Welcome to this week’s Release Round-Up!
Various Artists, Rip It Up: The Best of Specialty Records (Craft Recordings)
Craft Recordings’ 75th anniversary campaign for groundbreaking R&B label Specialty Records kicks off with Rip It Up: The Best of Specialty Records on CD, LP, and digital platforms. The 18 tracks on Rip It Up spotlight the incendiary R&B and, later, rock-and-roll that put Specialty on the map. (Perhaps Specialty’s gospel offerings will be recognized on a future release.) Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Lloyd Price, Larry Williams, and Percy Mayfield are among the artists represented. Read more here.
Over three decades after the film’s release in 1992, the original motion picture score to Ghostbusters II is finally available. Randy Edelman’s score arrives from Sony Classical today on CD and digital formats, while a vinyl edition is due on October 15. The album includes the original film recordings, three newly-recorded cues, and one outtake originally recorded for the sequel. Barnes & Noble will also carry an exclusive LP on glow-in-the-dark vinyl. In the meantime, don’t forget to stream Edelman’s new song, “Comin’ Out the Other Side,” on iTunes / Amazon / Spotify.
Back in 2015, Texas singer-songwriters Max Townsley and Drew Erickson traveled to Los Angeles where they were signed by Warner/Chappell Music. Soon, their songs were being recorded by top-tier artists such as Keith Urban (“Texas Time”) and they were signed as a duo to Warner (Bros.) Records. Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Carrie Underwood, Fiona Apple) was enlisted as producer. Explorer Tapes, the band and the album, was born. But despite the strength of the songs, the musicianship (including Roger Manning on keyboards, Aaron Sterling on drums, and various horn and string players), the LP remained unreleased until this loving excavation by the Omnivore crew. It’s not hard to see why Keith Urban was drawn to Townsley and Erickson’s songs; “Texas Time” (included here in Explorer Tapes’ own rendition) has an easygoing, lightly funky and swinging groove that just might cause spontaneous tapping or whistling along. The record is packed with lush adult pop – the kind you weren’t sure anybody was still writing – with abundant hooks, falsetto vocals, harmonies, and even bridges (a rarity in songwriting nowadays). “Julia” is a timeless ballad adorned with brass and even an electric sitar in the mold of those Philly soul classics, but veers off in its own, even more lushly cinematic direction. The piano-driven “Kids These Days” has an elegance recalling Bacharach or Webb while the chorus of “Washed Away” soars in a manner that would make Brian Wilson proud. Steely Dan might well be the touchstone for the sleek “Change Looks Good on You.” This sense of familiarity within the framework of something original characterizes the fine pop songcraft and polished production of Explorer Tapes. This premiere has the original 12-song album plus two additional cuts (the breezy “Sunset Strip” and wry “Still Love Lindsay”), leaving the listener wanting to explore more of these Tapes. It’s available on CD and vinyl.
Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue (BMG)
A remastered edition of Nina Simone’s 1959 Bethlehem Records debut arrives from BMG on both CD and vinyl. (Barnes and Noble’s exclusive blue vinyl version has already been in stores for a few weeks.) Read all about it here.
Jennifer Hudson steps into the role of Aretha Franklin the long-awaited biopic Respect, in theatres today, and on its soundtrack. Here, she recreates such memorable songs as “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Think,” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” Available on CD, vinyl, and digitally, as well as Target-exclusive CD and vinyl (both with alternate artwork and a photobook) and Walmart-exclusive vinyl (pressed on gold-colored vinyl).
Paul Anka is celebrating his 80th birthday (the date was July 30) with a new album featuring original songs as well as re-recordings from his classic catalogue. In the latter category, Making Memories offers duets with Olivia Newton-John (“Put Your Head on My Shoulder”), Il Divo (“You Are My Destiny”), and Michael Buble and Andrea Bocelli (“My Way”). Available on CD and download/streaming.
This 27-song set was recorded in 2019 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Los Angeles’ Ace Theatre, and Rhode Island’s Newport Folk Festival. Available on 2 CDs or 4 LPs.
The singer-songwriter found inspiration in the pandemic to craft his latest studio album. The title, of course, was borrowed from the 1951 sci-fi film which came to Nile’s mind as he witnessed New York in lockdown. Stewart Lerman produced the album which features a guest spot from Steve Earle on “Blood on Your Hands.” Michael Des Barres co-wrote “Where There’s a Willie, There’s a Way” but the album isn’t all levity; “The Justice Bell” was inspired by civil rights leader John Lewis. Available on CD, LP, and digitally.
Cruzados, She’s Automatic (Scamco) (Cruzados Online Store)
The Los Angeles post-punk band, once signed to Clive Davis’ Arista label, returns with their first album in over 30 years. She’s Automatic features 11 songs written or co-written by bassist Tony Marsico (Neil Young, Bob Dylan). Like Willie Nile, Marsico was inspired by the pandemic to create something new and relevant; in doing so, he opted to reactivate the Cruzados name. The resulting album is only The Cruzados’ third and pays homage to Marsico’s deceased bandmates Marshall Rohner and Chalo “Charlie” Quintana. Rick Vito and Barry Goldberg are among the co-writers, while LA rock luminaries including John Doe, Dave Alvin, Steve Hidalgo, Steve Berlin, and Melanie Vannem all are featured.
Singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading’s latest, Consequences, comes to CD and vinyl today. (It’s already available digitally.) It features the lead single “Already There” and nine more originals.
Kritzerland has opened pre-orders for another essential pair from the label’s reissue series of Ben Bagley’s Revisited collections spotlighting lost songs by great musical theatre composers. Cole Porter Vol. IV features a typically eclectic cast including Katharine Hepburn, Blossom Dearie, Kaye Ballard, Dolores Gray, Helen Gallagher, Patrice Munsel, and Arthur Siegel with arrangements by Dennis Deal. The DeSylva, Brown and Henderson volume is as illustrious, boasting songs from Margaret Whiting, Dorothy Loudon, Mary Cleere Haran, Sandy Stewart, Ann Hampton Callaway, and Arthur Siegel, with Norman Paris’ arrangements. Both CDs have newly spruced-up sound and new liner notes, and are limited to 500 units only. They’ll ship by the third week of September but pre-orders directly from Kritzerland typically arrive much earlier.