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Archive for January 30th, 2012

All Hail the “King of the Beats”: Mantronix Anthology Released

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Here’s an overlooked treat released last week: a double-disc compilation honoring influential hip-hop/dance duo Mantronix.

In the mid-1980s, as the New York rap scene blossomed and all sorts of rhythms were seeping into pop music, fewer dance acts were more exciting than Mantronix. Comprised of DJ/producer Kurtis Mantronik (nee el-Khaleel) and rapper MC Tee, Mantronix won club kids over with their sample-ready electronic sounds, combining processed beats, synthesized bass and turntable scratches to create something that sounded like the logical sonic progression from “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force or Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s “The Message.”

After the success of Billboard dance hit “Fresh is the Word” and the release of independent album Mantronix: The Album in 1985 (featuring tracks sampled or referenced by the likes of Beck and The Beastie Boys), Mantronix began to produce for other acts on their Sleeping Bag Records label before signing to Capitol in 1987 in one of the first seven-figure deals for a hip-hop act. MC Tee left the group for the Air Force in 1988, and Mantronik added rappers Bryce Wilson and DJ D. (and later singer Jade Trini in DJ D.’s place). Later singles like “Got to Have Your Love” were U.K. hits, but Mantronik left the music business for a long spell in 1991.

Traffic Entertainment Group, who expanded Mantronix: The Album in 2008 with a bonus disc of vintage mixes and edits, now presents King of the Beats 1985-1988, an overview of the band’s Sleeping Bag years, featuring 12″ mixes and album cuts from The Album and follow-up Music Madness (1986) as well as rare Mantronix productions for Just-Ice and T La Rock.

King of the Beats is out now and yours to order after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

January 30, 2012 at 18:22

Review: “Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia, Live in San Francisco 1973”

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No love, no peace, no shoes on my feet…no home, just a shack where I sleep…

In the fall of 1971, Philadelphia International Records launched its long-playing series with Billy Paul’s Going East, and the title opus in which the velvet-voiced crooner spins a slow-burning yarn of slavery.  It was hardly Top 40 fare (Paul would have to wait till producers/songwriters/label entrepreneurs Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff gifted him “Me and Mrs. Jones” the following year) but signaled the dramatic experimentation with which the label would define TSOP, or “The Sound of Philadelphia.”  Socially conscious, even spiritual lyrics would rest comfortably on a jazz-influenced bed of orchestral splendor, as smooth as it was funky.  With the very next PIR album, the label would start a nearly-unbroken string of music that’s as classic today as it was relevant, then: Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ self-titled debut (“If You Don’t Know Me By Now”), The O’Jays’ Back Stabbers (“Back Stabbers,” “Love Train”), 360 Degrees of Billy Paul (“Me and Mrs. Jones”).

Each one of those artists and songs can be heard on a remarkable time capsule that’s newly arrived from Legacy Recordings and Philadelphia International.  Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia, Live in San Francisco 1973 (88691906232, 2012) is somewhat paradoxical, capturing a 1973 night in the City by the Bay introducing the brightest stars from the City of Brotherly Love.  But in any setting, boy, can these Mothers (and Fathers, Sisters, and Brothers) play!  It’s the first (but hopefully not the last) volley from Legacy in the 40th anniversary celebration of Philadelphia International Records.

Recorded on July 27, 1973, the concert was held at CBS Records’ company convention inside the plush environs of the Fairmont Hotel.  Previous performers at the convention included Bruce Springsteen and Engelbert Humperdinck.  Joe Tarsia, the owner of Philly’s hallowed Sigma Sound Studios and the concert’s engineer, recalls in the liner notes that the event was attended by everyone on the CBS roster from Perry Como to Edgar Winter.  (What a sight that must have been!)  And nearly everyone associated with the success of Philadelphia International was up there, on that stage.  Vocalists included Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul, and the O’Jays. The MFSB Orchestra that evening counted among its 35 members two-thirds of the city’s “Mighty Three,” Leon Huff and Thom Bell on piano and organ, respectively. Huff and Bell were joined by a duo of Philly’s finest arrangers, Norman Harris and Bobby Eli (guitars), plus Earl Young (drums), Ronnie Baker (bass), Lenny Pakula (piano/keyboards), Jack Faith (saxophone), Vince Montana (vibes) and other notables. Bobby Martin and Richard Rome, two more arrangers with key contributions to the Philadelphia sound, took turns conducting.

Gamble and Huff considered the evening a crucial one to secure ongoing promotion at CBS Records for their fledgling label despite its already-proven hitmaking ability.  That urgency is evident in the performances.  (Thom Bell was the third partner in Gamble and Huff’s publishing company, and a frequent face at the label despite his outside productions for The Stylistics, The Spinners, Ronnie Dyson, New York City, Johnny Mathis and so many others.)  Hit the jump to meet the evening’s emcee, the one and only Mr. Don Cornelius! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 30, 2012 at 12:01

The Hills of Yesterday: Henry Mancini, Charles Strouse Offer “Molly Maguires” Scores

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A victim of the blacklist, director Martin Ritt (The Front, The Great White Hope and Norma Rae) felt passionately about using film to explore relevant social issues.  So it would have been no surprise that he was taken with the story of the Molly Maguires, the Irish-American coal miners who formed a secret society (some might say, of terrorists) to fight their oppressive employers in 19th century Pennsylvania.  Ritt enlisted an all-star cast including Sean Connery (still in his James Bond period) and Richard Harris for his 1970 Paramount Pictures epic.  Initially signed to write the score was Charles Strouse, the theatrical composer of Bye Bye Birdie, Golden Boy and It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman (and later, Annie).  On the silver screen, Strouse had recently made a splash with Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and William Friedkin’s The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968), so he seemed a reasonable choice to score Ritt’s film.  Reportedly, though, Strouse’s score didn’t sit well with test audiences, so Ritt turned to a more experienced film composer who could also turn out superlative work in a short period of time: Henry Mancini.

Mancini had a busy slate in 1970, also scoring Vittorio De Sica’s Sunflower and Blake Edwards’ Darling Lili, but he, of course, rose to the occasion.  He chose to employ unusual instrumentation including pennywhistle, ocarina, button accordion and Irish harp to color his rich melodies.  He even supplied a stirring song, “The Hills of Yesterday,” well-known to Scott Walker’s fans.  In 1992, producer Bruce Kimmel was instrumental in bringing Mancini’s Molly Maguires score to compact disc, supported by an enthusiastic Mancini.  The Bay Cities edition of the score (BCD-2039) has been out-of-print for years, commanding high prices on the secondhand market.  Fast forward twenty years, and Kimmel now heads Kritzerland, a label dedicated to reissuing classic soundtracks and original cast albums.  How better to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the original Molly Maguires CD than with a reissue?  And what could make this reissue even more special the second time around?  How about the world premiere release of the rejected score by Charles Strouse as a supplement to the Mancini score?

Kritzerland’s The Molly Maguiresfeatures the entire Mancini score, as recorded by the great composer, in newly mixed sound from the original master tapes.  It’s easy to see the importance of music to the film, which begins with a wordless, nearly 15-minute sequence set to the score.  Several cues omitted from the original soundtrack album make their first appearance here, and five bonus tracks have been appended: three unique album versions and two film versions.  Charles Strouse’s complete score, opposite in style and approach to Mancini’s, is also making its premiere in any form.  Producer Bruce Kimmel explains in the liner notes, “Sometimes a score just isn’t working for the film, even though the music itself might be excellent. And that’s what happened here – Strouse’s score just wasn’t working with the film.”   The new Molly Maguires is limited to 1,500 copies and is due the second week of March, but pre-orders from the label usually arrive an average of four weeks early.

But’s that not all.  Kritzerland is also delivering a two-for-one soundtrack by Albert Glasser.  Invasion USA and Tormented! are just two of the hundred-plus B-movies scored by Glasser, and both feature appropriately wild scores.  (Just check out the artwork, below!)  Adventures of Superman buffs should note that Invasion USA boasts performances by both Lois Lanes, Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates!  Kritzerland has remastered these never-before-available soundtracks from the late composer’s personal tapes, and the sparkling result will be released alongside The Molly Maguires.  Hit the jump for Kritzerland’s full press release on the Glasser duo, plus track listings and pre-order links for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 30, 2012 at 10:50

Vintage, Retro Mixes Shine on U.K. Philadelphia International Box Set

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Now’s as good a time as any to get into the sweet sounds and lush arrangements of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s. 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of legendary writer/producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s creation of a label that set the groundwork for some of the best soul and R&B sounds of the decade, and this year’s seeing a lot of excellent catalogue projects honoring that legacy.

We’ve already told you about Legacy’s Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973 (keep an eye out for a review from Joe!), and there are more great titles in store in the coming months as well. One of them is a stellar four-disc box set that combines the great arrangements of Philly soul with the ace mixing techniques of Tom Moulton.

Moulton, the father of the modern-day remix, is about as far from a stranger to Philadelphia International as you can get. In 1977, he mixed classic sides by The O’Jays, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and MFSB for the double album Philadelphia Classics. Over time, he was commissioned for a variety of other projects for the label, some of which never saw the light of day past a few rarer promo records or obscure compilations.

With the release of Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes, Harmless Records – a subsidiary of the U.K.’s Demon Music Group – has compiled all eight cuts from Philadelphia Classics and combined them with not only seven rare or unreleased vintage mixes, but another 15 extended versions commissioned just for this set. The Intruders, The Trammps, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass – those are just a few of the artists ripe for rediscovery on this set. In addition to the four separately packaged discs, the box will also feature 16 pages of newly-written liner notes by acclaimed British music journalist Lloyd Bradley and rare photos of Moulton at work in Sigma Sound Studios, birthplace for countless classics of the label.

The box will be out February 27 in the U.K., and it can be yours to pre-order (for a rather stellar price, given the worth of the music) at Amazon after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

January 30, 2012 at 10:24