The Second Disc

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Archive for August 9th, 2012

Party Time: Andrew W.K.’s Wild Debut to Be Expanded for 10th Anniversary

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If you were paying attention to alternative rock in the early 2000s, the name “Andrew W.K.” likely stirs up a boatload of emotions. Was he a fun-loving, hard-living, one man party machine? Was he a corporate construction? Was he a darker type of fraud, as suggested by producer “Steev Mike” (link NSFW and relatively nuts) who may actually just be W.K. playing a prank on his delightfully bewildered audience?

Whatever the case may be, Andrew W.K. is celebrating the recent 10th anniversary of his debut album, the hard-rocking I Get Wet, with a new deluxe edition filled with unreleased and truly off-the-wall bonus content.

Known for its hard-driving, almost violently upbeat songs (“She is Beautiful,” “Party Hard,” “It’s Time to Party,” “Fun Night”) and shocking cover art (the image of the long-haired W.K. staring intently toward the viewer with his nose dripping blood all the way down his face is still pretty out there), I Get Wet wildly polarized critics – Pitchfork rated it an 0.6 out of 10 upon initial release, only to name it one of the 200 best albums of the decade – and made Andrew W.K.’s career as an experimental musician, partier, raconteur and motivational speaker (his latest speaking gig scheduled for next month is, no kidding, My Little Pony convention).

For the double-disc reissue, W.K. commissioned new cover artwork (a photorealistic oil painting of the original sleeve by artist Gonzalo Garcia) on top of a booklet with new liner notes and unseen photos, and added a bonus disc of demos, alternate takes and live material. The live cuts are particularly notable, having been recorded through a specially-made system of microphones and monitors meant to amplify the sound to a much rawer degree, mimicking what the artist would hear while onstage. The cherry on top of this hard-partying sundae? A collector’s edition, exclusive to U.S. residents, will feature an autographed booklet, an air freshener in the shape of Andrew W.K.’s bleeding nose from the LP sleeve and…”something”; an assortment of “mystery party items” including locks of hair, used plane tickets, receipts, pieces of cut-up jeans, photos and surely much, much more.

The packages are out on August 28; click below to place your orders – and if you do order the collector’s set, do be sure to share what you got with your package.

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Written by Mike Duquette

August 9, 2012 at 16:56

Posted in Andrew W.K., News, Reissues

Review: Johnny Cash, “The Greatest” Series and “We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash”

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Saddle up!  This week has brought a veritable Johnny Cash bonanza from Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings, and a trip to the Ponderosa isn’t even required!  As the Cash 80th birthday train continues its ride, the late artist’s longtime home is celebrating his career with four newly-curated compilations on compact disc as well as an all-star tribute concert available in DVD/CD and Blu-ray editions.  The new series The Greatest (the rare hyperbolic title that can stand up to scrutiny) premieres with four titles, each designed to illuminate a different aspect of Cash’s lengthy recording career: Country Classics, Gospel Songs, Duets, and The Number Ones.

The Number Ones (Columbia/Legacy 88691 919 80 2) is the most indispensable in the group.  Rounding up nearly thirty years of hitmaking, its 19 tracks all topped the Billboard and/or Cash Box country charts between 1956 and 1985.  Even better, The Number Ones is offered in a CD/DVD edition boasting ten never-before-released performances of these chart-topping songs from television’s The Johnny Cash Show.  This compilation solidly traces the arc of Cash’s career, from the swaggering upstart of the Sun Records days to the elder statesman near the culmination of his four-decade tenure at Columbia.

So, in many a sense, Number Ones functions as an introduction to the artist with a number of his most familiar classics in their original versions.  Befitting the multi-dimensional artist, there’s humor, drama, menace and plenty of boom-chicka-boom on this collection.   It’s bookended by stone-cold classics “I Walk the Line” (1956) and “Highwayman” (1984).  The former is as perfect, and as perfectly simple, a song as Cash – or anybody else – ever wrote.  The latter is Jimmy Webb’s cosmic opus which joined together Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson in an outlaw quartet.  Friends and family play an important part on this set, as they did in Cash’s career.  Wife June Carter’s “Ring of Fire” still packs a mighty punch in its iconic mariachi-flavored arrangement, and Kristofferson’s oft-covered “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” received one of its most sympathetic performances in Cash’s hands.  Jennings recurs on 1976’s “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang,” one of the hidden gems on the set.  Another is “One Piece at a Time,” from the same year, an enjoyably larcenous ditty from Wayne Kemp’s pen.  Jack Clement’s story song “The One on the Right is on the Left” adroitly skewers both politics and music.  Cash’s famous prison concerts are represented, too, with the chilling “Folsom Prison Blues” from that very venue, and the raucous “A Boy Named Sue” from San Quentin.  Even Cash’s worshipful side is captured with the joyful noise of “Daddy Sang Bass.”   A set of Number Ones for Johnny Cash is a no-brainer, and it’s executed with care here.  This set is worth seeking out even to those who already own all 19 tracks on the CD for the 25-minute DVD with ten priceless live performances from The Johnny Cash Show.

Similarly well-worn territory is covered by the Gospel Songs collection (88691 90335 2).  His devotion to gospel music stayed with him throughout his entire career, from one of his earliest albums (1959’s Hymns with Johnny Cash) through one of his very last (2003’s posthumous My Mother’s Hymn Book).  Gospel songs weren’t limited to specifically-themed albums; songs of spirituality took a proud place on many of Cash’s so-called secular LPs, as well.  Even when excess and temptation ruled his private life, he found the strength to express loftier values in music, and never failed to take sacred music seriously.  These many recordings have been comprehensively anthologized in the past with 2007’s 24-track Ultimate Gospel and also on the latest installment of Cash’s Bootleg Series, The Soul of Truth.  Despite having only fourteen tracks, Gospel Songs repeats eleven of the songs from Ultimate Gospel (including Carl Perkins’ “Daddy Sang Bass,” which crossed over as a country hit and is also on Number Ones).  Only three songs are unique to this compilation: “Suppertime,” from 1958’s The Fabulous Johnny Cash, “Amen” from 1965’s Orange Blossom Special, and “The Masterpiece” from 1967’s From Sea to Shining Sea.  As a sampler of the spiritual side of the Man in Black, Gospel Songs hits many of the bases, but is far from the whole story.

We’ve got the rundown on the rest of the series, plus the star-studded We Walk the Line concert, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 9, 2012 at 14:14

He’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony): RPM Reissues Famed Songwriter Roger Cook’s “Study”

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Even if you don’t know the name of Roger Cook, chances are you do know his songs: “You’ve Got Your Troubles,” “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” just to name a few.  But like so many of his contemporaries, the songwriter harbored aspirations of a solo career, too.  This wasn’t so far-fetched; as half of the duo David and Jonathan (with Roger Greenaway, co-writer of all those aforementioned songs), Cook was already a bona fide hitmaker in front of the microphone.  Along with the ubiquitous Tony Burrows (Edison Lighthouse, White Plains, The Brotherhood of Man and The First Class), Cook was also a frequent session vocalist.  Between 1968 and 1971, Roger Cook recorded for EMI’s Columbia label, and his entire output for Columbia has been collected on RPM’s expansion of his 1970 album Study.  The title was apt, as many could have learned a thing or two studying Cook’s hit songs!  It was issued under the name of “Roger James Cooke” (“a load of old bull feathers,” confirms the man actually born Roger Frederick Cook) but the songs are pure Roger Cook.

Study was recorded concurrently with Cook’s work as a frontman in Blue Mink alongside fellow session vocalist Madeline Bell, not to mention his work with White Plains and other studio outfits.  His familiar voice is pleasingly expressive, often with a folk-ish lilt.  It might be surprising that all of the songs aren’t from Cook’s pen, but he had always had an ear for great material.  Cook was an early proponent of Elton John, and his first solo single was dedicated to Elton and Bernie Taupin’s “Skyline Pigeon.”  With a subtle arrangement from John Cameron (Donovan’s Sunshine Superman, the musical Les Miserables), “Skyline” was also included on Study.   The young Albert Hammond and his lyrical partner Mike Hazelwood wrote about the tantalizing, teasing “Teresa,” very much in the catchy Cook/Greenaway mode.  David and Jonathan had scored a major hit with The Beatles’ “Michelle,” and Cook returned to the Fabs’ catalogue with George Harrison’s oft-covered “Something.”

Seven of the album’s thirteen tracks came from the two Rogers.  These songs were drawn from their back catalogue other than the freshly-penned single, the frenetic “Stop.”  The big pop hook of “Not That It Matters Anymore” is quintessential Cook/Greenaway (or “Cookaway,” as their publishing company was called).  Though Radio One overlooked the song, it still has “hit” written all over it.  “Ain’t That a Wonderful Thing” is lower-key, though it still has a boisterous chorus; it’s also Cook’s favorite track on the LP per Kingsley Abbott’s new liner notes.  Cook also reveals that “Today I Killed a Man I Didn’t Know” is most reflective of where his style was circa 1970.  The song was also recorded by P.J. Proby and White Plains.  The most atypical of the Cook/Greenaway songs might be “3 Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol.”  The slice of autobiographical nostalgia from the Bristol-born Cook warmly recalls his formative days: “Clever boy, you’ve done so well since you were there/But you can still remember 3 Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol and all those family names, familiar still…”

What bonus tracks will you find?  Hit the jump for that, and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 9, 2012 at 09:55

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, Roger Cook

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