The Second Disc

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Archive for December 24th, 2010


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We’re just about to put the “Closed” sign on the door of The Second Disc HQ, but should any of you stumble upon The Second Disc on Christmas, I want this to be the first thing you see for two reasons.

One, you’re going to find a compendium below of all the Christmas articles Joe and myself have done this season. Let them fill you with Christmas cheer whenever you need some!

And second, and most importantly, may you, the treasured reader of The Second Disc, have a Merry, Merry Christmas and a happy holiday weekend. We’re not going to take off a tremendous amount of time, but we’re definitely going to rest and relax (and enjoy great music!) tomorrow and Sunday, and I hope you do the same – preferably with someone you love. If I may speak for both myself and Joe, we’re continuously honored and thankful for your readership over what’s almost been a full year – and 2011 will hopefully be an even bigger and better year for all of us as catalogue enthusiasts!

Stay safe, warm and merry this weekend, and we’ll see you very soon! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 24, 2010 at 16:12

Review: James Brown, “The Complete James Brown Christmas”

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What artists do you associate with Christmas? The Beach Boys? Andy Williams? Perry Como? How about James Brown?

That last one isn’t a name one might immediately associate with the holiday season, outside of December 25, 2006 being the day of his death. But Brown cut no less than three holiday albums during his career, and for the first time, Hip-o Select has compiled those LPs (and more, naturally) into a two-disc set, The Complete James Brown Christmas (Polydor/Hip-o Select B0014791-02). The best Yuletide albums, of course, involve an artist taking Christmas classics and making them their own. The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, however, took that idea and ran with it as only he could.

You see, the three albums contained herein – Christmas Songs (King KLP-1010, 1966), Soulful Christmas (King KS-1040, 1968) and Hey America (King KS-1124, 1970) – are Christmas albums. But they’re also James Brown albums – funky, riff-y affairs that could be sampled for eons – and the dichotomy between both genres is the highlight of this set. Christmas Songs is exactly what it says: a lot of standards (“Merry Christmas Baby,” “Please Come Home for Christmas” and two versions of “The Christmas Song”) and a couple of great originals (the jaunty “Merry Christmas, I Love You” and the super-serious “Let’s Make This Christmas Mean Something This Year”). Gradually, Brown shifts away from the classics and forges his own path for the holidays.

That path was no more evident than on the second album, Soulful Christmas. While there are great originals on this set – perhaps the best of the three, including “Let’s Unite the Whole World at Christmas Time” and the instrumentals “You Know It” and “Believers Shall Enjoy (Non-Believers Shall Suffer)” – the standout tune has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” had already been released as a 45 in August of 1968 and topped the R&B charts, but its full album version debuted, in all places, on Soulful Christmas. Its inclusion on the set is somewhat jarring for those who were expecting straightforward Christmas cheer, but who are we to argue with greatness from JB?

The final album, Hey America, is the shortest and perhaps least focused of the three, but it still boasts some quality if off-the-wall tunes, including “Santa Claus is Definitely Here to Stay” and the slow-burning, spoken-word “My Rapp.” Its presence on Disc 2 is augmented by some great single-only edits and versions. A single including “You Know It” and “Believers Shall Enjoy” included some great alternate organ solos (done by Brown himself but overdubbed on LP by staff producer Gene Redd), and instrumentals of “Hey America” and “Santa Claus is Definitely Here to Stay” will get your holiday party guests movin’ and shakin’. To complement a nicely presented package, there’s some pretty gift wrap, too, in the form of an authoritative essay by former JB tour manager Alan Leeds, who detailed Brown’s growing affection for the season of giving over the years and the construction of these unique albums in the JB canon (which, it should be noted, were among his first studio albums made as albums, rather than compilations of singles and other tracks).

The spirit of the holiday season and the buoyancy of James Brown’s funky Famous Flames mesh stunningly well together, and this new collection is the best way to experience it, all in one place. Play The Complete James Brown Christmas at your holiday party and you’ll be grinning as widely as Brown himself does on the cover.

Written by Mike Duquette

December 24, 2010 at 15:36

Reissue Theory: The Beatles at Christmas

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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. With one day before Christmas, the discussion turns to a long-lost Yuletide treasure still unreleased on CD – the release of which would be…Fab.

One of the most common complaints about the hype about The Beatles on iTunes was the lack of vault material beyond the Washington, D.C. concert on film. Live at the Hollywood Bowl, any of the U.S. albums – countless ways to package the stuff digitally past what was reissued last year.

Perhaps the most appropriate thing from the vault to reflect on, in the twilight of another Christmas season, are the seven flexi-discs Beatles Fan Club members in the U.K. received each December. The short bits of holiday greetings, skits, jokes and the odd tune from John, Paul, George and Ringo were a nice treat for British fan club members (but not American ones until around 1966 or so), but have never made a full, official, Apple-sanctioned appearance on CD.

That’s not to say they’ve never been released by Apple themselves. In 1970, after the band broke up earlier in the year, the label released a full LP of all the material from the seven original discs (it was called The Beatles Christmas Album in the U.S. and From Then to You in the U.K.). While it’s an official release, it was not a high-quality one, being sourced from the original flexi-discs and not the master tapes. An edit of “Christmas Time is Here Again,” an original from the 1967 disc, was to be included on a 1985 Beatles outtakes compilation called Sessions, but it was scrapped by EMI. (The song appeared as a B-side to the “Free As a Bird” single, one of the “new” tracks from The Beatles Anthology (1995).) Part of the 1963 single was included as bonus content on The Beatles Rock Band video game.

Maybe next Christmas, boys? (Not that they’re impossible to find on the Internet.) Here’s the track list after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 24, 2010 at 14:44

More ZTT and All That

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Not only is a deluxe edition of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Liverpool prepped for February 2011, but another vault-clearing compilation is on the way from the ZTT label.

Zang Tuum Tumb and The Art of the 12″ is two discs’ worth of rare or unreleased dance cuts from the best acts to ever grace the roster from 1983 to 1989 or so: Frankie, Propaganda, Art of Noise, 808 State and plenty more. It’s also got a handful of those distinctively ZTT short tracks that ended up on the odd single from time to time.

The set is available February 7 (the same day as the Liverpool reissue), and the track list is after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 24, 2010 at 13:11

Review: John Williams, “Home Alone: Expanded Original Motion Picture Score”

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When you discuss the best modern entry into the Christmas music canon, most discussion centers on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” The 1994 song did a fantastic job of paying tribute to the always-excellent A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector (1963), bringing the Wall of Sound to the ’90s, and it’s lived on for over 15 years.

One Yuletide tune that deserves your attention from earlier in that decade, however, is “Somewhere in My Memory,” the heartwarming main theme from the holiday comedy Home Alone (1990). Master composer John Williams has spent the past 35 years of his career delivering eminently hummable, popular film melodies, and Home Alone was no exception. Several Williams originals – with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, no less – formed the backbone to one of (if not the) most memorable scores to a Christmas film; now, two decades later, La La Land Records has honored the film’s surprisingly rich legacy with a limited edition expansion of Williams’ music to the film (La La Land Records LLLCD1158). After the jump, have a look at the story behind one of The Maestro’s most spirited score and its new presentation on disc!

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 24, 2010 at 11:41

Posted in Reissues, Reviews, Soundtracks

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Going Back to “Liverpool”

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Earlier this year, ZTT’s ongoing reissue campaign gave us a 25th anniversary edition of Welcome to the Pleasuredome, the hit LP from U.K. dance-pop act Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Next year, ZTT and Salvo Music are releasing a similarly expanded version of Liverpool, Frankie’s follow-up and finale.

By the album’s release in late 1986, England was suffering from serious Frankie overexposure. Their singles were everywhere – “Relax,” “Two Tribes” and “The Power of Love” had all topped the U.K. charts, and “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” was haughtily promoted as their next No. 1 single. It missed the pole position by one spot, not a failure by most standards but the beginning of the end if ever there was one. Liverpool, recorded all over the world and experimenting with some harder rock and dance sounds, only hit No. 5 in Frankie’s native country, with only lead single “Rage Hard” going Top 10. After a 1987 tour, lead singer Holly Johnson split for a solo career, and Frankie said little else.

This latest entry in ZTT’s Element Edition series of reissues includes a nice amount of B-sides and outtakes, as well as the debut appearance on CD of the cassette single megamixes of “Warriors of the Wasteland” and “Watching the Wildlife.” It’s due out February 7 and the track list can be seen after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 24, 2010 at 10:20