The Second Disc

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Archive for September 9th, 2010

Back Tracks: Laura Nyro

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Laura Nyro (1947-1997) never became as famous as her songs. In an all-too-short 49 years, Nyro provided major hits for a diverse array of artists from Three Dog Night and Blood, Sweat & Tears to Barbra Streisand and most famously, The Fifth Dimension. Yet her own albums never achieved mainstream success, with audiences largely preferring to hear her compositions performed by others. (In this respect, she could be compared to her contemporary Jimmy Webb.) Perhaps this was just as well for the woman who matter-of-factly stated she was “not interested in conventional limitations.” She pushed the boundaries of songwriting, incorporating elements of rock, folk, soul, jazz, doo-wop, Brill Building pop, theatre music and even gospel into her special, idiosyncratic brand of music.

Nyro influenced a disparate number of artists as well, with Todd Rundgren and Barry Manilow among her biggest fans. Rundgren musically described what made Nyro so special in an interview with “I think there is that more sophisticated R&B thing or the Burt Bacharach side of pop music that involves not just chords that are richer, major and minor sevenths and suspensions and things like that, but the sort of melodic movement and the classical counterpoint elements–that’s one of the things that attracted me. But I know for a fact that her influences were the more sophisticated side of R&B, like Jerry Ragovoy and Mann & Weil and Carole King. That is Laura Nyro’s lineage. She was a source for that, in a sense, and she also had her own very original and very jazz-influenced way of seeing things. It was that extra layer that made her influential.”

Today’s Back Tracks celebrates the all-too-unknown solo albums of one of music’s true originals, Laura Nyro.  For a look at the catalogue of this one-of-a-kind artist, hit the button and jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 9, 2010 at 15:36

Posted in Features, Laura Nyro, Reissues

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Matador’s Box Set is a Nice Hand

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Venerable indie label Matador Records has had one of the most consistently impressive rosters for newer music during their existence. The list includes Pavement, Interpol, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, Sonic Youth, Liz Phair, Yo La Tengo, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and scores more. This month, as the label prepares a 21st anniversary celebration at the Palms Resort in Las Vegas, they will chronicle that successful run in Matador at 21, a six-disc box full of notable tunes from Matador artists and some unreleased material.

The set will have five discs of remastered cuts from the label’s tenure between 1989 and 2010, plus a sixth disc of live material recorded for Matador’s 10th anniversary in 1999 and unreleased until now. The box also features an 85-page book of liner notes and (rather cheekily) a set of poker chips. Another interesting note is that all proceeds from sales of the box – including artist royalties, which the performers have agreed to donate – go to three charities (The Jane Addams Hull House Association, The Ali Forney Center and The Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles), a show of musical good form if ever there was one.

The fifth disc will be available as a double-vinyl sampler called Matador Today, but the asking price for this good cause of a set isn’t too bad ($35 for six discs), so if you really like what you see you’d do well to give it a go over here. Hit the jump to review the track list. (And a special thanks to Mark B. for the tip about this set.)

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 9, 2010 at 12:20

Posted in Box Sets, News, Reissues

Weez Like to Know What’s on This Set

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A substantiative update from Weezer webmaster/archivist Karl Koch about the planned catalogue efforts of one of the most intriguing bands of the past few decades was posted on the band’s Web site back in August. It’s making the rounds now, and while it should have Weezer fans excited, it might make them a bit confused as well.

Longtime Weezer fans know that the band – who just signed with indie label Epitaph after 15 years with Geffen and have a new, ridiculously-packaged record due out next week – were planning two catalogue titles with their old label: a deluxe edition of sophomore record Pinkerton (1995) – considered to be the band’s crowning achievement – and a compilation of outtakes called Odds and Ends. In his post, Koch provides news on both, as well as some other titles that others might not have expected. Keep fishin’ for info after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 9, 2010 at 11:44

News Round-Up: Rhino Cuts, CSNY Live Speculation, XTC Vinyl and More

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  • We hate to start the day off with some bad news, but Rhino is apparently about to experience another depressing surge of layoffs, trade publication Variety reports. From the looks of it, expect a smaller slate of physical titles – even the Handmade stuff, some of which was in the can for years, the article says – and more of an emphasis on digital catalogue maneuvers or (at the very least) more on-demand releases like the Tartare program.
  • Graham Nash mentioned to Billboard about the speculated Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young live set culled from the 1974 tour. No word on the length of the set itself (fingers still crossed for a box) but Nash – who is putting the set together with archivist Joel Bernstein – is pulling for a release this spring. Furthermore, he hopes to follow that up with some more archival live sets – all of which you can read about here.
  • Excited about the forthcoming vinyl reissue of XTC’s Skylarking? Slicing Up Eyeballs has some updates for you: the set will feature all the tracks from the U.K. and U.S. editions (meaning notable Stateside single “Dear God” will appear on the new set) and will feature artwork that was planned for the original LP but rejected by Virgin Records. Read more here.
  • Traffic Entertainment Group has a neat deluxe title coming out next week (September 14) in partnership with Sony: a deluxe reissue of Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s hip-hop classic Mecca and the Soul Brother loaded with remixes, instrumental tracks and more. Pre-order it here and take a look at the track list after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 9, 2010 at 11:03