The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for October 18th, 2011

No Longer a “Siamese Dream”: First Wave of Smashing Pumpkins Expanded Reissues Announced

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Anyone worried that Billy Corgan’s muse would take him away from the long-promised expanded reissues of The Smashing Pumpkins’ catalogue can breathe a sigh of relief. The first two entries in the reissue campaign – 2 CD/1 DVD editions of Gish (1991) and Siamese Dream (1993) – have been announced for a November 28 release domestically (December 5 for the rest of the world).

These albums – produced by Butch Vig and remastered by Bob Ludwig – are the first in a lengthy salvo of reissues promised by EMI through 2013. Featuring new interviews with frontman Corgan conducted by journalist David Wild and bonus material curated by Corgan, the packages follow the tradition of deluxe editions by David Bowie and Duran Duran, with lift-top boxes holding the three discs and additional artwork.

As for bonus material, Gish and Siamese Dream boast a healthy amount of unreleased demos and session material. (Gish uses some already-released material, featuring new Butch Vig-commissioned mixes of some single and B-side tracks, including the band’s original version of “Tristessa” released by Sub Pop Records, but most of the B-sides are likely being saved for an expanded version of Pisces Iscariot, the band’s original B-sides-and-rarities set.) The sets will each come with newly-released vintage live shows on DVD, both recorded at Chicago’s Metro club and featuring new introductions from club owner Joe Shanahan.

Hit the jump for the full scoop on track lists for each set!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 18, 2011 at 17:53

Review: Ben Folds, “Ben Folds Fifty-Five Vault”

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When “Brick” ascended the Billboard Hot 200 to a No. 17 peak in 1998, it seemed possible that Ben Folds Five would join the ranks of Chumbawamba, Semisonic and Marcy Playground in the annals of the nineties one-hit wonder.  But the band’s charismatic frontman envisioned a different path.  Witness some of the other artists who only scored one Top 40 hit: Janis Joplin (“Me and Bobby McGee”), Jimi Hendrix (“All Along the Watchtower”), Frank Zappa (“Valley Girl”), The Grateful Dead (“Touch of Grey”) and Randy Newman (“Short People”).  Although Joplin and Hendrix were gone too soon, those other artists became some of the most legendary in rock music, building and maintaining large, loyal fan bases as well as rich catalogues.  Though Folds is too modest to confirm any legendary aspirations, it’s not hard to draw a line from Newman’s razor-sharp wit and knack for a melody to Folds’, nor from Zappa’s frequently off-color lyrics and sophisticated musicianship to Folds’ own.

And Folds shares another trait with that of Mr. Zappa: the man is outrageously prolific, and never seems far away from a recording console.  Three discs of his oeuvre, both solo and with Ben Folds Five, have just been released as the 3-CD The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective.  It’s tidily assembled into a “best of” and two discs of odds and ends, one in the studio and one on the concert stage.  But even that set’s prodigious 61 tracks couldn’t contain everything the artist had earmarked for release.  The digital-only Ben Folds Fifty-Five Vault resulted from this overflow.  It’s a fresh, largely unprecedented concept, compiling an online-only treasure trove to complement the box.  As Folds told me last month, “It’s a natural place to put the more obscure, rare third-tier stuff.”  He knew that a digital component to the box set would be welcomed by his fan base: “The fans can get it that way and my fans are mostly, have been Internet-based, savvy folks, since 2000, really.  2000 was the first year I recall signing more burned CDs than purchased CDs and I still think there are artists who can’t claim that.  Anyway, the only way to placate everyone on our kind of curation team…was saying, ‘Okay, gets into the vault!’  ‘Alright, into the vault!’  I wanted to figure out how to put it on [a duet by The Divine Comedy’s] Neil Hannon and me…I had to go, okay, that goes into the vault.  And that way it’s still out there. And what we did talk about was that none of the stuff in that 55 or 50 song collection in the vault could be sub-par shit.  We weren’t going to do it.  It turned out we had plenty.  We still have stuff on deck.”

Has Folds lived up to his promise of no “sub-par shit” in the Fifty-Five Vault?  Hit the jump to find out!

With 34 of its 56 tracks (one presumes the same math that allowed three band members to form Ben Folds Five yielded 56 tracks in the Fifty-Five Vault!) previously unreleased, there’s a true wealth of material here for collectors.  Each song is available for individual download or as a complete package, and although the set is a supplement to Best Imitation of Myself, it’s also that set’s antithesis.  That collection is a thoughtfully-assembled, artfully-sequenced tour through the many facets of the artist as singer, songwriter and bandleader.  By its nature, The Fifty-Five Vault is unwieldy and designed for the possibility of shuffle.  One almost wishes the Super Deluxe bug had bit Mr. Folds (as it previously did with 2008’s Way to Normal), as a six-disc physical package with all of the material from both Best Imitation and The Vault would have been something to behold.  As a digital release alone, the vast array of material – drawn from B-sides, demos, outtakes, live versions, covers and soundtrack songs – lacks any context via illuminating liner notes or chronological sequencing.  With polished studio outings largely given the short shrift in The Vault, the arc is that of a musical vagabond, restlessly travelling through different styles and settings.  Though all sides of the artist are, indeed, on full display here, slight emphasis seems to have been given to the sardonic jokester.  One’s mileage will vary depending on his appreciation of that aspect of Folds’ musical persona.  On many tracks, he’s joined by his Ben Folds Five bandmates Robert Sledge (bass) and Darren Jessee (drums).  The trio brought the sheer energy of punk to their blistering live shows, and a number of those performances are captured here.

What will you discover in Ben’s vault?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 18, 2011 at 13:06

Rhino Unleashes “Original Album Series” in Europe

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Ever feel like all the fancy bonus content and packaging on some reissues totally overshadows the music? Rhino’s European division must’ve felt so, too: they released a handful of Original Album Series boxes a few weeks ago, featuring a lot of music with a minimum of frills and a relatively low price.

The titles – five albums by one artist, housed in mini-LP cardboard sleeves and put into a box – are the ideal quick, easy discography builder for new fans or collectors with a few notable gaps on their shelves. A myriad of artists, from the obvious (CHIC, Carly Simon, The Doobie Brothers) to the overlooked (Sérgio Mendes, The Young Rascals, Tim Buckley), are represented here. While some of these titles are available in expanded form, a few of these are hard to find on their own on CD. With a price tag that hovers around the £10 mark, it’s certainly something to consider.

All of the titles, with the albums they contain, are after the jump, along with links from Amazon’s U.K. pages.

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Harry Belafonte Still Singing His “Song” On New Masterworks Release

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Harry Belafonte has worn many hats in his 84 years: recording artist, film star, civil rights crusader, tireless humanitarian.  Though he gracefully and modestly bowed out of performing some years back with little fanfare, Belafonte has returned to the spotlight this month to narrate a documentary on his life and author an autobiography.  Though the book is entitled My Song, the film and its musical companion both bear the name Sing Your Song.  Sony Masterworks’ collection is a sixteen-track soundtrack to the film rather than a strict “greatest hits” collection, and is a timely reminder of the singer’s great legacy.

Though born in New York, Belafonte spent many of his formative years in Jamaica, and the rich music he encountered as a boy there would have a profound effect on his future life.  When he returned to New York, he attended George Washington High School and later served a stint in the United States Navy.  After World War II, Belafonte took the first steps in building a career in entertainment, studying acting in the heady environment of the late 1940s and early 1950s.  RCA Victor signed the young talent in 1952, but his career on the stage wasn’t over yet, and he picked up both Tony and Theatre World Awards for his performance in 1953’s John Murray Anderson’s Almanac.  Just a few short months before Almanac opened on Broadway, Belafonte’s “Matilda” (heard on Sing Your Song) caught the public’s fancy, becoming a staple in concert.  But even greater things were yet to come.

1956’s Calypso introduced many Americans to the genre, and became the first LP ever to surpass the one-million sales mark.  It introduced two more smash signature songs for Belafonte, “Jump in the Line” and, of course, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).”  Both are included on the new compilation.  Belafonte went from one high point to another in his long tenure at RCA Victor, including successful 1959 and 1960 stands at Carnegie Hall (both recorded by the label), a performance at President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural at the invitation of Frank Sinatra, and inevitable Hollywood fame with films like Oscar Hammerstein II’s Bizet adaptation Carmen Jones (1954) and the controversial Islands in the Sun (1957) in which Belafonte’s character is romanced by Joan Fontaine, a Caucasian. 

This wouldn’t be the last time Belafonte bravely tackled race relations in public view.  Two more groundbreaking moments in his distinguished career came in 1968.  He accepted NBC’s invitation to fill in for Johnny Carson for an entire week of The Tonight Show, and he welcomed guests including Robert F. Kennedy, Lena Horne, Bill Cosby, The Smothers Brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The same year, Belafonte guest-starred on a television special starring Petula Clark.  During the duet performance of Clark’s composition “On the Way to Glory,” she gently touched her co-star’s arm.    Doyle Lott, representing sponsor Chrysler, objected, but Clark and her husband/producer Claude Wolff refused to reshoot.  Lott later apologized to Belafonte, claiming his words had been relayed inaccurately; Belafonte recalled responding, “Mr. Lott, I think you’re being disingenuous with me.  It was you who said those words.  And your apology comes a hundred years too late.”  

Musically speaking, Belafonte also didn’t wish to be pigeonholed as a strictly calypso artist; in fact, his folk-themed 1962 album Midnight Special featured the very first appearance on record of the young Bob Dylan.  (This wasn’t Belafonte’s first folk album, however, and the new compilation includes one track from 1956’s Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites.)  The former Robert Zimmerman supplied harmonica on the title track! 

Hit the jump for more, including the full track listing with discography as well as a link to order! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 18, 2011 at 09:58