It may be hard to believe, but the holiday season will be here sooner than we think! To prove that point, Real Gone Music is getting Christmas started early with its October slate of releases featuring five yuletide gems along with three titles good for year-round enjoyment.
This batch of Christmas classics kicks off with the 4 Seasons’ The 4 Seasons Greetings, continuing Real Gone’s series of mono Seasons reissues which began in September. Next, you’ve got holiday tunes from crooner and actor John Gary with his lone RCA Christmas LP. Rounding out the seasonal releases are three instrumental albums ranging in flavor from soulful (The Soulful Strings) to more traditional (George Melachrino and His Orchestra) to slightly off-the-wall (The Three Suns). Those last two feature liner notes by our very own Joe Marchese! The non-holiday titles scheduled for release in October also run the gamut of styles. First there’s another volume in the Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks series. Then, you’ve got the only solo album from Barry White collaborator Jay Dee, featuring the involvement of Mr. White himself. Finally, there’s a slice of 1970s power-pop with a reissue of the cult-classic lone album from The Beckies.
We’ve got all of the details below in the full press release from Real Gone together with links to order all of the albums!
LOS ANGELES, CA – The 4 Seasons were and are one of the greatest vocal groups in the history of pop music, and their music has been plentifully available since the “dawn” (pun intended) of the CD reissue era. But there remains a very large gap in their catalog: their original albums have NEVER been available on CD in their original mono mixes! Which really makes no sense; not only were most consumers buying and listening to mono albums during the early and mid ’60s, when the bulk of The 4 Seasons’ album catalog was released, but also the mono mixes were what the group and its producer Bob Crewe concentrated on and approved. Now, Real Gone Music is embarking on a monorail, er, monaural ride through the 4 Seasons album catalog, releasing the original mono album mixes on CD in chronological order, all taken from tape, and housed inside mini LP sleeves with old-style, “tip on” printing that replicates the original album art all the way down to the original Vee Jay logos. And wrangling the album session tapes for us? The one and only Bill Inglot, who has been working with the 4 Seasons catalog for years (and the masters are approved by Bob Gaudio himself)! Next up is their legendary Christmas album, which hit the charts three times, once in 1963 when it came out as The 4 Seasons Greetings and again in 1966 and 1967 when it was reissued as The 4 Seasons’ Christmas Album. This one’s the original through and through, from the art to the track list. Limited edition of 2,000.
The Soulful Strings were without a doubt the hippest project ever to emerge from the ’60s with the word “Strings” in its name. Brainchild of producer/arranger/bassist/songwriter (and genius) Richard Evans, the group was a far cry from the interchangeable outfits that flourished during the “beautiful music” era; instead, The Soulful Strings were actually composed of members of the Chess/Cadet label house band, including flautist Lennie Druss, guitarist Phil Upchurch, bassist/cellist Cleveland Eaton and harpist Dorothy Ashby, who laid down a tasty electric groove into which Evans stirred lush strings and unusual instrumentation like the kalimba and sitar. The result was a sound that resided at the crossroads of easy listening, jazz, R&B and exotica–and, as one might expect from that description, every Soulful Strings release (they made seven albums) is treasured by cratediggers worldwide. 1968’s The Magic of Christmas was their highest-charting record at #35 on the charts, and appears on CD for the first time anywhere in the world, with liner notes by Gene Sculatti. The soundtrack to many a swingin’ ’60s Christmas party.
With 15 charting albums to his credit during the ’60s, one would think John Gary would get a lot more recognition than he does these days as one of the leading pop male vocalists of the decade. He certainly was one of the most gifted; his tonal and breath control were pretty much unmatched by his peers, and he had an amazing 3 ½ octave range, often ascending from a meaty baritone to a high, sweet tenor within a single song. There remains one record, however, that has never really faded from the public eye, and that is 1964’s The John Gary Christmas Album, which went to #3 the year it came out and hit the Christmas charts for four straight years after that. Finally, we at Real Gone Music are bringing this holiday classic with its original album artwork to compact disc, and we’re doing it with assistance from a very special Christmas elf: John’s widow Lee Gary, who has contributed liner notes and photos from the family archive for this release! Arranged and conducted by the great Peter Matz of Barbra Streisand fame, and remastered by Maria Triana at Battery Studios.
The instrumental trio The Three Suns had been around for about two decades, capturing fans as far-ranging as First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and the Platters (who took their “Twilight Time” to the top of the charts), when they cut A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas for RCA’s famed Living Stereo series in 1959. And, no doubt inspired by the new-fangled recording technology in RCA’s Studio A, they turned in one of the most wacky and entertaining Christmas albums of the era, adding rock and roll guitar and instrumentation as varied as chimes, bells, oboes and two (!) tubas to create a Space Age stereophonic spectacular suitable for the Jetsons’ next holiday party. This record’s long been cherished by Christmas music devotees, and our Real Gone worldwide CD debut reissue features a sparkling remastering job by Maria Triana at Sony’s Battery Studios and liner notes by Joe Marchese. Every bit as fizzy as the champagne you’re going to open to toast the season!
English-born conductor/arranger George Melachrino was the RCA label’s answer to the Decca label’s Mantovani. Along with his famed Music for Moods series, which provided sumptuous soundtracks for every occasion, from dining to daydreaming to studying to sleeping, his most beloved recordings were his two Christmas albums. The first, 1954’s mono release Christmas in High Fidelity, became a perennial best seller and has been reissued in the compact disc era. However, the second, 1959’s Christmas Joy, which took full advantage of the stereo recording techniques pioneered by RCA’s “Living Stereo” series, makes its worldwide CD debut here. It’s hard to conceive of a musical genre more suited for the freedom stereo afforded in the studio than the orchestral easy listening that was Melachrino’s métier, and here the maestro offers widescreen interpretations of 12 songs from the original Christmas in High Fidelity album and adds four more tunes from the lighthearted side of the holiday songbook, including “Christmas Alphabet,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” This symphonic seasonal classic receives a pristine remastering from Maria Triana at Battery Studios in New York, with liner notes by Joe Marchese and added photos.
Real Gone Music answers the pleas of power pop fans worldwide with the first-ever CD release of this classic one-off album from The Beckies, the group led by Michael Brown of Left Banke, Montage, and Stories fame. Brown made a career out of melding classical motifs with rock, but here–on what would turn out to be the last project to which he made a significant contribution–the focus is definitely more on the latter. The Beckies fits right on the shelf with your Badfinger and Raspberries records, full of catchy tunes that in another era would have had a chance at significant radio play, but 1976 was the height of the disco craze, and therefore it sunk without a commercial trace. A quick search online, however–there are about four solid pages of blog posts about the album–quickly confirms cult classic status for The Beckies, here reissued with notes by Jeremy Cargill and lyrics. Long overdue reissue and worth the wait.
With production by Barry White, and seven of its nine songs written or co-written by the Walrus of Love, you’d think that this one-off release from Jay Dee was in reality all but a solo album from White. And you know what? You’d be right…almost. For while Come On In Love sports the trademark lush orchestration (with arrangements by Gene Page) and funky rhythms that made Barry White a superstar during the ’70s, the artist Jay Dee was, if not an equal partner, a worthy front man. Born Earl Nelson, he first surfaced in 1963 as half of Bob & Earl on the hit “Harlem Shuffle” (which was arranged by–you guessed it–a young Barry White)! Then, as Jackie Lee he scored a huge novelty hit two years later with “The Duck,” which again had Barry in the background (the two co-composed the single’s flip, “Ooh Honey Baby”). So, this 1977 album was actually a collaboration between two seasoned pros, and it showed it with a number of slow-burning jams spearheaded by excellent soulful vocals from Jay/Earl/Jackie. Our Expanded Edition includes two bonus tracks, both sides of the “Strange Funky Games and Things” single featuring the single edit and a long instrumental version under the name “Games and Funky Things,” with liner notes by Gene Sculatti that explore the background behind this lost classic of ’70s soul.
Dick’s Picks Vol. 8 presented arguably the single most famous show in the Grateful Dead canon–5/2/70 at Harpur College in Binghamton–then Dick’s Picks Vol. 4 presents the most famous stand of shows in the band’s long history of touring, the 2/13/70-2/14/70 shows at the Fillmore East in New York. Just how good were the three sets that comprised each show? Well, when LSD chemist and band benefactor Owsley Stanley produced the official release History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1 (Bear’s Choice), he lifted portions of each night’s first set and acoustic second set in assembling that record, yet there was enough (very) strong material left over to make Dick’s Picks Vol. 4 one of the greatest live albums in the Grateful Dead catalog. The biggest gem–some might say the crown jewel–of the entire set is the now legendary rendition of “Dark Star,” a version so potent, so telepathic that it formed the backbone of the recombinant “Dark Star” on the Grayfolded album, but there really isn’t a weak song on the album, and a rare live rendition of “Mason’s Children” even gives this one a collector kick. When Bob Weir says when he steps up to the mike at the beginning of disc one, “This ain’t a show, it’s a party,” he ain’t kidding–if you’re not on the bus yet, this one will save a seat for you.
OCTOBER 2, 2015 RELEASES:
Jay Dee, Come On In Love (Expanded Edition) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)
Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 4–Fillmore East 2/13-14/70 (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)
OCTOBER 9, 2015 RELEASES:
The 4 Seasons, The 4 Seasons Greetings (Limited Mono Mini LP Sleeve Edition) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)
The Soulful Strings, The Magic of Christmas (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)
John Gary, The John Gary Christmas Album (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)
The Three Suns, A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)
George Melachrino and His Orchestra, Christmas Joy (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)
The Beckies, The Beckies (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. TBD)