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Archive for May 16th, 2012

Review: Diana Ross, “Live in Central Park”

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The hair is the first thing you notice when Diana Ross emerges from a troupe of grass skirt-clad dancers on stage at Central Park in New York City on July 21, 1983. Miss Ross, as she’s gotten older, is easily distinguished for that dark, curly mane, like a proud lioness. But while her hair was as resplendent as usual on this night, it was…askew.

Musicologists and hardcore Diana fans know why without any explanation: Ross’ Central Park concert had the unfortunate circumstance of being schedule the same night a torrent of wind and rain blanketed the city. The ensuing concert special, airing on Showtime, captured a beautiful, almost surreal night, with Ross’ unique powerhouse persona – slender limbs outstretched to the sky, gleaming grin winding up a near-hysterical audience – as New York’s first line of defense against Mother Nature.

The incredible battle of wills, which crescendoed into an early end to the first concert and a quickly scheduled follow-up show on the following, drier night, has finally been captured on DVD. Diana Ross: Live in Central Park (Shout! Factory 826663-13128) is a heck of a collectible for her fan base, but does a pretty astounding job of crossing over into essential viewing for soul and R&B enthusiasts in general.

Diana Ross’ post-Supremes packaging may not be for everyone. Sometimes, it felt she vacillated too easily between soothing soul goddess and Norma Desmond-ish diva. (For younger readers, this is, not surprisingly, sort of how Michael Jackson carried himself, too.) But that almost obstinate resistance came in handy as the ’80s dawned, first with the release of the excellent, CHIC-produced diana in 1980 (on which Ross sounded as spirited as she had in the ’60s, with a decidedly modern twist), and then with the Central Park special Diana: For One and For All.

The 47-minute program, broadcast live to satellite on Showtime in the U.S., has the then-39-year-old star all but laughing in the face of the elements. She urges calm among her audience, and doesn’t shy away from anything. She insists on extending an onstage ramp to get closer to the crowd, and refuses to retreat from the increasing downpour. (The affable commentary on the special by Cable ACE-winning director Steve Binder only serves to perpetuate the idea that Diana’s attitude came less from a “come see about me” mindset and more from a need to entertain her fans.)

Funnily enough, the power of the rain-shortened concert almost makes the next night’s sunny full show an afterthought. But Diana’s energy hasn’t let up in the 24-hour gap between shows. (Another small treat for nostalgists: the recap of the previous show that starts the full feature, complete with clips of vintage New York newscasts.) Though the first third is ripe with the same emotional beats as the night before, the full show also gives us stellar performances of “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down,” as well as some choice covers (Michael Sembello’s “Maniac,” Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky,” a slight but spirited run-through on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”).

It’s hard to complain about having Diana Ross: Live in Central Park to add to our collections. (The transfer, it should be noted, is pretty great, with only a few artifacts toward the end of the original special and a clear transfer on the full concert.) If a little “love shower” couldn’t stop Miss Ross from putting on a hell of a show…well, who are we to argue?

Written by Mike Duquette

May 16, 2012 at 14:48

Posted in Diana Ross, DVD, Reviews

Singin’ to the Music: Davy Jones’ “Bell Recordings” Joins Monkees’ Deluxe “Pool It!” in April, Rhino Offers Limited Vinyl 45

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It’s no exaggeration to state that the entertainment world was shaken by the sudden passing of Davy Jones on February 29 of this year, responding not only with an outpouring of grief, but with genuinely fond memories of the actor, singer and Monkee. Friday Music is joining Rhino Entertainment in keeping Jones’ rich legacy of music alive, with two new releases slated for April 24. After having recently reissued Jones’ pre-Monkees debut, the label turns its attention to Jones’ 1971-1972 recordings for the Bell Records label, featuring the hit “Rainy Jane” as well as “Girl,” the song immortalized on The Brady Bunch. But that’s not all. On the same day as Davy’s The Bell Recordings 1971-1972, Friday will reissue The Monkees’ 1987 reunion album Pool It! in an expanded edition boasting two bonus tracks and a DVD.

The first twelve tracks on The Bell Recordings represent the complete 1971 Davy Jones album, on which Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield’s “Rainy Jane,” a No. 52 hit for the singer. (Sedaka’s own 1969 version achieved some measure of popularity in Australia in the period between his early RCA hits and Rocket Records comeback.) The Bell era is also notable for Jones’ appearance on the Brady Bunch episode “Getting Davy Jones,” but Jones also kept a high profile via television guest spots on Love American Style, Here Come the Brides and even The New Scooby-Doo Movies! Davy Jones was arranged and conducted by Al Capps, who also worked with Bobby Sherman, Andy Williams and Cher, and carried on the lighter sound of the Monkees’ repertoire rather than that band’s later sonic explorations. The twelve tracks from Davy Jones are augmented by six bonus tracks: the mono singles “Girl” b/w “Take My Love” and “I’ll Believe in You” b/w “Road to Love,” plus album tracks “How About Me” and “I Really Love You,” also both in mono.

UPDATE 5/16/12: Rhino Records announced today that a limited edition green vinyl single of Davy’s “Girl” and “Rainy Jane” will be released as a double A-side 7-inch single!  Only 1,000 copies of this limited edition release have been pressed!  “Girl/Rainy Jane” is available exclusively at and can be pre-ordered here!  It’s set to arrive on May 29 at

Hit the jump to join Davy, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork as we dive into The Monkees’ Pool It! on Friday Music!

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Written by Joe Marchese

May 16, 2012 at 13:46

Soundtrack Surplus: Varese, Intrada, La-La Land Announce List of Heavyweights

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Soundtrack fans had a lot of courses to chew on this week, with batches from Intrada and Varese Sarabande landing within mere hours of each other on Monday and Tuesday and a reissue announced for next week by La-La Land Records.

Over at Intrada, fans got to enjoy a new entry in the label’s Special Collection series: Michael Small’s sexy, suspenseful score to The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). Small’s soundtrack is released in full for the first time anywhere, featuring a handful of alternate cues intended for a soundtrack LP that never materialized.

Intrada’s second release is an interesting one: a reissue of the expanded score to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier by Jerry Goldsmith. As you may recall, La-La Land’s expansion of the album, which combined the complete score with the original soundtrack LP and bonus material, was a sellout not long after its limited release in 2010. Paramount apparently requested it be back in print in perpetuity – now, virtually every classic Trek soundtrack reissue of the past few years is now available in unlimited quantities – and so, with only minor changes in artwork, it can boldly go to your collection once more.

Varese dropped a crazy amount of titles on Tuesday, and you can read all about them after the jump!

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Just As He Was: Bill Withers’ 1971 Debut “Just As I Am” Reissued By Big Break

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Bill Withers titled his 1971 debut album Just As I Am, and the raw, simple and understated cover photo seemed to support that title.  Withers, with an ingratiating smile on his face and a lunch pail in his hand, is standing against a brick wall at California’s Webber Aircraft facility.  The US Navy aircraft mechanic turned guitar-slinging singer/songwriter was somewhat of an anomaly on the music scene, and in his understated manner wrote on the album’s jacket, “It matters not where I came from in relation to the world, as long as the world and I arrive at a common point at a common time.  I would like to thank Sussex Records and Booker T. Jones for allowing me to present myself to whoever is kind enough to listen.”  Though Withers largely retired from music over twenty-five years ago, his debut statement and its oft-covered “Ain’t No Sunshine” has been recognized as a bona fide classic of pop and soul.  Big Break Records has reissued Just As I Am with Withers’ participation for a 40th Anniversary Edition which has just arrived in stores.

A native of West Virginia, Withers served for nine years in the U.S. Navy, and upon his 1965 discharge continued to work in the aircraft business even as he began pursuing an extracurricular interest in making music.  A number of fortuitous occurrences led to Withers being introduced to Clarence Avant of Sussex Records, who in turn brought Booker T. Jones, of Booker T. and the MGs, to Withers.  Jones was signed to produce the album that became Just As I Am, and brought along compatriots like Al Jackson and the recently-departed Donald “Duck” Dunn to contribute musically.  Adding a unique sound to the album was the guitar of Stephen Stills, with whom Jones had recently worked and also enlisted to join the sessions for the debut of this new singer/songwriter.

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

Written by Joe Marchese

May 16, 2012 at 10:02

Posted in Bill Withers, News, Reissues