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Archive for December 22nd, 2011

The Eighth Day of Second Discmas

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Well, friends, all good things must come to an end, but we couldn’t be more excited with the offerings we have for you today, the final day of Second Discmas!

Courtesy of our terrific friends at Rhino Entertainment, we’ve got an amazing pack of three of the label’s finest Handmade releases of 2011: the expanded 2-CD box set of The Beau BrummelsBradley’s Barn; the first-ever release of the heavy psychedelia of Iron Butterfly‘s Fillmore East 1968; and finally, the brand-new, hot-off-the-presses 3-CD/1-7″ single box set of The MonkeesInstant Replay!

And that’s not all.  Not one, not two, but three winners will take home this exciting collection of some of the grooviest and altogether most adventurous music reissued in 2011!

You can be one of the lucky winners of the Rhino Handmade 3-pack by e-mailing us (theseconddisc (at) gmail (dot) com)!  Just be sure to include your name, city and state in your email, with “Rhino” (what else?) in your subject line!

But that’s not your only way to win!  You can also “like” this post as it appears on Facebook or retweet the post on Twitter!  Drawings for The Beau Brummels/Iron Butterfly/The Monkees must be received by Friday, December 23, at 3:00 p.m. EST.  And if you’ve already entered a previous Second Discmas drawing, you’re still eligible to take this prize home!

Winners for Week 2 of Second Discmas, including the Rhino 3-pack, will be announced tomorrow, Friday, December 23, after this drawing has closed.  Thanks, everybody, for entering, and good luck!

Written by Joe Marchese

December 22, 2011 at 15:04

Holiday Gift Guide Review: Tony Bennett, “The Complete Collection”

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Welcome back 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!

Tony Bennett’s heart may be in San Francisco, but his soul can be found in a case measuring roughly 11 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches.  For within those modest dimensions is housed some 65 years of music, spanning 1946 to 2011, over 73 CDs and 3 DVDs.  And modesty might be one of Bennett’s musical bywords.  Nowhere in The Complete Collection (Columbia/RPM/Legacy 88697 87460-2, 2011) will you find the Bennett answer to “My Way,” “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” “I’m Still Here” or “If I Never Sing Another Song.”  There’s no grand statement here of the singer’s individuality or longevity, though both qualities are very much in evidence.  What you will find is Tony Bennett through good times and bum times, through jazz, swing, pop, rock and roll, blues, country, soul, cabaret, classical, and every other genre the consummate singer has touched upon in a legendary career.  (He did sit out disco.  Bennett, the recording artist, took a hiatus between 1977 and 1986.)  The release of such a collection is long overdue.  When Frank Sinatra was receiving complete box sets from RCA Victor, Columbia, Capitol and Reprise, and Dean Martin was being comprehensively collected by Bear Family, the catalogue of their fellow Italian-American compatriot in song was only being sporadically addressed.   Now, The Complete Collection is here, taking in recordings for Columbia, Roulette, MGM/Verve, Fantasy, Improv and Hallmark.  One of the most important bodies of work of any American musical artist is excitingly accessible, and preserved for generations to come in an attractive home.  So why is there a slightly bitter aftertaste to such a sweet prospect?  When we’re speaking of The Complete Collection, “complete” isn’t quite “complete.”  But Bennett himself has long followed Johnny Mercer’s edict to “ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive” (recorded on The Playground, or Disc 64, for those keeping tabs on such things) so I’ll follow suit.

Many of the fine, recent complete box sets produced by the Legacy Recordings team have been packaged in smallish cubes; Bennett’s set (like a previous one for Miles Davis) comes in the heftier size, sturdy and with a flip-top lid.  Each disc is presented in a replica LP mini-sleeve; each Columbia album is adorned with the same red label, with the musical-note-and-microphone artwork, and original record label logos are present for the non-Columbia albums, too.  This is all well and good, but what’s within the grooves counts most, and boy, does this music count…and soar…and swing…and explode with sincerity, intensity and vitality.  Just ponder for a moment now: there are 76 albums, or 1,020 songs, and over 20 of those albums are making their premiere CD appearances anywhere.  Only Bear Family’s comprehensive, historically-minded sets for Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney and others can approach this set in scope and stature.

Those new-to-CD albums mark the most immediate revelations in The Complete Collection.  Many of these albums deserve individual attention, but we’ll focus instead on two of the most eagerly anticipated.  Hometown, My Town (1959) was recorded with arranger Ralph Burns, a familiar Broadway presence from his orchestrations of such musicals as Chicago (still heard eight times a week in 2011) and Sweet Charity.  Despite its brief 6-song length, Hometown shows that Bennett was as capable as Sinatra at crafting a concept album encompassing a variety of moods.  The bustling, brassy street sounds of “Skyscraper Blues,” an extended multi-part composition, make way for the lush, wistful tones of “Penthouse Serenade” and then the swinging, upbeat-in-the-face-of-angst treatment of Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s standard “By Myself.”  The juxtaposition of melancholy and optimism is made clear by the back-to-back treatment of “I Cover the Waterfront” and “Our Love is Here to Stay,” and Bennett sums it all up tidily with “The Party’s Over.”  The brief Hometown is a fine prequel to Astoria: Portrait of the Artist (1990, previously available on CD) on which Bennett’s New York background again informs each track as he revisits his past (“When Do the Bells Ring for Me,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “A Little Street Where Old Friends Meet,” “I’ll Come Home Again.”)  He was supported on Astoria by the Ralph Sharon Trio and the orchestra of Jorge Calandrelli.

Another CD debut – actually, a debut, period – is the previously-unissued On the Glory Road (1962).  The song “De Glory Road” was written in 1928, part of the same spiritual tradition as the more familiar “The Lonesome Road.”  Bennett and his arranger and conductor Ralph Sharon built an entire album around this story of a former sinner who now sings “loud Hallejulah songs” on Earth.  Though not often singing explicitly of salvation, doesn’t Bennett continue to this day to spread the gospel of the Great American Songbook?  The other songs on Glory Road aren’t stylistically similar to the title song, but it does encapsulate Bennett’s positive message as the album’s closing track.    Though three of the album’s cuts (“Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” “You’ve Changed,” “Caravan”) were salvaged for 1964’s The Many Moods of Tony, the balance remained unreleased.  That later album’s title could have applied to the earlier album, as well, on which Bennett surrounds “De Glory Road” with the sounds of Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Kurt Weill, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.  No wonder he found salvation with a line-up of songwriters like that!

We continue our journey with Bennett after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 22, 2011 at 10:25