The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for August 24th, 2011

It Might As Well Be Swing, Again: Complete “Sinatra-Basie” Coming Soon From Concord

with 10 comments

When Frank Sinatra launched Reprise Records in 1961 with Ring-a-Ding Ding!, the greats of the jazz world came to the future Chairman of the Board.  Johnny Mandel arranged that volcanic first offering, and Sinatra’s next concept albums teamed the singer’s singer with a top flight of talents, past and present: Billy May, Sy Oliver, Don Costa, Gordon Jenkins, Robert Farnon and a trumpeter, arranger and composer named Neal Hefti.  That last-named gent would figure prominently in a 1963 collaboration with one of the undisputed legends of the field.  That was when Sinatra teamed with William “Count” Basie for the first of two historic collaborations with the elder statesman of jazz.  Sinatra-Basie was followed the very next year with the punningly-titled It Might As Well Be Swing, and both albums show two musicians at the top of their games, playing to each other’s strengths with a breezy compatibility.  Sinatra would embark on later pairings on Reprise with Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim and even the poet Rod McKuen.  The Basie albums, though, occupy a unique place in the singer’s discography, and led to one of the greatest live albums of all time, Sinatra and Basie’s Live at the Sands in 1966.  The original Sinatra-Basie and It Might As Well Be Swing will soon be collected on a single disc by Frank Sinatra Enterprises and Concord as The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings, due in stores on September 6.

The first of the two albums, Sinatra-Basie: An Historical Musical First, hit the Top 5 on the Billboard charts and introduced an eclectic repertoire.  Neil Hefti, before becoming a household name via television themes like Batman and The Odd Couple, continued his winning streak with Sinatra that had begun with 1962’s stunning Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass.  With Basie on board and tinkling the keys, Sinatra tackled two songs by his favorite lyricist, Sammy Cahn, “Please Be Kind” and “(Love Is) The Tender Trap,” which he had introduced back at Capitol.  Further Capitol reprises (pun intended) came in the form of “Please Be Kind,” and two tracks from 1957’s A Swingin’ Affair, the Gershwins’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields’ immortal “I Won’t Dance.”   He knew that Basie’s presence, combined with Hefti’s smoking arranging and conducting, would give these new versions a unique identity.  Sinatra even paid homage to British entertainer Matt Monro with Leslie Bricusse’s “My Kind of Girl,” a Monro staple.  The resulting album is playful, relaxed and winning.

For the 1964 “sequel,” It Might As Well Be Swing, Quincy Jones ascended to the podium and led a team of arrangers that also included Billy Byers.  The style was a bit different here, with Basie and Sinatra tackling then-current songs and applying an even harder swinging treatment to them.  The album leads off with Jones’ immortal arrangement of Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” perhaps the ultimate interpretation of the song.  For Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s “The Best is Yet to Come,” the performance here likewise became the standard bearer for the song.  From the recent Broadway songbook came Frank Loesser’s “I Believe In You” (from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!” with Sinatra paying lyrical tribute to Louis Armstrong.  Though more associated with Sinatra’s favorite singer, Tony Bennett, Sinatra, Basie, Jones and company more than deliver the goods on “The Good Life” and “I Wanna Be Around.”  Sinatra also sang the first of only two Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs he ever recorded with a vibrant and exuberant take on “Wives and Lovers,” popularized by Jack Jones.  (The other one was a Don Costa-arranged MOR take on “Close to You” in the wake of The Carpenters’ success with the song.)  Another recent hit, “More” (from the film Mondo Cane), is beautifully re-energized.

What bells and whistles are present on the new Concord disc?  Just hit the jump, pally! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 24, 2011 at 14:30

Soundtrack Round-Up: La-La Land Goes “Commando,” Intrada Goes “Galactica”

leave a comment »

Another pair of great stories for catalogue film score fans from around the way – another great sci-fi release from Intrada and a surprise expansion from La-La Land Records!

Intrada’s first in a series of archival titles devoted to Stu Phillips’ score for the original Battlestar Galactica television show, released earlier this year, was a considerable hit. Naturally, the label was ready to partner with Universal on more volumes, and the second was released Monday – a nice companion piece to the label’s other great sci-fi soundtrack, Disney’s The Black Hole. The second volume of BSG music features two full scores from the first season, presented in mono (as kept in the Universal vaults) across two discs. Act fast – this one is limited to 1,500 copies.

Another wildly exciting title was La-La Land’s announcement yesterday for their release next Tuesday: an expanded, remastered edition of James Horner’s score to Commando. The over-the-top action blockbuster, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as an ex-Marine/one-man-army in pursuit of his beloved daughter, features one of the most offbeat scores of Horner’s career, relying heavily on steel drums and saxophones against pulsating rhythms. A limited, eight-track soundtrack CD, released by Varese Sarabande in 2003, was a quick sellout; this new release, limited to 3,000 copies, features the complete score on CD for the first time, alongside “We Fight for Love,” the end-title theme written and performed by The Power Station. (The track, the only studio performance featuring touring frontman Michael Des Barres instead of Robert Palmer, was released on EMI’s 20th anniversary expansion of the supergroup’s debut album in 2005.)

Check out the track list for Intrada’s title after the jump, and stay tuned next Tuesday for the full scoop on Commando!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

August 24, 2011 at 13:21

Review: Patti Smith, “Outside Society”

leave a comment »

The calling came early for Patti Smith.  At twelve years of age, a family excursion to the Museum of Art in Philadelphia brought the young Smith in contact with Modigliani, Sargent and Picasso, the latter affecting her with his “brutal confidence.”  It was with a similar confidence that Smith, not even in her teenage years, concluded that “to be an artist was to see what others could not.”  Smith was steadfast in her determination to make her mark in the turbulent art world of New York in the 1970s, a story chronicled with both romance and realism in her 2010 memoir Just Kids (soon to be a major motion picture co-written by Smith and John Logan of the play Red and films Gladiator and Sweeney Todd).  She pressed then-companion, collage artist Robert Mapplethorpe, to take his own photographs as he pressed her to read her poetry aloud.  Soon, the two denizens of the “eccentric and damned” Chelsea Hotel (Smith’s own, apt description) were artistically in the ascendant.

Yet Smith’s eventual success as a progenitor of punk and art rock was hardly pre-ordained.  Though she repeatedly played “Strawberry Fields Forever” alongside records by Nina Simone and John Coltrane, Smith didn’t initially seek a career as a performer or envision herself as a rock star of any sort.  She was a poet, influenced by Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), and a music journalist who sought to follow in the lofty footsteps of Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) who made major contributions to art criticism.  In her song “Pissing in a River,” Smith wonders in a primal howl:  Should I pursue a path so twisted?/Should I crawl defeated and gifted ?/Should I go the length of a river/The royal, the throne, the ‘cry me a river’?”  We know, though, the path Patti Smith indeed chose to pursue despite the bumps in the road, and her now-legendary career is being celebrated with its first-ever single disc retrospective, Outside Society (Arista/Columbia/Legacy  88697 94315 2).

Over 18 tracks, Outside Society presents a full view of an uncompromising artist who learned to follow her own muse even as she functioned as one for Mapplethorpe: “He saw more in me than I could see in myself.  Whenever he peeled the image from the Polaroid negative, he would say, ‘With you, I can’t miss,’” Smith writes in Just Kids.  Smith literally retraced Rimbaud’s footsteps one autumn in France, using the experience as a further channel into music when she gave a “Rock and Rimbaud” performance incorporating poetry, Kurt Weill and Hank Ballard into a unique program.  Do great minds think alike?  Smith – a visual artist as well as a performing artist and a musician – formed a rock trio with guitarist/bassist (and original Nuggets curator!) Lenny Kaye and keyboardist Richard Sohl (“three chords merged with the power of the word”) and added drummer Jay Dee Daugherty and guitarist/bassist Ivan Kral for her 1975 debut Horses.  That album opened with an adaptation of Van Morrison’s rock anthem “Gloria.”  A later Morrison anthem paid homage to the same man who so inspired Smith, the libertine poet who was outside the conventions of both poetry and society.  Morrison’s song was entitled “Tore Down a la Rimbaud.”

What does Outside Society have to offer?  Hit the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 24, 2011 at 12:17

Posted in Features, News, Patti Smith, Reissues, Reviews

Tagged with

UPDATED 8/24: Steppin’ Out: Tony Bennett Reveals Plans For Complete Album Box Set

with 319 comments

He may have left his heart in San Francisco, but Tony Bennett dropped a big secret to The Los Angeles Times when he told the newspaper’s Pop and Hiss music blog of major plans to celebrate his 85th birthday in style.  Pop and Hiss revealed that Columbia Records will soon release “a $500 box set of every album Bennett has ever recorded, dating back to 1950 [sic], an achievement the performer said he was especially proud of.”  The singer confirmed these plans: “I’m thrilled about it, because 50 years from now, or 100 years from now, it won’t sound dated,” he said. “And that’s really important to me. I’m anti-obsolescence.”  In actuality, Bennett’s first album proper was Because of You, a 10-inch LP released in 1952, not 1950, on the Columbia label, but who’s counting?  This looks to finally be the set befitting Bennett’s stature that he should have had long ago, or his equivalent of the Frank Sinatra “suitcase” containing The Chairman’s complete Reprise recordings.  Bennett’s association with Columbia is legendary; The Hollywood Reporter recently wrote of the label’s relationship to its “Five Bs”: Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.  Bennett has been with the company the longest, since 1950, although he departed for a time in the 1970s.  Streisand’s run has been uninterrupted since 1962, the longest continuous artist/label tenure in the history of popular music, although her current agreement reportedly ends this year and will have to be renegotiated.

Tony Bennett: The Complete Collection includes every album Bennett has recorded over his lengthy career, including 11 albums recorded outside of Columbia Records.  There could hardly be a more exciting announcement for Bennett fans, as wide swaths of his catalogue have remained out-of-print for decades.  Indeed, due to his dedication to recording the greatest songs from the Great American Songbook, these songs have never dated, but only aged, more like a fine vino.  The 73-CD/3-DVD box set contains every original album right up through 2011’s upcoming Duets II  in a miniature LP replica jacket plus “never-before-heard rarities,” and gathers Bennett’s “non-album singles from the ’50s” as well as “outtakes and other delights,” according to the initial information released on the artist’s website.  (Two such confirmed delights: Bennett’s first-ever recording, an Army V-disc of “St. James Infirmary Blues,” and an unreleased album preserving his 1964 Las Vegas debut, Live at the Sahara: From This Moment On.)

This celebratory box will cap a fantastic year for the eternally youthful performer.  He recently wrapped recording his second volume of Duets, due in September, recording with a number of younger talents including Lady Gaga, John Mayer, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and the late Amy Winehouse.  (Their duet on “Body and Soul” will be released soon as a charity single.)  He’s also filmed a cameo appearance on CBS Television’s hit series Blue Bloods with duet partner Carrie Underwood. We’ll take a quick look at lengthy career of Frank Sinatra’s favorite singer and his history in box sets after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 24, 2011 at 10:58