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Archive for July 13th, 2012

From “Sassy” to “The Matriarch of the Blues” and Beyond: PopMarket Offers New Complete Box Sets in August

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Though it may be summer vacation for many of us, the folks at Sony’s PopMarket have been too busy to take much of a rest!  They’ll be releasing three more Complete Albums boxes from a triumvirate of artists who blurred the lines between jazz, R&B, pop and rock.  Box sets for The Brecker Brothers, Etta James and Sarah Vaughan will arrive at general retail as well as at on August 28.

Though most genres have been benefitted from the comprehensive Complete Albums series, jazz fans have been particularly lucky.  These three latest titles follow up the first 19 box sets in the series, and a cursory glance at that list reveals some of the most enduring names not only in jazz but in popular music: The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Stanley Clarke, Miles Davis (2009), George Duke, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Billie Holiday, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Return To Forever, Woody Shaw, Wayne Shorter, Grover Washington Jr., Weather Report 1971-1975 and Weather Report 1976-1982 (all on Columbia/Legacy); and Paul Desmond and Nina Simone (on RCA/Legacy).

For those not familiar with the Complete Albums series, the compact boxes contain every album released during a particular period of an artist’s career.  Each CD is packaged in a mini-LP sleeve replicating the original album’s front and back artwork, and many of the albums include bonus tracks.  Bonus discs have also been included in a number of the sets.  Booklets always contain discographical annotation and often contain new essays penned specifically for these sets.

The Brecker Brothers’ Complete Arista Albums Collection offers eight albums released between 1975 and 1981 from the duo of Randy Brecker (trumpet, b. 1945) and Michael Brecker (tenor saxophone, 1949-2007) on Clive Davis’ legendary label.  None of the albums in this set have ever appeared on CD in the U.S. before, making its release a particularly monumental one.  The Brecker Brothers have made their mark both individually and collectively with countless appearances on some of the best records of the day, from artists including Blood, Sweat and Tears, Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren, Rupert Holmes, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra and Frank Zappa.

But they’re still much-loved for their Arista output as headline artists, during which time they crossed genre lines from jazz to funk to rock and back again.  At Arista, Michael and Randy were joined by an array of familiar musicians with equally-impressive credentials including guitarists Bob Mann, Steve Khan, Barry Finnerty, David Spinozza, and Hiram Bullock; bassists Will Lee, Neil Jason, Marcus Miller, and Tony Levin; keyboardist Don Grolnick; and drummers Harvey Mason, Chris Parker, Steve Gadd, and Steve Jordan.  George Duke and Luther Vandross also made vital contributions.  These albums showcase the Brothers’ winning combination of pop melodies, pure jazz improvisation and memorable compositions, as well as a mastery of the musical forms of the day likely honed during their time as ace session men.  Though the Brecker Brothers broke up in 1982, they reunited in the early part of the next decade as both touring and recording artists.  Randy Brecker contributes new liner notes to the box set.

We explore the sets for Etta James and Sarah Vaughan after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 13, 2012 at 13:38

Brother Love Returns: Neil Diamond’s “Hot August Night” Celebrates 40 Years With Newly-Expanded Reissue

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“The stage, she is the God-damnedest woman you ever saw.”

So said Neil Diamond on the occasion of his first Hot August Night, nearly forty years ago at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre.  It was likely that the leaves were, indeed, hanging down, and the grass on the ground smelling…sweet.  Diamond is caught in an odd pose on the album’s cover, deep in a moment.  He’s in a beaded denim suit predating his famous glitter shirts, his long mane of hair wind-blown.  The harsh red lighting suggests the fire that was so imbued in his performance.  Indeed, by the time the double-LP set arrived to its natural conclusion, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” Diamond’s voice was shredded and torn, but his passion was never more evident.  Hot August Night just about defines every aspect of Neil Diamond, the musician and the entertainer.  And as Diamond prepares to celebrate 40 years of Hot August Night with a stand that month back at the Greek, the original, seminal concert set is receiving a 40th anniversary upgrade courtesy of Geffen Records, scheduled for July 31.

Recorded on Thursday August 24, 1972, the evening preserved on Hot August Night was just one of ten sold-out concerts Diamond performed that month at the 5,000-seat Greek Theatre.  The LP was his second live album, following 1970’s Gold: Recorded Live at the Troubadour, with a lean, mean Diamond at his most rock-and-roll.  August was successful stateside, but may have achieved its biggest impact in the land Down Under.  In Australia, Hot August Night spent a whopping 29 weeks at No. 1 on the album charts, becoming the top-charting album there for the entire decade.  (This record was broken when Dire Straits’ 1985 Brothers in Arms spent 34 weeks at pole position.)  Hot August Night also marked the end of an era for Neil Diamond; it was his final album for Uni/MCA, only his second label affiliation after he started his career at Bang Records.  The very next year, he signed a staggering deal with Columbia Records, where he remains today.

In 2000, MCA premiered an expanded Hot August Night, adding three songs to the line-up: “Walk on Water,” “Kentucky Woman” and “Stones.”  The 2012 edition adds three more songs and one new dialogue track.  Hit the jump for all of the details! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 13, 2012 at 09:54

Posted in Neil Diamond, News, Reissues