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Archive for June 2010

My Son, the Reissue Campaign

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In the pantheon of American comedy, there’s a special corner reserved for the work of song parodists. The form arguably reached its greatest heights under the aegis of Stan Freberg in the 1950s. Freberg and his stable of talented voice artists (including animation legends Daws Butler, Paul Frees and June Foray) knew no sacred cows and their amazing body of work still inspires gales of laughter today. (Any comedy fan unfamiliar with the Freberg oeuvre is advised to seek out Rhino’s exhaustive 1999 box set, Tip of the Freberg.  You’ll be hooked for life!)

Following in Freberg’s footsteps a few short years later and creating some of the 1960s’ best-selling LPs was an unusual gentleman by the name of Allan Sherman. The portly, bespectacled Sherman had first tackled a popular song in 1951 with his single “A Satchel and a Seck,” recorded with singer Sylvia Froos, parodying Frank Loesser’s hit “A Bushel and a Pack” from Loesser’s musical Guys and Dolls. Despite the single’s lack of success, he continued writing parodies for the amusement of famous friends like Harpo Marx and George Burns. Sherman finally secured a record deal with the still-young Warner Bros. Records label in 1962, and the result was the LP My Son, the Folk Singer. Its familiar melodies outfitted with Jewish-inflected humor turned Sherman into a star virtually overnight, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart and reportedly selling so fast that Warner Bros. had no choice but to start selling the vinyl without its sleeve; the whole package couldn’t be produced quickly enough to meet the album’s high demand. President John F. Kennedy was said to be a fan. (Ironically, Sherman was persuaded by his label to employ public-domain folk standards for this first LP’s source material; eminent composer Richard Rodgers famously called him a “destroyer” while other top names of the day discouraged his parodying their material.)

Sherman’s fame hit its epoch with 1963’s chart-topping My Son, the Nut which introduced his enduring “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” and stayed at No. 1 for 8 weeks. In all, Sherman recorded eight albums from 1962 to 1967, showing his disdain for rock music with his dry “Pop Hates The Beatles” (from 1964’s For Swingin’ Livers Only, titled in homage to Frank Sinatra but released at the height of Beatlemania) and with the non-LP single “Crazy Downtown,” mocking Petula Clark’s hit. His final LP, Togetherness, gave Sherman’s comic spin to the New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral,” reinvented as “Westchester Hadassah,” and Fiddler on the Roof‘s “If I Were a Rich Man,” which found new life as “If I Were a Tishman.” Not even a young Barbra Streisand escaped Sherman’s eye as he spoofed the cover to her My Name is Barbra for, what else, 1965’s My Name is Allan, which included “That Old Black Magic” rewritten as “That Old Back Scratcher” and an irreverent “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Late in the decade, Sherman turned his attention to various other areas. He wrote book and lyrics to Albert Hague’s music for a Broadway musical (1969’s The Fig Leaves Are Falling, which was a massive flop) and more successfully performed voiceover work, creating the voice of the animated Cat in the Hat in 1971. Allan Sherman’s story had a tragic ending with his death in 1973 from emphysema, a mere 10 days short of the age of 49.

Yet Sherman’s work lives on. He has been frequently remembered by disciple “Weird Al” Yankovic, and his entire Warner Bros. catalog was anthologized by Rhino Handmade in 2005’s exhaustive box set My Son, the Box. This 6-CD set also included a number of rarities and unreleased tracks, including Sherman’s complete parody of My Fair Lady, which was prevented by the musical’s authors from seeing release in 1962; song titles included “With a Little Bit of Lox” and “Get Me to the Temple on Time.” Still, Sherman’s original LPs have never seen CD release in their original form. Collectors’ Choice Music rectifies this on July 6, when all eight of Sherman’s Warner Bros. LPs will be reissued by the enterprising label, from 1962’s My Son, the Folk Singer to 1967’s Togetherness, his only LP recorded without an audience. Titles and links to pre-order with full track listings follow after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 28, 2010 at 09:39

Review: The Jackson 5, “Live at The Forum”

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One of the oddest takeaways from watching Michael Jackson perform live was always the screaming.

Watch almost anything Jackson ever commissioned for live release – snippets from Moonwalker, the Bucharest concert recorded during the Dangerous tour – and you’ll see an increasingly disturbing parade of young people, sweating, screaming, crying, hyperventilating and fainting at the mere notion of a glance, point or step from the King of Pop – their king, their idol, an undying figure that law, fame and drugs could never break.

Those with any kind of performance or marketing savvy can easily deduce that, surely, these shrieking faces were just another piece in the gigantic, self-congratulatory puzzle that Jackson yearned to create for himself and the world. Sure, he was a pop idol for the ages, and as easily an inspiration of hysterics as, say, Elvis or The Beatles. But it’s a construct…right?

The last seconds of the first disc of Live at the Forum, a new vintage Jackson 5 title from Hip-o Select, may have you reconsidering that stance. The end of that first set, a record-breaking visit to the Los Angeles Forum, is pure white noise, punctuated only by the short, futile insistence of the show’s emcee, Rick Holmes, that the crowd settle down.

It’s easy to understand why the crowd isn’t listening. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 25, 2010 at 16:09

Posted in Reissues, Reviews, The Jackson 5

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Back Tracks: Michael Jackson Part 2 – The Epic Years and Beyond

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After poring through Michael Jackson’s Motown years, we commemorate the year anniversary of his passing with a look at the material he recorded as an adult for Epic Records. If the J5 material was platinum, much of this stuff is uncut diamond – and the world is eagerly waiting to see what Sony will do with this material for catalogue purposes. (A multi-album deal has been struck, with the first batch of material likely due for the holidays, alongside a new video game based on Jackson’s music.)

Again, this can’t possibly as thorough or comprehensive as anyone would like. But this is the meat and potatoes of anyone’s Jackson collection, and it’s never too late to start  paying attention to this work (or rediscovering it, for that matter). Do your best to make sure it’s a part of yours. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 25, 2010 at 12:16

Friday Feature: “Grease”

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Quick, name a late ’70s blockbuster with a propulsive, lasting soundtrack!

Okay, now name one that wasn’t written by John Williams.

Chances are you’ve got two films atop your list: Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Both were classics of their time, full of dancing, John Travolta and the influence of one or more Brothers Gibb. But it’s the latter we’re going to look at to definitively cap our look at summer reissues. Even 32 years after its release, Grease still seems to be the word – the film, complete with sing-along lyrics, is due for a limited theatrical reissue in a few weeks – but what is it that makes this soundtrack so notable?

It might be the star power. Travolta, as golden-hearted bad boy Danny Zuko, and Olivia Newton-John as definitive good girl Sandy, are one of the most enduring couples in musical history, and the pair that portrayed them have rarely been better.

It might have been the era; folks seemed to have been clamoring for a simpler time while hurtling through the highly decadent end of the 1970s straight to the 1980s, and the ’50s-friendly subject matter was a Happy Days-level breath of fresh air.

It might be those songs – not only the killer numbers from writers Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey (“Greased Lightnin’,” “Summer Nights,” “We Go Together”) or the early rock classics added to the film (played by rock legends Sha Na Na), but the newly-included showstoppers from Aussie producer John Farrar (“Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re the One That I Want”) and Barry Gibb (who penned the left-field title track for Frankie Valli to sing). All of which put the film’s soundtrack through sales in excess of 28 million copies across the globe.

Whatever the reason, Grease is a heck of a soundtrack to kick off the summer. Hit the jump and The Second Disc will tell you more, tell you more about the many releases of the record, including the singles that set charts on both sides of the Atlantic on fire. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 25, 2010 at 10:36

Posted in Features, Reissues, Soundtracks

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News Round-Up: Prince Possibilites, Soundtrack Bits, Plus Bon Jovi Reaction

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  • Here’s something that’ll get tongues wagging: gossip blogger Dr. Funkenberry, known for his commentary and scoops around the Prince camp, reported that The Artist partook in a meeting at the headquarters of former label, Warner Bros. The idea is that his upcoming album, 20Ten, will get a release with several European publications (similar to the release of 2007’s Planet Earth), but will be released through WB in the U.S. PLEASE let this mean that reissues are in the cards somewhere.
  • Pitchfork provides some more details on the upcoming reissue of Queens of the Stone Age’s Rated R, now scheduled for August 2. The two-disc set will feature all the B-sides previously speculated here (plus another, a live version of “Monsters in the Parasol”). They will fill the second disc of the set, alongside the band’s 2000 set at The Reading Festival. (What, is Pitch
  • We’ve been saying that Alex North’s music to the film Spartacus will get the deluxe treatment this year, and it looks like it’ll be announced next week. Varese Sarabande has set June 28 as the day to announce producer Robert Townson’s 1,000th set with the label. “Never has there been as elaborate a production of a single film score in all of film music history,” the brief goes on to say. (Rumors abound that the set will include a thorough presentation of the original score plus a set of tribute cues conducted by other luminous film composers.)
  • The La-La Land score label has also clarified its release dates for the remainder of 2010. On July 15, the label (which will have some both space at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con) will reveal two new limited edition titles (one set at 3,000 units, another at 5,000). Another set of limited sets will follow on August 10 and titles will be announced every two weeks afterward through November 26, which will see three major titles announced. Guesses as to what the sets may be are more than welcome (one massive rumor for Comic-Con is a reissue of Danny Elfman’s iconic score to Batman).
  • Feeling like the Bon Jovi reissues were mostly ignored by critics? The die-hard Bon Jovi fans at Metal Asylum (good friends of The Second Disc) have turned in a thoughtful review of the first four LPs in the series.

Written by Mike Duquette

June 24, 2010 at 14:26

Reissue Theory: DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, “Homebase”

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We continue our summer set of Reissue Theory posts with a big star whose musical career is now just a footnote. But that footnote gave us, in part, one of the best-loved summer songs of the ’90s. Of course, we’re talking about DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince.

Sure, the latter is now known worldwide by his real name, Will Smith. And he’s a mega-movie star whose box-office power is relatively unmatched. He’s even better known for his star-making turn as the lead in the still-funny NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But let’s not forget that Smith started as a rapper, and a rather intriguing one, too.

When Smith and Jeff Townes burst onto the national scene in 1987, they were already celebrities in the West Philly rap scene, having been signed to local label Word Up Records for two years (amazing trivia: the A&R man who signed them was Paul Oakenfold, world-class remixer). Townes’ proficiency at the turntables, combined with Smith’s quick-paced, laid-back and youth-friendly flow, was a lethal combination. When the pair was signed to Jive in 1987, they found nothing but success, including the smash hit He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper (rap’s first double album) and the first-ever Grammy for a rap song, “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

Although backlash and controversy were imminent – “serious” rap fans trashed the group’s clean, profanity-free image, follow-up LP And in This Corner… stiffed and Smith developed a pretty serious spending problem that got the I.R.S. involved – the duo managed to bounce back. Smith paid off his debts with his salary for a new TV show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (in which Townes also had a recurring role), and the two recorded a new LP, Homebase, in 1991.

That record spawned a massive hit in “Summertime,” one of the definitive hot-day pop classics. It won the pair another Grammy and kept the flame burning for their brand of pop-rap. Of course, Smith would move on to blockbuster films and his own, relatively successful solo rap career (with occasional input from Jazzy Jeff, who continues to be a successful DJ). But there’s no supplanting those early, innocent years from our minds.

In fact, given Smith’s star power, it’s unusual that DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s discography hasn’t gotten a “before-the-mega-fame”-type treatment; only a late-’90s greatest-hits record serves as the duo’s catalogue presence. So let this be the first suggestion to revisit this great material, Reissue Theory-style. Sit back and unwind after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 24, 2010 at 13:47

Back Tracks: Michael Jackson Part 1 – The Motown Years

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With Friday being the year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, The Second Disc would be at fault for not commemorating The King of Pop’s recording career and its representation through catalogue preservation. But to quote a dusty outtake from The Jackson 5, we’re gonna change our style.

Your humble correspondent cannot possibly say anything about Jackson’s career that hasn’t already been said in the year since he passed away. There are plenty of other resources for such a thing – I recommend Popdose’s ongoing multi-part retrospective – but here will be simply devoted to the work as it has been presented for reissue and remaster enthusiasts.

Obviously, for someone with as long and prolific a career as Jackson’s, this is going to be a long set. Today presents the Jacksons’ reissues on Motown, and tomorrow will showcase the Epic years as well as a review of the brand-new J5 Live at The Forum from Hip-o Select.

Get it together and hit the jump for a tidal wave of Jacksonmania! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 24, 2010 at 12:25

Reissue Theory: “Katrina and The Waves”

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Joe’s Reissue Theory post on Brian Wilson’s Imagination sparked some thought on the much-welcomed beginning of summer, and other catalogue titles that commemorate the season. This in turn provoked a recollection of the ongoing mania over some Katrina and The Waves remasters awhile back.

Earlier this year, KaTW member/principal songwriter Kimberley Rew took to an indie label to reissue The Waves’ first four original LPs, complete with bonus cuts. The Bible of Bop (a 1981 compilation featuring The Waves as well as Rew’s other bands, The Soft Boys and The dB’s), Shock Horror! (1982), Walking on Sunshine (1983) and Katrina and The Waves 2 (1984) were all reissued in March and April to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Top 10 placement of “Walking on Sunshine.”

But here’s the confusing thing: none of those reissues featured the version that made the song a hit. See, after those four aforementioned records, the band was signed to Capitol Records. They ended up releasing Katrina and The Waves in 1985, which featured mostly remixed and overdubbed versions of tunes from that first batch of indie albums. (“Walking on Sunshine” was entirely re-recorded, adding that infectious horn hook, as well as another Rew composition, “Going Down to Liverpool,” which would soon become a hit for The Bangles.)

Surprisingly, given the reissue fever from EMI over the past few months, the label hasn’t sought to expand that best-known of KaTW LPs. But if they did, here’s how it might look, after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 22, 2010 at 13:37

News Round-Up: Jose and Tracey Reissued

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  • Here’s some news from Wounded Bird that slipped through the cracks a bit: the label is releasing four albums by Jose Feliciano for the first time on CD. Encore! Jose Feliciano’s Finest Performances (1971), Compartments (1973), And the Feeling’s Good (1974) and Just Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll (1975) will be released, with one bonus track – the single version of Feliciano’s cover of “Light My Fire” – appended to Encores! The track lists will be available after the jump, and they can be ordered here.
  • Salvo is planning a September 14 release of Move Over Darling: The Complete Stiff Recordings by Tracey Ullman. The onetime U.K. pop star and T.V. host (whose self-titled late-’80s program on Fox featured an early series of short cartoons called The Simpsons) recorded two albums for the famed label, You Broke My Heart in 17 Places (1983) and You Caught Me Out (1984); they will be compiled into a two-disc set with one unspecified previously-unreleased track. No indication yet if it will have all the appropriate B-sides and extended mixes included as well; with that in mind, you might want to wait for a full track list before you hit the pre-order link here.

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Written by Mike Duquette

June 22, 2010 at 08:48

Back Tracks: Randy Newman

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With apologies to the popular Disneyland attraction and video game, nearly everybody in America was experiencing Toy Story mania this past weekend. And chances are if a tune is running through our collective head, it’s Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” which debuted in 1995’s Toy Story and is reprised in the third entry, estimated to have grossed $109 million on its opening weekend.

Yet that song enjoyed by kids of all ages reflects just one side of its composer’s dual nature. If Randy Newman’s Dr. Jekyll is the respected film composer and purveyor of timeless Disney songs that can stand alongside the Sherman Brothers’ best, his Mr. Hyde is the man behind an unparalleled series of albums joining classic songcraft to a singularly scathing, satirical wit. So on the occasion of America embracing Newman the Oscar-winning family tunesmith, Back Tracks looks now at the truly idiosyncratic solo catalog of the other Randy Newman, the songwriter who influenced a generation.  Join us after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 21, 2010 at 14:53

Posted in Features, Randy Newman, Reissues

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