The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for April 19th, 2010

Reissue Theory: Neil Diamond with a Bang!

with 2 comments

Long before he read about a frog who dreamed of being a king – and then became one – Neil Diamond was an up-and-coming songwriter in the waning days of the Brill Building.  After a few unsuccessful stabs at recording in the early part of the decade, Diamond was taken under the wing of Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Bert Berns.  In January 1966, the hits started coming: first “Sunday and Me” for Jay and the Americans, then “I’m A Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” both for the Monkees. 

Riding this wave of success, Diamond resumed his own singing career, with his first session for Bang Records taking place on January 25, 1966, one day after his 25th birthday.  Berns’ Bang label was riding high: the McCoys’ “Hang On, Sloopy” had topped the Billboard chart, the Strangeloves had a Top 20 hit with “I Want Candy,” and a young Irishman named Van Morrison was waiting in the wings for his solo debut on the young label.  While at Bang, Diamond waxed his first hit singles, many of which became instant classics: “Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman” among them.  He also established solid credentials as both a bona fide rock-and-roller and a songwriter of some introspection, although both traits were somewhat underplayed when his music took a MOR turn in the seventies.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

After two albums and Berns’ untimely death at only 38, Diamond’s relations with Bang grew sour.  He decamped amid lawsuits for Uni Records, California and greater stardom.  When the superstar gained control of his Bang master recordings in 1977, he subsequently licensed them to Columbia House on his own Frog King label, and later to Columbia proper.  Yet these seminal recordings have largely remained absent from his catalogue since then, despite the number of hit songs that remain in his repertoire from this era.  (The only official all-Bang release available is Classics: The Early Years (Columbia CK 38792); other tracks have surfaced on too many compilations to mention.)  For my first Reissue Theory, I present my dream project for Columbia/Legacy, and one which has been long-rumored but never confirmed:  Neil Diamond – The Bang Masters.  These are the tracks which have made Mr. Diamond a permanent resident of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and which remain an important part of the sound of the 1960s New York rock and roll scene.

Due to Bang’s incessant repackaging in the years following Diamond’s ascent from shopping songwriter to worldwide music icon, multiple variations exist of virtually every one of the 25 songs recorded by Diamond for the label.  These variations include original mono and stereo mixes, remixes in both mono and stereo, and even “fake stereo” mixes and remixes!  Multiple edits exist of many of these titles, as well as alternate versions with radically different instrumentation and vocals, most notably “Solitary Man” and “Shilo.”  (The autobiographical “Shilo” would be recorded yet again for Uni.)  But any reissue should center on the two core albums in the Neil Diamond Bang catalog: The Feel of Neil Diamond (Bang LP 214, 1966) and Just For You (Bang LP 217, 1967).  Together, the LPs are a nice mix of big hits, largely unknown album tracks and even some surprising covers. 

I’ve included both albums in their familiar stereo mixes on Disc 1 and then rounded up the cream of the assorted singles and tracks which appeared on compilations only.  Disc 2 features both albums in mono, followed by the most interesting of the literally dozens of variant mixes.  On both discs, I’ve deleted “Solitary Man” from the original Just For You lineup, as it is essentially the same recording from The Feel of Neil Diamond.  I’ve substituted distinct alternate mixes of the song.  Read my hypothetical track listing after the jump, and then if you’re still interested in exploring these long-lost recordings, visit the definitive site Neil Diamond on Bang.  This site’s work in uncovering the multiple Bang variations has proven invaluable, and only a bona fide box set for the Diamond diehard could contain all of the material that has been unearthed.  Along with listening from my own collection, it proved a major resource in compiling this Reissue Theory. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 19, 2010 at 15:33

Posted in Features, Neil Diamond, Reissues

Tagged with

On the Right (Sound)Track

with 7 comments

Here at The Second Disc, there’s a lot of coverage of soundtracks. (For proof, check Joe Marchese’s recent exciting review of a few vault reissues by Henry Mancini.) Granted, not every fan of classic pop, rock and R&B catalogue releases is big on orchestral scores and whatnot, but it’s an integral genre in the wide, wild world of reissues and worth covering from an artistic point of view.

But recent revelations have shown that soundtrack catalogue comings and goings are worth covering from a business point of view, too. Last week, Variety filed a pretty captivating (if brief) article on the indie soundtrack labels and their continued success.

Perhaps the most striking facts were that this niche market – a bunch of labels catering to roughly 3,000 to 5,000 fans and collectors – are collectively enjoying an estimated $10 million a year. Mind you, that’s $10 million in CD sales. No digital, no vinyl, no promotion outside of message boards and a handful of fan sites. And these aren’t ultra-obscure releases, either. Between labels like Intrada, Film Score Monthly, La La Land Records and Varese Sarabande (to name just four), the scores to films like Back to the Future, Robocop, Caddyshack, Independence Day, The X-Files, the 1970s and 1980s Superman films, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and The Goonies are just some of the recent or future releases in the past few years.

It’s an exciting time for fans; so-called “holy grails” seem to get checked off the list at a rapid pace. And the majors are willing to play along – rumors abound that La La Land, having founded a good partnership with Paramount Pictures, is developing a similar bond with Sony.

The question that arises from such a positive story on a part of the music business is this: what can the business of pop/rock reissues learn from these indie soundtrack labels and vice versa? I think there are a few answers, and you can read ’em after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

April 19, 2010 at 15:19

News Roundup: Unreleased Motown and More Coming From Ace

leave a comment »

I’ve often described Ace Records as the “British Rhino.”  If Rhino pioneered the concept of the deluxe reissue in America – containing bonus tracks, in-depth liner notes and unique packaging – Ace keeps the original Rhino tradition alive across the pond.  Virtually every month, Ace and its family of labels releases a handful of titles (both album reissues and compilations) to make collectors’ mouths water.  The batch arriving in the UK on April 26 and on our shores throughout May is no exception, with the most exciting being a first: a Motown release on the Ace label.

While largely unknown today, the Satintones have the distinction of being the first artists ever to be featured on a Motown single.  “My Beloved” b/w “Sugar Daddy” was released as Motown 1000 in October 1959 and reissued under the same catalog number in April 1960, paving the way for the Sound of Young America to come.  This was the second single by Motown’s first all-male vocal group, consisting of James Ellis, William “Sonny” Sanders, Chico Leverett and Robert Bateman.  Motown 1000, their debut single on Tamla 54026, and 22 other tracks are collected on The Satintones Sing! – The Complete Tamla and Motown Singles Plus.  Of these 26 songs, 13 represent the complete singles output of the group, and a whopping 11 tracks are unreleased direct from the Motown vault.  Both sides of an early Tamla single by Chico Leverett rounds out the set.  It is titled after an unreleased album, and looks like something of a Motown collector’s dream with appropriately retro cover art!  A 5000-word essay in the true Ace tradition accompanies the album, including interviews with all four Satintones.  Coming exactly 50 years to the month after that April 1960 release, The Satintones Sing! truly proves “better late than never,” and looks like an essential edition to any Motown collector’s shelf.

Other titles in this latest group of Ace releases are:

The Satintones Sing! is limited to 1000 copies as part of Ace’s new limited edition series, but is available at all usual outlets.  All of the other CDs are general releases.  Get the scoop on the full track list for The Satintones Sing! after the jump, and watch this space for further reissue news from Ace! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 19, 2010 at 11:21

Posted in Compilations, News, Reissues