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Archive for November 18th, 2010

Reissue Theory: Quincy Jones, “Back on the Block”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on well-known albums of the past and the reissues they could someday see. This week, Quincy Jones’ latest mingling with a new generation of artists leads to a recollection of the first (and best) time he did it.

Last week saw the release of Q: Soul Bossa Nostra, the first full-fledged studio album by Quincy Jones since Basie and Beyond back in 2000. Now, Q is one of the greatest figures in pop and soul music alive today. He’s been nominated for more Grammys than anyone (79 nods, 27 wins), produced the highest-selling album of all time (Thriller, naturally) and maintains a healthy role as musical elder statesman and social activist, even at 77 years old.

Naturally, the album is exactly what you’d expect it to be: part victory lap, part reach across the aisle to a new generation of artists and almost entirely unnecessary on a Santana post-millenial level. “Ironside,” “The Streetbeater (Sanford & Son),” “Strawberry Letter 23” and “Pretty Young Thing” aren’t screaming out for guest appearances by Akon, Ludacris, John Legend, T-Pain, but they’re all bizarrely recast here. And that list doesn’t even mention the truly insane cover of “The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite),” a 1989 quiet-storm jam that originally featured Al B. Sure!, James Ingram, El DeBarge and Barry White but now features Usher, Tyrese, Robin Thicke, LL Cool J, Tevin Campbell and the vocal track of Maestro White echoing from beyond the grave.

It’s not that the all-star/new-generation formula is alien to Jones; hell, he practically pioneered it two decades ago with Back on the Block, the album from which “Secret Garden” came from. That disc also featured appearances by Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, Siedah Garrett, Tevin Campbell (one of his first appearances on record), Ice-T and, in their last recorded appearances, blues/soul legends Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.

Call it ridiculous if you want, but Back on the Block easily predicted the success of Santana’s Supernatural and the like by peaking within Billboard‘s Top 10 and winning seven Grammys including Album of the Year. Unlike Santana, though, this isn’t your contemporary cash grab; there’s a lot of stuff here for everyone, from traditional soul and blues to rap and even some jazz fusion. The formula may be played out (and the artists of today nowhere near as laudable as prior generations had been), but Back on the Block proves, in a roundabout way, Jones’ ability and desire to unite audiences of all walks of life with his music.

After the jump, take a look at our idea of what a slightly expanded Back on the Block could look like, featuring five of the many remixes commissioned in support of the album, including a head-turning cameo by British electronic act 808 State! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

November 18, 2010 at 15:28

New U.K. Sister Sledge Comp is Another Way to Get Your CHIC On

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If you love Rhino France’s new CHIC box set as much as we do here at The Second Disc HQ (expect a review up in a few days or so), here’s another title you’ll probably enjoy: the Music Club Deluxe label in the U.K. is releasing a new two-disc compilation for Sister Sledge.

Sister Sledge, indeed comprised of Philadelphia-based sisters named Sledge (Kim, Debbi, Joni and Kathy), were a moderately successful R&B/dance group in the Atlantic label group (first signing to Atco, then Cotillion) that spent the mid-1970s releasing a handful of singles and records that earned them moderate chart success in the U.K. but little else. Just when their fortunes seemed bleak, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of CHIC picked them from the entire Atlantic family to produce a new record. Riding high off the sonic perfection of C’est CHIC (1978) and about to have another hit with Risque (1979) and “Good Times,” CHIC backed up Sister Sledge on the whole album and provided choice cuts like “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” “Lost in Music,” and the anthemic title track “We Are Family,” all of which topped the U.S. Dance charts.

Sledge and CHIC cut one more album, 1980’s Love Somebody Today, before working with up-and-comer Narada Michael Walden on All-American Girls (1981). Though the hits would not come as quickly in the post-disco age (save for “Frankie,” a U.K. No. 1 hit produced by Nile Rodgers), a fair amount of remixes and samples (most notably Will Smith’s chart-topping “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” in 1998) have kept the band’s sound alive to the present day.

This double-disc set will feature all the biggest hits and album tracks (many in their original 7″ single edits) as well as a few remixes, notably Rodgers and Edwards’ 1984 remix of “Lost in Music” and the hit “Sure is Pure” remix of “We Are Family.” The set will be available on December 13 in British shops; order it here and check the track list after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

November 18, 2010 at 11:22

Review: The Apple Records Remasters, Part 4 – Harrison’s Soulful Trio

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In the penultimate installment of our weeklong series on the new Apple Records remasters, we listen to the label’s three most soulful singers: Jackie Lomax, Doris Troy and Billy Preston, and along the way, encounter George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and a number of their most famous friends!

In yesterday’s installment, we looked at the less commercial side of Apple Records. Today, we turn the spotlight on four records that positively smoke, by three soulful troubadours.
The funky “Speak to Me” opens Jackie Lomax’s Is This What You Want? (SAPCOR 6), and introduced the big-voiced, muscular-voiced blue-eyed soul singer (with emphasis on the soul!) to the Apple roster in 1969. In the liner notes to the 2010 remaster, Lomax talks of the Motown influence on this song, but that’s evident listening. It’s just as obvious what drew The Beatles to Lomax, as they shared similar musical roots. With many artists, there would be a danger titling an album with such a question, but it’s easy to predict that most listeners now and then would answer a resounding “yes!”

Lomax tips the hat back to his patrons on “Is This What You Want?”, where the verses recall “I Am the Walrus,” with gospel backing vocals and string orchestration by John Barham. I thought perhaps it was just me that heard “Walrus” in this song until reading the liner notes where Lomax acknowledges it but defends the song’s pure R&B chorus. Lennon had actually encouraged Lomax to go solo, familiar with his work as the lead singer in The Lomax Alliance, a group managed by Brian Epstein. Although John is absent from the album, which was recorded during sessions for The Beatles and produced largely by George, both Ringo and Paul appear as guests. They joined pals Nicky Hopkins, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann in supporting Lomax.

As talented a songwriter as a singer, the entire album is comprised of Lomax originals save one, a song gifted by George Harrison, “Sour Milk Sea.” Written by Harrison in India, it fit Lomax’s big voice like a glove. Clapton plays on this track as well as on “You’ve Got Me Thinking,” enhanced by female backing vocals and brassy, bleating horns. Is This What You Want? is unique in the Apple discography in that it also contains contributions by the famed Wrecking Crew’s Hal Blaine, Joe Osborn and Larry Knechtel recorded during Lomax’s time at the Los Angeles Sound Recorders studio quite a way from Abbey Road!

Besides the Motown-esque title song, “Sunset” stands out for an unusual piano jazz interlude, while “Fall Inside Your Eyes” shows Lomax’s equal facility for a ballad as well as a barnstormer. And though Harrison’s instrumental presence is felt throughout, the low-key delivery on “Baby You’re a Lover” recalls his vocal influence, too, and is an album highlight.

Of the 2010 reissue’s generous six bonus tracks, “New Day” is the Mal Evans-produced U.K. mono single mix. “How the Web Was Woven” b/w “Thumbin’ a Ride” was his last Apple single (Apple 23) from 1970; Harrison produced Side A (a Clive Westlake/David Most song), while McCartney took the production reins for Side B’s Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller cover. The remaining three tracks are all previously unreleased originals. “You’ve Got to Be Strong” and “Can You Hear Me” were both co-written with Doris Troy (she covered “You’ve Got to Be Strong” on her Apple LP), and “You Make It with Me” is another Lomax original.

“Won’t You Come Back,” from 1991’s CD SAPCOR 6, is orphaned, while that disc’s “Going Back to Liverpool” and the stereo mix of “New Day” recur on the box set’s bonus discs along with first-time-on-CD mono mixes of “Sour Milk Sea,” “The Eagle Laughs at You” and “Little Yellow Pills.” Hit the jump for the scoop on Doris Troy and Billy Preston’s work for Apple! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 18, 2010 at 10:16

Fox Turns Searchlights on Its Musical Legacy

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From Varese Sarabande comes the track list to a really great-looking set: a compilation of music from the films of 20th Century Fox.

The long-running film studio celebrated its 75th anniversary this year with a newly-enhanced opening logo (still maintaining that iconic fanfare as penned by Alfred Newman in 1933), and plans to release a massive set of DVDs (from Cavalcade (1933) to Avatar (2009)) on December 7. That same date will see the release of 20th Century Fox: 75 Years of Great Film Music, a three-disc set compiling the best of the studio’s wide selection of film scores.

While some may gripe at one big omission on the set (the lack of music from the Star Wars trilogy, arguably one of Fox’s most famous musical offerings), the set is appropriately diverse to appeal to both casual and hardcore fans. In fact, two rare Williams compositions – music from the films The Paper Chase (1973) and Conrack (1974) – make appearances on this new set. (Both were previously released on Film Score Monthly’s original CD release of The Poseidon Adventure (1972) from 1998, which has long since gone out of print.) And of course the set has more than music from Williams; compositions by the greatest luminaries in soundtrack history, including Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri, James Horner, Bernard Hermann, Alex North, Bill Conti, Michael Kamen and (naturally) Alfred Newman, all appear on this set.

Again, Varese will release this set on December 7 in unlimited quantities. Hit the jump to see the track list and order your copy here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

November 18, 2010 at 09:07