The Second Disc

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Archive for July 23rd, 2012

The DJ That Rocked: “Singles Collection” Compiles Best of Tony Blackburn

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Richard Curtis’ 2009 film The Boat That Rocked paid affectionate homage to the pirate radio stations of the 1960s, but real-life pirate DJ Tony Blackburn said that “we didn’t have the fun that they obviously had in the film.”  Rose-colored glasses or not, Curtis’ film dramatized the period when offshore radio stations challenged the rigid formatting of the BBC.  Blackburn was just 21 in 1964 when he first set sail on Radio Caroline.  He jumped ship two years later for Radio London, and survived the demise of the pirates when, in 1967, he became the very first DJ on pop station BBC Radio 1, the official (and long-overdue) answer to pirate radio.  In no time flat, he earned audiences in excess of eighteen million listeners with his morning show.  But the beloved disc jockey, who still broadcasts today on shows including Radio 2’s Pick of the Pops, also had a less distninguished career as a vocalist.  But “less distinguished” doesn’t mean “less interesting,” as proven by The Singles Collection 1965-1980, the very first release on Cherry Red’s The Collector label.

Phil “The Collector” Swern, producer of some of Blackburn’s singles, is the compiler of this unique and enjoyable set, aided and abetted by the singer himself.  Both Swern and Blackburn take an understandably tongue-in-cheek approach to the notes in the copiously-annotated 16-page booklet, with Blackburn wryly noting that “I was persuaded…to release these long-lost gems, copies of which I have been led to believe have been changing hands for as much as twenty pence at a time.”  But, for my money, the whopping 29 tracks contained on The Singles Collection are worth at least a few quid…

Based on the songs here, Blackburn recorded with regularity through the early portion of the 1970s.  The first 24 tracks bring us through 1972, during which time singles were released on the Fontana, MGM, Polydor and RCA labels.  The final five tracks appeared between 1975 and 1980 on Decca, RCA, Casino Classics and DJS, and include a couple of pseudonymous cuts recorded under aliases like Big Daddy and the Sugarcanes, and the Brandy Snaps!

Hit the jump for a closer look at Tony Blackburn’s offbeat career as a pop vocalist, including an order link and the full track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 23, 2012 at 13:25

A&M Records Celebrates Half-Century Mark with Three-Disc Compilation

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Ask the most voracious of music trivia buffs what “A&M Records” stood for and they’ll tell you simply: Herb Alpert, noted jazz trumpeter and bandleader; and music promoter Jerry Moss, a duo who crafted the label from Alpert’s garage in 1962.

50 years later, with the upcoming release of the three-disc A&M 50: The Anniversary Collection, it’s clear that A&M stood for something else, too: one of the most intriguingly eclectic rosters in pop history, encompassing everything from jazz and modern R&B to New Wave and singer/songwriter pop. (There’s been a great amount of activity surrounding the label’s anniversary in Japan, like this compilation of Works by longtime A&M arranger Nick DeCaro.)

The three discs are rather cleverly themed: Disc 1, “From AM to FM,” chronicles some of the label’s earliest and most potent pop radio hits, from Alpert’s “The Lonely Bull” with The Tijuana Brass to the Carpenters’ beautiful “Close to You” all the way to Sheryl Crow’s inescapable “All I Wanna Do.” Things get great on Disc 2, “A Mission to Rock,” which features some of the best rock and New Wave acts of the ’70s and ’80s, including The Police, Squeeze, Joe Jackson, Split Enz, Styx, Free, Joe Cocker and many more. Disc 3 loops around to “Soul, Jazz and More,” showcasing the likes of Quincy Jones, Stan Getz, Gato Barbieri, Milton Nascimiento, The Brothers Johnson and Jeffrey Osborne. (All in all, the set covers roughly 30 years of works, with most of A&M’s output after the sale to PolyGram and break-up throughout Universal Music Group – overlooked.)

While there’s not a lot particularly rare on all three discs (save for some of the deep cuts on the ’70s side of things, including tracks from Alpert and Hugh Masekela as well as Alpert’s talented wife, Lani Hall), what does raise eyebrows are some song choices: “Roxanne,” not “Every Breath You Take,” is The Police’s entry, as “Caught Up in You” by 38 Special is included over “Hold On Loosely.” Minor quibbles aside, this looks to be a really fun keepsake of a deservedly-treasured label.

A&M 50 is out on August 28 and can be pre-ordered after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 23, 2012 at 11:48

I Don’t Know Where, But It Sends Me There: “Good Vibrations: The Beach Boys Songbook” Arrives

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2012 has been a big year for The Beach Boys, and the fun, fun, fun shows little sign of abating any time soon. While we still wait for more details on the possible U.S. arrival of a series of reissued original albums, Sony Music Japan is celebrating with a unique tribute to America’s band. Good Vibrations: The Beach Boys Songbook is a 25-track compilation drawn mostly, but not exclusively, from the Sony family of labels including Columbia, RCA Victor, Arista, Buddah and Bang, and offers a number of lesser-known tracks from many familiar artists. All of the songs chosen just prove the depth of the Beach Boys’ catalogue.

There have been plenty of Beach Boys tribute compilations over the years, from Risky Business Records’ 1995 Got You Covered! Songs of the Beach Boys (with Glen Campbell, Pat Boone and The Surfaris on its roster) to Sanctuary’s 2002 Brit-centric Guess I’m Dumb: Songs of the Beach Boys (featuring P.P. Arnold, The Ivy League and Tony Rivers & The Castaways). The new Good Vibrations shares tracks with both of those, actually, but also offers some rarely-anthologized tracks from a wide range of artists including The Cowsills, Paul Davis, Melissa Manchester, Nick DeCaro, California Music, Petula Clark and more!

The emphasis, naturally, is on the songs of Brian Wilson; he’s the man responsible for writing each of the songs on Good Vibrations with the exception of two renditions of Bruce Johnston’s “Disney Girls.” The nostalgic song first appeared on The Beach Boys’ 1971 Surf’s Up as “Disney Girls (1957).” It’s heard from both Johnston himself, dating to his 1977 solo album Going Public, and from “Mama” Cass Elliot on her 1972 self-titled LP. Johnston makes a number of appearances on the new compilation. He and Carl Wilson both joined Elliot on her “Disney Girls,” and as one-half of the duo Bruce and Terry (with Terry Melcher), he appears on “Hawaii” and “Help Me, Rhonda.” Johnston and Melcher were also key voices in the Rip Chords, and that group is represented with three of the Beach Boys’ best “car songs,” “409,” “Shut Down” and “Little Deuce Coupe.” Johnston and Melcher also produced California Music’s 1974 “Don’t Worry, Baby” for their Equinox label. Certain songs are heard in multiple versions; “409,” “Shut Down” and “Don’t Worry, Baby” are all also heard in The Tokens’ recordings.

We have more details after the jump, including track listing with discography and a pre-order link!

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Written by Joe Marchese

July 23, 2012 at 09:55