The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for January 28th, 2011

Would New Queen Reissues Ever Take on the World Someday?

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For catalogue fans, the announcement of the track listings for the upcoming Queen reissues was the hot story of the week. New versions of the band’s first five albums, each expanded with a host of bonus tracks, are due in the U.K. in March as part of the band’s new licensing agreement with Universal Music Group – and there’s plenty of room on the fence, because many have taken a stand for or against the sets.

To this writer, the track lists probably could have been better – but can’t they all be, really? Getting some of the band’s previously-unreleased demos or BBC sessions, even if they’re sandwiched next to instrumental mixes or live cuts that are familiar to even casual fans, are better than nothing at all. Compared to Hollywood Records’ previous remasters from the early 1990s, which don’t hold up well either due to mastering or bonus content, these sets look pretty neat.

Of course, the funny thing about them is that U.S. fans have to pay a pretty penny for them in the first place. Queen’s deal with Island is effective only outside of the U.S., where Hollywood still licenses the catalogue. Quite frankly, Hollywood doesn’t have much of a function concerning the music of Queen these days, outside of rehashing the same handful of tracks in compilations. And if you’re like most of us, you might have to wonder why that is.

See, Hollywood isn’t owned by any of the major labels – EMI, Warner, Sony or Universal – it’s owned by Disney. And Queen is the only catalogue act (other than Disney’s own neglected library) that Hollywood has the rights to – the rest is teen pop acts like The Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus. One could certainly make a convincing argument that Disney sees no worth in giving Queen the deluxe treatment in America – the band never made a splash as big as they did in England outside of those inescapable hits (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “Under Pressure” and the like), and much of Hollywood’s best Queen catalogue treatment was done in the years immediately following Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991, when U.S. interest was naturally higher. But it’s equally possible Disney doesn’t have the energy, having no such experience in the pop/rock catalogue world. (They don’t even distribute their own material; in a massive set of ironies, Hollywood’s domestic distribution was handled by Elektra, the band’s original U.S. label, at the time of the 1991 remasters, and Universal is the current domestic handler.)

All of this begs the question: if Queen Productions could take their material from EMI to Universal with relative speed, couldn’t a similar U.S. deal be ironed out? If Universal has the chops to distribute Hollywood’s catalogue outright, wouldn’t the surviving members of the band want to pursue some sort of renewed revenue stream on our shores? It wouldn’t seem all that out of place for these new Queen remasters to come out through UMe in the future; however, it’s doubtful that any attempt to move will be made until the reissue campaign in the U.K. is successful enough.

What say you, dear reader, of the future of Queen reissues in the U.S.? Sound off below and vote in our poll.

Written by Mike Duquette

January 28, 2011 at 15:25

All Aboard “The Big Bus”! FSM Releases Comedy Score by David Shire

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Released some years before Airplane! – hell, even before That’s Armageddon! – the world had The Big Bus, a 1976 comedy lampooning the then-fashionable swath of disaster films. Though The Big Bus received nowhere near the accolades that Airplane! got, it was a pretty silly romp with stars like Stockard Channing, Ned Beatty, and John Beck (best known as Mark Graison, one of Pamela’s beaus on Dallas). It also boasted a score by David Shire, who composed the scores to ’70s classics All the President’s Men and The Conversation (and would have the semi-thankless task of doing the orchestral score to the Bee Gees-dominated Saturday Night Fever in 1977 – “Manhattan Skyline” and “Night on Disco Mountain” were his works).

Shire’s score to The Big Bus is getting a premiere release from Film Score Monthly. The set features the complete score – mixed from the original 16-track masters under the supervision of Shire – along with several alternate and source cues. Chief among them is a vocal performance by Tommy Joyce, a lounge singer on the wayward bus played by Murphy Dunne, perhaps best known as the second keyboardist for The Blues Brothers after Paul Shaffer. (It’s Murph, not Shaffer, who appears in the film.)

The set is limited to 2,000 copies and can be ordered here. The track list is after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

January 28, 2011 at 15:03

Posted in News, Reissues, Soundtracks

Friday Feature: “Almost Famous”

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Thank you, Cameron Crowe.  You had me at “hello.” You cost me plenty, but my record collection has long been grateful for the education!

The integration of popular song and cinema has been around as long as the talking film itself, since the day Al Jolson prefaced his performance of “Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goodbye)” with the epochal dialogue “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” These lines from 1927’s The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length “talkie” in which synchronized spoken dialogue was used dramatically, sent ripples through Hollywood and America. (Jolson actually performed “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face” earlier in the film before speaking any dialogue, for those keeping track of such things.) Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Mike Nichols and Woody Allen, to name a mere few, have indelibly altered the way we hear certain songs, those songs now accompanied by images which may be romantic, comic or disturbing.

In the modern era, though, has any filmmaker perfected the art of the song score in the way Cameron Crowe has? In many ways, crafting a film around existing songs is even more difficult than doing so with an original score. With an original score, the music is being created to complement the action on screen or comment on it. With popular songs, a filmmaker gains the advantage of being able to play on viewers’ existing history with a particular song, but also must combat against the dangers of those preconceived notions.

Crowe’s directorial debut, 1989’s Say Anything, introduced the prototypical Crowe soundtrack, a hip and eclectic blend of styles from artists like Living Colour, Joe Satriani, The Replacements and Peter Gabriel. Of course, Crowe’s then-wife Nancy Wilson of Heart was present. Crowe followed Say Anything with 1992’s Singles, widely credited as having exposed the mainstream of America to the Seattle grunge scene, and had his commercial breakthrough with Jerry Maguire in 1996. In addition to spawning catchphrases like “Show me the money” and “You had me at ‘hello’,” Maguire spawned a hit soundtrack album stretching back to include Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young and The Who, while the film also included tracks by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, Merrilee Rush, Tom Petty and Charles Mingus. Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden” charted two years after its initial release thanks to its exposure in the film. But Crowe hit his sweet spot with his next, arguably most personal film, 2000’s Almost Famous.

Based on Crowe’s experiences as a teenaged journalist working for Rolling Stone, music permeates every frame of Almost Famous. Over 50 songs are heard in the film, which follows 15-year old William Miller (Patrick Fugit) as he follows the band Stillwater in pursuit of a cover story for the magazine. Danny Bramson and Crowe co-produced the soundtrack album, which went on to be certified gold, and was rewarded with a Grammy. While that album hasn’t been the recipient of a reissue (yet!), it’s derived almost entirely from catalogue music, making it ready-made for today’s Friday Feature. The time is right to celebrate; the acclaimed film makes its long-awaited American Blu-ray debut as a Best Buy exclusive on Sunday (yes, Sunday!), January 30. Hit the jump to explore the sounds of 1973 as filtered through the lens of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 28, 2011 at 10:09