The Second Disc

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Review: Pugwash, “A Rose in a Garden of Weeds” (Or: The Best Band You Never Heard?)

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Pugwash

Pugwash is currently wrapping up its first-ever U.S. tour with two more performances scheduled in Los Angeles: this Sunday, October 19, on a bill alongside Wings’ great guitarist Laurence Juber and Now Sounds’ musical guru and all-around renaissance man Steve Stanley; and next Friday, October 24, with Love Revisited!  If you’re in the area, you just might want to check the lads out!

The first track on the first-ever North American release by Irish band Pugwash implores “Take Me Away,” but where to? A Rose in a Garden of Weeds: A Preamble Through the History of Pugwash, Omnivore Recordings’ new 17-track anthology drawn from five studio releases and one single originally issued between 1999 and 2011, will take you away to a world of jangly guitars, rich harmonies, unabashedly catchy melodies, bright productions, and vibrant colors, all delivered in a voice eerily reminiscent of Electric Light Orchestra hero Jeff Lynne. That voice belongs to Thomas Walsh, who much as Lynne did for ELO, wrote, sang, produced and played multiple instruments for Pugwash. A Rose in a Garden of Weeds, however, transcends pastiche – which, let’s face it, takes a great deal of skill to do well, anyway. It’s best experienced as a continuation of the story begun by The Beatles and continued by bands from ELO to XTC – as well as a number of other groups with more than three letters in their names.  Pugwash fits squarely in this tradition of smart, polished and exuberant guitar-pop practitioners unafraid to utilize the studio and all of the instruments it can house, among them organ, mellotron, sleigh bells, woodblock, harpsichord, strings, horns, vibes, glockenspiel, kazoo, and enough guitars and keyboards to sate even the most gargantuan musical appetite.

If “Take Me Away” is pitch-perfect ELO by way of The Byrds with a SMiLE-era Beach Boys interlude (and adding to the verisimilitude, Nelson Bragg of The Brian Wilson Band and The Now People plays on the track), the sounds in this Garden are, in truth, a rather diverse lot. This is in no small part due to the varied personnel. Sonic auteur Walsh is joined by a rotating cast on these tracks; Keith Farrell is the second most constant presence on a variety of instruments including Moog, Hammond organ and bass. The current band-line up with Tosh Flood (guitar/keyboards), Shaun McGee (bass) and Joe Fitzgerald (drums) is also represented. Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory of XTC drop by for good measure, and Jason Falkner of Jellyfish and TV Eyes adds various instruments to a number of tracks.

Falkner’s VOX Continental organ rides a cascade of acoustic and electric guitars, including Stephen Farrell’s George Harrison-esque inspired slide, on “Keep Movin’ On,” a wonderfully anthemic power-pop ode to perseverance. Another Beatle, John Lennon, is called to mind on the sincere, aching “Finer Things in Life,” on which Geoff Woods’ cello and strings add subtle elegance. Walsh has a knack for rhythmic yet attractive ballads, such as the yearning, vulnerable “Here” and the title track. The Section Quartet adds the baroque string ornamentation worthy of George Martin to both of those songs. (The liner notes tell us that the strings for “Rose” were recorded in Abbey Road 38 years to the day after “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Something was definitely in the air.) “Fall Down,” tinged with pretty melancholy, and the dynamic “Answers on a Postcard” – perhaps the most wonderfully realized production on this collection – pick up right where the Fab Four and ELO left off, and that’s intended as a high compliment, indeed. “Answers” incorporates some fleeting Brian Wilson-esque touches, too, and the master’s sonic approach is echoed, but not strictly recreated, on the effervescent, blissfully childlike “It’s Nice to Be Nice.”

Don’t miss a thing – hit the jump to keep reading! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 17, 2014 at 12:30

Posted in Compilations, News, Pugwash, Reviews

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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

He’s Your Man: Leonard Cohen’s “Live in Dublin” Captures Full-Length Concert

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Leonard Cohen - DublinCanadian poet-troubadour Leonard Cohen’s most recent album, issued earlier this year, was entitled Popular Problems, but one of Cohen’s problems is not a lack of available material for his fans.  Following that LP as well as the Mastered-for-iTunes release of his studio album catalogue, Cohen has announced the December 2 release of Live in Dublin via Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings.

His first full-length high definition concert film, Live in Dublin will be available in 3-CD/1-DVD and 3-CD/1-BD configurations as well as from digital service providers.  The concert was filmed last year at Dublin’s O2 arena on September 12, 2013, part of the artist’s critically-acclaimed, sold-out world tour.  At the O2 as on other stops, he incorporated music from 2012’s Old Ideas into a career-spanning retrospective set list of Cohen standards.  The three-hour program includes an 11-song first set including “Dance Me to the End of Love” and early classic “Bird on the Wire,” a second set with “Suzanne,” “Chelsea Hotel # 2,” “I’m Your Man,” “Tower of Song” and the inevitable “Hallelujah,” and an encore featuring “So Long, Marianne,” “First We Take Manhattan,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” and a poignant cover of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s Brill Building staple “Save the Last Dance for Me.”  The DVD only adds three bonus performances recorded in Canada in 2013: “Show Me the Place,” “Anyhow” and “Different Sides.”

Hit the jump for more, including the complete tracklisting and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 16, 2014 at 10:33

Posted in Blu-Ray, DVD, Leonard Cohen

A Case of Joni: Mitchell Curates New Love-Themed, Career-Spanning Box Set

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Joni - Love Has Many FacesIn 2007, Joni Mitchell released her last studio album to date, Shine.  That release was her first recording since 2002’s Travelogue and first collection of new songs since 1998’s Taming the Tiger.  Over the past seven years, the influential singer-songwriter has mainly made headlines for her candid and revealing interviews, on which she’s held forth about such topics as Bob Dylan’s alleged plagiarism and her own struggles with Morgellons disease.  So it’s refreshing that Mitchell is back in the spotlight for her music, thanks to a new box set to arrive just in time for the holiday gift-giving season.  On November 17, Rhino will release a new four-disc collection entitled Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced.

In the tradition of past compilations curated by Mitchell including The Beginning of Survival, Dreamland and Songs of a Prairie Girl, Love Has Many Faces promises to be a thematic exploration of the artist’s poetic, soulful and jazz-inflected music created over the decades.  The set includes 53 newly-remastered songs selected from her catalogue which began with 1968’s David Crosby-produced album Song to a Seagull and has encompassed such acknowledged classics as Ladies of the Canyon (1970), Blue (1971), Court and Spark (1974) and Both Sides Now (2000).  It’s promised that the remastered songs on Love will be “familiar but fresh,” with “a lot of sonic adjustment.” In a press release, Mitchell elaborated, “I am a painter who writes songs. My songs are very visual. The words create scenes …What I have done here is to gather some of these scenes (like a documentary filmmaker) and by juxtaposition, edit them into a whole new work.”

As the title indicates, the box set was initially conceived for the ballet stage.  “I wanted the music to feel like a total work – a new work,” Mitchell writes in the liner notes. “No matter what I did, though, at that [ballet performance] length, it remained merely a collection of songs.”  So the artist rearranged 53 songs into “thematic acts” like that of a ballet. Comparing her to that of a film editor, she offers, “I had 40 years of footage to review. Then, suddenly, scenes began to hook up. Then series began to form.” She elucidates, “Instead of it being an emotional roller coaster ride as it was before — crammed into one disc — themes began to develop. Moods sustained. I was getting there…When this long editorial process finally came to rest, I had four ballets or a four-act ballet — a quartet. I also had a box set.”

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

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2014 at 12:06

Precious Dreams: Cherry Pop Rediscovers Cock Robin

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Cock RobinWho killed Cock Robin?

Fans might have been forgiven for wondering that when Peter Kingsbery and Anna LaCazio went their separate ways after the release of 1989’s First Love/Last Rites, the band’s third album. Yet, in 2006, Cock Robin returned with a new album, and since then, they’ve sporadically recorded and toured. Now, Cherry Red’s Cherry Pop imprint is celebrating the legacy of the San Francisco-formed band with deluxe, generously expanded reissues of Cock Robin’s first and second albums, 1985’s Cock Robin and 1987’s After Here Through Midland.

Songwriter/bassist/keyboardist Peter Kingsbery, originally of Texas, formed Cock Robin with California native Anna LaCazio, bolstering the group with English guitarist Clive Wright and Pennsylvanian drummer Louis Molino III. Signed to Columbia Records in the U.S. and parent CBS internationally, Cock Robin enlisted Steve Hillage – a veteran of genres from progressive rock to dance – as producer of the band’s eponymous debut. Hillage brought the goods in terms of contemporary, synth-driven eighties new wave luster, with the twin lead vocal approach of Kingsbery and LaCazio adding dimension. Kingsbery’s varied musical background was an asset in creating songs that would endure; a student of classical music in his youth, the multi-instrumentalist had toured with country-pop dynamo Brenda Lee and would go on to sing on Tim Rice’s musical-theatre concept album Tycoon. In addition to the core band members, Cock Robin featured contributions from guest musicians including ubiquitous percussionist Paulinho da Costa and Hillage himself on guitar.

Yet from the start, Cock Robin had difficulty cracking the lucrative U.S. and U.K. markets. Most unexpectedly, the band became sensations elsewhere in Europe! The pulsating “The Promise You Made” gave Cock Robin its only British hit when it reached No. 28 in May 1986. Though it failed to chart in the U.S., the track beautifully blending Kingsbery and LaCazio topped the chart in Belgium, was a No. 2 hit in the Netherlands, and also went Top 10 in Germany and France! In America, “When Your Heart is Weak,” a Kingsbery solo mixed by Val Garay (Kim Carnes, The Motels), peaked at No. 35 Pop; it missed the U.K. chart, but went Top 10 in Germany and France. The album’s third single release “Thought You Were By My Side” was a Top 5 hit in Belgium and the Netherlands, and just missed the Top 20 in Germany. Though it only reached No. 61 in the U.S., the album went Top 10 in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, setting the stage for a sophomore effort.

ACock Robin - After Here Through Midlandfter Here Through Midland arrived in 1987 on Columbia, with engineer-turned-producer Don Gehman taking the production reins from Hillage. Gehman had scored big hits for John Mellencamp with the likes of “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good,” and also helmed R.E.M.’s Lifes Rich Pageant in 1986. He brought a somewhat grittier texture to the album, again penned entirely by Peter Kingsbery and anchored by an autobiographical title song. Cock Robin itself was slimmer this time around, though, with Wright and Molino having left the band. To compensate for their departure, more session musicians were enlisted including Tim Pierce (Foreigner, Rick Springfield) and Denny Fongheiser (Belinda Carlisle, The Rembrandts). Producer Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Camper Van Beethoven) supplied guitar on “The Biggest Fool of All,” and Brian Kilgore added congas to “Precious Dreams.” Wright couldn’t stay away for long, though; he supplied guitar for the uptempo “Dreams,” as well.

Gehman didn’t radically alter the band’s sound, however, blending guitars and synths on the sparkling “Just Around the Corner,” which missed the charts in the U.S. and U.K. but continued Cock Robin’s winning streak in Europe with Top 20 placements in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The second single, “The Biggest Fool of All,” was inspired by country epics like Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” and Gene Pitney’s Bacharach/David-written “24 Hours from Tulsa.” It, too, charted in those four European countries, with its best showing a No. 23 placement in Belgium. Third single “El Norte” took its name from the 1983 Oscar-nominated drama; it didn’t make any chart impression. After Here impressively made the Top 10 in a host of European countries, among them France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands and Sweden despite stalling at No. 166 stateside. Some of the album’s tracks like “Every Moment” looked forward to the more “adult contemporary,” sophisti-pop approach Cock Robin would take on their third album (and final release before disbanding), 1989’s First Love/Last Rites.

We have much more on these reissues after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2014 at 09:52

Posted in Cock Robin, News, Reissues

Better Treat Her Right: Latter-Day Donna Summer Albums Expanded in the U.K.

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Donna Summer - CD Collection

1979 could have been called “The Year of Donna Summer.”  In the last year of the 70s, Summer became the first female artist in the history of to have three number 1 singles in a calendar year:  “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls” and “No More Tears (Enough is Enough),” a duet with Barbra Streisand.  She would have had four, but alas, “Dim All the Lights” stalled at No. 2.  But despite reaching the top of the charts consistently with disco records, Summer decided that she wanted to try a new sound.  Her record label, Casablanca, reportedly disagreed.  This led to an acrimonious split, and lawsuits ensued between the singer and label.  She left Casablanca and went to David Geffen’s newly formed Geffen Records, becoming that label’s first signee.  Now. Donna Summer’s catalogue for Geffen and, later, Atlantic Records is being newly reissued in expanded editions from Driven by the Music on December 1 in the U.K., and one week later stateside.

Although Donna wanted to try out a new sound, she stuck with the producers who had brought her so much success in the past:  Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte.  The Wanderer was released in 1980 as Geffen Records’ first LP.  Unsurprisingly, the diva’s instincts proved correct.  It continued Summer’s streak of success going Gold in the US and spawned a No. 3 hit with the title song.  “Cold Love” and “Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?” made it to the top 40.  For this reissue, the album has been expanded with single edits of the latter two songs.

In 1981, Donna returned to the studio to begin work on the follow-up album, I’m A Rainbow.  Before the album could be completed, however, it was cancelled by David Geffen due to his feeling that the material was not strong enough.  It would remain on the shelf until 1996 when it was eventually released by – Casablanca!  It has been expanded for this campaign to two discs, with the original album on the first disc and other tracks recorded around the same period (previously released in various places over the years) on the second.

For Summer’s next effort, Geffen brought in Quincy Jones to produce.  The result was the self-titled Donna Summer released in 1982 after a six-month recording period.  Although Jones and Summer apparently didn’t get along during the making of the album, it was still a success and achieved Gold status in the U.S., yielding the top 10 single “Love is In Control (Finger On the Trigger).”  Driven by the Music has added seven bonus tracks to the album:  the B-side “Sometimes Like Butterflies,” three versions of “Love Is In Control” and three versions of “State of Independence” (No. 41 Pop).

Summer and Geffen were then informed by Polygram (Casablanca’s parent label) that she still owed them an album to complete her previous contract.  She Works Hard for the Money, with its indelible title track, was released in 1983 on Mercury and the title track went to No. 3.  Geffen was reportedly not happy with the album’s success but wanted to capitalize on it, so he enlisted Money’s producer, Michael Omartian, to helm Summer’s next album for Geffen:  Cats Without Claws.  Unfortunately for Summer and Geffen, the album did not match Money’s success and failed to go gold in the U.S., her first album in the U.S. to fail to make that certification.  It also did not garner a top 10 single, with its highest chart entry being a cover of The Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby” stalling at No. 21.  It was not all bad news though:  Summer earned a Grammy for Best Inspirational Performance for “Forgive Me” from the album.  The new edition has been expanded with five songs:  two versions of “Eyes,” an extended version of “Supernatural Love,” an extended version of “I’m Free” and the B-side “Face the Music.”

That’s not all!  Hit the jump for details on the rest of the editions in this series, plus complete track listings with discography and pre-order links for all titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 14, 2014 at 12:11

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