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Archive for December 5th, 2011

Motown Magic: The Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson Album Anthologies Continue

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There’s Motown magic in the air! Though the year is drawing to a close, the fine folks at Hip-o Select are making sure that there are plenty of sounds from the Motor City to fill the stockings of even the most discerning music collectors. The label has just announced the continuation of two series of comprehensive archival releases. The 4-CD set Forever More: The Complete Motown Albums Vol. 2 collects the remaining output of the marvelous Marvelettes, the first girl group to make a splash at the House that Gordy Built.  It will be joined by Smokey Robinson’s The Solo Albums, Volume 6, collecting Warm Thoughts (1980) and Being with You (1981); the former title is making its first-ever appearance on CD!  Both releases arrive at retail on December 13, but Forever More is available at Hip-o Select itself. (We’re still looking for an entry from Select for the Smokey set, but Amazon links will be found below.)

When The Marvelettes implored a certain Mr. Postman to wait, oh, yes, wait a minute, America fell in love with Gladys Horton, Wanda Young, Georgeanna Tillman, Wyanetta Cowart and Katherine Anderson.    The song became Motown’s first No. 1, and the Marvelettes seemed destined for greatness.  But the group that started it all soon found themselves taking a back seat to other groups like Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and of course, The Supremes.   The Marvelettes’ early years were chronicled in Forever: The Complete Motown Albums Vol. 1, the 3-CD anthology which collected the group’s first six albums plus singles, B-sides and rarities.  The 108-track Forever More: The Complete Motown Albums Vol. 2 brings the Marvelettes’ story to a close, including the group’s final four albums: The Marvelettes, or The Pink Album (1967), Sophisticated Soul (1968), In Full Bloom (1969) and The Return of the Marvelettes (1970).

Following the format of the first set, all of the non-LP single and B-sides will be appended, as well as rarities originally issued on various compilations.  The fourth CD may be the most fascinating, however.  This Lost & Found disc premieres Marvelettes tracks from the Motown vaults, including never-before-heard songs written and produced by Smokey Robinson, Norman Whitfield, Mickey Stevenson, Johnny Bristol and more.  These tracks span the group’s entire Motown career.  The cherry on top on the sundae just may be the rare mono versions of the albums The Marvelettes and Sophisticated Soul; the latter was never even issued commercially. Forever More is packaged in a digipak in the same style as Volume 1, and contains a 40-page booklet with photos, original LP artwork reproductions, track annotations and an essay by Stu Hackel.

What songs can you expect to hear?  Hit the jump for more on The Marvelettes, plus the scoop on Smokey Robinson’s The Solo Albums Volume 6, and full track listings with discographical annotation for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 5, 2011 at 14:02

Flashback With The Bee Gees’ “Main Course”

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When Warner Music Group’s Rhino arm announced its licensing of the Bee Gees catalogue in 2006, hopes were high, and the campaign’s initial release certainly didn’t disappoint. The Studio Albums: 1967-1968 contained expanded mono/stereo editions of the group’s first three “canon” albums with a generous amount of unissued tracks. The promise of more collections to come from the Brothers Gibb archives was particularly enticing. Then, the 30th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever came and went, with a remastered edition of the seminal soundtrack album released with no additional material or new packaging. After that, a lavish boxed set devoted to the Odessa album arrived, but nothing else has emerged except for a couple of decent greatest hits reissues and a 4-CD box set, Mythology, that hit stores in 2010 after a one-year delay.

Another Bee Gees title is reissued tomorrow, December 6, and it’s a bit of a surprise.  1975’s Main Course was the first “disco” album from Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, and despite containing such hits as “Nights on Broadway” and “Jive Talkin’,” it’s been unavailable since the original Polydor CD went out of print.  (A small number of the Bee Gees’ Polydor albums were immediately reissued under the Rhino banner in 2006 with no additional content or new packaging.  Main Course, oddly, wasn’t among them.)  With no fanfare at all, Rhino’s budget Flashback line has restored Main Course to the catalogue.  As of tomorrow, the Bee Gees classic will be available once again for around five bucks from your local retailer.   It’s a mystery why, at the very least, all of the remaining Bee Gees titles haven’t gotten this treatment; titles like 2 Years On, Here at Last and To Whom It May Concern (just to name a few) all remain out-of-print and expensive in the secondhand market.

Hit the jump for more, including the complete track listing and pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 5, 2011 at 12:02

Posted in Bee Gees, News, Reissues

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 6 (#75-71)

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The hits just keep on coming! The latest part of our TSD Buyers Guide, which counts the reissues of the albums in Rolling Stone‘s 100 greatest albums of all time (as selected in 2003), features some classic hard rock and soul and a lot of CD pressings (if not as many bonus tracks in this batch). We begin below with one of the heaviest albums of all time!

75. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic, 1969)

Led Zeppelin II is arguably the band’s heaviest and rawest work in studio, in part because it was recorded almost on the run between tour dates. And yet, it never sounded ragged, thanks to a myriad of factors, chiefly guitarist Jimmy Page’s increasing proficiency as a producer and the mixing talents of Eddie Kramer to give the proceedings some consistency. The band’s writing was fresh and spontaneous; song ideas were often born during onstage jams and remembered  when it came time to come back in the studio. But when the album kicked The Beatles’ Let It Be out of the top of the Billboard charts, and single “Whole Lotta Love” climbed to the Top 5, it was clear that this wasn’t just dumb luck at play – this was the beginning of a bold new movement in rock and roll.

Led Zeppelin II‘s first appearance outside of its standard LP was a half-speed-mastered audiophile pressing by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 1982 (MFSL 1-065); it was followed up eight years later by the premiere release CD (Atlantic 19127-2) mastered for CD by Barry Diament. Those original CDs were roundly criticized by audiophiles for being mastered not from the original tapes, but from vinyl masters instead. Jimmy Page personally oversaw a remastering of the catalogue with George Marino at Sterling Sound, the final products of which became the basis for several box sets, including the iconic 1990 box set (Atlantic 7 82144-2) and its 1993 sequel (Atlantic 7 82477-2), the 1990 two-disc compilation Remasters (Atlantic 7 80415-2), 1993’s The Complete Studio Recordings (Atlantic 7 82526-2) – which sequenced all the material from the two box sets (including the bonus material) into their original running orders over ten discs. (The LZ II remaster was released on its own in 1994, as Atlantic 82633-2.) These same masters were used for Japanese SHM-CD remasters (Atlantic WPCR-11612, 2003 and WPCR-13131, 2008) that were compiled into another box set in 2008 (The Definitive Collection – Atlantic WPCR-13142; later released on standard CDs in America as Atlantic R2 513820).

74. Otis Redding, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (Volt, 1965)

With his third album, Otis Redding proved himself a pioneer of soul and a chief architect of the white-hot Stax/Volt sound that’s set music geeks’ hearts aflutter for a half-century. Although much of the material was covers, from The Rolling Stones (“Satisfaction”) and The Temptations (“My Girl”) to B.B. King (“Rock Me Baby”) and Sam Cooke (“Shake,” “Wonderful World,” “A Change is Gonna Come”), that pleading vocal style, coupled with one of the greatest backing bands ever (guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, Isaac Hayes on keyboards and drums from Al Jackson, Jr.), made them sound as original as anything Otis had ever done on record before. And the two originals – the weary “Ole Man Trouble” and the unforgettable “Respect” (later an anthem for another member of soul’s royal family) – are definitive chapters in the book of rhythm and blues.

Otis Blue made its CD debut in 1991, remastered by – as would be custom for many Rhino-friendly titles – Bill Inglot and Dan Hersch at DigiPrep (ATCO 7 80318-2). A gold disc (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 575) followed two years later. Then, in 2008, Rhino expanded Otis Blue in a big way, as a two-disc collector’s set (Rhino R2 422140) that offered both mono and stereo mixes of the album (the latter making its CD debut and featuring alternate versions of some of the tracks on the more widely heard mono version), various alternates and remixes and a host of live material taken in part from several previously available on CD live albums.

From blue, we’re going to black, purple and gold after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 5, 2011 at 12:00

Birth of a Big Star: Omnivore Expands Alex Chilton’s 1970 Recordings

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Over a year and a half after his untimely passing in the spring of 2010, former Box Tops and Big Star frontman Alex Chilton’s loss leaves a profound hole in the hearts of power pop lovers everywhere. Leave it to one of our favorite up-and-coming reissue labels, Omnivore Recordings, to memorialize him twice this year – first with a special vinyl reissue of Big Star’s Third for Record Store Day, and now with Free Again: The 1970 Sessions, an expansive look at his songwriting work just before Big Star was assembled.

That year, Chilton was 19, and one of the few people that young who could claim having a hand in a No. 1 hit. (His was the yearning voice of The Box Tops’ “The Letter,” which spent four weeks atop the Billboard charts.) The band had split in February of 1970, having only boasted two original members at the time (Chilton and guitarist Gary Talley). Chilton began pursuing a solo career, writing his own material for the first time and learning guitar by listening to soul sides on Stax (who would distribute works for Ardent Records, including, ultimately, Big Star themselves).

These compositions (bolstered by a few studio covers) might not lack the polish of Big Star’s still-monumental debut #1 Record, but they are worth hearing as the first of Chilton’s own songwriting work. He was singing other people’s songs in The Box Tops, and thus only now coming into his own as a writer. And while a good portion of this work has been released before, save three compositions and two alternate mixes, this is easily the most comprehensive offering of this material.

And Omnivore is offering Free Again: The 1970 Sessions in a few formats: a 20-track CD, a 12-track LP (the first 1,500 of which will be pressed on clear vinyl) and a special, online-exclusive vinyl bundle, 500 copies of which will be made, that features the LP with a bonus 7″ single of unreleased track “All We Ever Got from Them Was Pain” and its demo (which is only available on this single). All can be pre-ordered at Omnivore’s store for a January 10 release.

Check out the full track list after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 5, 2011 at 10:48