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Archive for April 17th, 2012

Review: Donovan, “The Essential Donovan”

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Dear Donovan: what’s it been like being you?

The enigmatic Scotsman born Donovan Philips Leitch has worn many colours since bursting onto the music scene in 1965: the guitar-slinging Woody Guthrie disciple of “Catch the Wind,” the mystical folkie of “Season of the Witch,” the lysergic hippie of “Sunshine Superman,” the sinister rock narrator of “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” Though he’s never retired, the poet/troubadour has maintained a low profile in recent years. He’s only sporadically emerged with new studio albums, devoting himself to non-musical pursuits as well as penning an autobiography titled The Hurdy Gurdy Man after his song. Indeed, one could have believed that Donovan Leitch disappeared along with flower power. Yet, just last weekend, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally turned its attention to Donovan, and to celebrate his long-overdue induction into that august (and controversial) body, Legacy Recordings has issued the second compilation with the title of The Essential Donovan (Epic/Legacy 88691 95868 2 4, 2012).

A single-disc edition in 2004 has been doubled in size, featuring 36 songs on two discs. Every one of the 18 songs Donovan brought to the Billboard Hot 100 and U.K. national chart between 1965 and 1973 is present, along with album tracks and four songs previously unissued domestically. More than half of the tracks on Disc One are heard in their original mono mixes, including all of Donovan’s acoustic-based tracks recorded for the U.K.’s Pye label (and released in the U.S. on the Hickory imprint) in late 1964 and 1965, as well as a number of Epic sides from 1966.

Co-producers Donovan and Bob Irwin have logically sequenced the collection in rough chronological order, which makes it easier to appreciate the threads running through the artist’s songbook despite varied musical settings. Beauty, empathy, simplicity, fragility: all typify a Donovan song. This is evident from his earliest compositions like “Catch the Wind” and “Colours,” from the period when the artist “sounded like [Bob Dylan] for five minutes,” in his own words. These two 1965 songs were re-recorded by the artist for his 1968 Epic Records LP Donovan’s Greatest Hits, but are heard here in their original Hickory Records mono single versions. (Those hippy-dippy reworkings are unfortunately difficult to find, as the most recent edition of GH substituted the original versions.)

Donovan didn’t take long, though, to ditch the drawling, laconic delivery of “Colours,” appropriate as it was for the song’s lovely sentiment, one that would certainly not have come from the mouth of Mr. Dylan: “Yellow is the colour of my true love’s hair/In the morning, when we rise/In the morning, when we rise, that’s the time/I love the best…” His style was evolving rapidly, and the same album (1965’s Fairytale) containing “Colours” also included “Summer Day Reflection Song,” with a very different vocal quality. Far from what the title would suggest, the song isn’t a wistful recollection by the light of the sun, but a poetic rumination of diverse images that come together as a portrait of youth. Donovan’s lyric takes in medieval imagery of rooks and dragons, the fairy tales of the album title (“Jewelled castles I have built/With freak feelings of guilt/And the words stab to the hilt/Pick the flower and it will wilt/Cat’s a-shifting in the sun”) and jabs at modern society, too (“Marionette dangles death/Insensitivity is fed/By the TV wizard’s wand/Once in the spell you’re conned”). Returning to the image of a cat sleeping, yawning, smiling in the sun, the song is open to a variety of interpretations, but heralded an original voice in popular music. “Summer Day Reflection Song” introduces the haunting undercurrent that would blossom fully on later hits like “Season of the Witch” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”

Donovan didn’t possess the bitterness or world-weariness of Dylan or many of his other contemporaries in the folk movement; or rather, if he did, he kept it hid. His impressionistic lyrics didn’t shy away from darkness, though, even if they were frequently filtered through a kind of wide-eyed observation. Like his contemporaries, though, he was acutely aware of the world around him. A highlight of the six Hickory singles that open The Essential is his rendition of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier.” Though mostly content to perform his own material, Donovan clearly identified with the song’s anti-war sentiment. Yet none of these songs could have prepared listeners for what was to come.

Hit the jump for more, won’t you?

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Written by Joe Marchese

April 17, 2012 at 15:04

Posted in Compilations, Donovan, Reissues, Reviews

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Short Takes: Sex Pistols to Reissue Another Single, Waylon’s Last Works Due in Fall

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  • The Sex Pistols’ controversial single “God Save the Queen” is getting repressed for its 35th anniversary on May 28. Universal Music Catalogue in the U.K. will re-release the single, a month after repressing “Anarchy in the U.K.” for Record Store Day and four months before reissuing the band’s Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols. It is unknown if the single, released alongside the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, will feature “No Feeling,” the original B-side on the extremely rare A&M pressing of the single, or “Done You No Wrong” from the subsequent Virgin reissue. (It’s worth noting that band frontman John Lydon has spoken out against the single release, saying it “undermines what The Sex Pistols stood for.”
  • The Los Angeles Times reports that the final recordings from country legend Waylon Jennings will see a release on September 11. Goin’ Down Rockin’: The Last Recordings features 12 unreleased tracks partially recorded by Jennings and bassist Robby Turner before his death in 2002, augmented with newly-recorded overdubs by former collaborators including Tony Joe White (who co-wrote one track on the album). Time Life’s Saguaro Road Records will distribute.

Written by Mike Duquette

April 17, 2012 at 14:35

By the Power of Grayskull: “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” Soundtrack Comes to CD…Via France!

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Here’s one off the beaten reissue path for you children of the eighties!  Chances are you’ll remember Masters of the Universe: Prince Adam of Eternia transformed into the valiant warrior He-Man to defend his kingdom from the evil forces of Skeletor.   Launched as an action figure line in 1982, the franchise reached its largest audience via Filmation’s animated television series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  130 episodes were produced over two seasons, but the series continued to air first in syndication and then on the USA Network.  In fact, episodes still air today on various programming blocks from Qubo Night Owl and the Retro Television Network, and He-Man has had continued life via 1990 and 2002 television updates as well as a campy 1987 film starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella.  In fact, the character’s ongoing popularity is such that DC Comics is reviving him again for an upcoming comic book series.  What does this all have to do with The Second Disc, you might ask?

France’s XIII Bis Music label is reissuing the original soundtrack album to Filmation’s Masters of the Universe on May 14 for the first time on commercial CD.  The 1983 album was originally issued in France and Argentina only, so it’s largely unknown in the United States.  It contains fourteen tracks composed by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy from the fondly-remembered series, including the theme song in its original version, a shorter alternate, and even with a Spanish intro!  There are individual cues for characters such as Teela, Eternia’s Captain of the Royal Guard, and Orko, the impish magician from another dimension.  There’s also a lengthy sixteen-minute cue featuring the underscore for the series’ tenth episode, “A Friend in Need.”

Hit the jump for more including the track listing and pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 17, 2012 at 13:14

Posted in News, Reissues, Soundtracks

Big Break Gets It Right with Expanded Reissues of Two Aretha Franklin Arista Albums

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As we welcome the expanded release of Aretha Franklin’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who? from Funky Town Grooves today, it’s a thrill to report two more expansions of Aretha’s underrepresented Arista material on CD from Big Break Records. The label will release 1982’s Jump to It and 1983’s Get It Right on May 21 with a total of nine bonus tracks, all single edits, dance mixes and instrumentals.

After her first two cover-heavy LPs for Clive Davis’ label, the Queen of Soul elected to take things in a more modern direction, collaborating with rising star Luther Vandross on a clutch of danceable tracks. The title song was her first Top 40 hit in the U.S. in six years, and it earned her a Grammy Award nomination. While Get It Right, also produced by Vandross with longtime collaborator Marcus Miller joining him in writing half of the album’s eight tracks, did not match its predecessor in terms of commercial success, it still boasts a lot of fan favorites, including the title track, “Every Girl (Wants My Guy)” and a cover of The Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain.”

If this pattern continues, fans may yet see reissues of underrated ’80s smashes like 1986’s Aretha, featuring “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” her powerhouse duet with George Michael. In the meantime, you can preorder the new discs at Amazon U.K. and check out the track lists after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

April 17, 2012 at 13:01

It’s a Beauty: Iconoclassic Continues Reissue Series for The Guess Who, The Tubes (UPDATED WITH LINKS AND TRACK LISTS)

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In a surprise announcement, Iconoclassic Records is continuing their successful reissue campaigns for The Guess Who and The Tubes this summer.

Two Guess Who’s #10 (1973) and Road Food (1974) – the sixth and seventh in the label’s long line of Guess Who remasters – and The Tubes’ Outside Inside (1983) will be remastered and expanded, according to Iconoclassic’s Facebook page.

When Outside Inside‘s lead single “She’s a Beauty” cracked the Top 10 in 1983, The Tubes became one of the unlikeliest pop darlings in recent memory. Though they’d achieved some commercial success with the previous year’s The Completion Backward Principle (also expanded by Iconoclassic) and single “Talk to Ya Later” (which, like all the material on both albums, was produced by pop whiz David Foster), it was a surprise to see a hit by a band known in the ’70s for their flashy live shows satirizing the excesses of the industry.

But that smooth production by Foster was hard to ignore at the time, and with killer guest appearances by some of the best pop/rockers at the time, including horn arrangements by Jerry Hey, guest vocals by Martha Davis of The Motels and Bill Champlin of Chicago and pretty much the entire lineup of Toto (including Steve Lukather and Bobby Kimball, whose work is particularly prominent on “She’s a Beauty”), it’s not hard to understand why pop geeks are still down with The Tubes.

While Iconoclassic hasn’t locked down the full list of bonus tracks, it is known that there will be “single B-sides, single versions and the ultra rare Tubes version of ‘Satellite.'” (That track, an outtake from the Outside Inside sessions, was released on the Sedated in the ’80s No. 5 compilation released by The Right Stuff Records in 1985.)

What awaits Guess Who fans? Hit the jump to find out!

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Written by Mike Duquette

April 17, 2012 at 11:59

Dead and (Real) Gone: Grateful Dead, Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, Durocs, Germs and More Coming In May

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It’s time to book passage on the Real Gone train for next month’s trip from Philadelphia to San Francisco, as the enterprising label has announced its latest, wide-ranging group of titles all slated for late May release.  Returning to print are live shows from The Grateful Dead as well as a number of albums from the Cameo Parkway library, while rare LPs from The Germs, The Durocs, Jerry Reed and Mick Fleetwood all get the deluxe treatment for the first time.

Three titles are making their CD debuts from the Real Goners.  San Francisco’s Mystery Trend (its name taken from a misheard Bob Dylan lyric) included among its members one Ron Nagle, who in 1970 recorded cult classic Bad Rice with producer and frequent Phil Spector associate Jack Nitzsche.  Elsewhere in the City by the Bay, Scott Mathews was making a name for himself, joining Elvin Bishop at the Fillmore and forming Ice with future Journey frontman Steve Perry.  In 1979, Mathews and Nagle teamed as the Durocs (apparently named after a breed of hog known for being great producers with oversized ears and genitalia, according to the press release!) for a self-titled album also supervised by Nitzsche.  For the first time, the fierce power pop of Durocs arrives on CD, and with eight unreleased bonus tracks!  In addition to the CD, Real Gone will issue this lost classic on pink vinyl as a 500-unit limited edition with its original sequence and packaging replicated.  Gene Sculatti annotates the new CD.

It was also in 1979 that Joan Jett produced the only album for The Germs.  Often cited as one of the very first hardcore punk albums, (GI) was such a powerful debut that one LA Weekly critic opined, “This album leaves exit wounds!”  Produced by Joan Jett, The Germs’ (GI) features Darby Crash (lead vocals), Pat Smear (guitars/backing vocals), Lorna Doom (bass/backing vocals) and Don Bolles (drums/backing vocals).  Originally issued on Slash Records, the album has been out-of-print on CD for years and returns in a four-panel wallet featuring the original album graphics (including lyrics) with additional photos by Jenny Lens and new liner notes by Richie Unterberger drawing on an interview with Don Bolles.  Real Gone Trivia Time No. 1: Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders (previously anthologized by Real Gone) was originally sought to produce, but Slash couldn’t afford his asking price, hence the band enlisting their friend Joan Jett.  No. 2: Shortly after recording (GI), The Germs recorded six songs for the soundtrack to the Al Pacino film Cruising.  The producer of those recordings was none other than…Jack Nitzsche!

Hit the jump to head to Nashville, Philadelphia and back to San Francisco! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 17, 2012 at 09:28

Release Round-Up: Week of April 17

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Janis Joplin, The Pearl Sessions (Columbia/Legacy)

Essentially a new double-disc deluxe edition of Joplin’s final album, with mono single mixes and a heap of mostly unreleased session outtakes as bonus tracks.

Little Richard, Here’s Little Richard (Specialty/Concord)

One of the cornerstone albums of modern rock is newly remastered and expanded with two demos, video content and an interview with Specialty label founder Art Rupe.

Bob Marley & The Wailers, Marley: The Original Soundtrack (Tuff Gong/Island)

It won’t supplant Legend, but this new two-disc compilation (to tie in with the new film) features hits, early obscurities and an unreleased live version of “Jammin'” from the historic One Love Peace concert.

Aretha Franklin, Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Deluxe Edition (Funky Town Grooves)

The Queen of Soul’s legendary ’80s comeback, expanded with every mix and edit of hit singles like “Freeway of Love,” “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” and the title track.

Cowboy Copas/Little Willie John/The Ad Libs, Complete Hit SIngles As & Bs (Real Gone Music)

The latest from Real Gone compiles singles from pioneers of their genres (country for Cowboy Copas, doo-wop for The Ad Libs and R&B for Willie John).

Grand Funk Railroad, Mark, Don & Mel 1969-71 (Iconoclassic)

This classic GFR compilation has been released by Iconoclassic before, but previous copies were plagued with mastering issues. Now, they’ve all been cleared, and if you buy now, you’ll get a good one.

Luther Vandross, Hidden Gems (Epic/Legacy)

In honor of what would have been the late crooner’s birthday, a new single-disc compilation highlighting lesser-known album tracks and soundtrack rarities.

Donovan/Brooks & Dunn/Alan Jackson/Mariah CareyThe Essential (Legacy)

Four double-disc Essential sets from Legacy, but only one (from recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Donovan) isn’t a repackaging of a prior compilation.