty goals, envisioning a kind of musical utopia for the band and for talented newcomers whom they would shepherd to success. Though the Apple story didn’t turn out quite as planned, Harrison thrived both as a solo artist and as the most prolific producer in the Fab Four. At Apple, he lent his talent to records by Badfinger, Jackie Lomax, Lon and Derrek Von Eaton, Radha Krsna Temple, Doris Troy, Billy Preston and others. As a solo artist, he inaugurated the label’s LP series with 1968’s Wonderwall Music soundtrack and nearly closed it out with the final Apple album of original material (Extra Texture).
Read on, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »