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Archive for October 18th, 2010

Back Tracks: Culture Club

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It’s safe to say we’ve given Boy George more than enough time to realize his crime. The beleaguered singer has had more than his share of legal troubles throughout the ’90s and 2000s, and that has occasionally overshadowed the music he put out in the 1980s. This is a shame, since Culture Club was one of the better U.K. pop bands of the early ’80s.

Don’t let George’s gender-bending look fool you. Heaven knows that’s become the primary takeaway for nostalgists, but there’s a lot more underneath the eye makeup and braids. Their distinctive blue-eyed soul sound netted them a clutch of hits in both their native U.K. and America, and they’ve been anthologized on almost every kind of ‘as-seen-on-TV ’80s compilation you can imagine.

But what of their actual records? There’s not a particularly large amount of Culture Club material out there (the number grows thanks to an endless parade of dancehall producers remixing the same few hits into oblivion), so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to shed some light on George O’Dowd, Jon Moss, Mikey Craig and Roy Hay’s collective discography.

With reports circulating that the band will yet again reunite in the coming years to celebrate their 30th anniversary, there may be no better time to turn red, gold and green. After the jump, check out our Back Tracks run through the music of Culture Club. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

October 18, 2010 at 15:43

Perseverance Leads to Two New Score Reissues

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To be honest, The Second Disc hadn’t heard of Perseverance Records until yesterday, but they sure did score a nice pair of score reissues for November. The label, which has specialized in smaller-scale soundtracks and soundtrack reissues since 2002 (most notably the score to the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers), will release expanded scores of the ’80s action epic Red Sonja (1985) and the hugely successful drama Rain Man (1989).

Red Sonja, based on the Marvel Comics character, starred Brigitte Nielsen as the titular barbarian and featured Arnold Schwarzenegger as her fighting ally Lord Kalidor (Schwarzenegger, who had just become a megastar off the back of The Terminator, was no stranger to the material, having played another Marvel barbarian, Conan, in two films). Though it was not a success, it was lauded for its symphonic score written by legendary composer Ennio Morricone. The original album featured two long symphonic suites from the soundtrack totaling a half-hour of music; that album was paired with Morricone’s score to Bloodline (1979) for a Varese Sarabande CD Club title in 1990. But this is the premiere release of the score in a proper soundtrack sequence, and features several cues never before released on disc.

The late ’80s classic Rain Man won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Dustin Hoffman’s now-iconic portrayal of a severely autistic man. The score was notable for being one of the first mainstream soundtracks by composer Hans Zimmer, now known as one of the go-to composers for thrilling (if slightly generic) action music for films such as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Both sets will ship in November and are limited to 2,000 copies apiece. You’ll definitely want to view the track lists after the jump. Definitely. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

October 18, 2010 at 13:26

Posted in News, Reissues, Soundtracks

Review: Jimmy Webb, “Ten Easy Pieces Plus 4”

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Often a reissue celebrates a classic album of years past. Through additional content, new remastering or expanded liner notes, the listener can put the original in perspective.  It can be a reminder of just why we loved that album so much the first time around or take us to a special time in our own past. At other times, a reissue brings a forgotten album to light, revealing it as a lost treasure. Such is the case for Jimmy Webb’s Ten Easy Pieces, now Plus 4 courtesy the fine folks at DRG Records (DRG CD 5259). The album, originally released in 1996 on EMI’s now-defunct Guardian label, found Webb at a crossroads, both personally and professionally.

The ’60s discovered him as a wunderkind with one foot planted in Tin Pan Alley and another in the Brill Building, in other words, a songwriter capable of writing both timeless standards for the adults (the wise-beyond-his-years “Didn’t We,” quickly latched onto by Frank Sinatra) and buoyant anthems for the younger generation (The Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away”). The young tunesmith honed his craft as a rare Caucasian songwriter for Motown’s publishing arm Jobete, where he penned songs for The Supremes and Danny Day before the age of 20. (Webb liked the term “tunesmith” so much that he not only wrote a song around it, but also used it for the title of his guide to songwriting!) By 1967, aged 21, he’d already written “The Worst That Could Happen” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” the latter described by no less an eminence grise than Sinatra as the greatest torch song ever written. Further successes came, including three Grammy Awards in 1968 alone, and the creation of his opus, “MacArthur Park,” originally recorded by Richard Harris on his Webb-arranged and –produced album, A Tramp Shining.

Despite five Top Ten songs between 1966 and 1968 alone, with no signs of letting up (1969 was the year of Glen Campbell’s “Galveston,” continuing the partnership created with “Wichita Lineman” and “Phoenix”), Webb was seeking new directions. He grew his hair long, relocated to Laurel Canyon, and palled around with the likes of Harry Nilsson, who playfully chided him about the lack of humor in his songs (more on that later). Webb began to reinvent himself as a singer/songwriter beginning with 1970’s Words and Music, recorded for happening label Reprise, and introducing the song “P.F. Sloan.” The sound was rougher and less polished than those Campbell or Harris recordings, but Webb’s sensitivity and deep commitment to craft never subsided even as he gradually added colors to his palette. The lush orchestral pop sound now made way for country, folk and California rock. Despite the high quality of the songs, Webb’s solo albums didn’t strike a chord with listeners the way his earliest songs had. According to Ten Easy Pieces’ producer Fred Mollin via Will Friedwald’s excellent liner notes for DRG’s reissue, Webb had less “street cred” than his singer/songwriter colleagues because he began his career writing songs for others. He unbelievably told Mollin of his most famous works, “Freddy, those songs killed me.”

Undeterred, Webb continued recording through the ’80s and early ’90s, totaling seven albums by 1993. (Five of them were collected in the out-of-print but indispensable 2004 Rhino Handmade box set The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress: Jimmy Webb in the Seventies.) Along the way, Webb collaborated with Michael Bennett, the director/choreographer of A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls, on two unproduced musicals, Scandal and The Children’s Crusade. While none of Webb’s scores have yet hit the Great White Way – Broadway’s loss, for certain – musicals had been on his mind since the ’60s, when he conceived one entitled His Own Dark City; another, Instant Intimacy, was developed three decades later by the Tennessee Repertory Theatre.

Mollin said that by 1996, Webb “was going through a very rough time…primarily from his divorce…[and] there were also some bad habits that were coming to hurt him, and there was some financial stress.” He presented the songwriter with the idea that became Ten Easy Pieces, and it was a simple if monumental one. He would do something he’d never done before: record his old hit songs as only he could. Mollin had to twist Webb’s arm to revisit those 1960s classics, but the end result was, at least in your humble reviewer’s opinion, what may be the definitive statement of the Jimmy Webb oeuvre.  We explore Ten Easy Pieces Plus 4 after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 18, 2010 at 12:05

Posted in Reissues, Reviews

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Solo Smokey, Thrice as Nice

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It’s always a delight to see Hip-o Select dig up treasures from those fabled Motown vaults. It’s as much of a treat, too, to see Select tackle those hidden in plain sight bits – the music that has been around officially for years, but has yet to make its debut on CD.

One of the most exemplary artists who until recently was hard to find on CD was the great Smokey Robinson. The angel-voiced Motown man had a phenomenal solo career for the label after separating from The Miracles, but those albums were either incredibly hard to find on compact disc or, astonishingly, never released on the format. This year, Select has begun to fill that gap by releasing special two-for-one sets of Robinson’s solo output; the latest volume, The Solo Albums 3, is ready for order.

This set collates two interesting mid-’70s efforts from Smokey. Deep in My Soul sees the singer tackling songs that he didn’t write, his first album without a writing credit. Instead, Motown staffers like Elliot Willensky (“Got to Be There”) and the team of Jeffrey Bowen and Donald Charles Baldwin (featured prominently in the production, writing and arrangement of The Tempations’ A Song for You (1975)) took the reins. Robinson held off on penning any songs for the disc, since he was penning another project: the score to the film Big Time, a caper film produced by Motown’s short-lived film outfit in 1978. The Solo Albums 3 collates these two LPs plus two bonus track, the 12″ single version of the title track to Pops, We Love You, a Motown compilation produced in tribute to Berry Gordy, Sr., the late father to the Motown founder, and another track from the same album. (That disc was itself reissued by Hip-o Select several years ago.)

The set starts shipping later this month, so order your copy now and preview the track list after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

October 18, 2010 at 11:21

In Case You Missed It: Common’s “Resurrection,” Resurrected

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The irony is so thick, you can cut it with a knife: lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the presence and/or absence of rap music being reissued, remastered and anthologized. The Guardian did a nice piece on the burgeoning rap reissue scene, and even yours truly threw his hat into the fray with a guest post on Record Racks back in August about seminal works of the genre that demand a reissue.

It’s funny, then, that one particular rap reissue got lost in the shuffle a few months back. I’m talking about the newly expanded edition of Resurrection, the seminal breakout record by Common originally released in 1994. Though the rapper born Lonnie Rasheid Lynn, Jr. (son of noted Chicago basketball player Lonnie “Pops” Lynn) is known to some as an actor (having starred in mainstream films including American Gangster, Terminator: Salvation and Date Night) or, at worst, a rapper known more for critical acclaim than commercial success (to date, none of his singles have made the Billboard Top 40), Common’s importance cannot be understated. Why? Five words: “I Used to Love H.E.R.” That song, a metaphorical treatise on the soulful, conscious rise and gangsta-laden decline of hip-hop, is perhaps not only Common’s singular greatest recorded work but one of the greatest of the entire genre.

That song was included on Resurrection, Common’s sophomore effort (back when he was still called Common Sense). And that debut has been expanded and reissued by – ironically enough – a new player in the hip-hop reissue field, Get On Down Records. The label, which also has a vinyl reissue of Ghostface Killah’s 1996 solo debut Ironman under its belt, expanded Resurrection to two discs (including a bonus disc of vintage remixes) and adds new liner notes from author Brian Coleman and Common (who previously collaborated on Coleman’s book Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies) and a poster of the original cover art.

You can order the resurrected Resurrection here and check out the track list after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 18, 2010 at 10:40

Posted in Box Sets, Common, News, Reissues

From Marcy to Madison Square: Jay-Z Compilation Forthcoming (UPDATE 10/18)

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A new compilation for rapper Jay-Z will be on store shelves very soon from Island Def Jam.

The influential hip-hop artist/businessman has never had a compilation released stateside, outside of a bonus CD packed with special copies of last year’s DJ Hero video game. So this is quite a monument; the man born Shawn Carter is arguably the most pre-eminent figure in rap since the end of the 1990s. His career has weathered retirements, comebacks, feuds, reconciliations and the jump from Roc-a-Fella Records – the label he co-created – to new venture Roc Nation (distributed by Warner’s Atlantic Records).

Now, on November 23 – six days after his lyrical memoir Decoded hits stores and the same week Island Def Jam releases both a new studio album from Jay protegee/collaborator Kanye West and a collaborative EP between West and Jay-Z – the label will drop The Hits Collection Vol. 1. It’s been confirmed for a variety of formats (Amazon lists standard and deluxe editions alongside a deluxe box set version) and, as first reported by Billboard, will include five unreleased tracks. (Also interesting: the track list includes not only Hov’s hits on Roc-a-Fella, but threel hits licensed from his latest record, 2009’s The Blueprint 3.)

Amazon now has a track list, which you can read after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 18, 2010 at 09:25