The Second Disc

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Archive for June 20th, 2011

We Remember Clarence

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Clarence Clemons wasn’t born in New Jersey, but he might as well have been.  Those of us who hail from the Garden State are used to the “What exit?” jokes, but truth to tell, we can identify those exits by the great musicians who lived in those towns off the Garden State Parkway or New Jersey Turnpike.  One such towering talent was our favorite adopted son Clarence, who had an early job counseling troubled children in Newark (Parkway Exit 145), participated in one of his first recording sessions in Plainfield (Turnpike Exit 10), and met a certain Bruce Springsteen in Asbury Park (Parkway Exit 103) in 1971, joining the formative E Street Band roughly one year later.  As they say, the rest is history.  But it’s nonetheless hard to speak about Clemons, who died Saturday at the age of 69, in the past tense.  He was known as the “Big Man,” and even led his own outfit, The Red Bank Rockers (Parkway Exit 109).  But “big” might have been an understatement for this towering talent.

Though we’re both Jersey boys, Mike and I have had very different experiences over the years with the music of Clarence Clemons and his brothers and sisters in The E Street Band.  Today, we’d like to share those with you. 

Mike Duquette kicks things off…

I’ve often joked about the irony of starting a blog about catalogue music at my age – I’m writing about artists and albums I was largely not alive to enjoy. So it may make you feel old when I note that I first discovered Clarence Clemons outside of the E Street Band, which had been put on ice not long after I was born. I first saw and heard the Big Man blowing his horn for Darlene Love on “All Alone on Christmas,” her single cut with most of Bruce’s band for the soundtrack to Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992). Even then, though, I thought the towering guy who balanced Macaulay Culkin on his shoulders while playing tenor sax was pretty cool.

Fast forward to this year, and the news that Clarence was lending his talents to Lady Gaga’s new album. As one of the few modern day pop stars that can excite me musically, the idea of Gaga joining forces with one of the best sidemen in the game was exciting – and a reminder that Clarence was as cool and talented as he was when Bruce Springsteen was a young buck. In between there was a growing appreciation for the Boss and his crew, that started with the incredibly-ridiculous-on-paper decision to buy Born in the U.S.A. simply because it was a record lauded by critics and flourished with the realization that Springsteen really knows how to assemble a catalogue title. (There was also the recent rediscovery of “You’re a Friend of Mine,” Clemons’ hit duet with Jackson Browne, which is one of those songs I’d heard on FM radio as a kid and committed to memory without realizing who performed the track – until I dug it back up for a Reissue Theory post.)

Even if all you knew about Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band was based on audio waves alone, there’s no mistaking their collective talents or the importance of Clemons to that group. Few others elevated the saxophone to the kind of heights that Clarence did; without him, the instrument would have been a relic of traditional rock or a staple of only R&B/soul music. And the Big Man possessed the kind of personality that we all wish sidemen could have. Can anyone name Britney Spears’ backing band members? Adam Lambert’s? And yet, The E Street Band weren’t relics, but relevant components of a bandleader that is still going strong after nearly four decades on the scene.

After the jump, Mike poses a difficult question, and Joe offers his tribute! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 20, 2011 at 15:01

All Eyez on Him: Tupac Catalogue Gets Digital Reissue for Rapper’s 40th Birthday

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He would have turned 40 this year – as of last week, in fact. His death nearly 15 years ago is still one of rap’s greatest unsolved murders (and is still a hot topic). Now, Universal is digitally releasing five albums by Tupac Shakur this summer – their debuts in the digital realm.

2Pacalypse Now (1991), Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (1993), his sole, self-titled album with the Thug Life collective (1994), Me Against the World (1995) and the posthumous R U Still Down? (Remember Me) (1997) will each get straight digital reissues next month. It’s uncertain whether there’s any more catalogue action to be had from the Tupac camp; the artist has had six posthumous compilations to his name, as many albums as he worked on in his lifetime (the sixth album, Don Kiluminati: The 7 Day Theory – attributed to the pseudonym “Makaveli” – was completed by Shakur but not released until months after his death). But the news release conspicuously notes the 20th anniversary of debut 2Pacalypse Now, so it’s not outside the realm of possiblity.

In the meantime, each album after the jump will be available from all digital providers on July 5. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 20, 2011 at 14:55

Posted in 2Pac, Digital, News, Reissues

ICON and On and On

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UPDATE 6/20: With a day before these sets are to hit stores, here’s the post with the track list for the one compilation that hadn’t been confirmed at the time – an incredibly slight collection for Steve Winwood. Just Steve Winwood. Not Traffic or anything else. Make of that what you will.

Original post: The latest batch of ICON titles hasn’t even hit stores yet, but yet another assortment of them has been announced for release next month.

While, as always, there’s not much in the way of rarities on these sets, there are a few artists compiled whose respective works haven’t seen much activity on CD. The Thin Lizzy compilation is interesting in the light of another forthcoming batch of deluxe editions from Universal’s U.K. arm, and the Bill Cosby and Righteous Brothers compilations are particularly welcoming for new fans. On the other side of the spectrum, though, you have a compilation from horrorcore rap group Insane Clown Posse, which only features tracks from the band’s four albums with Island from 1997 to 2000 (some Juggalo haters would argue that’s not all that’s wrong with this set), as well as an as-yet-trackless entry for Steve Winwood, whose Revolutions compilation came out just under a year ago.

If you’re interested, they’re all out on June 21 and can be ordered at Amazon (note that the page of “coming soon” titles still has listings for the last batch we reported on, due out next Tuesday). Hit the jump for the track lists (except the Winwood set, of course – we’ll update this post once that list comes over the line). Read the rest of this entry »

Sinatra on Screen: Rare Dramatic Scores By Bernstein and Antheil Arrive From Kritzerland

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When Frank Sinatra won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for 1953’s From Here to Eternity, it was the “comeback” story of the year.  As Sinatra was earning plaudits in Hollywood, he was also beginning the most significant chapter of his recording career at Capitol Records, recording his Capitol debut Songs for Young Lovers in November 1953.  After his triumph as Maggio in From Here, Sinatra’s Hollywood career was riding high, as he embarked on a number of high-profile dramatic films.  This morning, Kritzerland announced two new soundtrack LPs, both from films starring Sinatra at the peak of his cinematic powers.  The Pride and the Passion (1957) featured a score composed by George Antheil and conducted by Ernest Gold (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) and Kings Go Forth (1958) was an early project of Elmer Bernstein.  Both films’ original soundtrack recordings were released on Capitol, and Kritzerland’s new two-on-one CD brings them together for the first time. 

The Pride and the Passion was produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, and he enlisted his frequent musical collaborator Ernest Gold to conduct the score composed by George Antheil.  The name of Antheil may not be as familiar as that of his contemporaries, but the modernist pioneer was a favorite of renowned directors like Cecil B. DeMille and Nicholas Ray.  Antheil died in 1959, and his score to The Pride was one of his final works.  The film took place during the Napoleonic Wars, and Sinatra played Miguel, the leader of the Spanish guerrillas caught in a love triangle with British Naval Captain Anthony Trumbull, played by Cary Grant, over the affections of Juana (Sophia Loren).  Still, allies Trumbull and Miguel must work together in search of a cannon also sought by sadistic General Jouvet (Theodore Bikel).

Kings Go Forth arrived the following year from the same studio, United Artists.  Delmer Daves directed a cast including Sinatra, Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis in another war picture.  This time, the war was World War II, and once again Sinatra was one-third of a love triangle, as he and Curtis sparred over French girl Monique, played by Wood.  Kings is notable for dealing frankly with themes of racism and miscegenation.  Elmer Bernstein’s score incorporated themes of romance and action and even included some jazz-styled cues.  Though not included on the soundtrack album, Sinatra recorded Bernstein’s theme for Wood as “Monique,” with lyrics by Sammy Cahn.

The Pride and the Passion/Kings Go Forth is available now from Kritzerland for $19.98 plus shipping.  The 1,000-copy limited edition is due to arrive the last week of July, but pre-orders directly from the site usually arrive an average of four weeks early.  Hit the jump for the track listing, pre-order link and full press release with more information on the exciting reissue treatment of both scores from Kritzerland! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 20, 2011 at 10:32

Hip-o Select Goes Grunge on Newest Release

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In 1980, Andrew Wood, his brother Kevin and drummer Regan Hagar formed a band named Malfunkshun in the Woods’ native Bainbridge Island, Washington. They only released two tracks in their existence, but the outfit is considered one of the forefathers of the burgeoning grunge movement that blossomed from the Seattle area in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Now, in a year that’s already full (or conceivably full) of commemorative grunge projects, Hip-o Select is releasing a three-disc set chronicling the short but influential career of Malfunkshun and the short but influential life of Andrew Wood. The singer/songwriter struggled with drug abuse throughout his time on Earth, even as he reached a new plateau of success as frontman for Mother Love Bone in the early ’90s (featuring Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, who would later join Pearl Jam after Wood’s passing). A documentary about Wood was completed and screened in 2005 and gets its debut release on DVD in this package.

The set also contains two discs’ worth of audio goodness. One is a reissue of Return to Olympus, a posthumous compilation of Malfunkshun material which Gossard helped release in 1995 and appended with the two released tracks from the band on the C/Z Records compilation Deep Six (1986). The other is another disc of unreleased solo and interview material composed by Wood, culminating with a previously-unreleased track that Wood produced for his former roommate, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell.

This limited edition set (topped out at 5,000 copies) is yours to order here. The full track breakdown is after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 20, 2011 at 09:43