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Archive for January 24th, 2011

Review: The Jayhawks, “Hollywood Town Hall” and “Tomorrow the Green Grass”

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“Please don’t call it ‘alt-country!’,” pleads The Jayhawks’ archivist P.D. Larson in the liner notes to the new Legacy Edition of the band’s fourth album, 1995’s Tomorrow the Green Grass. But whatever you call it, the uniquely American music of the Jayhawks has endured, and is currently being celebrated by American Recordings and Sony/Legacy with two deluxe reissues produced by Larson and John Jackson. The band’s major label debut from 1992, Hollywood Town Hall, has been expanded with a clutch of promotional and foreign-issued singles (American/Legacy 88697 72731-2), while its follow-up Tomorrow receives the full two-CD Legacy Edition treatment (American/Legacy 88697 72732-2).  Five B-sides and unreleased songs bolster Disc One while a full complement of eighteen previously-unreleased demos comprises Disc Two.

Producer George Drakoulias recalled first hearing the vocal blend of Mark Olson (also acoustic guitar and harmonica) and Gary Louris (also electric, acoustic and fuzz guitars) while on hold with a friend at Twin/Tone Records. Twin/Tone had released The Jayhawks’ Blue Earth in 1989, and once Drakoulias got a hold of it, he was determined to sign the band for its next release. A trip to Minneapolis found Drakoulias bonding with Gary Louris over Carol Hunter’s guitar parts on Neil Diamond’s most rock-oriented live album, 1971’s Gold, and then with Mark Olson over the records of Porter Wagoner and The Louvin Brothers. Soon, with the rest of the band brought in – Marc Perlman on bass and Ken Callahan on drums – Hollywood Town Hall was born. While The Jayhawks’ style was redolent of what Gram Parsons called “Cosmic American Music,” one could also hear a dash of Eagles here, a pinch of Roger McGuinn there. But the sound was far from simply derivative, and it was a breath of fresh air in a music business seeking to capitalize on the grunge craze.

Hollywood’s leadoff track “Waiting for the Sun” established The Jayhawks’ melodic sound, a deft blend of guitars with piano (studio stalwarts Benmont Tench and Nicky Hopkins were among those brought in to contribute musically) and prominent harmonies. If not all of the album is overtly “country,” certain tracks such as “Two Angels” and “Clouds” certainly are in that rustic vein. But even the yearning “Take Me with You” is toughened by a strong rock guitar solo. Drakoulias’ clean, timeless production and the songs of Olson and Louris still sound fresh and vibrant today, and the bonus tracks show that The Jayhawks (not the most prolific band, but one that valued quality over quantity) had a wealth of material from which to choose.  “Leave No Gold,” with a blistering guitar and feedback-laden attack, is a standout, but may not have fit with the prevailing mood of the album. The original ten songs on Hollywood Town Hall are largely of a similar character, tempo and sound, leading to a sameness that may be this stellar album’s only drawback. The band rectified that for its next long-player, Tomorrow the Green Grass. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 24, 2011 at 16:13

Posted in Reissues, Reviews, The Jayhawks

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Upcoming Slate from Big Break Includes Edwin Starr, Patti LaBelle and More

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Cherry Red’s Big Break Records imprint has been the busiest arm of the U.K. reissue label group’s roster by far. Joe filled you in on the expanded edition of Melba Moore‘s first album for Epic in 1978, but there are 11, count ’em, 11! new reissues on the slate between now and March.

Of the artists covered in the latest batch, Patti LaBelle and Jon Lucien each have the most – two albums each – being reissued. For LaBelle, it’s her first and third solo albums originally released on Epic, 1977’s Patti LaBelle and 1979’s It’s Alright with Me. Each of them are augmented with single edits and instrumental tracks. For Lucien, the underrated jazz vocalist from the Virgin Islands, his first two albums for RCA, I Am Now (1970) and Rashida (1973) (the latter a two-time Grammy nominee), will be released. Bonus single edits will complement these discs as well.

Also on the horizon are releases by Edwin Starr, The Three Degrees, The Brothers Johnson, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Marlena Shaw and more. All of them have bonus tracks, including non-LP B-sides and alternate mixes. They all have different release dates, of course, with dates even varying between the label and Amazon. (The Edwin Starr set, for instance, is listed by BBR as having been released last week, but Amazon’s street date is tomorrow.) You can see BBR’s release dates in the link from the first paragraph, while Amazon pre-order links will be available along with the descriptions of each title after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

January 24, 2011 at 14:57

FTD to Release Vintage Elvis Show in Vegas

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The King has returned: Follow That Dream, Sony’s “official bootleg” label for Elvis Presley catalogue projects, has announced its two newest titles for February, a live set and a vinyl reissue.

First up is White Knight in Vegas, a 1969 performance at Las Vegas’ International Hotel, the biggest showroom on the strip at the time. Fresh off the iconic NBC comeback special some nine months prior, Presley began his stint at the venue in late July, and this show captures Elvis at his showiest. Mastered from the original eight-track multitrack recording by Vic Anesini, the set is presented in a 5″ digipak (production problems prevented this set from appearing in the typical 7″ digipak) and features a 12-page booklet with rare photos.

Also up for pre0rder is a vinyl version of FTD’s limited edition of How Great Thou Art, Elvis’ second gospel LP from 1967. The original album featured the Top 5 hit “Crying in the Chapel” and was Elvis’ first with producer Felton Jarvis, who would produce all Elvis LPs for the remainder of the singer’s life. The vinyl version (released on a more densely-packed double-disc set last year) features the album and original master takes (including a soundtrack song, “Beyond the Reef”) across two records.

Each set will soon be available to pre-order at Elvis’ official Web store, with a release date of February 15. View the track lists after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

January 24, 2011 at 12:20

Derek, Eric and “Layla”: Details Announced for 40th Anniversary Set

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Prepare to be on your knees: details have been released for UMe’s upcoming 40th anniversary editions of Derek & The Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, due out March 8.

The result of a searing, bluesy collaboration between Eric Clapton, members of Delaney & Bonnie’s touring outfit and Duane Allman, Layla was a critical success but sold only moderately until the title track shot to the Top 10 some two years after the album was released. It became a multigenerational hit in the 1990s when the original recording was featured in the film Goodfellas (1990) and Clapton reworked the tune for his MTV Unplugged acoustic performance in 1992.

The album was previously remixed and reissued in 1990 with two discs of bonus material, but how does this new edition stack up against that set? Hit the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

January 24, 2011 at 09:45