The Second Disc

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Archive for December 17th, 2010

Review: “Super Mario History 1985-2010”

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It’s a credit to one’s abilities as a composer when people all over the world can vocalize the instruments that play your songs. Every hook The Beatles got on the radio proved their expertise at this. Plenty of album-oriented rock bands have accomplished similar feats. In terms of worldwide appeal, however, Koji Kondo may have them all beat. Though few know his name, a simple vocalization – “Doo-doo-doo-do-do-DOOT” – solidifies his status as a legend. And to think, his most successful music comes from one of the least appreciated of media: the video game.

Such is the story of Super Mario Bros., the video game series created by Nintendo and celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, the publisher has released Super Mario All-Stars: 25th Anniversary Edition, a special package for its Wii system that also includes some treats for fans of catalogue video game music.

The main focus of the bundle is, naturally, a game: Super Mario All-Stars, a compilation originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993 and collating four 16-bit-enhanced versions of games originally released for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (the three SMB games released in the U.S. in 1985, 1988 and 1990, plus “The Lost Levels,” which was Japan’s SMB 2 in 1986).

While the focus for readers of The Second Disc is the music, the games play as well as they ever did over the years. All four are simple enough for all audiences but incredibly challenging to master. That said, one wouldn’t be wrong in wanting more: the option to play the 8-bit versions of the games on the same disc would have been nice, as would have been more games, such as the excellent, 16-bit follow-up Super Mario World (1991) or the groundbreaking Super Mario 64 (1996). Any of these features would have boosted replay value dramatically.

The value for collectors lies in the second game case in the box; a CD of music composed by Kondo and others for 25 years of Mario games alongside a thick booklet of “liner notes” featuring rare artwork and equally rare insights from Kondo, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and developer Takashi Tezuka on their creations. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 17, 2010 at 14:38

Posted in Compilations, Reissues, Reviews, Soundtracks

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Another Sabbath Reissue Coming in the U.K.

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Yet another Black Sabbath deluxe reissue is happening in the U.K. in February, and this time it’s another Dio-led album.

After a year that saw seven Sabbath reissues across the pond (not counting that cross box), Sanctuary/Universal has another one in the pipeline. This one, 1992’s Dehumanizer, is actually licensed from the I.R.S. label and featured the return of Ronnie James Dio to vocals after an 11-year absence. Like all the other Sanctuary/Universal remasters, it’s augmented with a bonus disc featuring three non-LP tracks and five live cuts.

Expect Dehumanizer: Deluxe Edition on February 7. Track info is after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 17, 2010 at 13:30

Back Tracks: The Music of the Pink Panther

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Back Tracks takes a break from holiday merriment to celebrate the life of Blake Edwards, who died yesterday at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy of laughter.

“[Sometime] ago when I first began, one of my early films was run at a producer’s home one night, and someone who shall remain nameless for the moment came to me and said, ‘Billy Wilder was there and the saw it and you know what he said? He said, ‘You know it’s shit, but it’s funny shit.’ Now, had anybody else said that – this is proof of how I feel about Billy – I would have taken exception to it. But I didn’t. I said, ‘My god!  Billy Wilder thinks I make funny shit!’ I mean, that’s all I needed. So whether it’s shit or it isn’t – whatever it is that I try to do well – I try to do well. And I hope it’s funny.”

So spoke Blake Edwards on the evening of October 24, 1993, accepting the Directors’ Guild of America’s prestigious Preston Sturges Award. Edwards was only the award’s third recipient, after Richard Brooks and Billy Wilder himself. Few could contest that Edwards, indeed, made “funny shit,” making an art of low comedy. (His stabs at serious drama, however, shouldn’t be overlooked, either.) Edwards passed away Wednesday, December 15, at the age of 88, but the legacy of this world-class filmmaker will undoubtedly continue to inspire generations to come. Despite a cynical worldview that earned him the nickname “Blackie,” Edwards had the knack for comedy. Of all the memorable screen creations guided and/or created by Edwards, from Holly Golightly to Victor/Victoria to Peter Gunn, it’s likely that one is the most famous of them all: the Pink Panther. In the long-running series of films, the Pink Panther is a much-coveted diamond; more familiar still is a cartoon cat (shepherded to life by animation director Friz Freleng) who introduced each film in increasingly zany title sequences. Think of the Pink Panther in any of his forms, however, and you’ll most likely hear a sinuous, slinky tune composed by Henry Mancini for Edwards’ film; along with Hitchcock/Herrmann, Spielberg/Williams and Burton/Elfman, the Edwards/Mancini team is one of Hollywood’s most cherished of all time. The director well knew the importance of having that slip, trip or pratfall timed to just the right music. Henry Mancini instinctively knew how to compose that music. In fact, all four of Mancini’s Academy Awards were for films directed by Blake Edwards.

In celebration of the life of Blake Edwards, Back Tracks turns the spotlight on the soundtracks of the eight Pink Panther films directed by the one and only Blake Edwards, all of which were scored by his close collaborator Henry Mancini. Hit the jump to meet bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau, his faithful manservant Cato, the ever-frustrated Chief Inspector Dreyfus, dashing thief The Phantom, and of course, the original cool cat, the Pink Panther himself! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 17, 2010 at 11:25