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Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for November 16th, 2010

In Case You Missed It: Dead or Alive Spun Right Round

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Here’s a title that slipped through our radar a few weeks back: a new compilation by ’80s dance-pop sensations Dead or Alive.

DoA, the brainchild of Liverpudlian singer Pete Burns, was founded in 1980 and gradually got successful off the back of some catchy, up-tempo tunes and Burns’ video-ready, gender-bending outfits (frequently accessorized with an eyepatch). After a steady string of mid-charting U.K. singles, including a cover of KC and The Sunshine Band’s “That’s the Way (I Like It),” DoA exploded in 1985 with the irresistible “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” produced by a then-unknown trio of Mike Stock, Matt Aiken and Pete Waterman. (The trio would dominate the ’80s British club scene thanks to more hits like Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”) The song was a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and went to No. 11 in the U.S., and the band continues to perform and enjoy success from time to time (“You Spin Me Round” reached the U.K. Top 5 in 2006 off the strength of Burns’ appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, while rapper Flo Rida took the chorus for his No. 1 hit “Right Round” in 2009).

This new, import compilation (a release date hasn’t been set for the U.S.) features all the band’s biggest hits from the ’80s, all in their original single mixes. Many of these tracks are making their debut on CD, which is more than enough for the ’80s pop collector in your life.

Order it from Amazon here and hit the jump to read the track list. (Special thanks to our good friend Vinny Vero for reminding us about the set!)

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 16, 2010 at 15:26

The Most Exciting Announcement of Last Year

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The Beatles are on iTunes. The Beatles are on iTunes. The Beatles. Are. On iTunes.


In typical Apple/music press fashion, the Internet is hugging itself over the notion that all of the remastered albums in The Beatles’ catalogue – the U.K. studio albums, the U.S. version of Magical Mystery Tour, the Past Masters compilation and the Red and Blue albums – are now available for digital download. Much of the coverage is laughably hyperbolic, considering there’s not much more to say other than what the first sentence of this post said three times. Fox News’ Web site labeled The Fab Four as “Manchester’s favorite mopheads” (wait, what?) while others are sharing via Twitter what their first Beatles song purchase is going to be or already was.

Allow me to throw some cold water on the celebration. Do you know what my first Beatles purchase on iTunes is going to be? Nothing. Last year, when EMI remastered and reissued all of the band’s albums – in stereo and mono – I bought them all. Of course I did. Of course you probably did. Of course anyone who had a heightened sense of what The Beatles meant for popular culture did. Why in heaven’s name will being able to purchase compressed downloadable versions of these songs be a game changer – particularly to the legions of writers and fans who urged everyone to go out and buy the CDs last year?

Look, having The Beatles’ catalogue on iTunes is “good.” For people who dare not forsake the convenience of sitting on their asses and clicking “Buy Song” for a few digital files at $1.29 each, it’s “good.” For the few smart kids who might use iTunes as a stepping stone to something more tangible in terms of collecting and listening to music, this is “good.” But the remasters weren’t niche titles. Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and the others stocked them on their shelves and endcaps, gave them space in the weekly ads, the whole nine yards. To put out the catalogue on iTunes as almost an afterthought, after a day of breathless hype, is disappointing on multiple levels.

And couldn’t it have been “better”? Had the entire remastering happened with simultaneous physical and digital releases, that would have been better. (It also would have more accurately been “a day you’ll never forget” – by design, I’m going to remember that the remastered CDs came out on 09/09/09 a lot easier than I’ll remember that 11/16/10 was the day they came out on iTunes.) Had The Beatles’ catalogue been announced in tandem with a cloud or subscription service, where users could discover The Beatles (and a whole lot more) for a premium monthly fee, that would have been “better.”

Please remember this is not a debate about the worthiness of digital music or the future of an injured industry, but more of a critique of our culture of disposability as it pertains to music. By tomorrow this story will be old hat, because that’s how news works nowadays. Didn’t The Beatles deserve more than that? I think so. I think they – like us, the fans who continue to buy music even as it seems unfashionable to do so – deserve more days we’ll never forget.

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.

Written by Mike Duquette

November 16, 2010 at 12:42

Review: The Apple Records Remasters, Part 2 – Meet Mary and James

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In Part 2 of our five-part series exploring the new Apple Records reissue campaign, we look at the folkier side of the label with Mary Hopkin and James Taylor.

In Part 1, Badfinger had close encounters of The Beatles kind when both Paul McCartney and George Harrison lent their production expertise to the Apple Records band. McCartney made his other major contribution to Apple’s catalogue with the debut album of a winsome 18-year old Welsh songstress named Mary Hopkin. The Apple Records reissue series has restored to print two of Hopkin’s albums, her debut Post Card and its follow-up, Earth Song-Ocean Song.

When Post Card made its U.K. album debut in 1969 as Apple LP No. 5, its most famous song, “Those Were the Days,” wasn’t even on the album. The track could be found on Apple Single No. 2, however, and has been added to this CD reissue as the opening track. (The first Apple single was actually a private recording made by Frank Sinatra entitled “Maureen Is a Champ” and dedicated to Maureen Starkey, Ringo Starr’s wife! This revised version of the Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song featured special lyrics penned by Sammy Cahn at Ringo’s behest. Wouldn’t that have been an amazing bonus track for this series!) It’s no exaggeration to say that Post Card was one of the most imaginative, eclectic LPs to come out of the considerably eclectic Apple label! Its songs crossed generational boundaries, with selections drawn from the catalogues of Broadway masters Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and Frank Loesser, pop darling Harry Nilsson, psychedelic folk star Donovan and for the appended track, Russian composer Boris Ivanovitch Fomin!

“Those Were the Days” actually epitomized the album’s approach. Producer McCartney had been enchanted by the old Russian melody (Fomin died in 1948) after hearing Gene Raskin perform his American translation in a London nightspot. In Mary Hopkin, he discovered its perfect interpreter. Hopkin brought her gentle folk sensibility and lilting voice to McCartney’s pitch-perfect pop production, scored by Richard Hewson (who also arranged James Taylor’s Apple debut). Her gentle voice offset the inherent grandiosity of the melody. Their record climbed to No. 3 in the U.K. and No. 2 in the U.S.

Hopkin felt most connected to three songs written by Donovan Leitch, but she brought the same conviction to the LP’s other tracks. Post Card was an album that could be enjoyed by listeners young and old, much as The Beatles’ own albums could. The uptempo “Happiness Runs (Pebble and the Man)” is a highlight of the Donovan tracks, marked by punchy brass and a choir. The horns take on a woozier sound on the delightful Nilsson tune, “The Puppy Song,” while Hewson’s lush arrangement for Ray Noble’s “Love is the Sweetest Thing” would have fit right in on the soundtrack to a dreamy 1940s movie musical. Young Love was introduced by Tab Hunter in 1956, but for this track, McCartney adopts a unique beat approach.  George Martin contributes a rare melody and lyrics for the enigmatic “The Game.” Undoubtedly the Welsh traditional song “Y Blodyn Gwyn” was one close to Hopkin’s heart. She even sings deliciously in French on the chanson “Prince en Avignon”! McCartney truly paid homage to all of his musical influences on this collection.

The original CD issue of Post Card (CD SAPCOR 5) featured 3 bonus tracks, “Turn Turn Turn” (the B-side of “Those Were the Days”) and two foreign language versions of “Those Were the Days,” one in Spanish and one in Italian. The new reissue retains “Turn Turn Turn” but adds Apple Single 10, the Lennon/McCartney song “Goodbye” b/w “Sparrow,” along with a previously unreleased take of “Fields of St. Etienne” produced by Geoff Emerick. The two foreign language versions of “Those Were the Days” have been remixed and appear on the Apple Box Set’s bonus discs along with two more renditions, one in German and another in French. (Oddly, the Spanish version is entitled “En Aquellos Dias” on CD SAPCOR 5 and “Que Tiempo Tan Feliz” on the 2010 disc.)

It’s unfortunate that Hopkin’s 17-track Those Were the Days compilation (CD SAPCOR 23) has not been included in this reissue campaign, so a number of her recordings remain unavailable at present, including “Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be),” “Knock, Knock, Who’s There” and “Temma Harbour,” all produced by Mickie Most, and the released version of “Fields of St. Etienne.” Perhaps a second wave of Apple reissues will bring this collection back to light. Meet us after the jump for Earth Song-Ocean Song and the Apple debut of James Taylor! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 16, 2010 at 09:59

Posted in James Taylor, Reissues, Reviews, The Beatles

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Release Round-Up: Week of November 16

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Bruce Springsteen, The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story (Columbia/Legacy)

Bruuuuuuuuce celebrates one of his most acclaimed albums in a big way. Darkness will be augmented with two discs’ worth of outtakes and three(!) DVDs, including the new making-of documentary The Promise. (The outtakes are available as their own double-disc set as well.) (Official site)

Jimi Hendrix, West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology / BBC Sessions / Live at Woodstock Blues / Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)

The latest chapter of the Hendrix reissue campaign from Sony includes a new box set of rare and unreleased material (available on CD or vinyl) that features a neat overview of Hendrix’s early days as a sideman with other rock and soul acts. (A single-disc compilation will feature the best of the outtakes, and will also be sold as a double-disc set with the new documentary DVD from the box.) The same date will see CD/DVD versions of BBC Sessions and Blues alongside new reissues of Hendrix’s Woodstock set and collector-favorite Christmas EP.

Billy Joel, The Hits (Columbia/Legacy)

The Piano Man’s first-ever single-disc compilation – geared to entice casual fans into partaking in next year’s Billy Joel catalogue blitz – is a very straightforward (and very debatable) release, but one that’s worth buying, especially if you like Billy Joel. (Note: it is this writer’s opinion that it is easy to like Billy Joel. Results may vary.) (Amazon)

The Stooges, Have Some Fun: Live at Ungano’s / 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions (Elektra/Rhino Handmade)

Orders begin shipping this week on two new Stooges sets: an unreleased live show from 197o and the reissue of the out-of-print seven-disc box set version of The Stooges.

Bee Gees, Mythology (Rhino)

This four-disc box set, featuring an overview of all of the Gibbs (including Andy) and including three unreleased tracks, was supposed to come out last holiday season. Better late than never? (Amazon) Read the rest of this entry »