The Second Disc

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Archive for June 21st, 2012

Bend Them, Shape Them: Amen Corner “Complete Deram Recordings” Out From RPM

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Turn on an American oldies radio station today and it shouldn’t be too long before you hear The American Breed’s “Bend Me, Shape Me,” a Top 5 hit in 1968. Across the pond, however, the song unequivocally belongs to Amen Corner. The Welsh outfit didn’t last long, but in a jam-packed two year period, Amen Corner produced six hits and three albums on two labels: Deram and Immediate. The Deram years have just been collected in full on RPM’s new Round Amen Corner: The Complete Deram Recordings. The 19-track anthology brings together the entire Round Amen Corner LP as well as six non-LP single sides on one CD.

Decca had established the Deram label as a home base for its “hip” young artists, and Amen Corner fit the bill. The large band was able to create a full sound on record thanks to the combined power of Andy Fairweather-Low on lead vocals, Dennis Bryon on drums and vocals, Clive Taylor on bass and vocals, Derek “Blue” Weaver on Hammond organ and vocals, Mike Smith (replacing Malcolm David) on tenor sax, Alan Jones on baritone sax and Neil Jones on lead guitar. Signed by executive Noel Walker on the strength of Fairweather-Low’s impassioned live performance of “Gin House Blues” at Oxford Street’s Tiles Club, Walker had a more pop-oriented direction for the band in mind. Their R&B and blues credentials weren’t in doubt, though. The band had jammed with Jimi Hendrix, and supported the blazing guitarist on the same Royal Albert Hall bill as Pink Floyd, The Move and The Nice!

Like The American Breed, Amen Corner made its name with “Bend Me, Shape Me,” written by the American team of Scott English and Larry Weiss. (With Richard Kerr, Scott English would later have his biggest songwriting success with Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.”) The No. 3 hit paved the way for Round Amen Corner, the group’s 1968 debut long-player. The album featured the band’s diverse repertoire, from familiar pop covers to original material.  Hit the jump to find out more, including the complete track listing and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 21, 2012 at 12:25

Baby, It’s Burt: Cherry Red’s Él Label Collects Early Bacharach On “Long Ago Last Summer”

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Although Burt Bacharach had been composing songs at least since 1952, when he kicked off a long career with the instrumental “Once in a Blue Moon” for Nat “King” Cole, the Burt Bacharach “sound” didn’t truly crystallize until the early 1960s.  Prior to his reshaping of the sound of adult R&B, Bacharach teamed with a variety of lyricists to craft songs in virtually every genre imaginable: rock-and-roll, rockabilly, country, pop balladry, jazz, even the novelty song.  Naturally, the earliest period in Bacharach’s career has long taken a back seat to the post-1962 works.  That was the year that Bacharach and lyricist partner Hal David first recorded “Make It Easy on Yourself” for Jerry Butler and the year that Dionne Warwick recorded her first Bacharach/David song, “Don’t Make Me Over.”  Although not credited beyond an “Arranged by” on the label of “Make It Easy on Yourself,” Bacharach has often cited Butler’s recording as his first real production, including orchestration.  With that track, a style was born.

Cherry Red’s Él label (itself a venerable institution, founded by Mike Alway in the 1980s) first tackled the earliest years of Bacharach’s career in 2009 with The First Book of Songs (ACMEM166CD), covering the period between 1954 and 1958 over 28 songs.  (That set erroneously included Patti Page’s “Another Time, Another Place,” credited on the label to Bacharach and David but actually written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, also of publishing house Famous Music.)  The label has just released a belated sequel, Long Ago Last Summer: 1959-1961 which culminates in The Shirelles’ 1961 hit “Baby, It’s You,” written by Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams, a.k.a. Luther Dixon.  Although its whopping 33 songs don’t represent every song from Bacharach’s pen recorded during those years, it’s a true cross-section of both the best and the weirdest!  As such, it’s a must-own for collectors, premiering a number of long-lost tracks on CD.

Hit the jump to dig deep with Bacharach and the Él team, including a full track listing with discographical annotation for the new CD! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 21, 2012 at 09:59