The Second Disc

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Archive for October 25th, 2011

Review: Phil Spector, “The Philles Album Collection” and “The Essential Phil Spector”

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Whoa-oh, a-whoa-oh-oh-oh!

Think of The Ronettes’ wail, every bit as iconic a cry as a-whop-bop-a-loo-a-whop-bam-boom.  Doesn’t rock and roll have a way of elevating onomatopoeia to poetry?  And no label made sweeter poetry in the first half of the 1960s than Philles Records.  The voices of Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love, La La Brooks, Barbara Alston and the rest spoke directly to America’s teenagers.  These women, alternately vulnerable and defiant, were little more than girls when they began putting their voices to the “little symphonies” being crafted by producer Phil Spector and his house arrangers, most notably Jack Nitzsche.  Tom Wolfe once famously deemed Spector “America’s first teen-age tycoon.”  Why?  Spector recognized the paradigm shift in the late 1950s, when teenagers began accruing disposable income and exercising newfound spending power.  He tapped into uncharted territory.  Cole Porter and Irving Berlin weren’t writing songs about teenagers.  Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were.  Like Spector, they were barely out of their teen years themselves.  The songs they created at Philles remain both of a distinct time, and timeless.  It’s those songs that are celebrated on Legacy Recordings’ 7-CD box set The Philles Album Collection (Phil Spector Records/Legacy 88697 92782-2).

So why an album collection, when the producer famously derided albums in favor of singles?  These albums do little to dissuade the notion that Spector was a great, perhaps the great, singles producer.  He reportedly paid little attention to the long-players bearing his imprint.  But if an album is viewed as a collection of great songs, it’s impossible to argue with the success of these platters.  There’s little doubt, too, that the producer’s ethos was on-the-money, viewed from the present music climate which has shifted back to an emphasis on singles.  The Philles Album Collection marks the very first time that any of its six albums have been released on CD in their original configurations, and for that alone, it would be noteworthy.  Each album is housed in an attractive, sturdy mini-LP jacket.  Its seventh disc is even more exotic, though: a bonus disc of offbeat, B-side instrumentals that accompanied some of these songs for single release.  Spector took the art of recycling tracks, album-to-album, to a new level; there’s frequent repetition among these discs that doesn’t make for ideal consecutive listening and may be frustrating for some.  But Spector and co. could have had little idea that, nearly fifty years later, listeners would be revisiting these long-players in one sitting.

Phil Spector was still producing outside artists when he launched Philles with Lester Sill; in 1962 he produced the hit “Second Hand Love” for Connie Francis at MGM after a string of hit recordings for Gene Pitney, Ray Peterson, Curtis Lee, the Paris Sisters and other notables.  The Philles Album Collection begins, appropriately enough, with the girl group that graced the label’s first album and single, The Crystals, led by Barbara Alston.

Hit the jump, and it’s 1962!   You’ve just put The Crystals Twist Uptown onto your new turntable! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 25, 2011 at 12:58

Lost Highway, Found on Vinyl: 10th Anniversary Box Coming Next Month

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With a name like Lost Highway Records, it might be tough to parse the mission statement of such a company – unless, of course, you know your Hank Williams. In fact, they’ve been supplying fans with some of the best in alternative rock and country. And now, to celebrate a decade in business, next month sees the release of a mega-vinyl box set highlighting some of the label’s best output.

Lost Highway, founded in 2000 by Luke Lewis, started their existence off with a bang, distributing the massively successful soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? (reissued and expanded earlier this year, in fact) as well as Ryan Adams’ breakthrough Gold in 2001. Since then, they’ve handled distribution for country legends from Willie Nelson to Lucinda Williams, several of Johnny Cash’s iconic, career-closing American Recordings, albums by rock stalwarts including Elvis Costello and Morrissey, great new rootsy acts like Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears – and yes, even some catalogue action from Hank Williams.

In celebration of the label’s one-decade mark, Lost Highway has been releasing some of their most famous albums, as well as recent favorites, on limited edition clear vinyl. Next month, to finish off the celebration, all 19 of those reissued albums will be boxed together. Only 500 boxes will be available worldwide, 250 of which are now available on Amazon.

After the jump, check out the LPs that are going to be in the box! (A special thanks to the great Buy These Records for the tip; fans of The Second Disc will likely find a lot to like about this site.)

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 25, 2011 at 11:38

Release Round-Up: Week of October 24/25

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It’s Tuesday, but most of the new music this week has already been out for a day. But assuming you were too busy to get out to the shops, here’s a look at what’s new. And there’s quite a bit!

Various Artists, Phil Spector Presents The Philles Album Collection (Phil Spector Records/Legacy)

Six of the first seven Philles albums presented in mono, along with a bonus disc of those delightfully out-there instrumental B-sides. Seriously, have you heard any of them? They’re crazy. In a good way, that is.

Diana Ross & The Supremes, The 50th Anniversary Collection 1961-1969 / The Temptations, The 50th Anniversary Collection 1961-1971 (Hip-o Select/Motown)

Two new triple-disc sets capture two of Motown’s greatest groups at their peak, with every A- and B-side from the listed periods contained therein.

Paul Simon, One Trick Pony / Hearts and Bones / Graceland / The Rhythm of the Saints / Songwriter (Legacy)

The first four are the 2004 Rhino reissues in jewel cases instead of digipaks (although Graceland is re-remastered), the last is a two-disc compilation handpicked by Simon himself with a big thick booklet for your persual. (Have you read Joe’s great review? You really should.)

Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam 20 (Sony Music Video)

Cameron Crowe’s celebratory documentary, now available for home viewing.

Various Artists, The Bridge School Concerts: 25th Anniversary Edition (Reprise)

Two new sets – a 3-disc DVD box and a double-disc CD set – capture 25 years of one of the best known (and, let’s face it, best) benefit concert series of all time. Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan, The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Sonic Youth and a host of other rock luminaries appear.

Howlin’ Wolf, Smokestack Lightnin’: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960 (Hip-o Select/Chess)

Four CDs of vintage blues goodness from The Wolf – including some tracks making their Stateside debut.

Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More: Deluxe Edition (Glassnote)

The great British roots-rockers’ major label debut, expanded with a bonus track, a live disc and a DVD documentary.

The Monkees, Head (Rhino)

A shiny new vinyl reissue of the cult classic album.

The Mamas and The Papas, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears / Strawberry Alarm Clock, Incense and Peppermints (Sundazed)

The original, classic albums in mono, on CD! (There are a few other notables coming from Sundazed for you ’60s fans, too.)

Yes, 9012Live: The Solos – Expanded Edition (Friday Music)

The first-ever domestic CD release of Yes’ overlooked live album/side project, with two live bonus tracks for good measure.

Deftones, The Vinyl Collection 1995-2011 (Reprise)

A limited edition collection of the alternative band’s studio albums, plus an album of non-album covers, previously only available as a Record Store Day exclusive. (It’s sold out online, but I’m sure it’s still up for grabs here and there.)

Nirvana, Nevermind: Super Deluxe Edition (Geffen/UMe)

Previously a Best Buy exclusive, it’s worth noting that this title is now available everywhere. Hooray!