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Archive for May 2012

Review: Albert King, “I’ll Play The Blues For You”

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It wasn’t that Albert King couldn’t play music other than the blues…but even when crooning in his most velvety-rich style, there was just something inherently lived-in, worldly, and commanding about that voice…in other words, something bluesy.  And though that underrated voice would be enough for a lesser artist, King’s greatest gift was as a guitarist.  Perhaps the best display of both of those titanic talents was the 1972 Stax album with the apt title of I’ll Play the Blues for You, just reissued and expanded by Concord Music Group (STX-33716, 2012).

A towering six-foot-four, King hailed from Mississippi but spent his youth in various spots before settling in Memphis in 1966 where he was signed by Stax.  A transitional period for Stax was just around the corner.  Otis Redding and members of Stax mainstays The Bar-Kays tragically perished in a plane crash in December 1967, and then the company’s distribution deal with Atlantic Records ended a year later.  Both events contributed to the formation of a new Stax with a leaner, meaner, even funkier sound.  King’s 1967 Born Under a Bad Sign, recorded for Stax with “house band” Booker T. and the MGs as well as the Memphis Horns, became one of the most influential blues albums of all time.  Further releases followed, including 1968’s Live Wire/Blues Power, recorded far from Memphis at San Francisco’s Fillmore, and a 1970 tribute to another King, Elvis Presley.  But I’ll Play the Blues for You, produced and arranged for King by Allen Jones and Henry Bush, was a landmark.  It provided King with a new signature song via the title track, as well as showcasing all sides of his musical prowess.

Hit the jump to delve into Concord’s remastered edition of this seminal album! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 31, 2012 at 13:36

Posted in Albert King, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Master of “Time and Space”: Ace Arranger Jimmy Wisner Reissues Early Jazz Recordings

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The list of artists with whom Jimmy “Wiz” Wisner has worked is rather staggering: Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Neil Sedaka, Iggy Pop, Carly Simon, Al Kooper, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Searchers…the list goes on.  But although everybody knows “Palisades Park” (on which Wisner played organ for Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon) or “Sunday Will Never Be the Same” (which Wisner arranged for Spanky and Our Gang), few know the music he’s created as a solo artist.  ABKCO is seeking to redress this with the recent release of Time and Space.  This 10-track compilation draws on the two albums Wisner recorded for Philadelphia’s Cameo-Parkway Records for C-P’s Wyncote imprint, 1964’s The Girl from Ipanema and 1965’s Cast Your Fate to the Wind.  The former, originally credited to “Jimmy Davis” and “Norma Lee,” features Wisner on piano and Norma Mendoza on vocals, while the latter finds Wisner flying solo under his own name.  Unfortunately for Ms. Mendoza, Time and Space is an all-instrumental affair, showcasing Jimmy Wisner’s considerable gifts as a jazz composer and pianist.

The recipient of 36 Gold and 22 Platinum awards, Wisner also co-wrote The Searchers’ hit “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” and has been involved with over 100 hit records as producer, arranger or composer.  But he’s long held a soft spot for these very personal albums recorded for Wyncote, and recently approached ABKCO (the successor to Cameo-Parkway) about their reissue.  The result is Time and Space, which takes five tracks from each of the two albums.  Although credits on the actual album are sparse, it appears that Wisner has remixed and/or overdubbed many of these tracks; ABKCO’s press release indicates that Wisner has “improved the original recordings with a very contemporary approach including enhancements he’d had in mind for more than five decades.”

We’ve got more on “Wiz” Wisner after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 31, 2012 at 10:06

Reviews: First Family of Soul – Rare Albums From Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, Cissy Houston Reissued and Expanded

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If there’s such a thing as a First Family of Soul, it might as well be the combined Houston/Warwick clan.  Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Emily “Cissy” Drinkard sang gospel with her family as part of The Drinkard Singers, which counted Cissy’s sister Lee Warrick among its members.  Marie Dionne Warrick was born in 1940 to Lee and her husband Mancel; Delia Mae “Dee Dee” Warrick followed in 1942.  Though The Drinkard Singers remain an important part of the history of gospel music, said to have recorded the very first gospel album on a major label (1959’s A Joyful Noise on RCA Victor), could Cissy and Lee have imagined the success that their daughters would have had?  Dionne Warwick – her new surname having been created by a record label misspelling – ranks second only to Aretha Franklin as the most charting female in pop history, with 56 singles on the Hot 100 between 1962 and 1998.  Cissy’s daughter Whitney Houston, of course, made history of her own, cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most-awarded female singer of all time and also the first to chart seven consecutive chart-topping singles!  Cissy Houston, to this day, continues to perform and inspire audiences wherever she goes.

Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records has just celebrated this true First Family of Soul with three remarkable new releases: the first-ever CD reissues of Isaac Hayes and Dionne Warwick’s 1977 A Man and a Woman and Dee Dee Warwick’s 1969 Foolish Fool, plus a deluxe, expanded edition of Cissy Houston’s 1970 Presenting Cissy Houston.  Taken together, these three albums represent a mini-history of American soul music.  Hit the jump and we’ll individually explore each of these seminal releases! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 30, 2012 at 13:09

Betcha By Golly Wow: The Stylistics Go “Streetwise” On New Reissue

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“You Are Everything.”  “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”  “Betcha By Golly Wow.”    The songs of Philadelphia’s Stylistics are still prominent in the fabric of American music, largely thanks to a three-album run between 1971 and 1973 on the Avco label.  With Thom Bell as the producer, arranger and composer, and Linda Creed as lyricist, the group defined the sweetest strains of Philly soul.  Every single Bell produced for the group hit the Top 10 R&B chart, and many also went Top 10 pop.  When Thom Bell turned his attentions in 1973 to The Spinners, however, the group found itself somewhat adrift.  Of the group’s hits, only the 1970 single “You’re a Big Girl Now” had been produced without him.  Bell instinctively knew how to deploy Russell Thompkins Jr.’s soaring falsetto with the group harmonies of Airrion Love, James Smith, Herb Murrell and James Dunn.

1974’s Let’s Put It All Together, with its strong title track from Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss (the trio responsible for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”) continued the group’s winning streak, but subsequent efforts kept yielding diminishing returns.  Top-tier producers like Van McCoy and Teddy Randazzo attempted to recapture The Stylistics’ glory days, and the group (sans Dunn and Smith, who departed in 1980, and with new member Raymond Johnson) even reunited with Bell, among other producers, for a three-album stint at Philadelphia International Records between 1980 and 1982.  Following that return to the City of Brotherly Love, The Stylistics soldiered on, signing to Maurice Starr’s Streetwise Records label.

The two albums recorded by The Stylistics at Streetwise, Some Things Never Change (1984) and A Special Style (1985) have just been released on CD for the very first time by Phase One Music and Streetwise Records as The Streetwise Recordings.  Though this CD brings more of the Stylistics’ catalogue to CD, the two-albums-on-one-CD package is oddly incomplete.  Hit the jump for more details! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 30, 2012 at 09:46

Baby Elephant Walking: Henry Mancini’s “Charade,” “Hatari!” Soundtracks Premiere on CD

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Around these parts, we know that good things do come to those who wait.  The old adage has been proven again, yet it might this time be amended to great things do come to those who wait.  For the Intrada label has just announced the first-time-ever release of Henry Mancini’s original score tracks for Charade (1963) and Hatari! (1962). Why is this such a big deal?  Most of Mancini’s original film scores from his prime period have never seen the light of day; instead the prolific recording artist, composer and conductor opted to re-record his music for heavily truncated album presentations on his home label of RCA.  The re-recordings have become the only way to acquire many of Mancini’s most beloved themes, but however fantastic those albums are (and they are!), they were also heavily re-arranged for a record-buying audience in a “pop” style.  Consequently, Mancini’s gifts as a dramatic composer have often been overlooked.  I lamented in July 2010, “Soundtrack buffs still await the release of many of Mancini’s most famous scores as actually heard in the films, such as The Pink Panther or Charade, but record company contracts make such releases unlikely.”  Well, Intrada has teamed with Sony Music (the successor to RCA Victor, the company which owns the soundtrack rights to these films and released the re-recordings), Universal Pictures (Charade) and Paramount Pictures (Hatari!) to make these long-coveted soundtracks finally available.

Hit the jump to explore both releases, including track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2012 at 13:32

Dedicated Follower of Kinksdom: BBC Sessions Box Coming For The Kinks [UPDATED 5/29 WITH TRACK LISTING]

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Another Kinks-size box is on the way.

Following the recent, well-received series of deluxe album reissues and the limited-edition Kinks in Mono box set, Universal U.K. and Sanctuary Records have announced the latest project celebrating the quintessentially English rockers.  Due on August 13, the 5-CD/1-DVD box set The Kinks at the BBC isn’t the first survey of the band’s BBC live recordings, but it’s by far the most comprehensive.  It has been compiled from all of the existing recordings made by The Kinks still residing in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s archives, and includes “a raft of sessions and live recordings from throughout the band’s career including the rare concert and unheard session recordings,” according to the label.  In addition to the five CDs’ worth of audio tracks, a DVD will present live appearances from programs including Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test.  And no fear!  If this is too much Kinks for you, a 2-CD “Best Of” distillation will also be offered.

Sanctuary first packaged the Kinks’ BBC recordings in 2001 as BBC Sessions 1964-1977 (06076 84504-2).  This 35-track compilation, remastered by Andy Pearce and Ray Davies himself, included many of the band’s most iconic songs like “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of the Night” and “Waterloo Sunset.”  As the group’s early recordings were supplemented with seasoned session players, the live recordings often had a raw dimension that the more polished studio cuts lacked.  The Kinks’ association with the BBC was a long one, and especially in the early days, covers were played alongside originals.  As “You Really Got Me” was climbing to number one, the band recorded its first BBC session on September 7th, 1964 at London’s Playhouse Theatre.  The Kinks’ last BBC performance to date took place just over thirty years later, on October 8, 1994.  A total of 24 visits were made by the band to the media giant’s studios.

Hit the jump for details! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2012 at 11:35

Review: The Critters, “Younger Girl: The Complete Kapp and Musicor Recordings”

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In those heady, pre-American Idol days, the route to success had many paths.  For New Jersey’s Critters, the path was local, with the band making a name for itself in the tree-lined suburbs of Westfield, Scotch Plains and Princeton, gigging at high schools, colleges, and Knights of Columbus halls.  Though they were proficient at covering the days’ hits, The Critters also boasted some formidable songwriters at a time when recording one’s own songs was becoming  de rigeur.  Before long, The Critters were opening gigs for The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las, and Jay and the Americans, and had a contract with Musicor Records, home of Gene Pitney and The Platters.  Though the tenure at Musicor was short, The Critters made enough noise to be signed by Artie Ripp to Kama-Sutra Productions, and solidified their reputation with two 1966 hits, “Younger Girl” and “Mr. Dieingly Sad.”  Those two singles aren’t the whole story, though.

Now Sounds first anthologized the band in 2011.  Awake in a Dream: The Project 3 Recordings collected the band’s 1968-1969 recordings for Enoch Light’s Project 3 label.  With its latest release, Now Sounds turns the clock back to The Critters’ brief heyday, before personnel changes and questions of musical direction altered the band’s sound irrevocably.  The new Younger Girl: The Complete Kapp and Musicor Recordings (CRNOW 33, 2012) upgrades and improves Taragon’s 1994 CD The Anthology: The Complete Kapp Recordings, by adding six tracks and a customarily excellent design and presentation from reissue producer Steve Stanley.  Alan Brownstein has remastered from the original mono master tapes.

Whereas the Project 3 recordings are more in a soft-psych vein, the Critters’ earlier recordings are an amalgam of the pop styles they’d honed to perfection on the touring circuit.  Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2012 at 09:58

Release Round-Up, Week of May 29

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Amen Corner, Round Amen Corner: The Complete Deram Recordings (RPM)

The complete Deram output of Andy Fairweather-Low’s soulful group Amen Corner is collected by RPM Records, including the 1968 album that gives this reissue its title!

The Critters, Younger Girl: The Complete Kapp and Musicor Recordings (Now Sounds)

The first album from New Jersey’s Critters (“Younger Girl,” “Mr. Dieingly Sad”) is reissued along with a plethora of rare singles and bonus songs!

Everything But the Girl, Eden…Plus / Idlewild, Plus… / Baby The Stars Shine Bright…Plus / Love Not Money…Plus (Edsel)

Edsel unveils beautifully-designed reissues of the first four albums from the sophisticated British pop duo!  Each 2-CD set is housed in a hardcover digi-book and bolsters the original album with rare songs and performances that no fan will want to miss.

Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, I’m Not Me / Jerry Reed, The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed / Nashville Underground (Real Gone Music)

Real Gone Music offers the CD debut of  a rare outing from Mick Fleetwood plus two albums on one CD from Nashville’s legendary “guitar man,” Jerry Reed!

Small Faces, Small Faces (Decca) / In the Beginning (Decca/Universal)

The 1966 and 1967 Decca albums from Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan arrive in eagerly-awaited 2-CD expanded editions!

The Supremes, The Supremes at the Copa (Motown/Hip-o Select)

Detroit’s legendary ladies take New York’s swank Copacabana by storm in this 1965 set, now expanded to 2 CDs and jam-packed with unreleased material!

Various Artists, Playlist titles (Legacy Recordings)

Sony’s Legacy Recordings offers a variety of budget-priced Playlist compilations from a diverse array of artists including Harry Belafonte, Jim Brickman, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Ciara, Alice Cooper, Rodney Crowell, Raheem DeVaughn, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, The Fugees, Heather Headley, Kenny Loggins, Prong, Pete Seeger and Tonex!

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2012 at 08:45

Have You Checked The Children? “When a Stranger Calls” Joins Fifties Double Feature On CD

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Though a holiday weekend is soon to kick off here in the U.S., the Kritzerland label isn’t resting on its laurels.  The soundtrack specialists have just announced two new releases featuring three wild (and wildly different) film scores.

One of the most successful thrillers of 1979, When a Stranger Calls, featured the second ever film score by Dana Kaproff (Cagney and Lacey, The Bionic Woman, Falcon Crest).  Kritzerland released Kaproff’s first (1977’s Empire of the Ants) so it’s only appropriate that the label brings this long-awaited suspense classic to CD, as well.  With a venerable cast including Colleen Dewhurst, Carol Kane, Charles Durning and Rachel Roberts, When a Stranger Calls had one question on everyone’s lips that year: “Have you checked the children?”  Its tense score is as chilling today as it was in 1979. You’ll want to hear for yourself.  Just don’t play this one in the dark!

When a Stranger Calls is joined by a two-for-one CD of I Married a Monster from Outer Space and The Atomic City!  A 1958 low-budget sci-fi flick starring Tom Tryon and Gloria Talbott, I Married a Monster has the distinction of carrying no music credit at all despite the presence of quite a bit of a memorable music!  Why?  The film was made during a musicians’ union strike, and so the studio was forced to go outside the United States to re-record selections from its publishing library.  And so, voila!  Straight from the Paramount vaults is a score composed by Victor Young, Hugo Friedhofer, Aaron Copland, Franz Waxman, Walter Scharf, Lyn Murray, Nathan Van Cleave, Roy Webb and more!  Joining this altogether fascinating “original score” is 1952’s The Atomic City, composed by Leith Stevens, who is also represented on I Married a Monster from Outer Space!  Gene Barry, Lydia Clarke and Nancy Gates starred in this low-budget thriller that was just a cut above, even earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Story and Screenplay!

These world premiere releases are scheduled to ship directly from Kritzerland the first week of July, but pre-orders from the label most often arrive an average of four weeks’ early!  Both When a Stranger Calls and I Married a Monster from Outer Space/The Atomic City are strictly limited editions of 1,000 copies each.  Hit the jump for pre-order links, track listings and the full press releases from Kritzerland! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 25, 2012 at 10:43

Martinis and Bikinis, with a Side of T-Bone: Sam Phillips’ 1994 Classic Coming to CD and Vinyl

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How to describe the career trajectory of Sam Phillips?  Leslie Ann Phillips first made a splash in the music world recording contemporary Christian pop in 1983, took the name “Sam,” moved to the mainstream in the late 1980s with then-husband T Bone Burnett at the production helm, and even threatened Bruce Willis as an onscreen nemesis (albeit a mute one!) in Die Hard with a Vengeance!  Sam Phillips continues to write and record today, focusing her efforts on a digital subscription service of new music as well as on composing for the new ABC Family television series Bunheads.  The gang at Omnivore Recordings, however, is turning the clock back for an expanded edition of Phillips’ 1994 Martinis & Bikinis.  Her third outing for Virgin Records following 1989’s aptly-titled The Indescribable Wow and 1991’s Cruel Inventions, Martinis & Bikinis has never been released on vinyl till now.  Both the vinyl and CD editions will be bolstered by four bonus tracks.

Like her past efforts for Virgin as well as her final release as Leslie Phillips, Martinis & Bikinis was produced by T Bone Burnett.  Van Dyke Parks brought his singular talents as an arranger, and a team of musicians was enlisted to join Phillips including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Heartbreaker Benmont Tench, Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, John Zorn) and Jerry Scheff (Elvis Presley’s TCB Band).

Martinis & Bikinis was hailed by critics upon its release for steadfastly maintaining Phillips’ own voice and love of Beatles-influenced pop.  In the New York Times, Alec Foege praised the “haunting arrangements” and “melodic phrases quoted from Beatles hits,” and concluded that “what’s surprising is that such gorgeous tunes aren’t topping the charts.”  (That love of The Beatles’ pure songcraft extended to a cover of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” which closed the original album.)  Phillips went on to score a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal for the album’s “Circle of Fire.”

Hit the jump for more details on Omnivore’s new reissue! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 25, 2012 at 09:49