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Archive for March 4th, 2011

Weekend Discussion: Box Set Cornerstones

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Here’s a topic for discussion for you, our awesome readers, as we head toward the weekend.

We’re getting close to about a quarter-century or more since the box set entered the CD era. (Bruce Springsteen’s Live 1975/85 and Bob Dylan’s Biograph would be among the first great examples of such anthologies.) Lately, we’ve started to see a strange pattern of artists who received great early box sets getting revisited yet again in new sets. The next few months will see boxes devoted to Derek and The Dominoes’ Layla (anthologized as its own anniversary set in 1991 and Clapton’s Crossroads box in 1988) and the works of Robert Johnson (whose Complete Recordings was an early, darling box in 1990). That upcoming Phil Spector box in June also has echoes of the classic Back to Mono set.

It’s easy (and perhaps common) to grouse about the recycling of material from the major labels, but I’d rather take the conversation in another direction. If you had to pick, say, up to five definitive box sets of the CD era, what would you pick? They could be from the early days of the format, they could be from the past few years – no matter. I’m interested in seeing everyone’s opinions. What makes them definitive to you?

Sound off in the comments! Looking very forward to seeing what everyone has to say.

Written by Mike Duquette

March 4, 2011 at 15:23

Friday Feature: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”

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More than 30 years ago, Dave Cameron walked through the halls of Clairemont High School in San Diego. He had a colorful collection of friends: a middle-class, business-oriented guy, his sexually naive sister, her sophisticated best friend, the jock and nerd duo that lusted after the girls and a colorful surfer dude. What none of them knew at the time was that Dave Cameron wasn’t really a high school student. He was 22, and had already graduated high school seven years prior, at the age of 15. In the time since, he wasn’t known as Dave Cameron – but Cameron Crowe, a Rolling Stone writer and editor who interviewed The Allman Brothers Band, Yes, Eagles, Led Zeppelin and others, all before he could legally drink.

The story of Cameron Crowe’s ascendance is insanely captivating – one needs no further proof than his roman a clef film Almost Famous (2001) – but this chapter of his life, after Rolling Stone and before his foray into film, was just as intriguing. It kind of had to be; Simon & Schuster already had the rights to publish his accounts of what he saw in high school. That account was released in 1981 under the title Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story. The book hadn’t even been published when Universal snatched up the film rights. The film, released a year later, became a critical and cultural touchstone for its stellar cast and flawless soundtrack.

With ’80s nostalgia still in full gear thanks to movies like this week’s Take Me Home Tonight, now seems as good a time as any to revisit the magic of Fast Times after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 4, 2011 at 14:49

Review: Jackie DeShannon and Doris Troy, Anthologized by Ace

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It may have been sheer coincidence that Ace dropped I’ll Do Anything: The Doris Troy Anthology 1960-1996 and Jackie DeShannon’s Come and Get Me: The Complete Liberty and Imperial Singles Volume 2 on the same day. But different though these two singers may be, their similarities are striking. Both were pioneering female songwriters, with Troy penning her biggest hit, “Just One Look,” and DeShannon offering up the likes of “When You Walk in the Room” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” Both had great success recording in England and both had a Beatle connection. DeShannon toured with the group while Troy actually was produced by George Harrison while Ringo sat in on drums. And now both are recipients of two of 2011’s most exciting releases.

It’s impossible to believe that Doris Troy’s “I’ll Do Anything (He Wants Me to Do),” the track which gives her anthology its name, wasn’t a smash hit. This remarkable early production by the young Kenny Gamble was written by Gamble, his partner Leon Huff and Doris herself (as Doris Payne, no relation to the jewel thief!). Slated for “Mashed Potato Time” star and Gamble’s future wife Dee Dee Sharp, it was released by Cameo Parkway’s Calla division in the waning days of the label. What a discovery! This pulsating floor-filler has little in common with the smooth soul of Gamble and Huff’s later Philadelphia International days, but you’ll have to fight the urge to keep hitting the “repeat” button nonetheless! After all, “I’ll Do Anything” is only the first song on Ace’s non-chronological disc. It’s hard to resist, though – the track is on fire! Another lost classic from her brief Cameo tenure is “But I Love Him.” Arranged by Neil Sedaka’s frequent collaborator Alan Lorber, this call-and-response plea was cut for Atlantic in 1963 but not released until 1965 on Cameo. Listen a little longer, however, and it’s clear that Troy experimented with a variety of styles, with only her soulful vocals as a constant. The immortal “Just One Look,” released by Atlantic in 1963, is almost an afterthought among all of these gems.

The two earliest tracks on the set are both from 1960, and reflect Troy’s multifaceted voice: the shouting “You Better Mind” and its follow-up, the ballad “What a Wonderful Lover.” In between trying to break in solo, Troy was an in-demand session vocalist often working with the Drinkard Singers, the group that also boasted Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston in its ranks. By 1962, they were the go-to group, recording with top acts like The Drifters and Solomon Burke. As Troy recalled in the liner notes, Dionne was first to leave the group. Doris followed, then Dee Dee, and finally Cissy with The Sweet Inspirations. Dionne Warwick, of course, had her breakthrough on Florence Greenberg’s Scepter label (the story of which is told in the upcoming Broadway musical Baby, It’s You!). On its sister imprint, Wand, Troy provided uncredited vocals on Chuck Jackson’s “Tell Him I’m Not Home,” a prime slice of uptown soul conducted by Tony Bruno and arranged by Steven Garrick. The production has an R&B feel similar to some of Leiber and Stoller and Burt Bacharach’s work with the Drifters, and made such an impression on music biz insiders early in 1963 that it sealed Troy a deal with Atlantic. Collaborations are a major part of I’ll Do Anything. Troy reunited with Jackson in 1964 contributing the responses to the Luther Dixon-produced “Beg Me” (beg him, she did!) and there’s also the brassy “What a Night, Night, Night,” an early track from 1961 by “Jay and Dee” a.k.a. Doris and the otherwise-unknown Jay, described by Doris as “a nice guy, a nice looking guy.” Her arguably most heralded pairing, however, was with George Harrison. Read on, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 4, 2011 at 13:00

Florence and The Machine Expansion Coming to U.S. Shores

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If you’ve been waiting to pick up Lungs, the impressive debut album by Florence and The Machine, you now have a new incentive to buy it: an expanded edition is hitting U.S. shelves this month.

Lungs was a smash hit upon its release in the band’s native England in 2009; the album debuted at No. 2, held off only by The Essential Michael Jackson after the week of his passing. Sixty-two weeks later, the album still resides in the U.K. Top 40, and the album has since peaked within the Top 20 in the U.S., thanks to the hit “Dog Days Are Over,” featured in several commercials and in an impressive performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. (Lead singer Florence Welch, all of 24 years old, also took part in a tribute to Aretha Franklin at this year’s Grammy Awards.)

The album was expanded and repackaged as Between Two Lungs in the U.K. last November, adding new singles, remixes and a live EP as a bonus disc. On March 29, that package will come to American stores. If you’ve yet to get yourself a copy of the album, now may be the time to do so, what with all the extra content. You can pre-order it on Amazon and check out the track list after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

March 4, 2011 at 10:57

Masterworks Jazz Continues “Cool Revolution” with a Quartet from CTI

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Chances are, if you think of a jazz artist, it wouldn’t take many degrees of separation to reach Creed Taylor. The esteemed producer began his career at Bethlehem Records overseeing a roster including Herbie Mann, Charles Mingus, Carmen McRae, J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding. In 1956, he departed Bethlehem for ABC-Paramount, where in 1960 he launched the Impulse! label with artists like Johnson, Winding, Ray Charles and John Coltrane. It was at Impulse! that Taylor came into his own, emphasizing that jazz and popular music could indeed co-exist and overlap, and seeing that LP packaging met the high standards of the music within. Taylor didn’t remain at Impulse! long, however. In 1961, he signed with Verve and championed Antonio Carlos Jobim and the bossa nova’s rise in America. By 1967, Taylor was already a legend in the field when he formed CTI Records, first as a label of Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’ A&M Records, and then as an independent beginning in 1970. CTI went on to define the sound of jazz in the 1970s, and even its look, insisting on lavish gatefold LP covers that stood out from the rest, often adorned with striking photographs, many by Pete Turner. Don Sebesky, who has gone on to a successful second career as a theatrical orchestrator, was the “house arranger,” giving many of the label’s releases a unified musical signature. And while some purists gave Taylor flack for his “crossover” fusion records and pop covers, CTI’s repertoire has stood the test of time.

Late last year, Sony’s Masterworks Jazz Division released the acclaimed four-CD box set CTI Records: The Cool Revolution (88697 76821-2, 2010) documenting CTI’s prime period between 1970 and 1975. On April 19, Universal dips back even further for First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection 50th Anniversary box set as reported by Mike earlier this week. One week earlier, however, Masterworks continues its CTI campaign with four more titles, all remastered for CD from the original analog 2-track ¼-inch tapes for the first time. This brings the total number of individual album reissues in this series up to a healthy seventeen…and hopefully more are to come! Hit the jump for full details on this latest batch, featuring albums by George Benson, Freddie Hubbard, Don Sebesky and Stanley Turrentine! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 4, 2011 at 09:39