We've covered a lot of box sets this holiday season but today we're taking a look at three more compact - but no less enjoyable! - stocking stuffers! The two titles carried by Amazon are shipping now with delivery before Christmas. As an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Freddie Scott (1933-2007) had been recording for seven years when his impassioned rendition of Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Hey Girl" reached the top ten of both the Pop and R&B charts in 1963. Scott never topped the success of "Hey Girl" on the Pop side, though his equally dramatic version of Bert Berns' "Are You Lonely for Me, Baby" went to No. 1 R&B three year later, in 1966. An accomplished songwriter as well as a singer, Scott's discography contains a number of gems beyond those two classics, though, and Australian label Playback Records has rounded up two dozen of them on the appropriately-entitled The Very Best of Freddie Scott. This handsome collection showcases the uptown soul man at his finest, with lush tracks culled from his tenures at Colpix, Joy, Columbia, Shout, Probe, and other labels, spanning 1961-1997. In addition to "Hey Girl," Goffin and King are represented by the fine likes of "Where Does Love Go" and "Brand New World;" Berns looms large, too, with Jerry Ragovoy co-write "No One Could Ever Love You;" the Jeff Barry collaboration "Am I Grooving You," and the powerful "Cry to Me." Berns also helmed Scott's take on Van Morrison's "He Ain't Give You None." Scott brought his deep soul to make these songs his own as well as Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman," rebirthed as a big beat ballad, and Mann, Weil, Leiber, and Stoller's perennial "On Broadway." A rare single written and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the suitably funky "(You) Got What I Need," is another highlight in a collection packed with them. The Very Best of Freddie Scott is a snapshot of the prodigious creativity pouring out of the Brill Building in the 1960s; two more strong cuts come from his frequent co-writer Helen Miller's cult favorite Broadway musical Inner City, co-written with author Eve Merriam. Among the new-to-CD tracks is a demo of Roger Atkins and Carl D'Errico's "Why Did I Lose You." David Cole provides the comprehensive liner notes for this terrifically enjoyable package which has been remastered by Gil Matthews. It's available now at Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada.
Here at Second Disc HQ, we're longtime fans of lyricist-librettist Michael Colby. With such musicals as Charlotte Sweet, Ludlow Ladd, and Tales of Tinseltown, Colby has demonstrated time and again his commitment to craft as well as his prodigious gifts as a storyteller. Indeed, many of his finest songs - even as they move the stories forward and delineate character in their respective musicals - are miniature plays in and of themselves. That's what made the recent revue of his work, Other Lives: The Story Songs of Michael Colby, so richly rewarding. Earlier this year, JAY Records (which recently entered into an agreement with Cherry Red Records to bring its catalogue to an even wider audience) released an original cast album of Other Lives on made-on-demand CD and digital/streaming. Produced by John Yap, it preserves an illustrious array of performers bringing Colby's songs to life. Such boldfaced theatrical talents as Stephen Bogardus, Stuart Zagnit, Sarah Rice, Klea Blackhurst, Sean McDermott, Bethe Austin, Maureen Taylor (who last year released an entire album of Colby's lyrics), Marianne Tatum, and Colby himself are heard on this alternately moving and funny album of songs which stand alone and as part of the larger tapestry. Musical director Michael Lavine fleetly tickles the ivories on the memorable melodies penned by composers including Gerald Jay Markoe, Steven Silverstein, Alex Rybeck, Ned Paul Ginsburg, Larry Hochman, Peter Millrose, Michael's wife Andrea Colby, and others. Other Lives offers finely wrought character studies ("Elevator Man," performed by Zagnit; "Changing Times" by Bogardus), warm if wry sentiments ("Christmas Ev'ry Day"), and moving autobiography ("Growing Up at the Algonquin," sung by "Algonquin Kid" Colby). Humor and charm are abundant, too, on such songs as "Junior," "Since I Fell," and "That's My Pooch." What unites these disparate songs is their wit, sharp observation, and universality. You just might see yourself in one of these Other Lives conjured by Colby, Lavine, and the top-notch cast directed onstage by Sara Louise Lazarus. Other Lives is available now from JAY Records.
24 is the magic number! Omnivore Recordings has recently released the most recent volume of International Pop Overthrow, the yearly companion to the globe-trotting festival spearheaded by David Bash and Rina Bardfield. Last year's volume was the first after a three-year hiatus, and we're happy to report that IPO is most definitely back in full swing. 2023 took IPO to major cities in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom (Liverpool, of course!) and Omnivore's collection has a diverse assortment of 68 tracks on three packed CDs (in a nifty package designed by Now Sounds' Steve Stanley). It all kicks off with The Cowsills' "Ya Gotta Get Up!," the first track off the legendary family band's 2022 Omnivore album Rhythm of the World. Their bright harmonies set the stage for both familiar artists (Jellyfish's Roger Joseph Manning, The Pengwins' Danny Wilkerson, Katrina and the Waves' Kimberley Rew) and lesser-known, unsigned talents worthy of a listen (too many to mention!). The musical palette here has many colors, typical for an IPO compilation. The Discarded offer a modern spin on "Bubble Gum" with a dash of honking, Steve Douglas-esque sax; Vanilla's "The Devil You Know" brings a baroque flourish with a string arrangement. Thomas Charlie Pedersen's "Yesterdays and Silly Ways" is an enjoyable slice of soft pop while Robin Schell's "Eleven" is shimmering synth-rock. There's plenty of quirky treats here including Blake Jones and the Trike Shop's "Mock Stoner Voices" in which they name-check Tower Records, Lizard Voices' "Keystone Cops" (despite the title, most certainly not a silent movie-era pastiche!), and Captain Easychord's spare, D.I.Y. "I Got My Act Together." While every track may not be to every taste, there's plenty here to satisfy the appetite of any pop lover. Long may IPO continue to present so many worthy nuggets in one compact package. Vol. 24 is available now from Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada.