The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for March 24th, 2010

Back Tracks: Squeeze

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If The Second Disc has any European readers, allow me to express my intense jealousy that Squeeze, one of the best British pop bands I can name, is embarking on a tour in your neck of the woods later in the year.

It pleases me that Squeeze is not an unknown entity in the United States (the first Squeeze concert I partook in, at Radio CityMusic Hall in 2008, looked pretty sold out), but ask any casual or younger music fan and you’ll likely get blank stares. This may change if you sing a few bars of “Tempted” – arguably their signature song (despite never being a Top 40 hit) – or, if you’re really lucky, you could go for some lines from “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Hourglass” or “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell).”

Regardless of your knowledge, Squeeze are a need-to-know pop band. The core members of the band – lyricist Chris Difford and songwriter Glenn Tilbrook – make up one of the best British duos this side of Lennon and McCartney. And it’s a partnership that, while not churning out dozens of chart hits, has remained consistent and mature over time. Squeeze excels at catchy, balladic tunes that live well past the Top 40 scene – and with Squeeze’s welcome return to touring in 2007 after a nearly decade-long hiatus, perhaps that songwriting magic will find its way into another record before long.

Slowly but surely, Squeeze have gotten their due from Universal Music Group, holders of the majority of the band’s catalogue. Thanks to their strong efforts, the band may yet earn the kind of fans that know what quality they’re capable of (fans like Crap from the Past host Ron Gerber, who put together this fantastic Squeeze playlist in 2007; Jim Drury, writer of the best Squeeze book money can buy; plus some actor named Johnny Depp who’s a big supporter of the band).

While fans abroad count down the days to that tour, we can all take a stroll through Squeeze’s reissues after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 24, 2010 at 11:48

Reissue Theory x4: Chaka Khan (and Rufus Too)

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The Second Disc is a day late (but no less enthusiastic) in wishing Chaka Khan, The Queen of Funk Soul, a happy birthday. Chaka has had, to say the least, an illustrious career, first as a member of Rufus then as a wildly successful solo artist in the late ’70s and ’80s.

What is the secret to Khan’s ongoing popularity? Chalk it up to three things. First, there’s that powerhouse voice – at once sensuous and celebratory. There’s also the great sounds she surrounds her vocals with, whether it’s the tight funk of Rufus or the electro-futuristic delights concocted by the late, great Arif Mardin. But most importantly, it’s those songs.

Chaka Khan just knows how to interpret a song the right way, and that’s got to be the biggest key to her success. Whether it was Stevie Wonder (“Tell Me Something Good”), Ashford and Simpson (“I’m Every Woman”), David Foster (co-writer of “Through the Fire,” which Kanye West sampled to great effect on his first record) or Prince (“I Feel for You,” her cover of which has to be the only Prince cover that outdoes the original), she makes a tune her own with what seems like no trouble at all.

With that in mind, one has to wonder why there’s such a profound gap in Chaka Khan’s solo catalogue. We’re not solely talking titles in need of remasters or expansions (though that wouldn’t hurt) – there are simply several LPs Khan cut for Warner Bros. that have never been released on CD. Furthermore, reader Eddie Scott astutely pointed out that the Rufus catalogue (split about 80-20 between Universal Music Group, owners of the ABC-Paramount catalogue, and Warner Bros.) doesn’t even have a fit career-spanning compilation on the market (think along the lines of the double-disc Gold releases UMG does).

So here’s a belated birthday greeting to Chaka and all her fans: three(!) Reissue Theory-style expansions of her solo work and a theoretical track list for a Rufus Gold set. We’re telling you something good after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 24, 2010 at 09:39