The Second Disc

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Archive for February 16th, 2012

Hooked on a Feeling: Real Gone Readies Complete B.J. Thomas, Frankie Avalon, The Tubes, a “Rock Messiah” and More

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Raindrops might be falling on your head, but there’s one thing I know: the March slate of releases from Real Gone Music will assuredly keep those blues at bay!  Featuring both returning favorites from the old Collectors’ Choice label as well as artists and recordings new to the Real Gone family, there’s something for everyone!  Joining B.J. Thomas’ The Complete Scepter Singles on March 27 will be Frankie Avalon’s Muscle Beach Party: The United Artists Sessions, The Tubes’ Young & Rich/Now, Rick Springfield’s Beginnings . . ., David Axelrod’s Messiah, Wishbone Ash’s Live Dates II and Clint Eastwood’s Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites.

Billy Joe Thomas was born in Oklahoma in 1942, but his family moved to Texas when he was just a couple weeks of age.  And it was in Texas where the young musician made a name for himself first as a member of The Triumphs and then under the tutelage of Huey P. Meaux.  The Meaux empire included such future stars as Ronnie Milsap, Doug Sahm, Johnny Winter, Barbara Lynn and Freddy Fender, and an A&R man by the name of Steve Tyrell.  When B.J. Thomas’ 1964 single of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” on the small Pacemaker label began to attract national attention, Meaux turned the single over to Florence Greenberg’s Scepter Records.  Thomas and Scepter began a long and fruitful association and as of 1967, all of Thomas’ records began appearing exclusively on Scepter.  Steve Tyrell, too, would join Scepter and participate in the success of the label’s premier recordings by Dionne Warwick and the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who, in turn, would give B.J. Thomas his No. 1 pop breakthrough with 1969’s Academy Award-winning “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”  Various compilations of Thomas’ Scepter catalogue have proliferated, most notably Ace’s 2003 The Scepter Hits and More.  Gordon Anderson’s Collectors’ Choice label brought a number of Thomas’ Scepter LPs to CD for the very first time, and now Real Gone’s 44-track anthology The Complete Scepter Singles is the first to offer A- and B-sides of every one of Thomas’ Scepter singles, including his 19 hits. Many of the B-sides never appeared on an album, and these rare tracks are making their long overdue CD debuts. DJ/journalist Mike Ragogna penned the notes, which feature quotes from Thomas.

Predating Thomas’ career by a few years is that of Frankie Avalon, beach party king.  The recordings made by Avalon for the Chancellor label have been compiled numerous times in the past, but his United Artists recordings have languished in virtual obscurity.  That’s about to change with the release of Muscle Beach Party: The United Artists Sessions.  Offering 20 stereo tracks recorded in 1964 and 1965, the new compact disc offers the entire album Muscle Beach Party and Other Movie Songs, a tie-in to director William Asher’s 1964 film starring Frankie and Annette Funicello, for which The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson composed songs with Roger Christian and Gary Usher.  (Annette released a competing Muscle Beach Party album on the Disneyland label!)  Avalon also tackles songs from other famous films, including Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses.”  Appended to the original LP are rare singles plus tracks from the soundtrack of I’ll Take Sweden, a 1965 Bob Hope comedy in which he co-starred. The set features notes by Tom Pickles as well as photographs.

At the same time Frankie Avalon was enjoying his days at the beach, a young actor named Clint Eastwood was starring in the television western Rawhide (1959-1965).  A talented composer himself, Eastwood has always taken his music as seriously as his acting, and in 1963, he recorded the LP   Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites.  Although Collectors’ Choice Music already released the album on CD in 2010, Real Gone is resuscitating it for a first-time return to vinyl for a 180-gram pressing.  That CD is returning to print, too, from Real Gone.  Like the first time around, both sides of Eastwood’s 1962 single “Rowdy” b/w “Cowboy Wedding Song” will be included on the CD version.

Hit the jump for Wishbone Ash, The Tubes, David Axelrod, and track listings with discographical annotation for every title! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 16, 2012 at 13:43

Cowboy in Sweden: Light in the Attic Preps Lee Hazlewood Retrospective, Plus Rare Stax Recordings of Wendy Rene Collected

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Though he had many chapters in his career, there was only one Barton Lee Hazlewood.  The man who famously taught Nancy Sinatra to “sing like a 16-year old who goes out with 45-year old truckers” also played a pivotal role in the career of Duane Eddy and produced hits by Dean Martin, Dino (Martin), Desi (Arnaz, Jr.) and Billy (Hinsche), and the Chairman of the Board himself.  But Hazlewood continued to create works of both eccentricity and beauty long after he departed Reprise Records in the 1960s.  The Ace label has compiled collections dedicated to Hazlewood’s songs and outside productions as well as his complete 1965-1967 recordings for MGM Records (made in between stints at Reprise) while Rhino Handmade has surveyed his solo years at Reprise.  Now, the dedicated musical archaeologists at Light in the Attic are launching a series dedicated to Hazlewood’s own LHI label, and the time couldn’t be more right.  Between 1968 and 1971, Hazlewood not only recorded his singular, often psychedelic brand of country/folk/pop/rock but recorded numerous other artists for both singles and albums.  Light in the Attic promises that this exciting new series “will include material from LHI (remastered for the first time from the original analog tapes), along with Lee’s output for other labels, rarities, unreleased gems, and the films of Torbjörn Axelman.”  Well, we’re sold!

The campaign kicks off with the release of The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes and Backsides 1968-1971 on CD on May 1.  (A special vinyl edition will precede the CD release on April 21 to coincide with Record Store Day.)  Ann-Margret, Suzi Jane Hokom and Nina Lizell are among the female artists who provide counterpoint to Hazlewood’s gruff tones, following in Nancy Sinatra’s bootsteps.  One unreleased track has even been included, an outtake entitled “I Just Learned to Run.”  Wyndham Wallace contributes all-new liner notes to the set.  A personal friend of the late artist, Wallace writes that his friend was “a curmudgeonly, unpredictable sort at the best of times, as impatient with his own talent as he is with other people.”  Indeed, it’s hard to pigeonhole the versatile composer, lyricist, singer and producer.

Hit the jump for much more on the Cowboy in Sweden, plus the scoop on Ms. Wendy Rene, early Stax/Volt heroine! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 16, 2012 at 10:08