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Archive for October 31st, 2011

Review: The Beach Boys, “The Smile Sessions” Part One: What’s Past is Prologue

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Tomorrow, November 1, marks the release of The Beach Boys’ SMiLE, the most legendary lost album of all time.  In recognition of this landmark, The Second Disc is launching a three-part series looking at the SMiLE mythos, including a review of the various editions of The SMiLE Sessions.  Before we begin to explore these collections, however, we’d like to offer a bit of perspective and back story on SMiLE: what was, what is, and what might have been.  Welcome to Part One: What’s Past is Prologue.

This is not a dream!  Not a hoax!  Not an imaginary story!  The Beach Boys’ SMiLE is finally here, and the best album of 2011 just might have been the best album of 1967.

The date is June 18, 1967.  Just prior to setting his guitar ablaze at The Monterey Pop Festival, Jimi Hendrix famously proclaimed, “You heard the last of surfing music!”  There was certainly none to be heard at Monterey, with the Beach Boys having abruptly dropped out of the festival.  Could this have been another sign that the band was falling apart at the seams?  On April 29, Brian Wilson told the NME that “all of the twelve tracks for the new album are completed and there are plans to release the album on a rush schedule at any moment.”  The album in question was SMiLE, the band’s eagerly-anticipated follow-up to the previous year’s Pet Sounds.  But Wilson, in fact, hadn’t completed it.  The track that came to be titled “Love to Say Dada” wouldn’t be recorded until May 16, 17 and 18.  So why then, on May 6, did the Beach Boys’ legendary publicity man Derek Taylor tell Disc and Music Echo that SMiLE had been “scrapped” for good?  Was the departure of the Beach Boys from Monterey Pop a tacit admission that Hendrix was, indeed, correct? What really was going through Brian Wilson’s mind?  Was he a victim of “the toll of the drugs, industry pressure and [an] over-the-top commitment to perfection?, as bandmate Mike Love put it?  Where had the Boys of Summer gone?

The mysteries surrounding SMiLE will never be solved.  Though we now have a beautiful box set that will stand as the definitive monument to this great album that (almost) never was, its five CDs, one LP, two 7-inch singles and one stunningly comprehensive hardcover book still don’t answer the questions of what would have constituted the finished album, and why Brian Wilson came to the decision to scrap it.  It is clear why efforts to resuscitate the album in 1972, 1988 and 1996 didn’t come to fruition: SMiLE is a breathtakingly beautiful but ultimately unsolvable jigsaw puzzle.  And truth be told, would you have it any other way?

In assembling this collection, producers Brian Wilson, Mark Linett, Alan Boyd and Dennis Wolfe have finally performed the herculean task that eluded all of those who came before.  The SMiLE Sessions (Capitol/EMI C-0276582, 2011) is likely the most in-depth collection ever devoted to a single album, let alone one that never saw release.  Like the legend of SMiLE itself, the box set offers plentiful wonders and mysteries.  The questions it raises are as fascinating as the ones it answers, but it’s impossible not to be intoxicated by the spellbinding music written by Brian Wilson, with words by Van Dyke Parks, and at long last, vocals by Wilson, his brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and bandmates Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston.

To grasp the magnitude of SMiLE, one must put it in perspective.  With its riches spread over five CDs, an additional side of a vinyl LP and two 7-inch singles, The SMiLE Sessions opens not just a window, but all of the doors of The SMiLE Shop, too, on why the album’s reputation grew with each passing year.  It also becomes clear why the members of The Beach Boys might have had trepidations about not only the material, but their leader and producer’s ability to finish it to his own exacting standards.  Before listening to The SMiLE Sessions, though, it’s important to consider the two releases that would have bookended a SMiLE LP in 1967.

You can read about those, and much more, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 31, 2011 at 15:00

La-La Land Scares Up “Friday the 13th” Box Set

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Ki-ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma-ma. These wordless sounds have become shorthand for fear in the form of Jason Voorhees, the antagonist in the long-running Friday the 13th horror film series. Since the low-budget flick bowed in 1980, grossing nearly $40 million domestically on a budget of $550,000, it spawned a massive cottage industry of sequels and spin-offs. (All told, ten Friday the 13th films, one remake and one crossover, 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason – which pitted the series’ murderer against Freddy Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, have been made.)

What better day than Halloween, then, to bring you a special announcement from La-La Land Records that the soundtrack label is planning a major box set of Friday the 13th scores? The music for the first six films, written by Harry Manfredini, added a touch of class to the down ‘n’ dirty proceedings – and, next to Jason’s hockey mask and machete, created an iconic shorthand in the form of that wordless “ki-ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma-ma” refrain (an abbreviation that, if explained, would give away crucial plot points of the first film!). And now, they’re coming to CD as part of a limited box set (1,300 copies made), featuring remastered soundtracks and 40 pages of gory detailed liner notes in a hardbound slipcase.

The set doesn’t street until the next Friday the 13th on the calendar in January of 2012, though the wait will be worth it, with special release events planned, including “a special composer/talent signing as well as a killer screening event to commemorate this release.” But if you want to spice up your holiday today, you can head to iTunes now and enjoy Friday the 13: The Ultimate Compilation, a special compilation of tracks that will appear on this box set.

After the jump, read La-La Land’s full release regarding the new box, and find a link to buy the digital compilation. But make sure to look behind you!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 31, 2011 at 14:49

Start of a New “Movement”: EMI Releases New Peel Sessions Compilation

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Last week’s revelation that American media conglomerate Clear Channel had let go of dozens of local radio DJs made music fans yearn for the simpler times of when jockeys weren’t limited to playlists from on high and could shape the public’s music taste in a positive way.

Ironically, as the Clear Channel news spread, EMI prepares the release of a new compilation devoted to one of England’s most famous radio presenters, the late, great John Peel. Peel, a jockey on BBC’s Radio 1 from 1967 until his death in 2004, was a pioneering force on the British music scene, embracing the cutting edge of music in every new decade, particularly the wild punk, reggae, ska and indie sounds that were emerging as the 1970s gave way to the 1980s.

Of course, playing the singles wasn’t enough: Peel frequently invited his favorite new acts to BBC’s Maida Vale Studios to record live sets for his shows. These “Peel sessions” fast became treasured recordings for serious music fans, and while the BBC often erased their tapes not long after they were done airing them, Peel’s tapes have enjoyed years of commercial release, first on his own label, Strange Fruit, in the 1980s, then on various major labels, either as part of standalone releases or bonus tracks on expanded reissues.

Very little of the tracks on this new comp – Movement: BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions 1977-1979 – are being released for the first time. (At the very least, many of these tracks came out on Strange Fruit EPs and compilations, and are making their debut on a CD distributed by EMI, the project deriving from material commonly controlled by the label and the BBC.) But the idea of a sampler of tracks from such greats as The Jam, Joy Division, The Specials, XTC, Adam and The Ants, The Psychedelic Furs and others is pretty appealing – particularly given EMI’s announcement, which ends with the promise of more Peel compilations in the future.

Movement is available today in the U.K., and the track list is after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 31, 2011 at 13:06

Happy Halloween! Taking a Bite Out of “Son of Dracula”

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Happy Halloween!  To celebrate this spookiest of holidays, we’re bringing you a special holiday reprise from The Second Disc Archives in which we revisit the immortal, undead “Son of Dracula,” starring Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr!

October 2010 will bring a major reissue campaign devoted to the Apple Records discography, seeing most of that storied label’s output arrive in editions remastered by the same team behind the Beatles’ catalogue overhaul last year. But one Apple-related LP is among the titles not coming on CD: the 1974 soundtrack to Son of Dracula. Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr’s musical horror/comedy romp was the sole release on the Rapple label (Nilsson’s label RCA + Apple = Rapple, get it?  Good!) and has only enjoyed a CD appearance via a short-lived Japanese edition (RCA BVCP-7314).

The germ of the idea for Son of Dracula originated with Ringo Starr, who quickly approached his pal in debauchery, the talented, eccentric singer and songwriter Harry Nilsson. Harry had already explored the “rock Dracula” theme with the cover to his 1972 Son of Schmilsson (RCA LSP-4717) which followed up his breakthrough Nilsson Schmilsson (RCA AFL1-4515). Son of Schmilsson’s cover featured the artist in full vampire mode, cape and all, with the album’s title dripping in blood. The idea for the film must have been irresistible to Nilsson, though he was surprised to find that Ringo wasn’t inspired by his album cover at all (despite having played on the LP!), but rather arrived independently at the concept. Son of Dracula would be written by Jennifer Jayne and directed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis, with Starr sharing executive producer credit and setting the film up with Apple Films. Francis had previously honed his B-moviemaking abilities working at Britain’s infamous Hammer studio in the 1960s and brought that unique sensibility to the project.

Got your plastic fangs in, and your cape on? Click on the jump to read more about the wild musical adventures of Count Downe (uh huh) and his arch-nemesis Baron Frankenstein (or is that Fronk-en-steen? Sorry, wrong movie!) set to the songs of the one and only Mr. Harry Nilsson… Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 31, 2011 at 11:10

WHAM!’s “The Final” to Be Reissued as CD/DVD Set

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In five years, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, as the U.K. pop duo WHAM!, released two albums, one compilation and a dozen singles. Only one of those releases placed anywhere beneath their native Top 10. No matter what you think of the group’s candy-coated pop stylings, those are incredible numbers in such a short period of time.

We could debate the impact of WHAM! all day – and this author would certainly side with them. (Their debut album Fantastic is, at worst, throwaway pop, and follow-up Make It Big is laden with pop hooks, all penned by Michael and Ridgeley themselves. As recent reissues have proven, Michael was a pop genius in his own right.) But those numbers can’t lie – WHAM! remain a popular relic of the 1980s, as sales of even 1998’s The Best of WHAM! If You Were There… (a U.K. Top 5 album) can attest to.

Now, in celebration of the compilation that took their career out on a high note, 1986’s The Final, a 25th anniversary edition is being planned for the U.K., featuring a bonus DVD of the group’s many hit music videos.

The year 1986 saw WHAM! do something nobody expected: they went out on top. Michael and Ridgeley amicably separated that summer, in order for Michael to attempt to woo a more mature audience with his advanced brand of pop songcraft. But they went out with a bang, issuing the chart-topping farewell single “The Edge of Heaven” and a neat compilation, The Final, to summarize the group. Featuring a killer cadre of hit singles (some of which appeared in their 12″ mixes. depending on which configuration of the album you bought) and a few new tracks (including the underrated “Where Did Your Heart Go?,” originally performed by Was (Not Was) and Michael’s first solo single, “A Different Corner”), it’s not hard to see why The Final was such a hit. (Harder to explain is the album’s absence from the U.S. market. Instead, the new tracks, along with some B-sides, were packaged as a new album, Music from the Edge of Heaven.)

This new reissue, to be released in the U.K. on November 28, features a newly-designed package, featuring a mirrorboard slipcase version of the iconic album sleeve, and comes packed with a DVD featuring all of WHAM!’s original music videos – in total, 13 of the 14 tracks on the compilation. Hit the jump for full discographical details and an order link!

WHAM! The Final: 25th Anniversary Edition (Sony Music U.K., 2011)

Disc 1: Original compilation (released as Epic 86681 (U.K.), 1986 – this track listing is identical to original CD)

  1. WHAM! Rap (Enjoy What You Do)
  2. Young Guns (Go for It!) (12″ Version)
  3. Bad Boys
  4. Club Tropicana
  5. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
  6. Careless Whisper (Single Version)
  7. Freedom
  8. Last Christmas (Pudding Mix)
  9. Everything She Wants (Remix)
  10. I’m Your Man
  11. A Different Corner
  12. Battlestations
  13. Where Did Your Heart Go?
  14. The Edge of Heaven

Original versions of Tracks 1-4 from Fantastic (Inner Vision IVL 25328 (U.K.)/Epic FC 38911 (U.S.), 1983)

  • Track 2 released as Inner Vision 12″ single IVL A13 2766 (U.K.), 1982

Original versions of Tracks 5-7 and 9 from Make It Big (Epic 86311 (U.K.)/Columbia FC 39595 (U.S.), 1984)

  • Track 6 released on Epic single A 4603 (U.K.)/Columbia single 38-04691 (U.S.), 1984
  • Track 7 is an alternate mix exclusive to this compilation
  • Track 9 released on Epic 12″ single QTA 4949 (U.K.)/Columbia 12″ single 44-05810 (U.S.), 1984

Track 8 was the 12″ B-side to “Everything She Wants” (Epic QTA 4949 (U.K.)/Columbia 44-05810 (U.S.), 1984). Later released as U.K. 12″ A-side (Epic WHAM T1, 1985).
Track 10 was a non-LP single (Epic A 6716 (U.K.)/Columbia 38-05721 (U.S.), 1985)
Tracks 11-14 are new tracks.

  • Track 11 released as Epic single A 7033 (U.K.)/Columbia single 39-0588 (U.S.), 1986.
  • Tracks 12-14 originally released as a 12″ single (Epic FIN T1 (U.K.), 1986).

Disc 2: DVD – promo videos

  1. WHAM! Rap (Enjoy What You Do)
  2. Young Guns (Go for It!)
  3. Bad Boys
  4. Club Tropicana
  5. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
  6. Careless Whisper
  7. Freedom
  8. Last Christmas
  9. Everything She Wants
  10. I’m Your Man
  11. A Different Corner
  12. Where Did Your Heart Go?
  13. The Edge of Heaven

Written by Mike Duquette

October 31, 2011 at 10:25