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Archive for December 13th, 2011

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 12 (#45-41)

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You know the drill: Rolling Stone‘s 100 greatest albums of all time, as assessed by us in terms of their many reissues, to bring you the best-sounding and most thoroughly expanded editions for your buck. The Band literally plays on as we kick off this installment!

45. The Band, The Band (Capitol, 1969)

After the great debut Music from Big Pink the year before, The Band drew on concepts of Americana and rural history for their follow-up. There was no sophomore slump here; guitarist Robbie Robertson’s songwriting was becoming even more top-notch (he wrote or co-wrote every song on the album), and the band was sounding as flawlessly arranged as ever, particularly definitive folk tracks like “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Capitol first released The Band on CD in 1987 (CDP 7 46493 2) and expanded it in 2000 with seven bonus tracks, including a non-LP B-side, “Get Up Jake,” and six alternate takes. (Andrew Sandoval and Dan Hersch mastered this release – Capitol 72435 25389 2 8.) In 2009, Audio Fidelity released a Gold CD mastered by Steve Hoffman (AFZ 032) which featured “Get Up Jake” as a bonus track.

44. Patti Smith, Horses (Arista, 1975)

The New York singer/poet’s incendiary debut was an American forerunner of punk rock, an eclectic mix of jazz and rock that took forms short (straight-ahead rock songs “Redondo Beach” and “Free Money”) and long (the suites “Gloria,” “Birdland” and “Land”). If all you know is Smith’s still gorgeous Bruce Springsteen cover “Because the Night,” this is the one to pick up.

Horses‘ release history on CD is nice and neat. The first release on the format was in 1988 (Arista ARCD-8362), followed by a remaster by Vic Anesini in 1996 (Arista 07822 18827-2) which featured one bonus track, a live cover of The Who’s “My Generation.” In 2005, a Legacy Edition was released (Arista/Legacy 82876 71198-2); officially titled Horses/Horses, it features the same contents of the ’96 reissue (albeit remastered by Greg Calbi) and a bonus disc featuring a live performance of the whole album (and “My Generation”) from London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2005, with Television’s Tom Verlaine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea serving as part of the backing band.

After the jump, a trip to the dark side, the debut of an iconic ’60s band and the punk rock statement of the millennium!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 13, 2011 at 23:19

The First Day of Second Discmas

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With Christmas less than two weeks away, we’ve of course been thinking about the best reissues and catalogue titles of 2011. But this year, we’re celebrating a little bit differently: for the most giving time of the year, we reached out to some of our favorite reissue labels and are playing Santa Claus to our awesome and faithful readers. We’re calling it – what else? – Second Discmas, and it’s going on through the rest of the month!

Our first giveaway is a real treat: If you love piano-based power pop, you probably consider Ben Folds in the upper echelon of the subgenre. From his early days writing gorgeous hooks with an edge as the anchor of pop trio Ben Folds Five, to a satisfying solo career that’s found him branching out into soundtrack writing, reality show judging and collaborations with everyone from William Shatner to Nick Hornby, there’s a lot of ground to cover, no.matter how big a fan you are.

This year, Folds and Epic/Legacy took fans down memory lane with The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. The three-disc set combined Folds’ greatest works with BF5 and on his own, alongside a healthy helping of unreleased live and studio cuts and the first new Ben Folds Five recordings in over a decade.

We have two copies of this to give away for you, and winning is crazy easy! All you do is send an email to theseconddisc (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject head “Second Discmas.” You have until 3:00 pm EST to enter, but here’s the great part: your entry qualifies you for ALL of our giveaways (until you win, of course!). And this is just the first of many prizes to come, so enter now and stay tuned for all our drawings!

Written by Mike Duquette

December 13, 2011 at 15:00

Holiday Gift Guide Review: Leonard Cohen, “The Complete Columbia Albums Collection”

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Welcome to our Second Disc Holiday Gift Guide, in which we review some titles we might have missed over the past few weeks!  The titles we’re spotlighting in this occasional series just might be candidates on your own holiday shopping list!

It’s hard to believe that Leonard Cohen was once tarred with the infamous “New Dylan” brush, even though he was in rather rarefied company alongside other “New Dylans” like Loudon Wainwright III and even Bruce Springsteen.  Sure, both Mr. Cohen and the former Mr. Zimmerman shared non-traditional voices and a gift for truly literate lyrics.  Both made their recording debuts on Columbia Records, and even shared a producer, Bob Johnston.  But the similarities largely end there.  When Songs of Leonard Cohen was issued in late 1967, Dylan himself was still the new Dylan!  Currently about to enter his 50th year as a recording artist, Bob Dylan barely had five years under his belt in 1967.  Thanks to the herculean efforts of Columbia Records and Legacy, Leonard Cohen’s own 44-year career can now be assessed in one remarkable collection sure to inspire a breed of “new Cohens.”

Leonard Cohen: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Columbia/Legacy 88697 87184 2) is a 17-album, 18-disc set offering the complete live and studio albums of one of Canada’s favorite sons.  From 1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen to 2010’s Songs from the Road, the box set contains the arc of the uncompromising career of one of the few men in rock who can truly be called a poet.  As with the most of Legacy’s Complete Albums Collection box sets, the emphasis is on the music.  The sturdy if no-frills cardboard box contains mini-LP replica jackets for each disc (every one adorned with the red Columbia label) and a 36-page booklet containing a brief essay by novelist Pico Iyer as well as credits for every album.

The one thing missing that would immeasurably enhance a set such as this would be a lyric booklet; while Cohen’s melodies deserve due credit, the man is one of rock’s purest poets, and his words are paramount.  By the 1967 release of the simply-titled Songs of Leonard Cohen, he was already an established author, but his early efforts included here make it clear that he didn’t enter music as a dilettante.

A seriousness of purpose, and a somber atmosphere, marks Cohen’s early album efforts.  Songs of Leonard Cohen employed subtle orchestrations to flesh out the composer’s stark melodies, while producer John Simon brought out the baroque and folk-rock flourishes here and there.  One could even imagine the Mamas and the Papas on the backing vocals to “So Long, Marianne.”  Cohen explores the foibles of love and lust in this dark collection of songs, with frequently spiritual overtones; the first song on the first album of the box set, “Suzanne,” was likely Cohen’s most famous song until “Hallejulah” came along, and it remains  a perfectly crafted character study about a mysterious woman who still spellbinds.  Religious references abound (“Suzanne,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “The Stranger Song”) as does a percolating anger; the darker moments could be offset by Cohen’s dry, infrequently emotive vocals, but his disaffected vocal actually demands concentration and enhances the haunting nature of the songs, even in their gentler moments (“Travelin’ Lady”).

Cohen’s first three albums are often considered of a piece, although each of these albums has its strengths and unique character.  Bob Johnston encouraged a less-intricately arranged approach to Cohen’s 1969 follow-up, Songs from a Room, which is highlighted by the stunning “Bird on the Wire.”  The presence of Nashville session musicians including Charlie Daniels (yes, that Charlie Daniels!) lends a unique air to these albums, as well.  Cohen’s on-the-nose album names continued with his third, 1970’s Songs of Love and Hate.  And yes, you’ll find those, but throughout the albums here, you’ll also note songs of suicide, of despair, of pain, of death, of addiction.  (Love and Hate’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” later gave its title to Jennifer Warnes’ acclaimed album of Cohen compositions, while “Dress Rehearsal Rag” is a fascinating, twisting song that is far weightier than its title would indicate: “But you’ve used up all your coupons /except the one that seems to be written on your wrist along with several thousand dreams/Now Santa Claus comes forward, that’s a razor in his mitt; and he puts on his dark glasses and he shows you where to hit.”)  Cohen’s favorite recurring themes come sharply into focus on The Complete Collection.  It’s a great luxury to travel with the artist through this chronological set, illuminating those previously overlooked avenues.

After that initial three-year burst of creativity, Cohen’s studio albums arrived with less frequency.  Only eight more such albums have followed in the ensuing 40+ years.  Over these subsequent collections, you’ll hear Cohen aging gracefully into his voice, which sounded old and wizened before its time.  With producer and arranger John Lissauer (who added greater instrumental textures including strings, woodwinds, banjo, mandolin, trombone, trumpets and more), he returned for 1974’s New Skin for the Old Ceremony.  One of Cohen’s best albums, New Skin challenged listeners with more oblique lyrics about, well, love and hate, but even when the lyrics are oblique, the master craftsman gets the message across with his use of big, bold imagery.  Sexual, religious and cultural references all abound in songs like “Is This What You Wanted” (“You were the promise at dawn, I was the morning after/You were Jesus Christ my Lord, I was the money lender.  You were the sensitive woman, I was the very reverend Freud/You were the manual orgasm, I was the dirty little boy”) and “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” which frankly draws on Cohen’s relationship with Janis Joplin: “I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel, you were talking so brave and so sweet, giving me head on the unmade bed, while the limousines wait in the street.”  Cohen’s honesty is disarming, with the song’s final line the equivalent of a punch in the stomach: “I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best, I can’t keep track of each fallen robin. I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel, that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.”  Janis Ian joins Cohen to provide backing vocals on this most purely musical of Cohen’s albums.

After the jump, Cohen meets Phil Spector, embraces the eighties, and emerges as an elder statesman of music! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 13, 2011 at 12:36

Intrada Ends Banner Year, Boldly Goes Where Few Have Gone Before

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Intrada knows how to another great year of soundtracks: with three oft-requested and legendary soundtracks, all expanded and mostly unlimited.

By far the biggest news for contemporary score fans is the news of another expanded score from the Star Trek universe. The past few years have seen expanded scores for four Trek films (1982’s The Wrath of Khan, 1984’s The Search for Spock, 1989’s The Final Frontier and 2009’s reboot of the franchise) and two collections of music from the beloved The Next Generation television series.

Intrada puts in its first Trek entry with Leonard Rosenman’s music to 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. One of the most accessible entries in the series, Voyage sees the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise journey to San Francisco in our then-present day to save humpback whales from extinction, thereby preventing an intergalactic probe from crippling the future Earth’s power grid. The unlimited Intrada reissue presents the complete score to the film, including  album alternates and other newly-unearthed extras (including a much-coveted alternate version of the opening titles that draws more from Alexander Courage’s iconic television theme song).

But that’s far from the only riches in Intrada’s year-end batch. The label has a thorough, unlimited expansion of Jerry Goldsmith’s score to the 1966 war film The Sand Pebbles (expanded by Varese Sarabande in 2002). The double-disc set, featuring music from the Robert Wise-directed picture starring Steve McQueen in his only Oscar-nominated performance, features newly-remixed score cues and 18 alternate and source cues, all in stereo. And finally, there’s a limited pressing of the soundtrack to The Wrong Box, a 1966 Victorian-era black comedy scored by legendary James Bond composer John Barry, featuring the rare stereo version of the original soundtrack (sourced from a mint LP, as original masters have been lost) as well as some session-tape sourced bonus tracks in mono and stereo.

Hit the jump for full track breakdowns and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 13, 2011 at 09:38

Holiday Gift Guide Review: Have Yourself a Real Gone Christmas

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Welcome to our Second Disc Holiday Gift Guide, in which we review some titles we might have missed over the past few weeks!  The titles we’re spotlighting in this occasional series just might be candidates on your own holiday shopping list!

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to alleviate holiday stress than with the sounds of the season?  Terrestrial radio stations are sending holiday music over the airwaves earlier with every passing year, and by now, it’s hard to turn the dial without hearing Andy Williams, Bing Crosby and Bobby Helms spreading some seasonal joy.    But if you’re in the market for some off-the-beaten-path Christmas tunes, has Real Gone Music got a trio of titles for you!

The recently-launched record label took advantage of the November berth for its initial batch of titles, including in that group no fewer than three Christmas releases.  Each and every one features rare material that’s new to CD, making these true must-haves for the holiday music connoisseur.   Cameo-Parkway Holiday Hits (Real Gone/ABKCO RGM-0009) was previously a digital-only release, and brings together eighteen diverse tracks from the 1960s heyday of the Philadelphia hit factory.  The David Rose Christmas Album (Real Gone RGM-0013) offers eleven slices of orchestral merriment from the man behind “The Stripper,” and Christmas with Ed Ames/Christmas is the Warmest Time of Year (Real Gone RGM-0014) compiles Ames’ 1967 and 1970 RCA albums on one CD.

Though Cameo-Parkway was known for its dance crazes (“The Twist,” “Mashed Potato Time”) and its great vocal group harmonies, Holiday Hits proves that the label had quite a diverse roster.  The eclectic line-up features pop, doo-wop, country, comedy, orchestral and even a hint of Mexico!  Of course, what Cameo collection would be complete without a contribution from Chubby Checker?  We’re happy to report that this one doesn’t disappoint.  Checker joins Bobby Rydell for both sides of a seasonally-themed single, “Jingle Bell Rock” b/w “Jingle Bells Imitations.” Chubby can’t resist shout-outs for a “Jingle Bell Twist” (and a call to Pony Time!) into “Jingle Bell Rock,” but the fun doesn’t stop there; on the B-side, Rydell and Checker offer their best impersonations of Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin and even The Chipmunks!

Did you ever wonder what a holiday meeting between Bobby Kennedy and Bobby, er, Bob Dylan would have been like?  Wonder no more.  Dylan is spoofed singing “White Christmas” as Bobby the Poet in the track subtitled “3 O’Clock Weather Report,” itself a parody of Simon and Garfunkel’s “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night.”  If only Dylan had tackled the Irving Berlin standard on his own Christmas in the Heart for comparison’s sake!  The Poet’s rendition, though, is quite credible, as is its harmonica part!  (“And all your Christmases be whiiiiiite, babe!”)

Speaking of wild tracks, they don’t come much more bizarre than a “Deliverance”-style rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” courtesy Bob Johnson and the Lonesome Travelers!  Less outré are the orchestral cuts both staid (the “International Pop Orchestra’s “Joy to the World,” “The First Noel,” “Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing” and “Deck the Halls”) and brassy (The Rudolph Statler Orchestra’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Let It Snow!”).  The pseudonymous Beethoven Ben offers honky-tonk piano on his “Auld Lang Syne, and if The Mexicana Marimba Band didn’t make for a serious threat to the Bajas, the group’s “Twelve Days of Christmas” is an A&M-worthy delight.

Curtis Mayfield appears on the romantic “I’ll Stay Home (New Year’s Eve)” from The Jaynells, and The Cameos offer lushly sung originals, “Merry Christmas” and “New Year’s Eve,” a different song than the one assayed by The Jaynells.  Less romantic is the young Bob Seger’s frenetically-rocking “Sock It to Me, Santa,” a riff on “Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”  The holidays don’t get much more fun, and more irreverent, than the best tracks on this compilation!  Bob Ludwig and Joe Yannece have done a solid job remastering.

Hit the jump to continue our yuletide journey! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 13, 2011 at 09:22

Release Round-Up: Week of December 13

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The Marvelettes, Forever More: The Complete Motown Albums, Volume 2 (Hip-o Select/Motown)

A four-disc box presenting the last four of The Marvelettes’ albums (two of which are in stereo and mono) alongside rare and unreleased gems from the storied Motown vaults.

Smokey Robinson, The Solo Albums Volume 6: Warm Thoughts / Being with You (Hip-o Select/Motown)

Smokey’s early-’80s comeback, represented with these two LPs on one CD (Warm Thoughts bows on the format for the first time!) along with a couple of bonus tracks.

Rammstein, Made in Germany 1995-2011 (Vagrant)

The German metal band’s first career-spanning compilation, available as a standard CD, a deluxe edition with a bonus disc of remixes and a super-deluxe box with DVDs full of videos.

Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash / Gary Wright, Dream Weaver (Audio Fidelity)

The newest 24K gold CDs are a classic folk debut and a ’70s pop breakthrough. Just typing this got “Dream Weaver” stuck in my head; may it stick into yours.

The Monkees, Greatest Hits / The Grateful Dead, Built to Last (Friday Music)

180-gram vinyl reissues of The Monkees’ first compilation and the Dead’s last studio effort.

Written by Mike Duquette

December 13, 2011 at 08:18