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Archive for May 24th, 2012

From Mississippi and Alabama: New Volume of “The Ace Story” Joins “Hall of Fame” Soul Rarities

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Two classic labels from the American south have received the deluxe treatment from Ace Records, and for lovers of classic R&B and soul, releases don’t come much better than this.  The Ace Story Volume 4 is the latest installment dedicated to Ace’s namesake, the pioneering R&B label out of Jackson, Mississippi that helped launch the careers of artists including Dr. John, Huey “Piano” Smith and Frankie Ford.  Just one state over in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Rick Hall’s Fame Studios welcomed artists including Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Etta James and Aretha Franklin.  On the heels of last year’s comprehensive The Fame Studios Story 1961-1973 box comes the first volume of Hall of Fame: Rare and Unissued Gems from the Fame Vaults drawing on the rich tape library of the Fame Records label.  Both titles are available now from Ace and are packed with songs that most definitely deserve another spin!

The current Ace Story series of CDs has been based on the 1980s vinyl series of the same name, with each new reissue expanding the original vinyl line-up to CD length.    The original sequence of the vinyl compilation is retained, with additional tracks added following that program’s conclusion.  In addition, each track is heard in best-ever sound, with most songs transferred from the original master tapes.  The Ace Story vinyl series lasted only five volumes, but Volume 4 on CD reveals that a sixth CD-only volume is planned; it will round up the best tracks not yet reissued to that point!

What will you find on these compilations?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 24, 2012 at 14:17

Posted in Compilations, News, Reissues

Leaders of the Pack: Ace Celebrates Legendary Songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry

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The union of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry was a brief one.  Married in 1962, the same year that they began a songwriting partnership, they were divorced in 1965.  Their professional partnership only continued for a short time thereafter.  Yet to this day, the team of Greenwich and Barry is spoken of in the same breath as two other successful Brill Building husband-and-wife teams, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (married 1961, still going strong!) and Gerry Goffin and Carole King (married 1959, divorced 1968).  Why?  Their songs remain some of the most perfect expressions of youth ever written, and most of them are just plain fun.  By the numbers, Greenwich and Barry saw 17 of their songs make the pop charts in 1964 alone, with a total of five chart-toppers in their career.  A total of 25 of their songs went gold or platinum.  Ace Records has just celebrated the Greenwich and Barry catalogue with a second volume of classic songs from the duo.  Following 2008’s Do-Wah-Diddy: Words and Music by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry comes the new release Da Doo Ron Ron: More from the Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook.  This comprehensive 24-track anthology includes many of the team’s hit songs in their original renditions as well as a choice sampling of true rarities and underrated covers.

Both natives of Brooklyn, New York, Greenwich (1940-2009) and Barry (1938-) met at a family get-together.  Actually distant relatives by marriage, both youngsters played piano and wrote songs.  Unlike many of their Brill Building contemporaries, both Greenwich and Barry were equally adept at composing and lyric-writing, so they would frequently share those duties on their compositions.  They consummated their partnership personally and professionally in 1962 although both initially continued to work with other songwriting partners.  Greenwich wrote two of producer Phil Spector’s Top 40 hits with Tony Powers:  Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ “Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts?” and Darlene Love’s “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry.”  For his part, Jeff Barry wrote “Tell Laura I Love Her” with Ben Raleigh, and saw the “death disc” climb all the way to No. 1 in 1960 on both sides of the Atlantic.  Ray Peterson scored the hit in the United States, and Ricky Valance in the United Kingdom!  Barry’s self-penned “Teenage Sonata” was also a No. 22 U.S. R&B success in the hands of Sam Cooke.  But when they joined forces, Greenwich and Barry soon proved unstoppable.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller united them professionally in 1962, providing cubicles in the Trio Music offices at the Brill Building.  Ellie and Jeff’s collaboration with Leiber and Stoller would lead them to the duo’s Red Bird Records, but first they scored more smash hits with Phil Spector.  Four 1963 classics from the Spector/Greenwich/Barry team all appear on Ace’s new anthology, and all are immortal examples of how the team defined the sound of then-current pop music: The Ronettes’ “Baby I Love You,” Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ “Not Too Young to Get Married,” Darlene Love’s “Wait ‘til My Bobby Gets Home” and The Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron.”  That same year, Spector attempted a song called “Chapel of Love,” co-written with Greenwich and Barry, on both Darlene Love and the Ronettes.  He wasn’t happy with either version, though, and so both recordings sat on the shelf.  The song caught the ear of Leiber and Stoller.  The former hated it and the latter liked it, but the third principal of the new Red Bird label, George Goldner, smelled a hit.  And his nose didn’t lie!  When “Chapel of Love” was released in April 1964 by New Orleans girl group The Dixie Cups, it knocked the Beatles out of the top spot on the U.S. pop charts.  It was Red Bird’s first single and the company’s first hit, but it wouldn’t be its last penned by Greenwich and Barry.  The team was largely responsible for 15 hits out of Red Bird’s first 20 releases!

What will you find on this ace anthology from Ace?  Just hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 24, 2012 at 09:49