The Second Disc

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Archive for December 22nd, 2010

Back Tracks: The Clash

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Clash - London CallingWhere were you when you first heard The Clash? If you can’t answer that question because you’ve never heard them, then consider this your Christmas present. The London-based punk band accomplished much in their decade-long tenure, including some of the best albums of the genre. Though they enjoyed the fruits of a major label, they stayed true to their ethos, keeping prices low for albums, tickets and souvenirs (reportedly, the band forfeited royalties on sprawling triple-album Sandinista! in 1980 to maintain a low price for all).

The Clash formed from short-lived punk outfit London SS, which featured guitarist Mick Jones and bassist Tony James (who later formed Generation X with Billy Idol). Jones enlisted several other musicians who’d auditioned for the band, bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Terry Chimes, after seeing The Sex Pistols perform in 1976. Soon, pub-rock vocalist Joe Strummer was hired away from his band, The 101’s, to provide vocal duties for the group. The rest, they say, is history, with The Clash both defining what punk music was for the masses as well as what it could be, including elements of pop, rock and world genres.

Though the band’s dissipation was an embarrassing one, and Strummer tragically died eight years ago to the day of this writing, The Clash remain one of the most influential bands of not only their time, but all time. Join us in honoring their legacy with this special Back Tracks piece detailing the many, many releases in their catalogue. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 22, 2010 at 14:08

Review: Perry Como, “The Complete Christmas Collection”

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They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

I can’t help but think of that old adage whenever I think of Perry Como. The singer was one in a line of great crooners, many of them Italian-Americans. Frank Sinatra, dean of them all and forever the Chairman of the Board, was well-known for his swagger. Tony Bennett is still renowned for the jazz chops he brings as an interpretive vocalist.  Perry Como, though, is perhaps best-known for his quiet gentility. Days after his death in 2001, conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr. began a column with “Perry Como died in his sleep, and one comments, ‘How else?’” Buckley didn’t intend this in a mean-spirited way, merely as an acute observation. (Later in the essay, he details an act of Como’s great generosity, and accurately points out his “rich and mellifluous” voice.) In his liner notes to Collector’s Choice’s new Complete Christmas Collection (CCM 2165), Richard Carpenter recounts the old Bob Hope line about Como being “walking Nembutal,” referring to the barbiturate often used as a sleep aid. There are many more jokes in that vein. Yet it’s precisely that smooth, calming and paternal voice that made Como such an ideal candidate to record holiday music. The Complete Christmas Collection is a fitting tribute to the man whose Christmas songs, all recorded for the RCA Victor label between 1946 and 1982, remain an integral part of The Great American Songbook.

Collector’s Choice has released wonderful titles in its Complete series, including releases by Jan and Dean, Jay and The Americans, and Gary Lewis and The Playboys. The Como entry is the label’s first foray into a full Christmas overview, and there couldn’t have been a better choice. (As for future choices, may I nominate Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis next?)

The Complete Christmas Collection is chronologically presented over three discs, beginning with the artist’s first holiday-themed record, the 1946 set of 78s entitled Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music. These 78s (which could also be purchased individually) spawned the Top Ten single “Winter Wonderland,” and were reissued the following year with “O Little Town of Bethlehem” replaced with “White Christmas,” which also became a hit (No. 23) single. As a result, “O Little Town” was unavailable in any format – until now. There are many such rarities making CD debuts on this set. (It should be noted that Como recorded many spiritual or holiday-related songs over the years, some of which have been included on previous “Christmas” compilations. Only actual Christmas masters have been included on this set, not songs peripheral to the holiday. That means no “My Favorite Things” or even “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”) Another debut on Disc One is “The First Christmas” as recorded in 1950, with narration by Como and a number of carols included. (This selection was re-recorded in 1959, and that version is naturally also included here.) Another landmark recording on the first disc is Como’s original 1951 performance of “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas.” While Bing Crosby’s Decca cover, released very shortly after Como’s, may today be the more familiar track, Como was the first recipient of Meredith Willson’s now-standard song, and scored a hit with it. Disc One also includes the entirety of 1953’s Around the Christmas Tree, and it’s wonderful to finally be able to hear these albums in their original configurations on CD. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 22, 2010 at 11:45

Posted in Compilations, Perry Como, Reissues, Reviews

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