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Archive for September 21st, 2011

Review: Miles Davis Quintet, “The Bootleg Series Vol. 1: Live in Europe 1967”

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Reflecting on Miles Davis’ so-called Second Great Quintet to director Mark Obenhaus, Herbie Hancock recalled that “when people were hearing us, they were hearing the avant-garde on one hand, and they were hearing the history of jazz that led up to it on the other hand – because Miles was that history.  He was that link.  We were sort of walking a tightrope with the kind of experimenting we were doing in music, not total experimentation, but we used to call it ‘controlled freedom.’”  What exactly did Hancock mean by “controlled freedom,” you might ask?  Thanks to the efforts of producers Michael Cuscuna, Richard Seidel and Steve Berkowitz at Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings, an ample answer has been released for the very first time on the premiere volume of Miles Davis: The Bootleg Series.  The first Bootleg Series was launched for Bob Dylan, with a similar program following for Johnny Cash (the third volume of which arrives in stores next month).  Now, one of the most significant figures in jazz is the recipient of the Bootleg Series treatment, which rescues significant rare and unreleased material from the musical underground.

Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1967 (Columbia/Legacy 88697 94053, 2011) may be one of the most historically important Bootleg releases to date.  A natural sequel to the milestone Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 box set, Live in Europe 1967 features the same line-up of Davis (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (alto saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Tony Williams (drums) and Ron Carter (bass).  But whereas that release captured the group early in their time together, Live in Europe presents them near the end of their landmark run as a unit, taking their material to stratospheric heights, indeed, likely as far as it could possibly go.

No less than five complete concert sets have been included, three on audio CD (from Belgium, Denmark and France) and two more on DVD (from Germany and Sweden).  All were recorded in October and November 1967 and remastered by Mark Wilder from original broadcast sources.  Of these sets, the Copenhagen, Denmark show has never even been bootlegged.  Each finds the Quintet challenging preconceived notions of jazz, blazing new musical frontiers with a freeing open-ended approach to improvisation and less emphasis on conventions of melody.  By the time of this tour at the end of the Second Great Quintet’s final year together, Davis was already known for his shifting styles, from cool jazz (see the Birth of the Cool sessions) to bebop, hard bop and modal jazz, alongside the pioneering Bill Evans.  The immense growth between the Plugged Nickel and these European dates is immediately evident when just comparing the set lists.  The former still offered a number of accessible standards: Frank Loesser’s “If I Were a Bell,” Edward Heyman and Victor Young’s “When I Fall in Love,” Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” Johnny Mercer, Jacques Prevert and Joseph Kosma’s “Autumn Leaves.”  (Another early live album is Miles in Berlin, recorded in September 1964 and released in February 1965, which documents one of the group’s first concerts together, with songs like “So What,” “Autumn Leaves” and “Stella by Starlight” still in the book.)  For the European tour in 1967, most of those chestnuts had given way to compositions credited to Davis (“Agitation,” “No Blues”) and the other Quintet members: Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and “Masqualero,” Herbie Hancock’s “Riot.”

Each member brought his own individual personality and style to the concerts, and by 1967, were a tight, almost supernaturally attuned group.  Davis hired the rhythm section of Hancock, Carter and Williams back in 1963, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the group gelled with the recruitment of Shorter.  In his 1989 autobiography Miles, Davis called Shorter the “idea person, the conceptualizer of a whole lot of musical ideas we did.”  Already known for his work with the Jazz Messengers and his knack for both abstraction and lyricism, Shorter ignited the group.  But each member had considerable experience before joining Davis’ group, and all would go on to further accomplishments once they split.  Davis deemed Carter and Hancock “the anchors” and Williams “the fire, the creative spark,” describing himself as “just the leader who put us all together.”  At the core of the group was the members’ shared feeling for hard-bop.  So while that influence and style are recognizable on the European recordings, the group was defining a new vocabulary in improvisation and accompaniment.  On pieces where a repeated chorus structure might have been utilized to lend shape to an improvisation, the Davis Quintet could depart from this structure entirely, or alternately disguise or draw attention to it in a new way.  As such, the music on Europe 1967 isn’t as unrecognizable compared to Davis’ early work as, say, John Coltrane’s contemporary works were.  Davis would wait a couple more years until the radical shift of Bitches Brew to draw a line in the sand that alienated many of his staunchest fans.  Make no mistake, however; these three discs preserve unconventional, dreamlike music in a context that insures it’s spellbinding.

Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 21, 2011 at 13:38

Posted in Compilations, Features, Miles Davis, News, Reviews

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Singular Genius, Revisited: Ray Charles’ “Complete ABC Singles” Coming In November, Plus Live DVD

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For Ray Charles, creative freedom was as easy as ABC.  After a successful tenure at Atlantic spanning the years 1952 and 1959, the Genius was ready to move on, or hit the road, as a later album title would proclaim.  Under the auspices of Atlantic producer Ahmet Ertegun, Charles recorded a seminal series of history-making recordings in both the jazz and R&B fields, the latter a particular Atlantic specialty.  With the 1959 single “What’d I Say,” Charles crossed over to the burgeoning teen pop market, as well, poising him for the next act of his illustrious career.    At the time, Atlantic was still an independent label, and despite Charles’ great success there, his management team at Shaw Artists felt that a major label’s power was needed to ensure further crossover hits.

ABC-Paramount was that label.  Charles was easily distinguished from the label’s teen roster of acts like Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon, and had the cachet to bring other R&B and soul acts into the fold.  He was made an offer he couldn’t refuse, with lucrative terms including full ownership of his master recordings after a five-year period.  Charles signed in 1960, and remained with the label until 1972, and now, Concord and Ray Charles Enterprises are offering Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles, collecting the A and B sides of all 53 singles recorded by Charles for the label, most under the direction of the A&R man and producer Sid Feller.  The box set features a total of 106 tracks including Grammy Award winners “Hit the Road Jack,” “Busted,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Crying Time,” and “America the Beautiful.”

A full 30 songs have never previously been available on CD, and every track on the 5-CD set has been completely remastered.  Liner notes were written by music historian, singer and songwriter Billy Vera.

Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation says, “This compilation provides an opportunity to hear Ray’s evolution into a full-fledged artist and creative force. The song selection was based upon the interpretation he could bring to the music and not the genre. The ABC singles comprise an epoch of essential Ray Charles music and a window into how his genius evolved.”

Although Charles had blurred the line between rhythm and blues and jazz at Atlantic, even recording with such jazz greats as Milt Jackson and David “Fathead” Newman, he took the genre blurring even further at ABC.  After a slow start with “Who You Gonna Love” b/w “My Baby” and a somewhat better showing with “Sticks and Stones” b/w “Worried Life Blues,” ABC’s gamble on Charles paid off with his third single.  “Georgia on My Mind” (with “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” on the flip), off the album The Genius Hits the Road, reached the coveted top spot on the pop charts.  Feller’s careful strategy was to cultivate both the new pop audience and the core R&B base, and Charles’ singles reflected this.  Soon, a third major fan base was in play when Charles courted the country music crowd with 1962’s album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.  He was rewarded when “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was another No. 1 song, also winning a Grammy Award.

Charles’ business pursuits grew while on ABC-Paramount.  He diversified into publishing with Tangerine Music, signing Percy Mayfield. The blues legend brought with him the song “Hit the Road, Jack.” Knowing a hit song when he heard it, Charles took his own rendition all the way to No. 1.  ABC-Paramount also offered Charles his own imprint.  Tangerine Music recorded Mayfield and other acts such as Little Jimmy Scott and Louis Jordan.  In 1966, Charles opened RPM Studios on Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles. The first song he recorded there was “Let’s Go Get Stoned.”  The famed team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson wrote the song with Jo Armstead, which has previously been recorded by Atlantic’s Coasters.  Of course, Ray Charles’ version became the song’s signature recording.  His final major hit for ABC came in 1972 with a most unexpected track that resonated with the Vietnam era: “America the Beautiful.”

Hit the jump for more on The Complete ABC Singles, plus news of a new DVD sure to please fans of The Genius! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 21, 2011 at 12:26

Come As They Are: A Reminder on Nirvana’s “Nevermind” Formats

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It’s about a week until Nirvana’s Nevermind inundates record store shelves, and it seemed like a good idea to sort everything out, for the sake of clarity when September 27 rolls around.

Of course, as previously reported, there are four major formats for this reissue: a single-disc remaster of the original album, a double-disc deluxe edition, a four-vinyl LP set and a four-CD/one-DVD super deluxe edition. It’s worth noting, however, that the vinyl set will street a week later, on October 4.

And it wouldn’t be a major reissue without some retail exclusives. From September 27 to October 25, Best Buy will be the only place to get the super deluxe edition. Meanwhile, Target will offer a special package that presents the first disc of the deluxe edition – the original LP and all of the B-sides from the Nevermind singles – on its own with expanded artwork.

Finally, the newly-released vintage live show inside the super deluxe edition, Live at the Paramount is getting a standalone release on DVD and Blu-Ray. (The latter isn’t slated in stores until December 27, while the DVD is scheduled day-and-date with the other projects.)

After the jump, we’ve also got a link to the two-disc deluxe edition, with a full track list. (It’s the first two discs from the super deluxe edition – but we’d never mentioned that here until now.) Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 21, 2011 at 11:47

Posted in Box Sets, News, Nirvana, Reissues

Hans Zimmer Roars Back With “Thelma and Louise” From Kritzerland

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Last weekend, The Lion King sat atop the box office once more, a potent reminder not only of the 1994 film’s enduring power but of its music.  Though Elton John and Tim Rice famously composed its songs, it was Hans Zimmer who picked up an Academy Award for the orchestral score.  Zimmer made his first major splash in Hollywood with the score to Barry Levinson’s 1988 film Rain Man, following it up with high profile assignments such as Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Days of Thunder (1990) and Thelma & Louise (1991).   This morning, Kritzerland delivered a gift to Zimmer’s many fans, announcing its release of the first-ever complete release on CD of the score to Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise.  The original MCA soundtrack recording was an almost all-songs affair, so on the occasion of the film’s 20th anniversary, Zimmer’s score is finally available, including its dynamic slide guitar work from Pete Haycock.

We’ll let producer Bruce Kimmel’s press release speak for itself; the soundtrack is due the last week of October, but pre-orders directly from the label usually arrive an average of four weeks early!

Sometimes the right people come together at the right time to make the right movie for the right audience. Certainly it happened in 1991 with Thelma & Louise, a film where each of its creative elements came together and resulted in a film that truly struck a chord with audiences and critics. A road movie, a buddy movie, a comedy, a tragedy, Thelma & Louise became an instant classic. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis are perfection as Thelma and Louise, both delivering multi-layered and iconic performances. Harvey Keitel is their equal as Detective Hal Slocumb, and Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald, and Brad Pitt are all excellent in supporting roles.

Every creative component of the film is masterful – from direction, writing, acting, editing, photography, art direction, costuming – it’s all of a piece and that includes the great score by Hans Zimmer. Zimmer, born in 1957, had begun scoring films on his own in the 1980s, with projects such as A World Apart, Paperhouse, and others. But it was in 1988 that he got his big break, scoring the Barry Levinson film Rain Man. Rain Man was a smash, and Zimmer received his first Oscar nomination. Then came Twister, Black Rain, and Driving Miss Daisy, and since then he has been one of the most successful film composers in history, composing scores for such hits as Days Of Thunder, A League Of Their Own, The Lion King, As Good As It Gets, Crimson Tide, The Rock, The Prince Of Egypt, Gladiator, Hannibal, Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, Batman Begins, The Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, Kung Fu Panda, Sherlock Holmes, Inception, and many, many others. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards and taken home the prize once – for The Lion King.

Zimmer’s score for Thelma & Louise captures Scott’s visuals and the tone of the film perfectly. While there are a fair number of pop songs used in the movie, it’s Zimmer’s twangy, mournful, exciting, hard-driving, bluesy music that really propels the film and helps give it its distinctive feel – and it features the absolutely mind-bending guitar work of the great Pete Haycock.

Hit the jump to continue reading the press release, plus the full track listing and pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 21, 2011 at 10:19

Light in the Attic Shines with Rhino Distribution Deal

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One of the biggest negatives about the Rhino Records catalogue in recent years is that the label’s Handmade titles are generally limited to Rhino’s website. Reissues and limited box sets by Hip-o Select and Legacy will easily find their way on the shelves at any forward-thinking independent record store, but with Rhino, it seems harder to come by.

Thanks to a rising star among indie record labels, that may be about to change. Rhino has announced a distribution deal with Light in the Attic Records to press titles from the Rhino Handmade catalogue and get them into new markets.

Light in the Attic, a Seattle-based label that counts reissues by Serge Gainsbourg, Kris Kristofferson, Charles “Packy” Axton and Motown’s MoWest Records label in their nearly decade-long history, has gained some great (and deserved) plaudits from the catalogue world for their recent efforts. Under the terms of the deal, Handmade titles will remain at Rhino’s website for 60 days before Light in the Attic handles general retail distribution.

The first two titles to be redistributed by the indie will be Handmade’s expanded editions of Tim Buckley’s 1966 debut album and Ride’s Nowhere, streeting October 4 and 18, respectively. It’s quite an auspicious move for both labels, and both are getting a hearty congratulations from Second Disc HQ. And, as always, be sure to keep an eye out right here for more news as it develops.

Written by Mike Duquette

September 21, 2011 at 10:07

Posted in News, Reissues, Ride, Tim Buckley

Fight the Good Fight: Triumph Reissues “Allied Forces” on Vinyl

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Here’s a treat for you vinylheads and Canadian rock fans out there: this week saw the vinyl reissue of Allied Forces, the hit album from Northern hard-rockers Triumph.

Triumph, arguably Canada’s other revered power trio, consisted of vocalist/guitarist Rik Emmett, bassist/keyboardist Michael Levine and drummer Gil Moore. By 1977, two years after their formation, they began to rack up a string of gold and platinum albums in their native country, as well as a handful of Juno nominations for Group of the Year. But with the release of Allied Forces in 1981, their success began to cross over the U.S.-Canadian border. The album went platinum in the States and spawned the band’s first two singles on the Billboard rock chart: “Fight the Good Fight” (No. 18) and “Magic Power” (No. 8).

While Emmett left the group in 1988, and the band would fold in 1993, all three original members reconvened to tour in 2008 and continue to do so. This Tuesday, almost 30 years to the day of Allied Forces‘ original release, the band released a new 180-gram vinyl edition of the record, sourced from the original masters prepped by Bob Ludwig and featuring a thorough recreation of the original LP sleeve. A download card providing the album and some video content is also part of the package, and a merchandise bundle with some extra swag is offered through the band’s official online store. The band will also be on tonight’s episode of syndicated radio show Rockline to chat up the release and their reflections on the album.

Hit the jump for the track breakdown! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 21, 2011 at 09:05

Posted in News, Reissues, Triumph, Vinyl