The Second Disc

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Archive for June 21st, 2011

Review: Sam Cooke, “The RCA Albums Collection”

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In 1963, RCA Victor dubbed its young star Sam Cooke “Mr. Soul” as the title of his latest LP.  Today, few would argue with that appellation as we remember the roof- (and consciousness-) raising “A Change is Gonna Come,” the ultimate festive anthem “Havin’ a Party” or the bluesy R&B “Chain Gang.”  But Mr. Soul, the album, offered a more complex portrait of the artist, offering “These Foolish Things,” “I Wish You Love” and “Cry Me a River” alongside Ahmet Ertegun’s “Chains of Love,” Johnny Moore’s “Driftin’ Blues” and Cooke’s own “Nothing Can Change This Love.” Mr. Soul is one of eight albums included in Legacy’s Sam Cooke: The RCA Albums Collection (RCA/Legacy 8869789870 2), a limited edition release available exclusively through PopMarket.  Five of the albums are making their worldwide CD debuts; a sixth was previously only released on CD in Europe.  Taken together, the new box set offers an alternate history of the singer we all thought we knew.

The RCA Albums Collection isn’t a definitive Cooke box set; in fact, one doesn’t yet exist.  (RCA, in its pre-Sony incarnation, released the well-regarded The Man Who Invented Soul, but that box lacked some seminal tracks due to legal wrangling with ABKCO, the Allen Klein-founded company which owns a number of Cooke’s late-era masters.)  But The RCA Albums Collection does fill a significant gap in the discography of “Mr. Soul,” with five of its titles returning to print for the first time in nearly 50 years.  And isn’t that cause for celebration? 

Cooke was no stranger himself to celebration as a member of The Soul Stirrers, the gospel aggregation that first recorded in 1936 though the group was formed even earlier.  Cooke joined the Soul Stirrers in 1950 at the age of 19, replacing the venerable Rebert H. (R.H.) Harris as lead singer.  Harris, with his high tenor, three-octave range, mastery of the melisma and propensity for wailing and moaning, was the model for generations of gospel singers to come, including Cooke.  Harris departed the group after recording just one session at Art Rupe’s Specialty Records, leaving the door wide open for Sam to make his mark on the influential group.  Cooke’s transition to popular music wasn’t an immediate one, and his debut pop single “Lovable” was actually released under a pseudonym in 1956 so as not to alienate his core audience.  But when the singer fully embraced secular music, he brought to it the same fervor he applied to gospel, along with his signature “Whoa-oo-oo” wail.  This may have been his major contribution to popular music and indeed to “soul” as we now know it.  While Cooke wrote much of his own pop material, he also demonstrated an affinity for the music of the Great American Songbook.  It’s actually said that his departure from Specialty was brought on when Rupe found him recording Gershwin rather than Little Richard-esque rock and roll.  Yet most Cooke compilations have completely ignored this sophisticated side of the man’s titanic talent.  The RCA Albums Collection rectifies this, including his most significant attempts at courting the crossover adult audience.

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Written by Joe Marchese

June 21, 2011 at 12:06

Posted in Box Sets, Reissues, Reviews, Sam Cooke

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Reissue Theory: The Smiths, “The Queen is Dead”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we take a look at notable albums and the reissues they may someday see. Has the world changed or have we changed? Whatever the answer, The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead, which recently hit the quarter-century mark, is a classic of British rock – and, like all of The Smiths’ albums, it would make a prime candidate for a deluxe reissue.
It wouldn’t be enough to someday see remasters of The Smiths’ core discography (the four studio albums, the Rank live album, and Hatful of Hollow and The World Won’t Listen/Louder Than Bombs compilations). It would be a pleasure to see all of them expanded in some way, shape or form, as a tonic to the consistent compilations that have hung around record shops since the band’s untimely breakup in 1987.

We’ve certainly talked about such ideas before, but no theoretical expansion would excite me more than one for The Queen is Dead, the band’s penultimate and arguably most beloved album. It’s one of only three albums to have gone gold in both the U.K. and the U.S., and features some of Morrissey and Johnny Marr’s most solid songwriting together. And, as luck should have it, June 16 marked the album’s 25th anniversary of release in its native country.

So meet us at the cemetry gates (or after the jump, whichever you prefer) for a trip down memory lane with The Queen is Dead.

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Written by Mike Duquette

June 21, 2011 at 10:30

Posted in Features, Reissues, The Smiths

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Release Round-Up: Week of June 21

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Peter Tosh, Legalize It: Legacy Edition / Equal Rights: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

The first two albums by the onetime Wailer are greatly expanded with rare alternate mixes and other goodies. (Official site)

Ace, Five-a-Side: Expanded Edition / Time for Another/No Strings: Expanded Edition (Cherry Red)

How long can you wait for expanded editions of the whole Ace catalogue? Each set (Five-a-Side as one set and the other two albums in another package) is remastered and expanded with a host of BBC session tracks. (Cherry Red)

Suede, Head Music: Deluxe Edition (Edsel)

We’ve been totally remiss lately about the Suede remasters, which by all accounts are damn good. So let us remind you that an expanded edition of Head Music came out today, with similar expansions of SuedeDog Man Star and Coming Up already available. And A New Morning will be expanded next week! (Official site)

Carly Simon, No Secrets / Bad Company, Straight Shooter (Audio Fidelity)

The latest Audio Fidelity Gold CDs are Carly Simon’s breakthrough LP (the one with “You’re So Vain,” which I hope Matt Rowe correctly predicts will be expanded in the near future) and Bad Company’s great sophomore album (with “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Shooting Star”). (Audio Fidelity)

Various Artists, ICON (UMe)

They just. Won’t. Quit. (Original post with links to all the titles in this batch)