The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for January 9th, 2012

Edsel January Preview: Rundgren, Chapin, Gosdin, Manhattan Transfer, Jo Jo Gunne Kick Off 2012

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What kind of year will 2012 be?  If the first batch of releases, slated for January 30 release, from the Edsel label is any indication, there’s plenty of rare and well-done music on the way!

A three albums-on-two-CDs package collects the entirety of Todd Rundgren’s Warner Bros. Records period.  A Cappella/Nearly Human/2nd Wind continues Edsel’s definitive series which brings Rundgren’s solo and Utopia output on both Bearsville and Warner Bros. under one umbrella.  The studio wizard’s decision to record an album with nothing other than his own voice caused dissension between the artist and Bearsville Records, but Warner Bros. stepped in, resulting in the album which leads off this set.  Thanks to both the versatility of Rundgren’s vocal instrument and his embrace of the most current technology then available, 1985’s A Cappella holds up today as much more than just a studio experiment.  Even with the avant garde arrangement, “Something to Fall Back On” is pure pop bliss.  He anticipates his future gig as writer of an off-Broadway musical with the theatrical “Miracle in the Bazaar” and “Lockjaw,” just two of the songs in which he takes on offbeat character voices.  He even nods to his Philly roots with an update of “Mighty Love,” the Detroit Spinners classic originally produced by Thom Bell.  A Cappella has been expanded with the rare extended mix of “Something to Fall Back On,” which extends the song’s length by nearly two minutes.  After A Cappella, Rundgren returned in 1989 and 1991 with the two albums that might be considered his farewell to traditional pop/rock.

Nearly Human (split over Disc 1 and Disc 2) was produced with a simple mandate by the artist: record a set of songs that could be performed live.  To that end, it was recorded live with few overdubs.  Rundgren intuitively knew that these songs needed to be strong enough to stand on their own; stand they did, and do.  The forward-thinking singer still was anxious to employ the latest studio technology, though, and Nearly Human was recorded on a 32-track digital system.  Bobby Womack joined Rundgren for the potent soul brew of “The Want of a Nail” (“For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost/For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost/For the want of a horse, the rider was lost/For the want of a rider/The message was lost”), one of Rundgren’s most poignant works.  Equally good is “Parallel Lines,” from that aforementioned musical, Up Against It.  Rundgren tipped his hat to Elvis Costello with a cover of the latter’s “Two Little Hitlers,” and employed an unusual 22-voice choir for “I Love My Life.”  Among the singers was the late, great Big Man himself, Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band.

The Nearly Human ethos was taken to the next step for 2nd Wind.  Whereas that album was mostly performed live in the studio, 2nd Wind was actually recorded live in San Francisco, in front of an audience instructed to remain silent!  His goal, as quoted by Paul Myers in the reissue’s terrific and copious liner notes, was to make it “sound like a studio album, yet still retain that extra thing that only happens when you’re playing for an audience.”  Despite the failure of Up Against It after just 16 performances in 1989, the musical received Drama Desk nominations (though not Tony Awards as stated in the notes, as off-Broadway musicals are ineligible for that recognition) and Rundgren resuscitated three of its songs for 2nd Wind: “The Smell of Money,” “Love in Disguise” and the standout ballad “If I Have to Be Alone.”  The driving “Change Myself” should have been Rundgren’s bid at a final radio hit, with its big hook and smart, honest lyric: “How can I change the world/When I can’t change myself?…If I want more love in the world/I must show more love to myself.”  A full-color, 30-page booklet (with Myers’ notes and full lyrics) accompanies this release.

Hit the jump for a look at what’s coming from Harry Chapin and Vern Gosdin, plus Jo Jo Gunne and Manhattan Transfer! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 9, 2012 at 12:45

Friday’s Child: David Bowie’s “Hours” Expanded and Remastered

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Has it really been over eight years since David Bowie released his final studio album to date, Reality?  Bowie turned 65 yesterday, quietly enjoying what may be his retirement.  But it doesn’t seem like so long ago that the musician was still considered prolific; Reality came hot on the heels of 2002’s Heathen.  And Heathen seemed to signify a new era for Bowie, his first album for the venerable Columbia Records after a stint at Virgin, for which 1999’s Hours… was the final release.  All of these single-word-titled albums seemed to reveal a contented David Bowie, still probing but more subtle in his exploration of new sounds and musical frontiers.  And although the artist met with great acclaim reuniting at Columbia with producer Tony Visconti on both Heathen and Reality, his stylistically eclectic Virgin efforts are worthy of reexamination.  When Bowie took his catalogue to Columbia in 2002, he brought along the Virgin titles with him, and now, the Columbia reissue of Hours… (expanded with five bonus tracks from the original CD) is itself being reissued and remastered for 2012 by Friday Music.

Co-writing and co-producing each track on the album with guitarist Reeves Gabrels (of Bowie’s side project Tin Machine), Bowie seemed in his comfort zone on Hours…, subtly drawing on his classic sound while still maintaining a contemporary feel.  (Indeed, the collision between past and present was even alluded to on the cover, with a short-haired, elder Bowie cradled by his long-haired, more youthful self.)  Gabrels had been a major presence in Bowie’s music throughout the 1990s, and some musical elements on Hours… were adapted from music written by the duo for the 1999 video game Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

Despite strong material like the mid-tempo single “Thursday’s Child,” “Seven” (later remixed by artists such as Beck and Marius DeVries) and “The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell” (utilized in the 1999 horror film Stigmata), Hours… has the distinction of being Bowie’s first long-player to miss the Top 40 albums chart in the United States.  It peaked at No. 47.  Perhaps sensing that a clean break was needed, Bowie departed EMI/Virgin after Hours…, and signed with Columbia Records where his own ISO label was established.  He took his Virgin catalogue with him, and Columbia reissued Outside, Earthling and Hours… in expanded form.    As all three albums had extensive bonus material released on various international singles, expanded editions were inevitable.  A 10-CD box set (the rather plainly titled David Bowie Box) was released in 2007 with each of the five albums in a 2-CD edition.  The Hours… bonus disc included 17 related tracks; all five songs heard on Friday’s new remaster are present on that deluxe edition.

Hit the jump for more, including the full track listing plus discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 9, 2012 at 09:55

Posted in David Bowie, News, Reissues