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Archive for November 1st, 2011

Review: The Beach Boys, “The Smile Sessions” Part Two: Surf’s Up, At Last

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Today sees the first release, after 47 years, of The Beach Boys’ SMiLE.  The Second Disc celebrates this event with a three-part review series dedicated to what was once the greatest lost album of all time.     In Part 1, we looked back at the story of SMiLE.  In today’s Part 2, we explore the most legendary aspect of the album: the music itself, created by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, as recorded by The Beach Boys.

The SMiLE Shop is finally open for business!  It’s only taken some 44 years for Frank Holmes’ iconic artwork to grace an official Capitol Records release, and seeing that artwork reproduced at full LP size (on both the vinyl edition and in three-dimensional form on the Super Deluxe box set) is only one of the many pleasures to be had in the all-too-long-awaited premiere of The Beach Boys’ SMiLE.  If ever a set warranted the “Super Deluxe” tag, this is undoubtedly it.  Heck, you could add a “Duper” in there, too, as in “Super Duper Deluxe Edition.”  There’s no fat in this package, no “swag” other than a suitable-for-framing giant poster of the artwork.  Instead, each element (pun intended, more on that later) of The SMiLE Sessions will only add to your experience in this involving, immersive collection.  It might not just be the catalogue reissue of the year, but also of the decade.  Only a set of this great size could do justice to music of this magnitude.  Time has finally caught up with SMiLE.

The lingering mysteries of Brian Wilson’s aborted 1967 production begin with its very title.  Was it an ironic one?  The album began life as Dumb Angel, and Wilson once described the project as his “teenage symphony to God.”  (Though out of his teenage years, Mr. Wilson was, amazingly, a mere 24 years old while recording the album and its intense, sophisticated, dazzling music.)  Though there are many moments that will bring that upside-down frown to your face, much of the music is unsettling, if still hauntingly beautiful.  Very little of the music on SMiLE contains the pure youthful excitement of “Fun, Fun, Fun” or the innocent pop joie de vivre of, say, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”  Despite the dark moments that recur throughout SMiLE, there’s no doubt that Wilson has intended (with his 2004 version and this reconstruction) to conclude on a positive note.  He’s selected “Good Vibrations” as the album closer, and it’s a triumphant valedictory if there ever was one.  The song, in fact, was a farewell of another kind in 1967, as the last true Brian Wilson production for a number of years.  The hastily-recorded Smiley Smile was credited as “produced by The Beach Boys.”  From that point on, the other members of the Beach Boys had a measure of democracy that continued to grow as Wilson retreated from the spotlight.

The core 19-track album assembly of SMiLE is available in all formats: vinyl, digital, 2-CD and 5-CD/2-LP/2-7″ single sets. (Although more is actually more with SMiLE 2011, one wishes a special single-disc version was released in the U.S., containing merely the reconstructed album alone.  A single-CD release would have been a no-brainer for the casual Beach Boys fans shopping at Target, Best Buy or Wal-Mart this holiday season.)  This premiere of the album proper would not have been the version heard in 1967; it’s a composite based on, but not slavishly faithful to, the three-movement sequence of the 2004 Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE (or BWPS, as we’ll refer to it).  The indispensable, refreshingly detailed sessionography included in the box set indicates which takes were utilized to create each song on the “finished” mix of the album.  The best available source was used regardless of origin; the climactic song of the second movement, “Surf’s Up,” even departs from the 1966-1967 vintage by incorporating a vocal tag from the band’s 1971 re-recording.  (No new recording was done.)  Due to the varying sources, the SMiLE album is heard in mono, as it would have been released in 1967.  Much of the session material and a handful of bonus tracks are in stereo.  Each disc in the box set is encoded in HDCD.

Fall under the SMiLE spell after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 1, 2011 at 14:11

The “Lioness” Roars: Posthumous Amy Winehouse LP Due in December

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Whether you were surprised or not by the death of talented yet troubled singer Amy Winehouse this past summer, it’s hard to deny that her tragic passing at age 27 of alcohol poisoning cut short one of the most promising young careers of the 2000s. In December, Island Records is set to commemorate that promise with an album of unreleased demos and outtakes from Winehouse’s final years.

Lioness: Hidden Treasures captures Winehouse’s powerful, retro-soul voice through demos and rarities recorded before, during and after the release of her breakthrough sophomore album, the Grammy-winning Back to Black (2006). Winehouse had worked with longtime collaborator Salaam Remi on new material in 2008 and 2009, parts of which feature on this new album. Also included are two demos from the Back to Black era and covers of vintage pop and soul, including Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” Stan Getz’s “The Girl from Ipanema” and Ruby and The Romantics’ “Our Day Will Come.”

Not every track is new to CD. The disc features the oft-discussed version of “Body and Soul” recorded with Tony Bennett for the legend’s Duets II earlier this year – Winehouse’s last studio recording – and a cover of The Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” That track, recorded for the soundtrack of 2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, is one of only a few tracks to feature the production of Mark Ronson, widely credited with the soul-fusion stylings of Back to Black. (The other is a demo of “Valerie,” a cover of The Zutons’ song that Winehouse sang for Ronson’s Version in 2007. Ronson and Remi both compiled the set.)

Lioness is due December 5, and proceeds from the sale of the album will benefit the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Amazon has not created a pre-order page, but the track list, courtesy of Winehouse’s official website, is after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 1, 2011 at 12:22

Happiness Is: The Association’s “Insight Out” Expanded and Remastered

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Who’s trippin’ down the streets of the city / Smilin’ at everybody she sees / Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment?  Everyone knows it’s Windy!

And most everyone knows Ruthann Friedman’s 1967 pop classic which not only hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart but was featured on The Association’s third album and first long-player for Warner Bros. Records, Insight Out.  But everyone would be forgiven for thinking that the LP was entitled Windy, so prominent was the name of the single on the album cover.  But there’s much more to Insight Out.

Helmed by producer Bones Howe, beginning a short but important relationship with the group, it also boasts P.F. Sloan’s shimmering “On a Quiet Night,” and two songs by the team of Dick and Don Addrisi. The first, the ebullient “Happiness Is,” could virtually be the calling card of the entire sunshine pop genre.  The second, “Never My Love,” was an instant standard.  It climbed its way to a No. 2 chart placement, and BMI actually ranked the song the second-most played hit on radio and television of the entire twentieth century.  (For those wondering, it was sandwiched between “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’” at No. 1 and “Yesterday” at No. 3.  Not bad company, eh?)  Mike Deasy, known more as a top session guitarist rather than a songwriter, brought in a strong song of his own, “Wantin’ Ain’t Gettin’,” which was outfitted with a timely sitar arrangement.  Now, all of those songs and more are yours to savor on a deluxe, expanded mono edition of Insight Out from Now Sounds, following the label’s reissues of three other albums by the classic band of harmony purveyors.

The success of Insight Out was far from pre-ordained.  The band had become accustomed to a revolving door of producers, with Curt Boettcher having helmed their debut And Then…Along Comes the Association and Jerry Yester in charge of its follow-up, Renaissance.  Yester hoped to continue working with The Association, but his productions of “Never My Love” and the antiwar “Requiem for the Masses” hadn’t met with much favor by the Valiant Records brass.  Jules Alexander had exited the group for a pilgrimage to India.  And The Association’s Valiant home was about to be purchased by Warner Bros. Records, along with the band’s contract.  After the lofty heights scaled by “Cherish” and “Along Comes Mary” from the first album, the two singles off Renaissance failed to make much of an impression.  Enter Bones Howe, originally an engineer with a varied C.V. who had scored successes producing The Turtles on such songs as P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri’s “You Baby” and Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe.”

As Howe recalls in reissue producer Steve Stanley’s comprehensive liner notes for the new edition, ““I made a deal with their manager, Pat Colecchio.  Initially he called me up and said, ‘The guys are going to write some songs and you can bring some songs to them.’ And I said, ‘Well look, are they going to turn me down on every song because they didn’t write it?’ And Pat said, ‘You bring songs to them and they’ll bring songs to you. If you both like them, you can record them.’ And I thought that was fair enough; I’m sure that we can find some common ground. And ‘Never My Love’ was one of those songs. That, in my estimation, was one of the best records I ever made.”  Considering Howe also produced those Turtles hits, The 5th Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” The Monkees’ “Someday  Man” and music for artists ranging from Elvis Presley to Tom Waits, that’s no small praise from the modest producer.  (I won’t spoil any more of the interviews you’ll find excerpted in Insight Out’s 16-page booklet, including reminisces from Ruthann Friedman, Dick Addrisi, P.F. Sloan and Association members Russ Giguere, Jim Yester, Terry Kirkman and Larry Ramos!)  Though the members of The Association were accomplished musicians, the studio veterans of Los Angeles’ Wrecking Crew were brought in for the sessions.

After the jump, we’ve got more Insight on Out, including the full track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 1, 2011 at 11:31

Back in the Saddle Again: Aerosmith’s “Rocks” Receives Lavish Japanese Reissue

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Sony Music Japan has an interesting treat for Aerosmith fans this week: a special anniversary edition of the band’s classic Rocks with all sorts of bonus swag.

The news of new Japanese remaster/reissues of Columbia’s Aerosmith catalogue (as well as some Joe Perry Project titles) wouldn’t normally be much to write about on The Second Disc. All sorts of SHM-CD remasters and repackaged titles come out in the East all the time. But the particularly lavish treatment of Rocks, in honor of the LP’s 35-year mark, is worth noting for fans and collectors of all things Aero.

When Rocks was released in the spring of 1976, its massive shipment quantities – one of the first to ship platinum – weren’t the only impressive thing about it. The follow-up to the massively successful Toys in the Attic (no sales slouch itself, with 8 million copies sold in the U.S.) was pure early Aerosmith: hummable tunes that still rocked the life out of the competition. (Indeed, some of the heaviest guitarists of the past quarter-century, including Slash of Guns N’ Roses, James Hetfield of Metallica and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, have cited Rocks as an influence.) Top 40 hits like “Back in the Saddle” and “Last Child” were standouts, but so were bluesy cuts like “Rats in the Cellar,” “Nobody’s Fault” and “Home Tonight,” which helped take the album all the way up to No. 3 on the Billboard charts, with some 4 million copies sold.

For this edition of Rocks, which is being reissued alongside the other Aerosmith albums in Japan to celebrate the band’s forthcoming tour dates in the country, a host of collectibles will be included in the set, including replicas of the 28-page tour program issued when the band first toured Japan, a replica poster for a show at the famed Nippon Budokan, a replica ticket stub, reproductions of three single picture sleeves (“Home Tonight,” “Back in the Saddle” and “Last Child” and four postcards, all housed in a clear plastic case.

The new Rocks package is available in Japan on November 2 and can be ordered here.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 1, 2011 at 10:42

Posted in Aerosmith, News, Reissues

Release Round-Up: Week of November 1

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Nothing important comes out today, right?




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Written by Mike Duquette

November 1, 2011 at 07:54