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Archive for November 30th, 2011

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time (Part 3: #90-86)

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In Part 3 of our first-ever official Second Disc Buyers Guide, we look at five more of the 100 greatest albums of all time, as selected by Rolling Stone in 2003, through the filter of when and how these classic albums have been reissued, remastered and repackaged. If you’ve ever wondered to yourself which versions of these albums to buy for certain bonus tracks and the like, wonder no more.

Today, we meet the Beatles, travel to Memphis with a beehived British soul queen, have the blues at Folsom Prison and add another brick in The Wall!  And don’t forget the Motor City!

90. Stevie Wonder, Talking Book (Motown, 1972)

As 1972 began,  the pianist, composer, arranger, producer and singer once known as Little Stevie Wonder was enjoying the creative freedom he had only recently won from Berry Gordy’s Motown empire.  Wonder was only 21 when Music of My Mind was released in March of that year, and although some point to 1971’s Where I’m Coming From as his first mature solo album, Music of My Mind was a far more ambitious effort.  “Superwoman,” “Happier Than the Morning Sun” and “I Love Every Little Thing About You” heralded a talent far deeper than even his considerable past accomplishments could have indicated.  Released just months later in October, Talking Book (amazingly Wonder’s fifteenth studio album!) took the artist’s studio experimentation one step further, incorporating densely layered keyboards: clavinets, electric pianos, synthesizers.  But even the rich, unique production – by Wonder, Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil – couldn’t carry an album alone.  Wonder had to match his cutting-edge production with top-notch songwriting.  And did he deliver!

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” netted Wonder a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal, but he was already crossing genre lines when “Superstition” took home the prizes for Best Male R&B Vocal and Best R&B Song the same evening.  Those two songs alone would be enough to carry an album, but Wonder also delivered perennials like “You’ve Got It Bad Girl” and “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever),” both co-written with Yvonne Wright, and “Blame It on the Sun,” co-written with Syreeta (Yvonne’s sister and Stevie’s former wife).  He was surrounded by the crème of the crop, musically speaking, with contributions from Ray Parker, Jr., David Sanborn, Deniece Williams and even Jeff Beck on the Stevie/Syreeta co-write “Lookin’ For Another Pure Love.”  Ranging from gorgeous, open-hearted pop and soul to pulsating funk, Talking Book spoke volumes about its young auteur.

Talking Book has never received an expanded treatment on compact disc.  The original 1990 CD (Motown MCD 09051) and its 2000 remaster by Kevin Reeves (Motown 012 157 354-2 in a standard edition, 012 157 579-2 in a limited digipak) both mirror the original (some might say “perfect”) album sequence.  In 2009, Talking Book received the Japanese SHM-CD treatment (Motown/Universal UICY-93933) and in 2010, Audio Fidelity’s Kevin Gray remastered it for a 24K Gold CD (AFZ 076).  Little did listeners in 1972 know, however, that the best was still yet to come for Stevie Wonder.

89. Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis (Atlantic/Philips, 1969)

Writing for Rolling Stone in 1969, Greil Marcus commented of Dusty in Memphis, “Most white female singers in today’s music are still searching for music they can call their own.  Dusty is not searching.  She just shows up, and she, and we, are the better for it.”  When the British chanteuse showed up in Memphis, she wasn’t sure what to expect.  “I figured it would be Aretha kinds of songs…much more gritty R&B,” Dusty commented.  Instead, Dusty in Memphis served up the classy pop Springfield did better than anyone, but arranged in smoking Memphis style.  Hence, the album opens with one of the most smoldering songs ever, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Just a Little Lovin’,” in its definitive arrangement.  Carole King and Gerry Goffin were tapped for “So Much Love,” “Don’t Forget About Me,” and two tour de forces of drama, “No Easy Way Down” and “I Can’t Make It Alone.”  The young Randy Newman offered “Just One Smile” and the powerful character study “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore,” while Burt Bacharach and Hal David contributed the impressionistic “In the Land of Make Believe.”  From the pens of Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman came the haunting, evocative “The Windmills of Your Mind,” hardly a standard selection for a southern soul album.  The seductive atmosphere continued with Eddie Hinton and Donnie Fritts’ “Breakfast in Bed,” but the song that put Dusty in Memphis on the map was John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins’ “Son of a Preacher Man.”  Springfield’s smoky, sensual vocals convincingly convey the saucy lyric, and the tight band just crackles behind her.  The match of material to artist to musicians achieved on Dusty in Memphis has rarely been matched since.

In Springfield’s native United Kingdom, a 1995 CD reissue on the Mercury label (528-687-2) shifted the sequence of a couple tracks.  The original American CD reissue on Rhino in 1992 (Rhino/Atlantic 70135) offered three bonus tracks: “What Do You Do When Love Dies,” “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” and another Goffin/King song, “Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll).”   “What Do You Do…” was an outtake from the Memphis sessions, while the latter two tracks reteamed Dusty with Memphis producers Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd.  Rhino’s 1999 expansion was a far more lavish affair (R2 75580), expanding the album’s original 11 tracks with 14 bonus cuts (including the three included in 1992).  These songs were of varying vintages and not related to Memphis, though each track is superb and well worth seeking out, including previously-unissued material produced by Jeff Barry and the team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.  The same year Rhino expanded Memphis in America, Springfield’s U.K. label, Mercury/Philips, did the same.  Philips’ slipcased U.K. edition (063-297-2) utilized an alternate cover, similar to that seen above, and offered liner notes by Elvis Costello as well as eight bonus tracks of the album’s mono singles.  Both the Rhino and Philips editions are absolutely indispensable for fans and collectors of the one and only Dusty Springfield.   And who isn’t?

Hit the jump and we’ll meet you in Folsom Prison! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 30, 2011 at 13:01

Reissue Theory: The Cure, “Standing on a Beach/Staring at the Sea”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. The recent success of some U.S. dates from The Cure have us thinking about their first compilation – a must-own for alt-rock fans when it was released a quarter-century ago – and how its best configuration deserves a release on CD.

With a catalogue that stretches back to the late ’70s and starts off far more solidly than most bands, it was a treat to see The Cure celebrate their early years in 2011 with a series of “Reflections” concerts, which saw them perform their first three albums (and more hits and rarities) in their entirety. (The run closed with three shows at New York City’s Beacon Theatre this past weekend, and frontman Robert Smith ended the last concert with a promising “We’ll see you again next year.”)

The run got Second Disc HQ thinking about the band’s first compilation, 1986’s Standing on a Beach: The Singles (or, as it was known on some CD copies, Staring at the Sea), which captured the group’s original gamut of college rock hits (including early classics like “Killing an Arab,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Let’s Go to Bed,” “The Lovecats,” “In Between Days” and “Close to Me”) before 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and 1989’s Disintegration took the group to a beautiful round of crossover pop success.

In retrospect, what made Standing on a Beach so exciting at the time was its clever use of formats. Vinyl listeners had a taut 13 tracks to enjoy on their edition, while CD connoisseurs could take advantage of the longer playing times with an additional four non-single tracks (“10:15 Saturday Night,” “Play for Today,” “Other Voices” and “A Night Like This,” all of which received airplay through their music videos). But cassette owners had it best. The 13 tracks of the vinyl edition of Staring were on one side of the tape, while another dozen “unavailable B-sides” (all previously released on vinyl) made up the other side.

Ultimately, Standing on a Beach became the group’s highest-charting album at the time, peaking at No. 4 in the U.K. and No. 48 in America and ultimately selling two million copies on our shores. Less successful but just as intriguing for collectors was one single released to promote the set: a remix of 1979’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” featuring a new vocal track from Robert Smith. Fans didn’t warm up to the “New Voice – New Mix” too well – Smith’s vocal sort of clashes against the original track, and it only went to No. 22 in 1986 – but there was manna for collectors in the form of two previously unreleased tracks recorded in 1979 on the B-side, “Pillbox Tales” and “Do the Hansa” (the latter of which was performed for the first time by the band, fittingly enough, at their last Reflections show).

While all of the B-sides were collated on Rhino’s Join the Dots box set in 2004 (freeing up space for demos, rough mixes and session material on the label’s ongoing series of deluxe editions), it would be fun to see a reissue of Staring at the Sea with its original B-sides playlist reinstated, as either a two-disc set or a novel cassette reissue. Throw the remixed “Boys” on there (which should make the first time the track’s appeared on CD) and its two B-sides, and you have a nice little curio for collectors.

Go on, go on and check out our dream deluxe arrangement of Standing on a Beach after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 30, 2011 at 12:36

Young Manhood, Revisited: Kings of Leon to Release Vinyl Box Set

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In the past decade, there have been plenty of bands hawked as the one to save rock music and radio from the doldrums it’s sat in for far too long. But few were agreed upon quite like Kings of Leon, whose Southern and blues influences, coupled with some alternative sensibilities and an arena-worthy sound, made them one of the hottest bands in the world of late. And this December, RCA is set to celebrate their path to “hottest band” status with The Early Vinyl, a lavish, seven-LP box set chronicling the first four years of their career.

The box, first announced as a Record Store Day exclusive but now available to order on the band’s official website, will feature remastered, double-vinyl editions of the band’s first three albums, Youth and Young Manhood (2003), Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004) and Because of the Times (2007), as well as Rarely, a bonus LP of studio and live rarities, including four live performances making their debut on any format.

Kings of Leon were officially formed in Nashville, but came of age in Albion, Oklahoma, where their family was raised. Indeed, the band is comprised of three brothers in the Followill family – singer Caleb, bassist Jared, drummer Nathan and guitarist Matthew (a cousin) – and their early style, reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd by way of The Strokes and infused with a touch of their father’s Pentecostal preacher fire, won them a major critical following from the debut release of their Holy Roller Novocaine EP in the summer of 2003.

While their native U.S. was slow to catch on, the U.K. public embraced them warmly. (Youth and Young Manhood sold 750,000 copies in Europe against 100,000 in the States.) In fact, it wasn’t until 2008, with the release of Only by the Night – which peaked at No. 4 in the U.S. and spawned the Top 5 single “Use Somebody,” which won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 2010 – that the Kings got their due in their home country. (It was seemingly short-lived anyway, after the cancellation of this summer’s tour following what some perceived as Caleb Followill’s onstage drunkenness and a subsequent announcement of a temporary hiatus.)

But the release of The Early Vinyl will hopefully take some of that edge off for KoL fans. You can order it at the link above and view the full track lists after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 30, 2011 at 11:17