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Archive for September 12th, 2011

A Wizard, A True Star: Edsel Rolls Out Todd Rundgren Catalogue Overhaul

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He’s been called a wizard, a true star, even God.  But by any name, Todd Rundgren is one of music’s most enduring iconoclasts.  Not merely content to rest on his early career laurels as a purveyor of top-tier AM pop (“Hello, It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light”) the restless musician has followed his muse from one direction to another over 40+-years, taking in soul (of the Philadelphia and blue-eyed varieties), pop, prog rock, jazz, funk, arena rock, avant-garde experimentalism, a cappella, musical comedy and even operetta!  And that’s just naming a few of the styles Todd Rundgren has mastered as an artist.  As a producer, he’s helmed some efforts for Daryl Hall and John Oates, Badfinger, The Band, The Tubes and XTC, not to mention a little album named Bat Out of Hell for the oversized talent of Meat Loaf.  Tomorrow, he releases the follow-up to last year’s Todd Rundgren’s Johnson (which notwithstanding the um, unfortunate title, is a ferocious collection of hellraising blues from the pen of Robert Johnson!) with another new LP, [Re]Production.  This one reinterprets classic songs produced by Rundgren (including “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Dancing Barefoot”) in a slick, electronic modern dance setting.  Yes, it’s safe to say that one can always expect the unexpected from Todd Rundgren. 

But for the full picture of the eccentric genius of Todd, you’ll want to delve into Edsel’s recently-announced series of expanded reissues of Rundgren’s Bearsville Records catalogue.  An arm of the Demon Music Group, Edsel recently announced its acquisition of rights to reissue the Bearsville library, kicking the series off with Norma Jean Wright’s CHIC-produced debut.  Five 2-CD sets of Rundgren material are coming on October 3 in the United Kingdom, covering a total of nine essential albums (the 1972 classic Something/Anything is a double-disc album) including a duo of albums from Utopia.  Almost all contain rare and unreleased bonus tracks, making these the definitive reissues for this storied catalogue.  From 1970’s debut Runt to 1977’s Utopia LPs RA and Oops, Wrong Planet!, these albums truly represent the crème of the Rundgren crop.

Hit the jump for the details on all five releases, including full track listings with discographical annotation! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 12, 2011 at 15:37

Special Guest Reissue Theory: Blackstreet, “Another Level”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Today, The Second Disc reflects on one of the most beloved R&B hits of the 1990s, with the help of a special guest. After this intro, the post will be taken over by Eric Luecking, head of the blog Record Racks and a contributor to Okayplayer, NPR.com and Allmusic. He’ll be looking back at Another Level, Blackstreet’s sophomore LP and the disc that spawned the mega-hit “No Diggity.”

Another Level was released on September 10, 1996. So today, we celebrate its 15th anniversary with a feature on one of the decade’s best R&B albums.

Back in the summer and fall of 1996, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” With a fantastic video directed by Hype Williams that featured the staple of slowed-down dance sequences with girls in black cheerleader-styled attire, a club on a beach, and who could forget the marionettes – an old man on guitar and Lil Penny on piano? Add in Dr. Dre, who was moving forward from Death Row with the recently formed Aftermath label, and a new artist that Teddy Riley was trying to develop, QueenPen, alongside an absolutely infectious groove with some nasty drums, a thoomping kick and a snappy snare, on top of a Bill Withers vocal sample (the “mmm mmmmm”s from Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands“), well it was just the right recipe for one of the 1990s’ best R&B and dance tracks.

I remember clearly waking up one morning in August of 1996 to get ready for a new (high) school year and seeing this video on MTV’s morning run of videos (remember when they used to do that?). My hunch, in hindsight, is that it had been out a few weeks already getting steady rotation on BET before it couldn’t be stopped from going over to Viacom’s bigger brother. It stayed at the top of the video rotation and video music countdowns for what seemed like forever. Fifteen years later, it’s still as funky and infectious.

The group itself had been shuffled prior to the album’s release. Having hired two new members, Mark Middleton and Eric Williams, to replace Levi Little and Dave Hollister, the latter of whom was pursuing – and eventually found – a middling solo career, there wasn’t necessarily reason to think the group would blow up like it did. Sure, they had success with their 1994 self-titled release, but that was mostly confined to urban radio.

The group would release follow-up videos including “Don’t Leave Me,” “I Can’t Get You (Out Of My Mind) (Remix),” and “Fix,” albeit the latter was in remixed form featuring the work of the dearly departed ODB, Slash in a career resurgence, and even Fishbone.  “Fix” would be the next biggest hit from the album, thanks to the star power associated with the remix, followed by “Don’t Leave Me” and “I Can’t Get You (Out of My Mind).”

Interscope also found another single to release, their cover of “(Money Can’t) Buy Me Love” by The Beatles, in various markets. That version, while most Beatles purists probably wouldn’t agree, is actually a very nice rendition. With an introduction from a harp, it sets the stage for a dreamy version featuring tight harmonies by the group. The only distraction, albeit not a big one, is Teddy Riley’s use of a vocoder. It’s a reworking that’s just crazy enough to work, but Riley, a hitmaker for numerous acts, knows how to produce a well-crafted pop song. Another couple of great slow jam from the album that surely served as the soundtrack to many makeout (and more) sessions:  “Let’s Stay in Love” and “Never Gonna Let You Go.” Again, Blackstreet showed their penchant for coming together for lovely harmonies on the hooks, although during the verses, the group typically would let one member perform solo. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 12, 2011 at 12:45

Posted in Dr. Dre, Features, Reissues

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Sting Strikes Again with New Best-Of

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Is the recently-announced Sting box set too comprehensive, too expensive, or not stocked with enough rarities for you? Universal attempts to throw fans something of a bone with a cut-down version of the box, The Best of 25 Years, due for release in October.

Admittedly, the single-disc set is a bit of an odd duck itself, omitting anything but eight of the most obvious singles alongside four bonus tracks: a new mix of “Never Coming Home” (presumably one of the newly-mixed tracks featured on the box set proper) and three unreleased live cuts. (Presumably, they are taken from the DVD included with the full box set.)

International fans look to have more to look forward to: the standard edition of the compilation will feature an extra single, “Englishman in New York,” while a double-disc edition features what looks like an additional live tune and an actual B-side, “End of the Game” from the Brand New Day era.

The sets are coming out October 17 in the rest of the world and a day later in America. A finalized Amazon pre-order page is only available for the U.S. single-disc edition, but that, and the track lists for all three configurations, are after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 12, 2011 at 10:30

A Salute to Heroes: Elmer Bernstein’s “Men in War” Rediscovered On CD

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When he was 35, it was a very good year.

The “he” is Elmer Bernstein, the year is 1957.  The prolific composer managed to create five unique scores for five motion pictures that year – Sweet Smell of Success, Men in War, Fear Strikes Out, The Tin Star, and Drango.  The Kritzerland label has already brought the last three of those titles to CD over the past months, and now Men in War is on the docket, too!  (Not that Mr. Bernstein has been ignored elsewhere.  A film of a later vintage, 1979’s The Great Santini, received a first-ever soundtrack release this year from Film Score Monthly.)

The Anthony Mann-directed film starred Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray and told a story that was then very recent.  Taking place on September 6, 1950 during the Korean War, Men in War was an unflinching look at a platoon of foot soldiers separated from their division.  Bosley Crowther in The New York Times opined, “It appears that the underlying purpose of [producer] Sidney Harmon’s new film, Men in War, is to show that the famous observation of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was justified. War, in this low-budget picture, which came to the Capitol yesterday, is brutal and agonizing. It is unequivocal hell.”  Although he was ultimately unfavorable towards the film, he gets across the black-and-white film’s stark depiction of the horrors of war.

Men in War was originally released on the Imperial Records label in mono, although a simulated stereo release also appeared.  The Kritzerland edition restores Bernstein’s score to its original mono, remastered from the original album master from Capitol/EMI.  Men in War is limited to 1,000 copies, and is scheduled to ship the second week of October, but pre-orders from the label usually arrive an average of four weeks early.  Men in War is available for $19.98 plus shipping and handling.  After the jump, you’ll find the press release as well as the track listing and pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 12, 2011 at 09:55