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Archive for May 19th, 2011

“I Just Wanna Ask a Question”: Harry Weinger on the “What’s Going On” Box Set

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For most music producers, there’s a kind of strangeness to working on multiple reissues of the same classic album over time. Not so for Harry Weinger, vice-president of A&R at Universal Music Enterprises and, as one of UMe’s resident Motown gurus, the producer of several deluxe editions of Marvin Gaye’s classic LPs, including What’s Going On. “You learn between anniversaries,” Weinger said. “And luckily, I was there for both of them.”

When What’s Going On became one of Universal’s first in a then-new series of Deluxe Editions – now iconic for their double-sized digipacks with silver slipcases, boasting an extra disc or more of bonus musical material – it set a precedent for how all deluxe reissues should work. That set, released in 2001, contained roughly three versions of the album – the original, beloved mix as finalized under Gaye’s watch in West Hollywood’s Sound Factory; an unreleased alternate mix commissioned in Detroit without Gaye and a triumphant 1972 live show at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, Gaye’s first live performance since the death of duet partner Tammi Terrell – not to mention three rare single versions and a demo of a track that would end up on Gaye’s next album, Let’s Get It On.

With that kind of bonus content, many fans’ eyebrows were raised when a 40th anniversary package was announced for release in May (now scheduled for June 7), boasting 11 unreleased bonus tracks among a raft of other session material that’s seen release on other packages. But Weinger had indeed learned a lot about Gaye’s sublime, densely-packed musical statement since overseeing its reissue a decade ago. And this time, he sought to capture a fuller picture of Gaye’s frame of mind in which the album came to be.

As the release of the new set approaches, Weinger took the time to provide a lengthy and enlightening commentary on his journey through the What’s Going On era and some of the special facets that set this package apart from previous ones. What follows is the first of two segments of Harry’s discussion with me. It was anything but a traditional Q&A session; one question posed to the producer can easily split off into several discussions covering more questions you might not have realized you had. It is presented in chronological order, with minimal editing for clarity.

Join us after the jump to hear Harry Weinger’s thoughts on the album, its production and the challenges of another reissue of What’s Going On – as only he can answer them.

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Written by Mike Duquette

May 19, 2011 at 18:53

What the Franke? Friday Music Prepares for a Knockout

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If you’re a voracious reader of pop liner notes, there’s a good chance you might have come across the name Franke Previte. If not, you’re about to have a chance to reconnect with the man and his music.

Previte was the lead singer of Franke & The Knockouts, a New Jersey band whose best-known song, “Sweetheart,” went to No. 10 in 1981. Of course, like so many other bands, they’re probably best known for what they did after splitting up; the band’s second drummer, Tico Torres, went on to sit behind a drum kit for another Jersey band named Bon Jovi. And Previte, who co-wrote “Sweetheart” with guitarist Billy Elworthy, went on to write two massive hits for the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in 1987. “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, and “Hungry Eyes,” sung by Eric Carmen, were both co-written by Previte and dominated the airwaves that year. “Hungry Eyes” hit No. 4 in the U.S., while “Time of My Life” topped the charts and won an Oscar.

To commemorate the three decades since “Sweetheart” peaked on the Billboard charts, Friday Music is working on the band’s catalogue, releasing all three of The Knockouts’ LPs in digital format. They’re also releasing a new CD compilation of their hit singles, augmented by two bonus tracks, the original demo of “Hungry Eyes” (which was digitally reissued last year) and another bonus track apparently written and recorded for the forgotten sequel, 2004’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. And best of all, for the charitably-minded, Previte is donating proceeds from the compilation to the Patrick Swayze Pancreas Cancer Research Fund at Stanford Cancer Center.

All titles are out next Tuesday, May 24. Hit the jump for a look at the track list for the new compilation!

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Written by Mike Duquette

May 19, 2011 at 10:56

Foot Foot, Reissued: The Shaggs’ “Philosophy of the World” Is Back!

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Raise your hand if you’re a fan of The Shaggs.  We know you’re out there.

Frank Zappa called the band “better than The Beatles.”  Kurt Cobain admired them as unwitting founders of the DIY/alternative movement.  The New York Times proclaimed The Shaggs’ 1969 Philosophy of the World “maybe the best worst rock album ever made.”  Lester Bangs called them an “anti-power trio,” while Rolling Stone chimed in that The Shaggs most resemble “lobotomized Trapp Family singers.”  What to make of Dot, Betty and Helen Wiggin, likely the most controversial girl group of them all?  Listen for yourself as the Wiggin sisters arm themselves with out-of-tune instruments, bizarre songs (from Dot’s own pen) and plenty of nerve and naïveté.  Click below and play it LOUD.

Well, whether you think The Shaggs were musical trailblazers or incapable of creating anything even remotely resembling music, you’ve surely formed an opinion after listening to the singular soundscape that is “My Pal Foot Foot.”  Could any other song even possibly sound like this one?  Librettist/lyricist Joy Gregory, composer/lyricist Gunnar Madsen and director John Langs clearly saw something in the story of these young girls led to a musical career by their father, Austin Wiggin, despite their questionable talent.  “He directed.  We obeyed.  Or did our best,” Dot Wiggin once observed.  In November 2003 in Los Angeles, Gregory, Madsen and Langs premiered Philosophy of the World, a stage musical (with an original score!) dramatizing the girls’ short-lived but still (fondly?) remembered music career.  Nearly eight years later, after a Chicago stand as well as a New York workshop, the Shaggs are following in the footsteps of Peter Allen, John Lennon, The Four Seasons and The ShirellesPhilosophy of the World is currently making its full-fledged New York debut, and the musical’s producers are remastering and reissuing the original 1969 album on CD, in conjunction with the production.

RCA Victor last reissued Philosophy in 1999, at which time it received considerable attention from the media, including not only music-centric publications but The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker.  The album was embraced as a lost cult classic ready for the attention of a new generation.  A Shaggs compilation on Rounder is out-of-print, like RCA’s edition; the Rounder disc added more tracks recorded between 1969 and 1975 including an improbable cover version of The Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More.”  The new reissue is on the musical’s private label, and restores the original 12-track line-up.  It will exclusively be sold online at Ticket Central, at the theatre (Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Theater, 416 West 42nd Street, New York, NY) and via telephone at (212) 564-1235 ext. 3152.  The original liner notes are included as well as new material by Joy Gregory, and the disc costs $16.00.

Hit the jump for the press release, track listing and ordering information! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 19, 2011 at 10:09

Posted in News, Reissues, The Shaggs