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Archive for July 2012

Lively Up Yourself: Marley’s Dub Mixes Released on CD by Island

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In a year which saw a new Bob Marley compilation with some rare material surface (to tie in with the recent Marley documentary film, due on DVD and Blu-Ray next Tuesday), Universal has again gone into the reggae legend’s vaults for a new compilation focusing on Marley and The Wailers’ dub mixes.

Dub, a subgenre of reggae with an emphasis on rhythm tracks, would enjoy heavy crossover appeal by the middle of the 1980s. But during The Wailers’ heyday, dub was consigned to some of the more innovative studio musicians of Jamaica, from King Tubby to Lee “Scratch” Perry. The Wailers’ dub mixes were often hard to find, rarely appearing outside of local dub plate singles on Marley’s Tuff Gong Records; some were never even released until the deluge of reissues and anthologies following Marley’s unexpected death in 1981.

As it stands, about seven of the 11 tracks on In Dub, Volume 1 have never been before released on a physical album. (This set was released as a digital download in 2010.) One newly-created mix, “Lively Up Your Dub,” has been created by noted reggae producer Scientist just for this set. And physical consumers rejoice! In Dub, Volume 1 (the promised first in a series) is available now on CD or vinyl. Hit the jump to order your copies and have a look at the track list.

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 31, 2012 at 16:20

Review: Elvis Presley, “I Am An Elvis Fan”

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RCA Victor famously trumpeted back in 1959 that 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong in compiling the singer’s hit singles from 1958-1959.  Well, can 250,000 Elvis fans be wrong?  Earlier this year, Elvis Presley Enterprises and Legacy Recordings gave today’s crop of fans a chance to vote on their favorites from the King’s rich catalogue.  Over a quarter million votes were tabulated; do you agree with the final picks?  The results are now on display via I Am an Elvis Fan (RCA/Legacy 88725 42334 2).  It includes 21 selections in seven categories: 1950s, 1960s, Country, Movies, Love Songs, Gospel and In Concert.  As such, it offers a look at many facets of the great man’s all-too-short but infinitely influential career, but it’s also neither fish nor fowl in the crowded landscape of Presley anthologies.

It would be impossible for one disc to encapsulate all of Presley’s hits, though 2002’s 30 # 1 Hits is darn close to one-stop shopping, with the following year’s 2nd to None a most suitable companion.  (Consider: iconic tracks like “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “If I Can Dream” and “Kentucky Rain” are all on the second album.)  Hits are plentiful on I Am an Elvis Fan, but it’s certainly not comprehensive in that regard.  Few collections, though, could boast the nonstop power of the compilation’s first four tracks, segueing from the ‘50s category into Movies: “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock.”  These are among the songs that catapulted Presley into the American consciousness, to a position which he still hasn’t vacated to this day.

None of the tracks on I Am an Elvis Fan are particularly rare, and it’s hard to believe that a serious Elvis fan wouldn’t already have all of them on one CD or another.  But to the casual fan (for whom this set has been tailor-made) it’s an introduction to, or reminder of, the qualities that made Presley such a startling innovator.  Contrary to popular belief, his era-defining approach to rock-and-roll didn’t come out of nowhere.  Instead, Presley’s earliest sides synthesized “black” rhythm and blues with “white” melodic American pop, with healthy dollops of country, bluegrass and perhaps most significantly, gospel.  Every one of those strains can be found on this compilation.  It’s no wonder that some of the categories used to select the songs here overlap!

Hit the jump for much more on The King! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 31, 2012 at 15:12

Posted in Compilations, Elvis Presley, News, Reviews

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Mike Oldfield Celebrated in August with New Deluxe Reissues, Compilation

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Mike Oldfield was always more than “Tubular Bells.” The 59-year-old multi-instrumentalist has continued to put out diverse, challenging music long after his signature tune was released nearly 40 years ago. In recent years, Universal Music Enterprises has done a great job of anthologizing Oldfield’s work with expanded editions of his early works for Virgin Records; on August 14, not only will two new deluxe editions be released, but a brand-new career spanning compilation will hit stores as well.

UMe will next expand Platinum and QE2, Oldfield’s last album of the 1970s and first of the 1980s, respectively. While Platinum saw Oldfield still pursuing progressive arrangements, as evidenced by the four-part suite on the first half of the record, he also started dabbling in reactions to popular sounds, including a cover of George and Ira Gershwin’s standard “I Got Rhythm,” the reactionary “Punkadiddle” and others. Oldfield would also have great success with non-LP singles, including disco track “Guilty” and the theme to the long-running British children’s program Blue Peter. (In America, Platinum was remixed and resequenced as Airborn.) The expanded Platinum features “Blue Peter” and unreleased versions of parts of the Platinum suite, as well as a live show from London’s Wembley Arena in 1980.

Follow-up album QE2 (named for the luxury ocean liner) furthers Oldfield’s straddling between prog and pop, with covers of ABBA’s “Arrival” and The Shadows’ “Wonderful Land” in the mix. This expanded edition also features two non-LP tracks (including the single version of “Wonderful Land”), a new reworking of the album cut “Sheba” and another live disc from the ambitious Adventure Tour in Europe.

Finally, the double-disc Two Sides: The Very Best of Mike Oldfield offers a thorough and diverse overview of Oldfield’s career, including hits for Virgin (“Tubular Bells,” “Guilty,” “Family Man,” “Moonlight Shadow”) and latter-day works released by Warner Bros. and Mercury.

You can order all three titles after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 31, 2012 at 14:22

Gold Legion Expands Titles by Laura Branigan, Grace Jones

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The Gold Legion label has two expanded titles coming from a pair of disco and dance legends this fall.

Expect remastered and expanded editions of the late, great Laura Branigan’s Branigan (1982) and Self Control (1984) albums, as well as reissues of Inside Story (1986) and Bulletproof Heart (1989) from Grace Jones, this September.

Branigan, the big-voiced New Yorker with a four-octave range, burst onto the scene in 1982 with the release of Branigan, a solid offering of dance-rock bolstered by a cover of “Gloria,” an Italian pop hit for Umberto Tozzi in 1979. Branigan’s iconic, addictive single spent an extraordinary 36 weeks on the U.S. charts, peaking at No. 2 and earning her a Grammy nomination. Branigan’s embrace of European musical trends and songcraft netted her greater success as the ’80s rolled on, first with a French pop song, “Solitaire,” translated into English by a rising lyricist named Diane Warren; then with “Self Control,” a hard-driving song co-written by Italian pop star Raffaele “Raf” Riefoli that was a Top 5 hit in 1984. The expansion of Branigan features the 12″ version of “Gloria” as well as 1981 non-LP single “Looking Out for Number One,” while Self Control features remixes of the title track and singles “Satisfaction” and “The Lucky One.”

Gold Legion then turns its attention to an oft-overlooked period for iconic dance musician/model/actress Grace Jones. The striking Miss Jones took on her biggest film role in 1985 as the mysterious May Day in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, and would end her longtime association with Island Records with the bestselling Island Life compilation. The next year, she took up with producer Nile Rodgers (ironically, a missed encounter at Studio 54 inspired Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to write massive hit “Le Freak” during their tenue in CHIC) and released Inside Story on EMI-owned Manhattan Records. The LP spawned a sizable U.S. dance hit in “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You),” co-written by British songwriter Bruce Woolley (who co-wrote Jones’ hit “Slave to the Rhythm”). Follow-up album Bulletproof Heart was produced by a number of dance producers, including Jonathan Elias, Jones’ then-husband Chris Stanley and up-and-coming dance hitmakers Robert Clivillés and David Cole (the individual letters in the C+C Music Factory outfit). While the album was not a commercial success and would remain her last LP for nearly 20 years, it’s finally getting its due on CD, with three bonus remixes to boot. (Five remixes appear on Inside Story.)

Both Branigan discs and Bulletproof Heart will be available on September 18, with Inside Story following a week later. The initial 1,000 copies of each Grace Jones album will feature a special cardboard slipcase, and all sets will have expanded booklets. Hit the jump to explore these titles and place your orders!

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 31, 2012 at 12:50

Surf’s Up! “Surf Age Nuggets” Box Coming from RockBeat, Plus: Billy Gibbons, Dickie Goodman and a Visit to Southfork!

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RockBeat Records is back!  The label, founded by by Arny Schorr of S’more Entertainment and employing James Austin in the same capacity in which he served at Rhino Records (Vice President of A&R), has already delivered music from an eclectic roster of artists including Jackie DeShannon, Glen Campbell and Todd Rundgren.  The RockBeat team has just announced four new projects that are every bit as stylistically diverse as one might expect from the label: a box set of surf music classics, anthologies of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons’ early band The Moving Sidewalks and novelty record king Dickie Goodman, and a reissued record dedicated to the music of television’s Dallas!  All four titles are due on September 25.

Perhaps the most exciting title in this quartet is the 4-CD box set Surf-Age Nuggets.  Housed in a large box which will also contain a book annotated by compilation producer Austin, the compilation includes instrumental classics from the period between 1959 and 1966.  Though a complete track listing is not yet available, the box promises to include such trailblazing bands as Dick Dale & the Del-Tones, Bobby Fuller, the Velvetones, the Shan-Tones, the Valiants, the Ramrods, the Surf Teens, and the Royal Coachmen.  Expect to hear plenty of twangy electric guitars and Fender bass, tremolo effects and reverb on this tour of the influential music that emerged from the Southern California scene as the 1960s began.  RockBeat assures that many obscure tracks will appear on this set designed to reflect the period when “music, sport and teenage lifestyle came together and…the attitude that surfing has always been a “rebel sport.”

After the jump: What was Billy Gibbons up to, pre-ZZ Top?  And it’s a Ewing family get-together!  Plus, Dickie Goodman meets Batman, Jaws, E.T. and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 31, 2012 at 10:10

Release Round-Up: Week of July 31

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Frank Zappa, Official Reissues #1-13 (Zappa/UMe)

The iconoclastic musician’s catalogue is back in print thanks to a new agreement with Universal, and his first 13 albums (most of them newly remastered from the original analog masters) are available today. Joe gave us a great breakdown of what’s what on these new masters, which also has convenient links to both these new titles and the forthcoming second wave of remasters next month.

Blur, Blur 21 (Virgin/EMI)

21 refers not only to the legendary British band’s lifespan to date, but the amount of discs in this collection: all seven studio albums expanded with bonus discs (which are available separately, if that’s your thing), plus another four discs of rarities and three mostly live DVDs.

Neil Diamond, Hot August Night: 40th Anniversary Edition (Geffen/UMe)

Hard to believe it’s been 40 years since Neil’s second, terrific live LP was issued! This two-disc edition adds four unreleased tracks, offering just about every minute of that fateful night at LA’s Greek Theatre.

Elvis Presley, I Am An Elvis Fan (RCA/Legacy)

The latest Elvis compilation was fan-sourced, leading to some slightly different track choices than your typical Elvis fare, including a nice handful of live cuts from the latter half of the King’s career.

Charles Mingus, The Complete Columbia & RCA Studio Albums Collection / The Thelonious Monk Quartet, The Complete Columbia Studio Albums Collection / Weather Report, The Complete Columbia Albums 1971-1975 (Columbia/Legacy)

PopMarket’s latest complete boxes showcase some of the best jazz/fusion players to ever grace the Columbia label, and there are some great surprises in these boxes, including two rare tracks in the Mingus box and the first-ever domestic release of a Japanese live album in the Weather Report set.

20/20, 2o/20/Look Out! ; Clover, Clover/Fourty Niner ; Jimmy Griffin, Summer Holiday: Expanded Edition ; Sanford & Townsend, Smoke from a Distant Fire/Nail Me to the Wall ; Charles Bukowski, Charles Bukowski Reads His Poetry ; Jackie Gleason, Music for Lovers Only (Real Gone)

A diverse selection of releases from the eclectic reissue label: “The Great One,” the future Bread frontman, an American poet, a future Elvis Costello backing band and more!

Various Artists, Good Vibrations: The Beach Boys Songbook (Columbia/Sony Music Japan)

A quirky compilation from Japan (on Blu-Spec CD, no less) featuring some intriguing Beach Boys covers from the likes of Todd Rundgren, The Tokens, Andy Williams and others.

Henry Mancini’s “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” Reissued with Premiere of George Duning’s “Dear Brigitte”

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The legendary American actor James “Jimmy” Stewart (1908-1997) could boast of career highlights in virtually every genre of cinema, from comedies to dramas, westerns to thrillers.  Two of Stewart’s brightest comic moments are being recalled on a new two-for-one soundtrack release from the fine folks at Kritzerland.  Henry Mancini’s score to 20th Century Fox’s Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, from 1962, has been paired with George Duning’s score to the same studio’s Dear Brigitte (1965) for the label’s latest soundtrack release, available now for pre-order.

Henry Mancini was one of the most famous musicians on the planet when he penned the score to Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation.  A two-time Oscar winner and ten-time (!) Grammy winner, Mancini had sold over a million records with his jazzy scores for television’s Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky and Hollywood’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, all in collaboration with director Blake Edwards.  The assignment came in a busy year for the music man.  1962 also saw Mancini compose scores for Edwards’ thriller Experiment in Terror and drama The Days of Wine and Roses, both at Warner Bros., as well as Howard Hawks’ adventure Hatari! at Paramount.  (The original soundtrack to Hatari! at long last was issued this year from the Intrada label.)  Clearly, versatility was among Mancini’s many assets.

Mr. Hobbs, directed by Henry Koster and written by Nunnally Johnson, was based on Edward Streeter’s novel and starred Stewart as a comically beleaguered bank executive who finds his vacation anything but relaxing.  Maureen O’Hara was cast as Stewart’s wife, Lauri Peters (later of The Sound of Music) played his daughter, and teen idol Fabian took the role of her boyfriend.  Mancini’s short score (about 39 minutes in length) had a great amount of source music drawing on both jazz and the youthful sound of rock-and-roll; Johnny Mercer wrote the lyric to Mancini’s melody for teen novelty “Cream Puff,” sung in the film by Fabian and Peters.

Despite a felicitous soundtrack with Mancini in bright, melodic mode, no soundtrack to Mr. Hobbs was issued at the time of its release.  The same went for Days of Wine and Roses.  Both Experiment in Terror and Hatari! received re-recordings from Mancini on his home label, RCA Victor.  Intrada premiered the original Hobbs score in 2003 as a Special Collection title.  As that edition is long out-of-print, Kritzerland is bringing the title back as part of this Jimmy Stewart two-fer.  It’s made some tweaks to the Intrada release, including a new remastering and the shifting of some source pieces to the bonus section to avoid interruption of Mancini’s dramatic scoring.  Two demos from the Intrada CD have been retained.

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation will be paired with Dear Brigitte on the new CD.  Hit the jump for details, plus the full track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 30, 2012 at 10:13

Happy Together: “Sunset Strip to Haight-Ashbury” Features Jefferson Airplane, Mamas and the Papas, Turtles, Love and More

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John and Michy were gettin’ kind of itchy/Just to leave the folk music behind/Zal and Denny workin’ for a penny /Tryin’ to get a fish on the line..

Those lyrics from The Mamas and the Papas’ 1967 “Creeque Alley” begin to tell the story of the famous band, and it’s one of eighteen tracks on a new compilation aiming to tell a bigger story: that of “The California Scene in the 1960s.”  Yes, this story has been told more comprehensively elsewhere; see two of our favorite box sets dedicated to San Francisco Nuggets and Los Angeles Nuggets.  But the new single-CD release Sunset Strip to Haight-Ashbury from Starbucks Entertainment does an admirable job of hitting many of the high points in the dual tale of Los Angeles and San Francisco, circa 1964-1970.  Along the way, familiar tracks and hidden gems are featured from artists like The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Love and Iron Butterfly, as pop cedes to rock with more than a dollop of psychedelia.

Steven Stolder’s liner notes admit that Sunset Strip to Haight-Ashbury doesn’t touch on every aspect of California music in the 1960s; there’s nothing from The Beach Boys or Jan and Dean, for instance.  But the story being told travels from the Strip’s hotspots like Ciro’s and the Whisky A Go Go to the Bay Area’s Matrix and Fillmore.  The earliest track is a San Francisco one, from The Beau Brummels.  “Laugh, Laugh,” produced by Sylvester Stewart, a.k.a. Sly Stone, proved that American musicians could beat the British Invasion at its own game, as it melded that Brit sound with the strains of folk-rock.  The major triumvirate of Bay Area bands might just be considered Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, and all three are represented here, with “White Rabbit,” “Box of Rain” and “Dino’s Song,” respectively.  One trait shared by all of the bands on the new anthology was a desire to bring their sounds to the world at large, a feat most of these artists succeeded in pulling off.  Janis Joplin had a talent too big for any one region, and she’s heard on Big Brother and the Holding Company’s searing version of George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin’s “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess.  It was a transformative song if there ever was one, and characterized the limitless, mind-expanding approach to music taken by most of these artists.

Hit the jump to travel south to the Sunset Strip! Plus: the full track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 27, 2012 at 10:11

House That Used To Be: Old 97’s “Too Far To Care” Remastered and Expanded by Omnivore

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Though 1997’s Too Far to Care was actually the third album from Texan band Old 97’s, it was an album of firsts.  The major label debut of Rhett Miller and his musical cohorts, Too Far to Care placed the band at the vanguard of alt-country.  It combined the muscularity of rock and the songcraft of pop with the traditional country sound on which the band had earned an Elektra Records contract, and led to performances in front of Lollapalooza crowds.  In celebration of the album’s 15th anniversary, Omnivore Recordings will reissue Too Far to Care as a 2-CD deluxe edition, and for the first time on vinyl as a double LP on October 9. (The first 1500 copies of the LPs will be pressed on limited-edition translucent aqua blue vinyl.  Subsequent pressings will be standard black.)

The first disc of the 2-CD edition will feature the original Too Far to Care 13-track album in its entirety, plus a rare promo track and three previously unissued outtakes. The second disc of the deluxe set is a specially-curated collection that could stand on its own.  They Made A Monster: The Too Far to Care Demos features 11 previously unissued demo recordings from the original album sessions.  In keeping with Omnivore’s commitment to both the CD and vinyl formats, They Made A Monster: The Too Far To Care Demos will also be released as a stand-alone LP (with a download card included) and also as a stand-alone digital version at all major digital retailers. (The first 1500 LPs will be pressed on limited-edition translucent yellow vinyl; as usual, subsequent pressings will be black.)

This 15th anniversary project comes on the heels of the announcement that Old 97’s will launch the Too Far to Care tour in Texas (where else?) on August 23.  The entirety of the original album will be performed during the live performances, plus a second set of additional hits and favorites, and even a solo set from frontman Rhett Miller in support of his solo album The Dreamer.

Hit the jump for more on Old 97’s and Too Far to Care, including the complete track listing! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 26, 2012 at 14:10

Posted in News, Old 97's, Reissues

MC Squared = A Lost Sixties Treasure Unearthed By Now Sounds

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Though Albert Einstein popularized a rather different equation, Now Sounds has revealed to us that Michael Crowley + Michael Clough + Linda Carey + Randy Sterling + Jim Keltner = MC Squared.  The group released four singles on Reprise Records in the heady days of 1967 and 1968, the first of which was sandwiched between releases by Dino’s daughter Deana Martin and South African vocalist Miriam Makeba!  Throughout MC Squared’s tenure at Reprise, the band was in good company; 1968’s “Smilin’” b/w “That’s the Word” arrived between 45s from Jimi Hendrix and Lee Hazlewood!  But the group also recorded an entire album for Reprise that was shelved in 1968 and has remained unheard ever since.  The groovy musical archaeologists at Now Sounds, however, have come to the rescue.  Tantalizing Colours: The Reprise Recordings unveils a spellbinding lost classic.

MC Squared had its roots in the New Christy Minstrels’ sister group, Epic recording artists The Back Porch Majority.  As with the Christies, Randy Sparks kept tight reins over the Majority, and those reins became stifling for two of its members, Michael Crowley and Michael Clough.  The friends had developed a songwriting partnership, but there was no place for their original compositions with the Majority.  Taking another member, the winsome Linda Carey, with them, the two Michaels impressed Reprise Records A&R man Lenny Waronker enough to receive a contract on Frank Sinatra’s label.  (Waronker soon broke through himself with his productions for Harpers Bizarre.)  Before long, the group had expanded to five members.  First came Randy Sterling, who had already proven his considerable ability as an arranger on We Five’s “You Were on My Mind” (No. 3 Billboard, No. 1 Cashbox!) and would soon assume the producer’s role for the band.  Jim Keltner rounded out the group.  Then, Keltner was a talented drummer who had played for Gary Lewis and the Playboys; in time, he would become a legendary session man.  Ultimately, MC Squared featured Crowley on lead guitar and vocals, Clough on guitar and vocals, Sterling on bass, Keltner on drums and percussion (what else?) and Carey, on vocals.

We’ll pick up after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 26, 2012 at 09:54

Posted in MC Squared, News, Reissues