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Archive for March 2011

Giving Them The Best That He Got: Warwick, LaBelle, Bailey Featured on Skip Scarborough Anthology

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Skip Scarborough (1944-2003) may not have ever gained the name-brand recognition of some of his songwriting peers. But the man born Clarence Alexander Scarborough penned some of the most instantly recognizable classics in the soul music pantheon. Anita Baker’s “Giving You the Best That I Got,” The Friends of Distinction’s “Love or Let Me Be Lonely” and Earth Wind & Fire’s “Can’t Hide Love” are just three of Scarborough’s most memorable compositions. The latter went on to be recorded by Dionne Warwick, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae and Patti LaBelle, among others. Until now, though, Scarborough has never been the subject of a career anthology. Expansion Records on April 26 will release The Skip Scarborough Songbook, bringing together 18 soul classics including rare gems and familiar favorites.

The songwriter/producer/arranger had a diverse CV boasting two No. 1 R&B hits: L.T.D.’s “Love Ballad” and Con Funk Shun’s “Ffun.” He was equally at home with vocalists as well as groups; in the latter category he produced Earth Wind and Fire, Blue Magic, the Emotions and the Los Angeles quintet Creative Source, managed by The 5th Dimension’s Ron Townson. Scarborough notably wrote, produced and played on LPs by the late jazz/soul diva Phyllis Hyman, and another diva to benefit from his production expertise was Patti LaBelle. Scarborough supplied LaBelle with “It’s Alright with Me” from 1979’s Music is My Way of Life, but his biggest hit was Anita Baker’s “Giving You the Best That I Got,” from the 1988 three-million selling LP of the same name. The single topped the R&B charts and went Top 3 pop, and also won Scarborough a Grammy Award. Despite success with funk, disco and soul, Scarborough never stayed too far away from those artists with jazz leanings; he collaborated with Nancy Wilson through the 1990s on LPs such as Nancy Now!, Lady with a Song, and If I Had My Way.

Artists represented on Expansion’s new set include Earth Wind & Fire, the group’s Philip Bailey, Dionne Warwick, Syreeta, Freda Payne, Jerry Butler and Thelma Houston, Patti LaBelle and Phyllis Hyman.

Hit the jump for the complete track listing with discographical information and a pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 29, 2011 at 09:36

Release Round-Up: Week of March 29

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Derek and The Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: 40th Anniversary Edition (Polydor/UMe)

Unbeknownst to us at Second Disc HQ, a lot of weird stuff has been going on with this deluxe edition. It seems that, for whatever reason, the 2-CD edition of this set is retailing only at Best Buy until April 26, at which point it’ll be released more widely. No extra material seems to be present, just a lengthy lead time in terms of exclusivity. Weird, man. And of course there’s that super-deluxe box set, too. (Amazon: Deluxe Edition, Box Set)

Pearl Jam, Vs. / Vitalogy: Expanded Editions (Epic/Legacy)

The Seattle rock legends expand their second and third albums with bonus tracks. A box set collects those three albums with an (almost-complete), widely-sought after live show. A bigger box adds an insane amount of stuff on vinyl, cassette (cassette? cassette!) and more. (Official site)

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Let Love In Murder Ballads The Boatman’s Call No More Shall We Part: Deluxe Editions (Mute)

Another batch of CD/DVD editions from the British singer/songwriter. B-sides, videos and surround mixes abound. (Official site)

The Contours, Dance with The Contours (Ace/Kent)

Do you love it? An unreleased album by one of Motown’s earliest chartbusters! (Ace)

Pete Yorn, Musicforthemorningafter: 10th Anniversary Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

A two-disc deluxe edition of Yorn’s seminal debut, featuring unreleased studio and live material. (Amazon)

Billy Squier, Essential Billy Squier (EMI/Capitol)

A new hits disc from Mr. Stroke himself. (Amazon)

Teddy Pendergrass, Live in ’82 (Shout! Factory)

It’s a love T.K.O.! The late, great soul singer is immortalized in concert on DVD – one of his last before an injury altered his career. (Shout! Factory)

Florence + The Machine, Between Two Lungs (Universal Republic)

An expanded import of the band’s impressive debut Lungs comes to American shores. (Official site)

Various Artists, Mad Men: A Musical Companion (1960-1965) (Hip-O/UMe)

Though the critically-acclaimed show has an uncertain future, fans can use this compilation, featuring classics of the period, to pass the time. (Amazon)

Various Artists, The Music Never Stopped: Music from the Motion Picture (Rhino)

Rhino temporarily comes out of hiding for this film soundtrack, featuring several unreleased Grateful Dead live tracks. (Amazon)

Ella Goes to Japan in New Verve Select Release

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You got to love it when discoveries like these are made: Verve Select has delivered on their Twitter tease from last week with the announcement of a previously-unreleased set of Ella Fitzgerald in Japan.

‘S Wonderful: Ella in Japan showcases the First Lady of Song in rare form over two nights with the Roy Eldridge Quartet in Tokyo in 1964. There are some great bits of historical importance here, including Ella’s first recordings with pianist Tommy Flanagan and a jam session between the quartet and local Japanese musicians. So why weren’t they released? The answers look to be held within the set; Hip-O Select’s order page states that Norman Granz personally commissioned mixes of LPs for both American and Japanese markets but never released them. The set will include 24 pages of liner notes, including an essay by Marc Myers drawing upon interviews with surviving musicians on both sides of the Pacific and new research to bring the definitive history of these recordings to life. Rare photos and reprints of tour programs will be included as well.

10,000 copies of ‘S Wonderful will be made, and they can be ordered here now. Hit the jump for the track list!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 28, 2011 at 15:26

Review: “Inner City: The Original Broadway Cast Recording”

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“I look around and what do I see? Nothing’s the way it used to be…” In 1969, Eve Merriam bluntly took aim at violence, racism, corruption and poverty in her ironic collection of verse, Inner City Mother Goose. Controversial from the outset, Merriam’s Mother Goose became one of the most banned books in the country. Enter visionary theatre director Tom O’Horgan. Having replaced Gerald Freedman for Hair’s move uptown in 1968, O’Horgan was well known for his experimental flair. Julian Barry’s Lenny Bruce bio Lenny was his first Main Stem outing post-Hair, but O’Horgan soon brought his striking visual aesthetic to the Broadway debut of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar. Its October 1971 opening at the late, lamented Mark Hellinger Theatre was followed a mere two months later by Inner City, a musical based on Merriam’s book, “conceived and directed” by O’Horgan with lyrics by Merriam and music by Helen Miller. Inner City: The Original Broadway Cast Recording is the latest release, available as CD-R or digital download, from Sony’s Masterworks Broadway division and Arkiv Music (88697 83212-2).

The musical billed as “a street cantata” opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on December 19, 1971 where it played a total of 97 performances. Its breakout star, Linda Hopkins, took home both Drama Desk and Tony Awards for her incendiary performance. While O’Horgan was a reigning king of Broadway, both Miller and Merriam were new to theatre.  Merriam, of course, had written the source material for the musical. Miller was a Brill Building tunesmith who had composed such hit songs as Gene Pitney’s “It Hurts to Be in Love” and the Shirelles’ “Foolish Little Girl,” both written with Neil Sedaka’s frequent lyricist, Howard Greenfield. (Trivia seekers may take note of an Inner City collaborator who went on to later fame: Harvey Milk, the San Francisco political icon who was tragically murdered in 1978, was the show’s Associate Producer.)

Inner City has frequently been grouped with the “rock musicals” that followed Hair. Clive Barnes, reviewing Hair for The New York Times in 1968, famously wrote that “the show is the first Broadway musical in some time to have the authentic voice of today rather than the day before yesterday.” It was inevitable that a spate of rock musicals would follow, the genre having been anointed by the critic as the great hope of the American musical theatre. (When Stephen Sondheim’s Follies opened in April 1971, Barnes condescendingly asserted that it was “the kind of musical that should have its original cast album out on 78s.”) Miller and Merriam’s score, however, actually encompassed such diverse styles as pop, soul, gospel, calypso, the tried-and-true showtune…and yes, rock.

As Inner City lacked a proper book, it was dominated, revue-style, by wall-to-wall music. The songs brought to life the contemporary vignettes taking place in locales from a welfare center to an overcrowded urban school. RCA Victor’s single-LP cast recording considerably trimmed the expansive, eclectic score from over 50 songs to a mere 29, spread over 15 tracks. (No wonder in her LP liner notes, reprinted in the Masterworks edition, Merriam described O’Horgan’s staging as “the fastest moving show ever to hit Broadway.”) Still, the best of Miller and Merriam’s work has lived on thanks to this album, and it’s often electrifying as well as still timely, on Masterworks’ new CD reissue.

Hit the jump to visit the Inner City! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 28, 2011 at 14:10

Posted in Reissues, Reviews, Soundtracks

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Reissue Theory: Duran Duran, “Medazzaland” and “Pop Trash”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on notable albums and the reissues they may someday see. With a new album by Duran Duran receiving deserved critical acclaim, let’s take a look back at the band’s years as a trio in the late ’90s and see what gold could stand to be dug up from the vaults.

As current electro-pop music goes, all you need now is All You Need is Now. Duran Duran’s 13th studio album was first released independently (through the band’s new Tapemodern label) as a nine-track digital affair on iTunes in December, but was recently expanded on CD this week (distributed by Universal’s S-Curve Records) with as many as eight extra tracks. And the results in either configuration are superb. With a revitalized sound and production by Mark Ronson, All You Need is Now is easily the band’s best effort since the late ’80s, and proof positive that the band, having been in the public eye for three decades, has still got it where it counts.

The band’s longtime original label, EMI/Capitol, has done a decent job of paying homage to one of their biggest catalogue acts through various reissues and compilations since the band were dropped in 1998. The last two years have seen a flurry of activity from the label, with deluxe 2 CD/1 DVD editions of the band’s entire studio output in the 1980s coming out since 2009. While they’re not always perfect thanks to ever-shifting release dates and less-than-stellar (and often erroneous) remastering, it’s nice to see that EMI hasn’t forgotten about the boys from Birmingham.

One of the more popular posts on The Second Disc addressed what could be done with potential expansions of the remainder of Duran’s EMI catalogue – 1990’s Liberty, 1993’s self-titled album (“The Wedding Album”) and 1995’s covers project Thank You – adhering to the three-disc format put forth by the label. Of course, there would be two albums from this time period that Capitol would not be able to expand: Medazzaland (1997), released by the label but ultimately relinquished to the band, and Pop Trash (2000), released on the Hollywood Records label to little fanfare. Subsequent releases of both albums on iTunes seem to indicate that Duran Duran own the rights to not only the first album they released as a Taylor-less trio but the second; thus, they could conceivably fill in nearly all the gaps of the catalogue should EMI choose to finish out their end. (The band’s Epic material, Astronaut (2004) and Red Carpet Massacre (2007), are certainly expandable, too – but more time should elapse before such a consideration.)

With Duran Duran’s third wave of success in full swing, today’s Reissue Theory takes you back to a time long before that, where Duran Duran were arguably on the brink, but as always came up swinging. Revisit Medazzaland and Pop Trash after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 28, 2011 at 13:50

Posted in Duran Duran, Features, Reissues

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Kickstarting a New Reissue Project

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(Note: I was remiss by not initially thanking Thierry Côté for linking to this story on Twitter. Thanks!)

In the early days of remasters and reissues, the best way for an album to get expanded was to be a critical and commercial success. As time went on, that thankfully wasn’t always the case; reissues could serve as critical reappraisals or reminders of undersold gems by popular performers. Gradually, as the majors tightened their belts, independent labels were on hand to continue work on reissues, particularly the smaller titles that may have slipped through the cracks at a higher level.

But what about the rest of everything? Surely there are some forgotten treasures waiting to be rediscovered or expanded. What’s to become of them? Robert Harrison may have the answer. The Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter/guitarist is perhaps best known for his power-pop band Cotton Mather, which released three albums and two EPs in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Their best-known work may have been 1997’s Kontiki, released to little acclaim in the U.S. but a critical smash in the U.K., where it was championed by Noel Gallagher of Oasis (who arranged the band to open for his ensemble) and NME, who called the band “the most exciting new guitar pop band since Supergrass.”

Harrison has recently spearheaded a reissue of Kontiki, with a bonus disc of outtakes and alternates. But he hasn’t done so through any label. Instead, he’s taken the project to a website called Kickstarter, a platform for creative types to appeal to the public for funding. (Notable, successful uses of the service include a film adaptation of Christian author Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz and an petition to put a statue of Robocop in the city of Detroit.) As with similar projects – including a recent, acclaimed album by indie band The Damnwells – investments are tiered and incentivized. Fans can pledge a minimum of $10, but those who pledge more will receive some nice gifts, from an autograph from Harrison to an executive producer credit and, ultimately, an offer for a free, private concert from Johnson (asking price: $5,000).

As of this writing, with only four days passed since the project began, 87 fans have raised $5,548 – almost half of the project’s $12,500 goal. That’s pretty impressive, and this could well be the future for independent acts with strong catalogues that want to take their reissues directly to the fans. Can you imagine what it would be like if a major label dipped their toe into this pond? It could honestly go either way – but this writer wouldn’t mind seeing others use sites like these in an attempt to get reissues where they belong – into the hands of their supportive fans.

Written by Mike Duquette

March 28, 2011 at 13:07

Short Takes: “Beauty and the Beat” Expansion, Another Wainwright Box, The Truth is Out There

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  • The Go-Go’s iconic Beauty and the Beat (1981) will be expanded in May by EMI, reports the band’s official site. The band, which recently announced a summer tour to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the chart-topping album (which featured Top 20 single “Our Lips Are Sealed” and No. 2 hit “We Got the Beat”), will see several versions of the album, including a hot-pink vinyl edition and a double-disc set on CD featuring a vintage live set.
  • Loudon Wainwright III’s 40 Odd Years box set is due from Shout! Factory in May – and he’s not the only member of his musical family with such a set forthcoming. His son Rufus, an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right, reports from his official site that he “has spent the last few months trawling through various archives and listening to some cracking outtakes and demos” for a box set to be released later this year.
  • And one last piece of box set news: La-La Land’s long-promised box of music from The X-Files now has a release date. A post on the label’s Facebook page reads: “May 10th, 2011 1pm PST – The Music is Out There (finally).”

Written by Mike Duquette

March 28, 2011 at 11:15

Rare Cinema Treasures from Barry, Addison and Sarde Coming Soon

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Film score collectors are among the most insatiable music purchasers, but luckily, there’s frequently a steady stream of releases. Three new and exciting titles have just been announced. Direct from Los Angeles on the estimable Kritzerland label comes Phillipe Sarde’s score to Roman Polanski’s 1986 film Pirates. A continent away in Spain, the Quartet Records label has been growing an impressive library of soundtracks, and the label has recently announced two new additions: John Barry’s 1965 monument to Swinging London, The Knack…and How to Get It, and John Addison’s 1985 Grace Quigley. All three titles are limited editions and may be very much in demand; Quigley receives its first soundtrack release, while The Knack, reissued on CD by Rykodisc, has been out-of-print. Pirates, previously released on CD by Milan and Varese Sarabande, routinely sells in the three figures; Kritzerland’s edition trumps those past editions with remastered sound, the correct film sequence and bonus tracks for the most complete Pirates yet.

Directed by Richard Lester in between A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, 1965’s The Knack might just be the best snapshot of mid-’60s London ever filmed. Lester utilized his full bag of directorial tricks, and who better to complement his stunning, offbeat visuals than John Barry? The composer drew on his background as leader of the John Barry Seven for his jazzy, swinging score, featuring stellar organ work by Alan Haven. The film depicts the various romantic entanglements when drummer Tolen (Ray Brooks), schoolteacher Colin (Michael Crawford) and artist Tom (Donal Donnelly) vie for the affections of an out-of-towner named Nancy (Rita Tushingham). Lester himself made a quick cameo, and the film also offers “birds” a-plenty as Jane Birkin, Charlotte Rampling and Jacqueline Bisset can all be briefly seen. The Knack won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1965, and remains an altogether captivating comedy enhanced immeasurably by Barry’s freewheeling compositions. The Knack is a limited edition of 1,000 copies.

Quartet’s second release, Grace Quigley, is remembered today (if at all) as grande dame Katharine Hepburn’s final starring role on the silver screen. Director Anthony Harvey’s Quigley teamed the great Kate with Nick Nolte in the quirky story of an old woman who decides that waiting around to die just isn’t for her. Instead, she’ll hire a hit man to do the job! John Addison, Oscar winner for Tom Jones and acclaimed composer of the scores to A Bridge Too Far and Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain, was tapped to provide the music.  Quartet’s new compact disc marks the first soundtrack released for Grace Quigley, and any unheard Addison is always cause for celebration. Like The Knack, Grace is limited to 1,000 copies.  Both Quartet titles are available for order now from the label’s own website.

Last but certainly not least, Kritzerland offers Pirates, Roman Polanski’s 1986 action-comedy epic scored by legendary French composer Philippe Sarde. Pirates starred Walter Matthau (!) as Captain Red and Cris Campion as his first mate Frog; Matthau’s role had originally been intended for none other than Jack Nicholson when Polanski intended to shoot the film after the success of ChinatownPirates, a limited edition of 1,000, is due the second week in May, but pre-orders directly from Kritzerland average an arrival of four weeks early.

Hit the jump for the complete official press release on Pirates, plus pre-order information for all three titles, complete track listings and discographical information! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 28, 2011 at 10:19

Posted in News, Reissues, Soundtracks

Happy Birthday, Lady Soul: Aretha Franklin Turns 69 Today!

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Today, March 25, is Aretha Franklin’s birthday, and she’s celebrating in high style. After being treated in November for an undisclosed ailment, the newly-trim Queen of Soul has announced a May 19 return to performing at the Chicago Theatre. This announcement came on the heels of Tuesday’s release of Legacy’s lavish 12-disc box set, Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia, collecting all of her pre-Atlantic recordings for the storied label.

We couldn’t allow Franklin’s birthday to go unnoticed here at Second Disc HQ. Watch this space for three upcoming posts. First up, we’ll have a review of Take a Look. We’ll follow that with a special Reissue Theory we’d like to call Aretha at Atlantic: The Lost Years. This post will explore the five titles with which Aretha closed her electrifying tenure at Atlantic, none of which has ever been issued on CD. Why? It’s a mystery. These albums – With Everything I Feel in Me (1974), You (1975), Sweet Passion (1977), Almighty Fire (1978) and La Diva (1979) – feature songs and productions by some rather famous names. Try these on: Lamont Dozier, Jerry Wexler, Curtis Mayfield, Barry Mann, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Van McCoy, Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, and Aretha’s sister Carolyn Franklin. While none of these five LPs were pop smashes, all were successful on the R&B charts (the first three going Top Ten) and needless to say, have something to offer.

Finally, Mike’s going to take us on another Reissue Theory journey inspired by Aretha’s comeback in the ’80s. After leaving Atlantic for Clive Davis’ Arista, the Queen slowly rebuilt her reputation on record that culminated in a wave of success during the MTV era with tracks like “Freeway of Love,” “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” with the Eurythmics and “I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)” with George Michael. Mike’s post will imagine if Legacy did a sequel to Take a Look by anthologizing the Arista-era material they have the rights to in a similar manner.

Let’s all take this opportunity to wish Aretha Franklin health and happiness on her 69th birthday, and we’ll be back next week to continue the celebration with these posts!

Written by Joe Marchese

March 25, 2011 at 12:42

Review: Various Artists, “Manhattan Soul: Scepter, Wand and Musicor”

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Tomorrow evening, New York’s Broadhurst Theatre will be filled with the sounds of soul. The new Broadway musical Baby, It’s You! will begin previews on March 26, bringing to the stage the story of New Jersey housewife Florence Greenberg (portrayed by Tony Award winner Beth Leavel) and her mighty musical empire founded in 1959. Greenberg, a pioneering woman in a field then dominated by men, nurtured the careers of The Shirelles and Dionne Warwick, among others, shepherding the songs of Carole King, Van McCoy, Burt Bacharach and Luther Dixon to worldwide recognition. Somewhat overlooked today in the shadow of the Motown girls that followed, The Shirelles were the first American girl group to top the Billboard Hot 100. Their music had a direct effect on not only Motown’s “Sound of Young America” but the British Invasion acts that followed. Baby, It’s You! tells their story, as well as that of Greenberg’s taboo romance with Luther Dixon and Warwick’s meteoric rise to fame at Scepter.

While The Shirelles’ “Dedicated to the One I Love” and the Bacharach/Mack David/Barney Williams “Baby, It’s You” will be heard every evening, the hits were just the tip of the iceberg. There were many other, lesser-known performers signed to Scepter and its sister label Wand, both initially based out of that famous Broadway address, No. 1650: the “second Brill Building.” The U.K. label Kent remembers these artists and the music they’ve left behind with the new release of Manhattan Soul: Scepter, Wand and Musicor (Ace/Kent CD KEND 347), exploring the vaults of Greenberg’s labels as well as Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor, the home of Gene Pitney and also based at 1650. Opening a Kent anthology is often like discovering a long-hidden treasure chest, and this compilation is no exception. Kent has previously issued many Scepter, Wand and Musicor masters, but only one of the 24 tracks here has ever appeared on the label before, and there are previously unreleased cuts, too.

Of the hitmaking composers and producers mentioned above, Van McCoy makes an appearance on Manhattan Soul, as of course does Luther Dixon, arguably Scepter’s most prominent writer and arranger until Bacharach (and his protégé Dionne Warwick) came along. Dixon is represented three times, while Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson appear twice. The songs of Curtis Mayfield, Inez Foxx (of “Mockingbird” fame) and even a young Daryl Hall also are featured. Compilation producer and annotator Ady Croasdell has selected the crème of the crop; although not every track is an instant classic, none are less than interesting, most are worthy of re-examination, and some are positively electric. Hit the jump to travel back to 1650 Broadway, circa the swinging ’60s! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 25, 2011 at 10:14