Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’
“May you live to be one hundred and may the last voice you hear be mine.” The image of Frank Sinatra, glass in hand, delivering that favorite toast is an indelible one. His wasn’t just a voice, after all. Before he was Ol’ Blue Eyes or The Chairman of the Board, he was simply The Voice. And through all its many changes, The Voice endured. The pure, romantically-charged timbre that set the hearts of bobbysoxers pounding in the forties transformed into the ultimate instrument of ultimate cool during the fifties and sixties. Cigarettes, whiskey and experience deepened the once-crystalline tone as the decades rolled on, but in any year, Frank Sinatra exuded an air somehow both untouchable and intimate…and always unflaggingly honest. Yet until now, none of the roughly 60 studio albums recorded by the artist had ever been expanded into box set format. Capitol Records has finally made that move with 1993’s triple-platinum Duets, now combined with its 1994 platinum follow-up Duets II. The Duets – Twentieth Anniversary campaign includes a 2-CD/1-DVD Super Deluxe Edition box set (Capitol B0019342-00), 2-CD Deluxe Edition (with both audio discs from the box set, including bonus tracks), 2-LP vinyl set (with just the original albums) and single-CD Best of Duets highlights disc.
Duets, originally released on November 2, 1993 and included as the first disc of the Super Deluxe box, marked Sinatra’s return to Capitol Records after a more than thirty-year absence. His first studio album for the label since 1962’s Point of No Return, Duets teamed the celebrated icon with producer Phil Ramone, co-producer Hank Cattaneo, and a host of performers from various musical genres and eras. It took a good deal of coaxing to get the 77-year old superstar into the studio to bring Duets to life, and a good deal of Ramone’s studio wizardry, too. Duets, for good or ill, helped popularize the now rather commonplace concept of the virtual duet, as Ramone recorded Sinatra in the famous Studio A with Bill Miller at the piano and a full orchestra conducted by Patrick Williams…and nary a duet partner in sight. (Wasn’t Sinatra always a trendsetter?) All of the famous personnel would be added later, with Ramone using a fiber-optics system developed in part by George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound to record Sinatra’s guests. Twenty years on, divorced from any controversy about the recording techniques, Duets holds up surprisingly well. For all the illustrious talent on display on the LP, the reason why boils down to three words: Francis Albert Sinatra (with a little help from his friends).
Hit the jump to join us as we dive into Duets: Twentieth Anniversary! Read the rest of this entry »
Holiday Gift Guide Spotlight: Diamond, Streisand, Williams, Cash, Jones, Wynette and More Join “Classic Christmas Album” Roster [UPDATED]
Last year brought volumes from a variety of artists across the rock, pop, country and R&B spectrum including Barry Manilow, Luther Vandross, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Kenny G and Elvis Presley. For 2013, another eight seasonal anthologies have arrived under the Classic Christmas Album umbrella from Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Alabama, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Martina McBride.
Christmas is the one time of the year you’re guaranteed to hear the voice of the late, great Andy Williams on the radio. In fact, thanks to Andy, you just might think of Christmas as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And that 1963 Edward Pola/George Wyle standard is just one of the sixteen favorites you’ll hear on Williams’ Classic Christmas Album, newly remastered by Tim Sturges. Selections have been drawn from all three of Andy’s Columbia Christmas recordings: 1963’s timeless The Andy Williams Christmas Album, 1965’s equally-impressive follow-up Merry Christmas, and the far lesser-known, low-key 1975 Christmas Present. On the latter, Williams mainly limited his repertoire to traditional hymns, and the new compilation features five of them (“Joy to the World,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “What Child is This,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Ave Maria”) tenderly sung in the vocalist’s pristine tone. Highlights from the first two, perennial Christmas albums include “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells” and “The Christmas Song” (1963) and “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and the haunting reading of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” (1965). One simply can’t go wrong with any anthology of Andy Williams’ holiday recordings, including The Classic Christmas Album. But one would be better advised to check out Real Gone Music’s new 2-CD anthology The Complete Christmas Recordings. This set, licensed from Columbia, includes the entirety of Williams’ three Columbia Christmas LPs plus three singles and two previously unreleased tracks. As every track is essential listening, it’s one-stop shopping for Andy’s Columbia-era holiday music.
Another Columbia Records mainstay, Barbra Streisand, released her first Christmas album, simply entitled A Christmas Album, in 1967, not recording another holiday-themed set until 2001 and Christmas Memories. Barbra’s Classic Christmas Album reprises nine titles from the first LP and seven from its belated sequel. Naturally, among the 1967 tracks is Streisand’s iconic reinvention of “Jingle Bells,” along with other staples such as “The Christmas Song,” “My Favorite Things” and “White Christmas.” From 2001, you’ll hear standards like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as well as more contemporary material including Ann Hampton Callaway’s “Christmas Lullaby,” Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Don Costa’s “Christmas Mem’ries,” the Bergmans and Johnny Mandel’s “A Christmas Love Song,” and Streisand’s seasonal reinterpretation of Stephen Sondheim’s haunting “I Remember,” written for the 1967 television musical Evening Primrose. This is an intelligently-compiled sampler, but both complete original Streisand albums are essential. Tim Sturges has again remastered.
Streisand’s fellow Brooklynite and onetime duet partner Neil Diamond is the subject of his own Classic Christmas Album. Diamond’s twelve-track compilation is drawn from his first two massively successful Columbia Christmas releases, 1992’s The Christmas Album and 1994’s Volume Two. (Diamond returned to Christmas music for 2009’s A Cherry Cherry Christmas, which blended five new songs with nine returning favorites, but its new songs – among them the self-referencing title track and a cover of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song” – have been overlooked here.) Classic Christmas Album makes room for Neil’s very own holiday standard “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” (originally recorded on 1984’s Primitive but remade for The Christmas Album) alongside Diamond-ized renditions of songs both spiritual (“Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night”) and secular (“The Christmas Song,” “Silver Bells,” “Sleigh Ride”). Don’t let Neil’s country-western attire on the cover artwork fool you; The Classic Christmas Album features 12 tracks of traditional holiday pop, even if selections from A Cherry Cherry Christmas would have made this Christmas dish even sweeter. (An extra bonus: whereas most titles in this series have no liner notes, Diamond has penned an introduction for his volume.) Diamond’s preferred mastering engineer Bernie Becker has handled those duties here.
After the jump: we cross over to the country side of town and beyond! Plus: we have full track listings with discographical annotation, and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a Scream! “Rhumba” Takes Latin-Jewish Musical Journey with Carole King, Herb Alpert, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, More
Last year, The Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation regaled listeners with ‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah, an eclectic and offbeat anthology that breathed life into the concept of a holiday-themed compilation. With its mission “to look at Jewish history and the Jewish experience through recorded sound” firmly in mind, the organization this year has released another two-disc set that lives up to the much-overused word unique. Whereas last year’s release focused on the relationship in song between Christmas and Hanukkah, the colorfully-titled It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba (RSR 021) explores an even less familiar topic: the shared history of Latin and Jewish music. The ties between the two cultures run quite deep, as this set shows over the course of its 41 tracks recorded between 1947 and 1983 and arranged in chronological fashion.
Vocal and instrumental performances sit side by side on It’s a Scream, which takes its title from the 1952 novelty by the saucy Ruth Wallis. It’s one of many such novelties here, but they transcend that label in the context of Idelsohn’s presentation. The oldest tracks fall into this category, such as Irving Kaufman’s “Moe the Schmo Takes a Rhumba Lesson,” sung in character as Kaufman’s favorite schmo (or schmoe) and transferred from a crackly 78. Another is The Barry Sisters’ “Channah from Havanna” dating to the mid-fifties. The punchline of this comic story-song still can bring a smile. Mickey Katz, Yiddish comedian, klezmer clarinetist and father of Joel Grey, is represented with the lively and goofy “My Yiddishe Mambo” (not “My Yiddishe Mama,” for sure!) in which he uses his arsenal of exaggerated voices and pulls out all of the showbiz stops.
Fans of the big-band sound will find plenty to delight in here, from leaders including Xavier Cugat (“Miami Beach Rhumba,” a rhumba spin on “Autumn Leaves”), Pupi Campo (“Joe and Paul,” a Yiddish radio jingle performed by a Cuban bandleader with an arrangement by Tito Puente!), Al Gomez (“Sheyn Vi Di Levone,” a Yiddish love song in Spanish), Puente himself (“Pan, Amor Y Cha Cha Cha” with Cugat’s wife, singer Abbe Lane) and many more.
There’s also room for salsa, on tracks like “Marvelous Jew” Larry Harlow’s “Yo Soy Latino,” Eddie Palmieri’s 1963 “El Molestoso,” Willie Colon’s “Junio ‘73,” or “Hava Nageela” from salsa queen Celia Cruz. Cruz’s exciting take, from 1964, isn’t the only spin on the traditional “Hava Nagila” here, either. The Hebrew folk song went merengue in 1972 by Dominican pianist Damiron, and got a rock-and-roll makeover when it was crossed with a dance sensation by bandleader Perez Prado to become “The Twist of Hava Nageela” in 1962! Early doo-wopping rock-and-rollers The Crows (“Gee”) even got into Latin/Jewish fusion with 1954’s punning “Mambo Shevitz (Man Oh Man).”
We have plenty more on this musical exchange of cultures after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »
By the time Jimi Hendrix took the stage at Hallandale, Florida’s Gulfstream Park on May 18, 1968, the 25-year old guitarist, songwriter and visionary’s reputation preceded him. He had already released two studio albums (1967’s Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love released in 1967 in the U.K. and 1968 in the U.S.) and established himself as an unpredictable performer not to be missed when he set his guitar ablaze amidst the peace and love of the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. With Jimi Hendrix, there was always fire – if not literally, always musically. Legacy Recordings and Experience Hendrix have recently released The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s full evening set at the first Miami Pop Festival of 1968 on a new live album simply entitled Miami Pop Festival (88883 76992 2). This release marks the first time this brief but exhilarating concert has been commercially issued.
There were actually two Miami Pop Festivals that year. Hendrix joined Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention, Blue Cheer, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and others for the May festival promoted by Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry and future Woodstock guru Michael Lang. In late December, promoters Tom Rounds and Mel Lawrence held another fest at the same venue, enlisting artists including Procol Harum, The Turtles, Jose Feliciano, Country Joe and the Fish, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The May event welcomed an estimated 50,000 people, and inspired Hendrix to pen “Rainy Day, Dream Away” (included on Electric Ladyland, released in September 1968) when his planned performance on the second day was cancelled due to inclement weather. Lang, proprietor of a Miami head shop that was one of the first such establishments on the East Coast, dubbed the event as “where the seeds of Woodstock were sown.”
Although The Experience – Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding – performed both evening and afternoon sets at Gulfstream Park, Miami Pop Festival presents only the evening show in full, with the afternoon performance represented by two songs. The disc, produced by Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and John McDermott, opens with two minutes of introductions, feedback and tuning up. Hendrix jokes, “And now I’d like to do our second song of the evening” before launching into a blistering “Hey Joe.” From the first notes, it’s clear that the stage is where Hendrix truly came alive. The expectations of the audience, and connection with it, drove him to greater and greater heights with each gig. That said, Miami Pop isn’t a surprising set; he relies largely on material from Are You Experienced and completely overlooks the more recent Axis. (“Foxey Lady,” “Fire” and “I Don’t Live Today” were all on AYU, with “Purple Haze” on the U.S. version and “Red House” on the U.K. release.) But it’s a worthwhile and vibrant performance all the same.
We have more details after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »
“Mono featured less audio trickery and fewer audio distractions, so you can actually hear the musical conversation between Miles and the other musicians as it occurred in the studio.” That’s producer George Avakian as quoted in the liner notes for Columbia and Legacy’s new nine-album box set Miles Davis: The Original Mono Recordings. And that purity of sound – further described by the producer of Davis’ first two Columbia albums as “truer to the studio sound and the original intent” – is raison d’etre enough for this compact but substantial box set honoring a fertile, popular and accessible period in Miles Davis’ long and remarkable career.
Its nine albums, recorded between 1956 and 1961 (and released between 1957 and 1964), encompass a number of cornerstones of any jazz library plus two original albums not previously included in Legacy’s comprehensive Davis reissue program, Jazz Track (1959) and Miles and Monk at Newport (1964). Taken together, these nine albums are the foundation on which the legend of Miles Davis was built. Though the trumpeter had served as a leader since 1947, it wasn’t until his long tenure at Columbia that he fully blossomed as an ever-evolving artist, composer and interpreter. In his early Columbia period, Davis frequently alternated small group sessions with orchestra dates arranged and conducted by Gil Evans; this box contains three of those acclaimed Davis/Evans collaborations. The Original Mono Recordings also succeeds as a primer on Davis’ transition from hard bop to modal jazz, not to mention his fusion of pure jazz and orchestral sophistication with Gil Evans. (John Coltrane fans take note, too: the saxophone icon appears on six of the nine albums here.)
After the jump, we’ll take an album-by-album look at these nine discs! Read the rest of this entry »
The new Apple/Capitol/Universal release On Air: Live at the BBC Volume Two sets the Wayback Machine at Destination: 1963 and 1964, when four Liverpool lads named John, Paul, George and Ringo ignited a British Invasion that continues to this very day. All 63 tracks (both spoken-word introductions and songs) on this new 2-CD time capsule date back to those two years, when the Fabs recorded unique performances for such BBC programs as Saturday Club and Pop Go the Beatles. A belated follow-up to 1994’s Live at the BBC (which itself gets a remastered reissue today), On Air can’t help but flash back listeners to a simpler, pre-Sgt. Pepper’s time, when The Beatles could cause a firestorm of controversy simply because of the length of their hair. Though Beatlemania was in full swing by the time Meet the Beatles arrived in the U.S. on January 20, 1964, the sense here is mostly of a hard-working, eager-to-please band. Knowing the experimentation (sonic and otherwise!) that came next for the lads from Liverpool, one can’t overlook just how basic and primitive some of these recordings sound – how completely, wonderfully rock-and-roll!
These in-the-moment recordings – 40 musical performances, 37 of which are previously unreleased – are filled with youthful abandon and exuberance. Most of the songs are far less polished than their studio counterparts, but largely follow the studio templates. The result is a fine “alternate” listening experience, as the originals are so familiar. One can hear The Beatles working, truly, as a band: Paul’s melodic bass; Ringo’s direct, clean and accessible drum style; George and John’s guitars spurring each other on. Each part was essential to the whole.
Tune your radios to The Second Disc, and hit the jump for much more! Read the rest of this entry »
Sex, drugs and rock and roll have been closely linked since, well, the dawn of rock and roll itself. But those who have been lucky enough to make a living in the rough-and-tumble world of rock have also frequently given themselves over to more noble pursuits. George Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangla Desh wasn’t the first time a rock superstar had performed for charity, but The Quiet Beatle’s star-studded event is rightfully considered the first benefit concert of such stature. Since then, there have been numerous other events bringing together rock’s biggest and brightest have come together for a good cause, from Live Aid to the recent 12-12-12 in support of Hurricane Sandy relief. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Amnesty International, founded in 1961, began its series of Secret Policeman’s Balls in 1976, raising money for its human rights crusades with artists like Pete Townshend and the Monty Python troupe. The scale of its benefit events grew notably in 1988 with the 25-city Human Rights Now world tour, headlined by Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel and others. Since then, Amnesty has staged of a number of remarkable concert events to support its mission “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.” The impressive new 6-DVD box set Released! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 (826663-13562 and its companion 2-CD set of highlights (826663-13568) not only provide hours of musical entertainment from a legendary group of artists, but support Amnesty’s work. The net proceeds from both releases, available now from Shout! Factory in the U.S., go to the organization.
The most striking aspect about these releases, particularly the DVD set, is just how all-encompassing and comprehensive they are. The collector-oriented box set is a completely immersive presentation, with documentaries and bonus material – 32 separate segments, in all – covering virtually every aspect of these concerts. Most significant, perhaps, might be the hour-and-a-quarter of new documentary material – Peter Shelton’s film Light a Candle! The Story Behind The Human Rights Concerts and two separate interview features with Bruce Springsteen and Sting. The always-passionate and eloquent Springsteen delivers what is essentially an uninterrupted monologue, candidly reflecting on his role with Amnesty over the years. He ruminates on the importance of freedom in rock and roll not just in the personal sense, but to the world at large, and recalls the “harrowing” and “intense” news conferences surrounding the Human Rights Now! tour. “Our place in the world changed a little bit,” Springsteen says, and he gained “an enormous sense of the globe as one place.” On a lighter note, he recalls a night in 1988 when his fellow performers decided to surprise him onstage by dressing in his usual attire, or the night a decade later when the multi-lingual Peter Gabriel bailed him out when he was at a loss for words with a French-speaking crowd!
Sting is relaxed and wry in his featurette, which unlike Springsteen’s stream-of-consciousness talk is divided into brief segments each devoted to one topic. What’s most clear is Sting’s pride in his involvement with Amnesty over the years. Like Springsteen, he was affected by those he met on the tour – political prisoners, their families, et. als. – as well as with the camaraderie he established with his fellow musicians including the Garden State’s favorite son. He stresses Amnesty’s embrace of world music, and doesn’t flinch from discussing the risks incurred whenever a person in the public eye takes a political stand.
After the jump, we’ll take a closer look at Released! Read the rest of this entry »
Between 1978 and 1988, The Pointer Sisters recorded a stunning series of nine albums with producer Richard Perry (Barbra Streisand, Harry Nilsson), first for his Elektra-distributed Planet Records label, and then for RCA, to whom Perry eventually sold Planet. During this period, June, Ruth and Anita finally were able to Break Out on the U.S. charts – to quote the title of the group’s multi-platinum 1983 album which introduced four U.S. Top 10 hits. Previously the Pointers had mastered jazz, blues, funk and even country – the latter with the Grammy-winning “Fairytale.” But with Perry at the helm, the trio emphasized lithe R&B grooves equally steeped in dance, pop and rock rhythms. In other words, Perry and the Pointer Sisters synthesized all of their influences into one recognizably “Pointer” style. Big Break Records has just completed its reissue program for all of the Perry/Pointer Sisters albums with the recent releases of Priority (1979) and Black and White (1981). In addition to getting the expanded treatment, the latter title is also appearing for the very first time on CD in its original album mix.
Even for fans of the sleek Pointer records like “Jump (For My Love)” and “He’s So Shy,” 1979’s Priority might come as a bit of a surprise. As Perry reflects in Christian John Wikane’s incisive liner notes, the priority of the title was to produce genuine “rock-oriented material with a black group.” And so, for the second collaborative album between Perry and the Pointer Sisters, the group tackled songs originally performed or written by The Rolling Stones, The Band, Ian Hunter, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Bruce Springsteen. It was the latter’s “Fire” – a No. 2 hit from the Pointers’ Planet debut Energy – that pointed the way for the more aggressive direction on Priority. To support the vocalists, Perry enlisted some of Laurel Canyon’s finest, raiding Rick Marotta (drums), Waddy Wachtel (guitar) and Dan Dugmore (guitar) from Linda Ronstadt’s band. Pianist Nicky Hopkins (The Rolling Stones, Nilsson) joined the personnel, as did Little Feat’s Bill Payne on keyboards, William “Smitty” Smith on organ, Scott Chambers on bass, and session great David Spinozza on slide guitar. Though headlined by a vocal group, Priority feels very much like a “band record.”
“Who Do You Love” (“Is it her or is it me?”), pulled from Ian Hunter’s 1975 solo album, features a gritty June Pointer lead over a track adorned with barroom piano and bluesy guitar (with Wachtel soaring on lead) that would have been equally comfortable for Ronstadt or any of her country-rocking L.A. brethren. The Pointer Sisters may have been from the Bay Area, but clearly the sound of Southern California could inspire them as well. Though a uniform sound adorned most of the album’s tracks, their origins were diverse. The arrangement of Detroiter Bob Seger’s “All Your Love” was cut from the same cloth as that of “Who Do You Love,” but, with Ruth’s even smokier vocal, emphasized the roughness around the edges. Any group must be brave to tackle the Rolling Stones songbook, but the Pointers did just that with the Exile on Main Street rave-up “Happy,” with June filling in for Keith Richards and Nicky Hopkins reprising his role on piano.
Just as bold was the choice to cover a Bruce Springsteen song, though it was inevitable considering the Pointers’ success with The Boss’ “Fire.” Arguably even more smoldering than “Fire,” “The Fever” was written and originally sung by Springsteen, but not released until the 1990s. Allan Rich gave it a shot as “Fever For the Girl,” but the song became the property of Southside Johnny Lyon when he recorded it – with a memorable vocal contribution from E Streeter Clarence Clemons – in 1976. Ruth was the perfect choice to sing lead, her husky tones giving weary life to the blues of Springsteen’s lyric. The lack of Southside Johnny’s signature horn section also lends “(She’s Got) The Fever” a different quality here, and the mutual R&B roots of Springsteen and The Pointer Sisters are in evidence.
“Blind Faith,” a Gerry Rafferty/Joe Egan song for their band Stealer’s Wheel is hardly as well-known as Glimmer Twin Keith’s signature “Happy.” But Perry imbued it with a down ‘n’ dirty spin on a girl group record as Ruth intoned the bluesy lead, June and Anita “bop-shoo-bopping” with ironic spirit behind her. Richard Thompson’s “Don’t Let a Thief Steal Into Your Heart” might feature the best vocal and instrumental interplay on the album. Chambers adds funky bass as the versatile Wachtel soars on slide, with June, Ruth and Anita each playing a substantial role in the vocals. Robbie Robertson’s raucous “The Shape I’m In” concludes the album on a high note.
Priority did grant listeners one brief oasis of calm, however. David Palmer and William D. Smith’s “Dreaming as One” had been recorded previously by The Walker Brothers and Warren Zevon associate Jorge Calderon, but Anita’s sensitive, cooing vocal didn’t force the sweet, natural emotion of the song. In a fine decorative touch, Dan Dugmore’s pedal steel added the country flavor with which Anita was accustomed. For all this fine material, the album lacked one song with strong enough pop single potential, by producer Perry’s own admission. Still, one can’t help but believe that the group’s embrace of rock on Priority was another feather in their cap and another stepping stone to the superstardom that beckoned in the new decade.
Big Break’s reissue doesn’t add any bonus material, but the album has been remastered by reissue producer Wayne A. Dickson and includes a typically lavish and colorful booklet with full credits and Wikane’s new essay. As usual, the attention to detail is top-notch right down to the Planet/BBR label on the CD itself.
After the jump: a look at Black and White, plus order links and track listings for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »
Tucked away on Bob Dylan’s 23rd studio album Empire Burlesque, the troubadour sings simply but sternly, “Trust yourself/Trust yourself to do the things that only you know best/Trust yourself/Trust yourself to do what’s right and not be second-guessed…” Dylan had trusted himself since he first arrived on the scene in 1962, engaging in a series of transformations that enthralled, angered, transfixed and bewildered those that followed his career – from folk troubadour to electric rocker to cowboy crooner to confessional singer-songwriter to born-again song-slinger to distracted artist to grand old man and living legend. The times they were a-changin’, and Bob Dylan was a-changin’ with them. He famously titled his fourth album Another Side of Bob Dylan – but the hefty new box set from Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings The Complete Album Collection Volume One (88691 92431 25 1) offers practically every side of Bob Dylan…all save the private one, which he has worked valiantly to protect and preserve over 50+ years in the public eye.
The term “Dylanologist” was coined by one A.J. Weberman. His confrontations with the artist whose work he closely parsed for deeper meaning have achieved now-legendary status. But with the release of this career-spanning 47-disc box set, all who listen can become Dylanologists. Dylan struggled with the tag of “the voice of a generation,” one which critics and fans alike were all too eager to bestow upon him after he spoke with a wisdom far beyond his years on such songs as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Masters of War” and “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.” Of course, in some respects, it was accurate. Though he wasn’t the first lyricist to push the envelope on subject matter – theatrical lyricists did it with regularity – Dylan played a major role in freeing popular song from the conventions of moon-june-spoon love songs. One expects that he would openly credit the likes of E.Y. Harburg and Johnny Mercer from the Broadway-pop tradition as well as Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Pete Seeger from the folk landscape in shaping his craft. Yet significantly, his early emphasis on impressionistic, oblique and poetic lyrics was a major deviation from folk, blues, country, Broadway or Tin Pan Alley traditions. And though Dylan was far from the first singer to pick up an instrument and sing, his tremendous success did kick a door wide open. He empowered every kid without the vocal prowess of a Frank Sinatra or even an Elvis Presley to grab a guitar and a notebook, and give voice to the thoughts, desires and yearnings of their age group. Dylan’s ascendance dovetailed with the rise of youth culture – and the power of youth to influence spending – via rock-and-roll. He was initially a folk singer with a rock-and-roll heart, then a rock-and-roller with a folk heart, always with the empathy of the blues running through his veins.
Yet, it’s important to remember that the man who wrote “Like a Rolling Stone” also wrote “Wiggle Wiggle.” The same Bob Dylan who offered the world his ravishingly esoteric “Visions of Johanna” also tapped into the pop zeitgeist providing accessible hit songs for The Byrds, The Turtles, and Manfred Mann. He even co-wrote songs with Carole Bayer Sager (“That’s What Friends Are For,” “A Groovy Kind of Love”) and Michael Bolton. Journalists will no doubt continue to parse Dylan’s voluminous output for meanings both hidden and obvious, but the real truths about Bob Dylan are present in his music, and those truths resonate differently to each person who listens.
There are few artists whose entire (or near-entire) catalogue can truly justify the existence of a set such as The Complete Album Collection Volume One; Legacy has previously and rightfully bestowed the honor upon such artists as Miles Davis, Tony Bennett, Johnny Cash, Harry Nilsson and Paul Simon. Barbra Streisand seems a logical next candidate. Like the catalogues of any of those colleagues, all of whom set a new standard or high watermark for popular music in their genre, Dylan’s output can more than withstand the scrutiny of the box set treatment. Each and every disc – whether acclaimed or maligned – is an essential piece of the puzzle.
After the jump: what’s here? What’s not here? Is it really where it’s at? Read the rest of this entry »
“The police say you guys in the trees are causing problems…you can either jump out or they’ll…do something!” So went one of the colorful and increasingly adamant stage announcements about tree-dwelling audience members made throughout the near-entirety of Jefferson Starship’s free concert at New York City’s Central Park on May 12, 1975. The eight-strong band line-up of Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, Craig Chaquico, Papa John Creach, John Barbata, David Freiberg and Pete Sears was in a period of transition, on the cusp of what would become the group’s most successful record: Red Octopus. Now, this spirited performance can be revisited on Real Gone Music’s 2-CD set Live in Central Park NYC May 12, 1975 (RGM-0183).
Red Octopus arrived in stores almost one month to the day after the Central Park concert, on June 13, 1975, and three songs would be previewed from that set: the AM-ready “Play on Love,” the rocking “Sweeter Than Honey,” and the forceful opening cut, “Fast Buck Freddie.” Ironically, the song which propelled Jefferson Starship to the stratosphere, Marty Balin’s “Miracles,” was not in the set list at Central Park. Though generally accepted as Jefferson Starship’s second album, Red Octopus was actually the first credited solely to the band. The group’s 1974 debut, Dragon Fly, was billed to “Paul Kantner/Grace Slick/Jefferson Starship.” The difference was the presence of Balin, who contributed his AOR epic “Caroline” to Dragon Fly but didn’t official rejoin his old Jefferson Airplane compatriots Slick and Kantner till early in 1975.
After the jump, we’ll jump back in time to 1975! Read the rest of this entry »