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Archive for May 17th, 2012

Take A Giant Step: Taj Mahal Celebrates 70th Birthday With Release of “Hidden Treasures” From The Vaults

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Today, May 17, 2012, Taj Mahal turns 70.  Though the bluesman has reached a venerable age, he’s still some 289 years younger than his namesake structure in Agra, India.  But the man born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks Jr. has packed in at least a couple lifetimes of breaking new musical ground.  A singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Taj Mahal has fused traditional blues with rock, pop, jazz, folk and world music influences drawing on his own West Indian heritage and beyond.  In celebration of Mahal’s birthday, Legacy Recordings is launching a new catalogue initiative for the artist which begins on August 21 with the release of The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973.  This set features two CDs comprised entirely of unreleased finished material, both live and in the studio.  The first disc debuts studio recordings from the period of 1967-1973, and the second disc premieres a full-length live concert, recorded April 18, 1970 at the legendary Royal Albert Hall in London.  Plans are afoot for the entire Columbia Records catalogue of Taj Mahal to eventually see reissue in definitive editions.

Columbia was the label where two-time Grammy winner Taj Mahal got his start.  Born in New York but raised in Massachusetts, he relocated to California in 1964 and soon formed The Rising Sons with another up-and-coming talent, Ry Cooder.  A club sensation, the Rising Sons managed to release one single on Columbia, though an album of unreleased material produced by Terry Melcher (The Byrds, Paul Revere and the Raiders) escaped from the vaults years later.  The eclectic music of The Rising Sons anticipated the catholic approach Taj Mahal would take as a solo artist; the band’s repertoire included Bob Dylan (“Walkin’ Down the Line”), Blind Willie McTell (“Statesboro Blues”) and even Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“Take a Giant Step”).  Though the group soon disbanded, Columbia kept tabs on Taj Mahal, and released his self-titled solo debut in 1968.  The blues-oriented set featured compositions from McTell, Robert Johnson and Sleepy John Estes, and featured Cooder on rhythm guitar.  Taj played lead guitar, slide guitar and handled vocals.  More albums followed, with 1969’s half-acoustic, half-electric Giant Step/De Old Folks at Home a particular milestone.  The album took half of its title from the Goffin and King song that was becoming a Taj Mahal signature, and also included material from The Band’s Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson as well as Sonny Boy Williamson and Huddie Ledbetter on the electric side.  The acoustic volume primarily consisted of traditionals.

Taj Mahal played the Royal Albert Hall on a bill with Santana between Giant Step/De Old Folks at Home and 1971’s Happy to Be Just Like I Am.  Taj Mahal remained with Columbia Records until 1976, writing more of his own material but frequently spicing his albums with songs from other musicians ranging from Mississippi John Hurt to Bob Marley and Chuck Berry!  In 1976 he left Columbia for Warner Bros. Records, a sister label of Reprise Records, where Mahal’s old friend Ry Cooder had started his own solo career in 1970.  Taj Mahal continues to perform and record today; his 2008 album Maestro celebrated his long career with guest spots from Los Lobos, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley and Ben Harper.  Legacy’s 2005 The Essential Taj Mahal offered a retrospective of his career.

Hit the jump for more on Hidden Treasures, plus the full track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 17, 2012 at 15:04

Under the Lavender Moon: Los Lobos’ “Kiko” Gets Deluxe Reissue This Summer

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Their first compilation may have humbly seen them described as “just another band from east L.A.,” but Los Lobos have remained one of the most richly diverse bands in a nearly 40-year lifespan. And this August, one of their most acclaimed LPs is getting expanded by Shout! Factory.

1992’s Kiko was released some years after the band burst onto the scene with How Will the Wolf Survive? (1984) and their breakthrough contributions to the soundtrack to La Bamba in 1987. But many critics and fans – not to mention the band themselves – look highly on their work on Kiko, arguably the ultimate synthesis of the band’s diverse influences, from blues to country to Tex-Mex. It was hailed as the year’s best album by The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, and the experimental video for “Kiko and The Lavender Moon” won an MTV Video Music Award for Breakthrough Video.

Shout! Factory’s celebration of the album comes twofold: not only are they remastering and expanding the album with five unreleased bonus tracks, but they’re also releasing a live show from 2006, in which the band played the album in its entirety. That set, Kiko Live, will be released as a CD/DVD set or a CD/Blu-Ray package and will also feature bonus interviews about the making of the album.

All sets will be available on August 21. Preview the track lists after the jump!

Kiko: 20th Anniversary Edition (Shout! Factory, 2012)

  1. Dream in Blue
  2. Wake Up Dolores
  3. Angels with Dirty Faces
  4. That Train Don’t Stop Here
  5. Kiko and the Lavender Moon
  6. Saint Behind the Glass
  7. Reva’s House
  8. When the Circus Comes
  9. Arizona Skies
  10. Short Side of Nothing
  11. Two Janes
  12. Wicked Rain
  13. Whiskey Trail
  14. Just a Man
  15. Peace
  16. Rio de Tenampa
  17. Whiskey Trail (Studio Demo)
  18. Rio de Tenampa (Studio Demo)
  19. Peace (Live @ Capitol Studios on NPR – 12/25/1992)
  20. Arizona Skies/Borinquen Patria Mia (Live @ Capitol Studios on NPR – 12/25/1992)
  21. Kiko and the Lavender Moon (Live @ Capitol Studios on NPR – 12/25/1992)

Kiko Live (Shout! Factory, 2012)

  1. Dream in Blue
  2. Wake Up Dolores
  3. Angels with Dirty Faces
  4. That Train Don’t Stop Here
  5. Kiko and the Lavender Moon
  6. Saint Behind the Glass
  7. Reva’s House
  8. When the Circus Comes
  9. Arizona Skies
  10. Short Side of Nothing
  11. Two Janes
  12. Wicked Rain
  13. Whiskey Trail
  14. Just a Man
  15. Peace
  16. Rio de Tenampa
  17. Carabina 30-30
  18. Volver Volver
  19. La Bamba

All tracks recorded live at the House of Blues, San Diego – 2/24/2006

Written by Mike Duquette

May 17, 2012 at 13:44

In Memoriam: Donna Summer (1948-2012)

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Who among us hasn’t been touched by the music of Donna Summer?  One of the defining voices of the disco era, Summer has been silenced today after a brave battle with cancer.  Yet the music of LaDonna Adrian Gaines, born on New Year’s Eve in 1948, will doubtless continue to transport us back to a time when vivacious music blared “On the Radio.”  Donna Summer implored us to take that “Last Dance” on the disco floor with some very “Bad Girls” in a nearly unrivalled string of hits.  She reminded us about that cake in the rain in a chart-topping remake of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park,” and taught Barbra Streisand to have “No More Tears (Enough is Enough).”  Today, we remember the sublimely soulful, deeply dramatic Donna Summer.  Please share your memories of Donna Summer and her legacy of “Hot Stuff” below.

Written by Joe Marchese

May 17, 2012 at 12:54

Posted in Donna Summer, News

In Case You Missed It: A Compilation That Can’t Be Kihn-tained

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Here’s a compilation that slipped through the cracks a few weeks back: Best of Beserkley ’75-’84, a new disc covering the work of The Greg Kihn Band, for many years the flagship artist of Beserkley Records.

The Berkeley, California-based indie label trafficked in power pop and alt-rock stylings, with early acts including Earth Quake, The Rubinoos and Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers. Kihn, a Baltimore-born singer/songwriter living in Berkeley was an early signee, as well; his debut recording was released on the label’s first LP, the audaciously titled Beserkeley Chartbusters Vol. 1.

Despite the size of that claim, Kihn would indeed become the main (and by the ’80s, among the only) artist for the label, with huge hits in “The Break Up Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em),” which peaked at No. 15 in 1981, and “Jeopardy,” a No. 2 hit in 1983. (The latter was, of course, an early tune parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic as “I Lost on Jeopardy.” Kihn even appeared in the video!)

The Greg Kihn Band stopped putting out records in 1986, a few years after Beserkley folded; Kihn now operates as a radio DJ in San Jose. Rhino issued a compilation of their work in 1989, and other labels have licensed the Beserkley catalogue in the decades since. The Riot label takes the reins on this new disc, which gathers 21 of the band’s best singles and album cuts for a new generation to enjoy.

The set is out now, and can be ordered after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

May 17, 2012 at 12:54

Posted in Compilations, News