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Archive for August 20th, 2012

The Fabulous, and Complete, Johnny Cash! Legacy Announces “Columbia Album Collection”

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He’s been everywhere man, he’s been everywhere.

But now Johnny Cash is going somewhere he’s never been before: into Complete Albums territory.  Though the Man in Black has been anthologized numerous times in the past (including on an indispensable set of Bear Family releases) nothing has approached the sheer magnitude of this new box set.  The Complete Columbia Album Collection is a massive 63-CD, 59-album treasure trove collecting every one of Cash’s albums for the venerable label, released between 1958 and 1990.  It’s coming from Columbia and Legacy Recordings on October 30, and will likely warrant a place in the collection of any serious popular music fan.

The many sides of the multi-faceted artist get full recognition here: concept albums, soundtrack contributions, gospel recordings, holiday albums, guest appearances and more.  Collaborative albums featuring The Carter Family, June Carter Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, Waylon Jennings, and The Highwaymen (Cash, Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson) all are included.  Each album is presented as a mini-LP CD with its original artwork, including the five deluxe gatefold albums released during Cash’s long Columbia tenure.  Cash departed Columbia for Mercury in 1987 with Johnny Cash is Coming to Town, but his place as a legendary fixture on the Columbia label has continued mightily in the CD reissue era.

Johnny Cash: The Complete Columbia Album Collection, by the numbers:

  • 59 original albums from Columbia debut The Fabulous Johnny Cash (1958) to supergroup sequel  Highwayman 2 (1990), plus Live at Madison Square Garden, recorded in 1968 and released in 2002;
  • 35 album titles never before released on CD in the U.S. by Columbia/Legacy;
  • Cash’s first 19 Columbia albums, from The Fabulous Johnny Cash (1958) to From Sea to Shining Sea (1967) in original mono mixes, for the first time ever from Legacy in the U.S.;
  • 8 live albums, including 3 internationally-released titles:  Johnny Cash pa Osteraker (rec. 1972, rel. 1973), Strawberry Cake (rec. 1975, rel. 1976) and Koncert V Praze (rec. 1978, rel. 1983);
  • 2 soundtrack albums, both from 1970: I Walk the Line and Little Fauss and Big Halsy; and
  • 2 new compilations exclusive to this set: Johnny Cash With His Hot & Blue Guitar is a 28-song sampler of single and non-single tracks released at Sun Records (1954-58), including career-defining tracks like of “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk The Line,” Hey Porter” and “Ballad of a Teenage Queen.”  It’s designed as an expanded edition of his 1957 Sun LP, with that album’s famous cover design.  The Singles Plus is a 2-CD set with 55 tracks (1958-1985) encompassing both singles that did not originally appear on Cash’s Columbia LPs, and a selection of guest spots on others’ albums.  In the latter category, you’ll find Cash supporting the illustrious likes of Bob Dylan, The Carter Family, Mother Maybelle Carter, June Carter Cash, The Earl Scruggs Revue, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, and Shel Silverstein.

After the jump: the complete listing of albums, a pre-order link and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 20, 2012 at 14:40

Reviews: Real, Real Gone with Sanford and Townsend, Jimmy Griffin and Jackie Gleason

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Long before Barry White, a rather different music maker was providing the soundtrack for a romantic rendezvous in the moonlight, but his name might be surprising to some: Jackie Gleason.  Even if one can’t readily picture Ralph Kramden seducing Alice with its lush accompaniment, the American record buying public had no such reservations. The Great One’s 1952 Music for Lovers Only sold over half a million copies, and spent a still-unbeaten record of 153 (!) weeks in the U.S. Top 10 album chart.  Real Gone Music has just lowered the lights and lit the candles for its return to CD, in the most complete edition yet (RGM-0082, 2012).

Yes, the times have undoubtedly changed since the album’s original release.  Even its strikingly photographed cover today seems a remnant of another age: two lit cigarettes (unfiltered, natch!) reside on opposite sides of an ash tray as two nearby glasses cast a shadow.  A woman’s purse is nearby, her glove draped over the edge of the table, and a key, significantly placed outside the purse.  This urbane, sophisticated and altogether sensual image of days gone by sets the scene for the album’s music, a collection of slow, melodic and elegantly orchestrated ballads, all from the standard songbook: Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s “Alone Together,” George and Ira Gershwin’s “But Not For Me,” Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s “I Only Have Eyes for You” (pre-Flamingos!), Mel Torme’s “A Stranger in Town.”  There’s no swinging here, just exquisitely arranged and passionately played mood music.  By most accounts, this is the album that coined the phrase, and the mood is love.

Just what the heck did comedian and actor extraordinaire Jackie Gleason have to do with the whole thing, anyway?  Reissue producer Gordon Anderson’s liner notes explain all.  Cornet player Bobby Hackett, featured prominently on the album, famously quipped, “He brought the checks” of Gleason.  And Hackett’s (uncredited) musical contribution shouldn’t be overlooked, as he’s generally recognized as the album’s arranger and perhaps the bandleader, as well.  But Anderson reveals that Gleason did much more, putting his own money on the line to record the album and see through his vision of the perfect romantic long-player.  It seems that Gleason took conducting very seriously and even composed one song on the LP, its closing track “My Love for Carmen.”  All sixteen songs are swathed in strings that would have made Gordon Jenkins (Sinatra’s arranger of choice for his most lush outings) proud.  Many of these songs are still familiar today; their endurance speaks volumes for Gleason’s taste, as well.

The notes also shed light on the convoluted release history of the original record.  The original mono 8-song album was released as both a 10-inch LP and a double 7-inch EP in 1952.  Three years later, it was reissued in a 16-song version, still in mono, which is the version replicated on Real Gone’s CD edition.  In 1958, however, Capitol enlisted Gleason to record a new 12-track version in stereo.  This wasn’t an uncommon practice at the label.  Even vocal stars were asked to do the same; hence the two versions of classic albums like June Christy’s Something Cool.  At his former label, Collectors’ Choice Music, Anderson had reissued the 8-track mono album from ’52 (still following me here?) on a two-fer with the 12-track version of its “sequel” album, Music to Make You Misty.  Four of the eight remaining mono tracks then were paired with another Gleason release, 1953’s soundtrack to the television ballet Tawny.  This release marks the very first full reissue of the mono Music for Lovers Only.  Maria Triana has remastered this beautifully-recorded set.

The languid Music for Lovers Only will sound great on your modern hi-fi.  But I can’t recommend listening to it alone; you just might get depressed and shed a tear or two in the drink that should almost certainly be by your side.  (I won’t blame you if you eschew the cigarettes, though.)  So invite your significant other over and see if playing this sultry, classy and refined collection of orchestral ballads still works as well as it must have in 1952!  You just might thank Mr. Gleason later.

After the jump: a pre-Bread James Griffin goes on a Summer Holiday, and there’s Smoke from a Distant Fire! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 20, 2012 at 12:21