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Archive for June 29th, 2011

Review: Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On: 40th Anniversary Edition”

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Close your eyes and think of your favorite childhood vacation destination. That familiar locale, perhaps a constant lake house where you dreamt of the perfect summer and did your best to achieve it. The silly family rituals, the bonds you made with others, the warm feeling that comes with those kind of memories.

Now picture that same destination, revisited as a luxurious, all-expenses-paid package. There’s not a worry in sight, no shortage of requests to be fulfilled by servers and staff – the epitome of melt-into-your-beach-chair luxury.

Which one do you like more? Your answer will help you decide whether or not you should make the new 40th anniversary edition of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (Motown/UMe B0015552-02) a part of your record collection. This luxurious set is the kind of set you’re going to all but need if you’re hungry for this album or any album by Gaye. But it’s hardly a replacement to the just-as-fantastic, near-perfect deluxe edition that arrived in stores 10 years earlier.

What’s Going On, in its original album form, is an unassailable classic. It’s as full of darkness, confusion, faith and introspection in 2011 as it was upon its original release in 1971. What’s more, though, is it never lets the title statement serve as anything less than an open-ended statement on a time – easily the impoverished, war-weary America that Marvin wandered in his lifetime, as well as the broke, hungry, confused landscape of today. And even with the weighty subject material, it never stops being a killer soul offering. The conceptual nature of the record allows tracks and tempos to wrap around through each other like coils, never compromising the lyrical themes or the beats laid down by Motown’s very best session musicians (credited here on What’s Going On for the first time anywhere).

The 30th anniversary Deluxe Edition of the album (Motown 440 013 404-2, 2001) had several revelatory layers to peel back for fans: first, there was a stunning alternate mix of the entire record, a muted, even jazzier affair mixed in Detroit instead of Motown’s new, burgeoning Los Angeles headquarters. Then there was a powerful live performance at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center in 1972 – Gaye’s first venue since the death of longtime duet partner Tammi Terrell – that featured the tracks from the record in their entirety, out of order but in no way robbed of their power. As if that weren’t enough, some of the album’s best single mixes, long unheard on homogenized classic radio stations, were given CD debuts. Top it off with a respectable package – one of the first of Universal’s standard Deluxe Editions with digipak, thick liner notes booklet and silver slipcase (even more appreciated in these dark times for packaging) – and you can’t be blamed for being totally content.

So what’s on the new set that may tickle your fancy? We don’t want to escalate, but you may want to, after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 29, 2011 at 18:22

Posted in Box Sets, Marvin Gaye, News, Reissues, Vinyl

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Some Kind Of Wonderful: Carole King’s “Music” Set For SACD and LP Release

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Fronting a band called The City in 1968, Carole King titled her first full-length LP Now That Everything’s Been Said. Thankfully, King actually had much, much more to say. She began her solo career, proper, in 1970 with Writer, and had the breakthrough the following year with Tapestry. But how to follow an album that spawns three number one pop hits and wins four Grammy Awards, not to mention igniting the entire female singer/songwriter movement? King wasted no time, and less than one year later, she released the simply-titled Music. The LP reunited her with producer Lou Adler and much of the same personnel from Tapestry including James Taylor, Charles Larkey, Ralph Schuckett and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, her bandmate in The City. Percussionist Bobbye Hall joined drummer Russ Kunkel to give the album a unique sound, and befitting its title, Music drew on R&B, soul, gospel, rock and pop influences.  Mobile Fidelity has just confirmed release of Music as a hybrid SACD playable on all CD players and also a 180-gram audiophile vinyl edition. The release of Music was confirmed by The Second Disc last November, and was preceded by Mobile Fidelity’s release of The Carnegie Hall Concert in those same formats.

Eight of the twelve tracks featured on Music were self-written by King, including the haunting “Song of Long Ago” (a near-duet with Taylor), the bright, jazz-inflected title track and “Carry Your Load,” which continues the theme of “You’ve Got a Friend.” Three songs were co-written with Toni Stern, who had contributed lyrics to “It’s Too Late” and “Where You Lead” on Tapestry. King and Stern wrote the album’s two most commercial tracks: “Sweet Seasons,” the album’s highest charting single (No. 9) and “It’s Going to Take Some Time,” subsequently covered later in 1972 by the Carpenters in a more lush arrangement. Richard and Karen’s take on the wistful yet hopeful song was rewarded with a No. 12 pop placement. One song was taken from the classic Goffin and King song, and the new arrangement of “Some Kind of Wonderful” (a minor 1961 hit for The Drifters) was stripped down to the song’s essence.  Hit the jump for more, including track listing and ordering info! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 29, 2011 at 13:06

Posted in Carole King, News, Reissues

Barbra Streisand’s Latest Offers Bonus Disc Of Bergman Classics

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It should come as no surprise that Barbra Streisand has dedicated her newest studio album to the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Streisand began her association with the husband-and-wife lyricist team in 1969, recording their “Ask Yourself Why,” with music by Michel Legrand, on What About Today?, her very first stab at the contemporary pop market. (She actually had recorded one Alan Bergman/Lew Spence song, “That Face,” as part of a medley on 1966’s Color Me Barbra.) Though Streisand would perfect the pop formula with 1971’s Richard Perry-produced Stoney End, she continued recording the Bergmans’ songs regularly. August’s release of What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman marks the 22nd Streisand album to feature Bergman compositions, including one unreleased album (1973’s Life Cycle of a Woman). It’s also the first-ever album by Streisand to be devoted to a single composer or lyricist, though she was the special guest “friend” of a legendary composer on Harold Sings Arlen (With Friend) in 1966.

What Matters Most will offer a special treat for catalogue fans. The deluxe edition of the album, in stores on August 23, includes a second bonus disc which might as well be titled The Best of Streisand Sings Bergman. To complement the album’s ten new tracks, the bonus disc features ten prior Bergman/Bergman/Streisand collaborations, dating between 1971’s Barbra Joan Streisand (“The Summer Knows”) and 2003’s The Movie Album (“How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”). The bonus disc is a no-brainer; it’s somewhat surprising that a compilation of its kind hasn’t already been created. The Bergmans gave Streisand some of her most enduring standards including “Papa, Can You Hear Me?,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” and of course, “The Way We Were.” The sympathetic collaboration between the singer and the lyricists echoes that of many interpretive singers across many genres: Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen and even Meat Loaf/Jim Steinman. It’s no exaggeration to say that Streisand is the muse of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

What’s on the bonus disc?  What’s missing?  Hit the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 29, 2011 at 10:26