The Second Disc

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Archive for February 29th, 2012

In Memoriam: Hey, Hey, It’s Davy Jones!

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UPDATE 2/29/12: Today at The Second Disc, we join music fans all over the world in mourning the loss of Davy Jones, who died this morning at the age of 66.  The worlds of music, stage and screen all lost an icon with the passing of the actor, singer, comedian and beloved Monkee.  Davy brought a little of the British Invasion to the California band, as well as lot of talent, sweetness, heart and chutzpah. 

New York DJ Cousin Brucie Morrow took the airwaves on Sirius/XM satellite radio early this evening to celebrate Jones’ life even as an outpouring of affection arrived on Twitter and Facebook.  Peter Noone, a.k.a. Herman of Herman’s Hermits, told Morrow that his friend Davy was “the Danny Kaye of rock and roll” and an all-around entertainer: “A great English working class guy” despite his great success.  Lou Christie concurred, describing Jones as a “great entertainer,” while Tommy James praised his longtime friend’s “great mind,” remembering just how much “fun [it was] to be with [him].”

We’re remembering Davy today by re-posting this August 1, 2011 announcement of Jones’ recently-reissued solo debut.  Friday Music has promised that Jones’ 1971 Bell Records LP (containing the hit “Rainy Jane”) will soon be on the way, joining a spate of Monkees releases from the Rhino label including box sets dedicated to The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees, Head, and Instant Replay.  Please join us in recognizing the legacy of Davy Jones by leaving your own memories below in our comments area.  Rest in peace, Mr. Jones.

It’s the return of the artist formerly known as David Jones!  No, not Mr. Bowie, but rather Davy Jones of The Monkees, who recently hit the road with his old bandmates for a successful tour.  Way back in March, we passed on hints from Friday Music that a reissue of Jones’ 1965 Colpix Records solo album was in the cards.  Now, the label has confirmed to that David Jones: The Deluxe Edition will hit stores on September 27, containing the original LP plus two rare single bonus tracks.

While David Jones is an artifact of the singer’s pre-Monkees career, Jones had already been a ten-plus year veteran of the business we call show when he recorded the album!  He began his career in his native England on programs such as the famed soap opera Coronation Street, which still runs today.  Shortly after that stint, Jones was cast in the West End production of Lionel Bart’s much-honored musical Oliver!.  It wasn’t long before Jones was being dispatched to America.  Oliver! was making its American premiere under the auspices of legendary producer David Merrick on a pre-Broadway tour of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and Toronto.  Michael Goodman was originally cast in the role of the Artful Dodger, and when Merrick made the decision to record the show’s Broadway Cast Album in Los Angeles, Goodman preserved his performance.  (The score had proven so popular from the London incarnation that the producer didn’t wish to lose any more sales to the London Cast Album.)  However, Goodman wasn’t working out, and Merrick replaced him with the then-David Jones.  So while Jones didn’t get the chance to immortalize his “Consider Yourself,” “I’d Do Anything” and more, he did receive a Tony Award nomination for his work in the musical which opened on January 6, 1963. 

Little did Jones know what would happen next!  Hit the jump to find out!  And you’ll also find a track listing with discographical information! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 29, 2012 at 19:02

Good Lovin’: Felix Cavaliere Teams with Todd Rundgren, Laura Nyro, Leslie West, Dino Danelli On Bearsville Reissue

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The union of singer/songwriter Felix Cavaliere and producer Todd Rundgren might have seemed like a marriage made in heaven, with Cavaliere having specialized in blue-eyed soul with The Rascals, and the wunderkind Rundgren no slouch in that field, either. But in fact, it was more like a shotgun wedding.  You can hear for yourself, as Cavaliere’s Rundgren-produced, self-titled 1974 album for Bearsville Records has just been coupled with its follow-up, Destiny (1975) on a stellar new two-for-one release from Edsel.

Felix Cavaliere recalled in liner notes penned especially for this reissue by Paul Myers that his loftier ideas met with opposition from Mo Ostin of Warner Bros. Records, then Bearsville’s distributor.  Ostin wasn’t much interested in Cavaliere’s rock opera based on Dune, or a politically-minded album like The Rascals’ Freedom Suite.  Instead, Ostin and Bearsville’s Albert Grossman were looking for pop singles, and turned to Bearsville house producer Rundgren, hot off Grand Funk Railroad’s smash We’re an American Band.  But the former Rascal felt that Rundgren “was very much concerned with his own, personal work…[and] I had just a lot of trouble trying to understand his attitude towards the product that we were doing.”  Rundgren diplomatically told Myers that he and Cavaliere “sort of got along personally.”  It couldn’t have helped matters that Rundgren was brought a partially-completed LP and instructed to work his magic.  And so Utopia stalwarts John Siegler (bass) and Kevin Ellman (drums) were overdubbed on nearly every track, and Todd himself played guitar on four songs.

Cavaliere co-wrote every track on his debut with Carman Moore, but many of its tracks bear the same signature as his collaborations in the Rascals with Eddie Brigati.   The album’s opening “High Price to Pay” would have put Rascals fans at ease with its catchy chorus and up-tempo groove, and “Everlasting Love” again recalls that classic sound with a brass section, though it’s a tougher sound than in the past.  Prominent backing vocals are supplied courtesy Cissy Houston and Judy Clay, among others.  Big pop ballad “Long Times Gone” even suggests a distant cousin of “How Can I Be Sure” in its melody and arrangement.

Cavaliere stretched his muscles elsewhere on the surprisingly cohesive album, though.  The Latin funk of “Summer in El Barrio” pleasingly blends brass and smoking guitar with Cavaliere’s soulful lead and the female chorus, while the twangy “I’ve Got a Solution” might betray a rootsy Bearsville influence.  Rundgren’s touch is most pronounced on “Funky Friday,” a bright pop song with his distinct guitar flourishes (“The one thing I’ve got to do/Is get funky with you!”) as well as on the spacey jam of “I’m Free.”  It likely reflects more on the marketplace than on the material that neither of the album’s two singles released by Bearsville saw chart action; Felix Cavaliere remains an overlooked gem.

Hit the jump to reveal your Destiny! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 29, 2012 at 14:06

The Road to Utopia: M. Frog and Roger Powell of Rundgren’s Classic Band, Reissued

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Bearsville is back!  Even as Edsel Records has been tackling Todd Rundgren’s catalogue, both solo and with Utopia, the enterprising label hasn’t stopped there.  This month has brought two releases related to the Rundgren mystique but still capable of standing on their own considerable merits.  Roger Powell may be the most well-known of Utopia’s keyboard/synthesizer players, but he was actually preceded in the band by Jean Yves “M. Frog” Labat.  Both Labat and Powell recorded solo albums at Bearsville, and so the former’s M. Frog and the latter’s Air Pocket have been joined together on one disc by Edsel.

Though it comes first on the new CD, Roger Powell’s Air Pocket arrived in 1980, seven years after M. Frog’s solo album.  Like much of Utopia’s best work, Air Pocket is atmospheric, shimmering, ethereal, and futuristic.  Largely self-created by Powell, it does feature some special guests, such as John Holbrook (rhythm guitar and also the album’s engineer), Mark Styles (RMI keyboard computer), Clive Pozar (drums) and a certain Mr. Rundgren (E-bow guitar solo).

The first side of the original LP betrayed the pop influence of the changing Utopia, with fully developed songs still true to Powell’s spacey synthesizer sound; the second side emphasized more esoteric instrumental compositions.  Each and every track was written entirely by the artist, who also produced this unique effort.  Of the more accessible tracks, “Windows” is a very Utopia-like soft rock song with prominent harmonies (one could easily hear Todd having contributed) and oblique lyrics that lend an air of mystery.  “Emergency Splash-Down” boasts a harder-edged, jagged melody (“Warning light flashes/Emergency splashdown/It’s every man for himself now!”).  Rundgren makes his presence known via a subtle but recognizable guitar solo to the brief “Morning Chorus.”

Though there’s a coherence of sound among the album’s ten tracks, each song also has enough dynamics to keep the album interesting.  “March of the Dragonslayers” is a rather playful cut, though it doesn’t sound medieval at all, despite its title!  (Another title just begging to be a prog-rock song, “Dragons ‘n Griffins,” appears a couple of tracks later!)  Its B-side, a then-modern update of the surf-rock hit “Pipeline,” has been appended to this reissue.

A little of Air Pocket might go a long way for listeners less inclined to Utopia’s more far-out explorations, but the album is positively conservative compared to Jean Yves “M. Frog” Labat’s self-titled release, previously available on CD only in Japan.  Like Powell, Labat self-produced his debut effort, but Rundgren was on hand to mix the album.   (In case you’re wondering, Bearsville impresario Albert Grossman had suggested “Maestro Frog” as Labat’s moniker, but only the initial stuck!)  John Holbrook was heavily involved in M. Frog’s album, as well, but he was hardly the only member of the Bearsville family to contribute.  John Simon and Paul Butterfield make appearances, as do Garth Hudson and Rick Danko on “Welcome Home” and Rundgren on both “Suckling-Pigs Game” and “Hey Little Lady.”  In addition to his short-lived tenure as a member of Utopia, Labat also repaid the favor to Rundgren by playing EMS synthesizer on Todd’s 1973 solo album A Wizard, A True Star.

Hit the jump for much, much more including track listing with discography and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 29, 2012 at 10:07