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Archive for August 24th, 2012

As the Globe Turns: Universal Adds Classic, Possibly Rare, Soundtrack Material to Blu-Ray Box Set

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In 1912, an ex-dry goods merchant and owner of the nascent Independent Moving Pictures (IMP) studio stood in a New York office with five other movie moguls and made history.

These six men, organized by IMP founder Carl Laemmle, were keen to merge their businesses with an eye toward the growing big business of moviemaking. As they struggled for a title for their venture, Laemmle allegedly saw a wagon zip by on the street below with a grandiose name: “Universal Pipe Fitters.” Turning back to the window, he announced the venture would be named Universal, an apt name for the magnitude of what they wanted to accomplish.

A century later, Universal is one of the biggest entertainment corporations in the world and the longest-running American film company. Dozens of their blockbuster films sit toward the top of the all-time box office lists, and their bi-coastal studio backlot/theme parks in Los Angeles and Orlando are prime vacation destinations. For film fans, Universal has been keen to celebrate their 100th anniversary this year, releasing not only stunning restorations of classic films on Blu-Ray (JAWS hit shops last week, with boxes devoted to Alfred Hitchcock and Universal Studios Monsters due in the next few months along with the hi-def debut of Second Disc favorite E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) but at least one classic soundtrack in the form of the premiere release of Henry Mancini’s original film score to the classic Charade.

On November 6, the studio will release their biggest box set yet – a collection of 25 of their most classic films with value-added bonus content. But soundtrack enthusiasts will want to keep an eye on this package for the possibility of exceptionally rare film music. We explain all after the jump.

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If It’s Meant to Be: Barbra Streisand Announces “Release Me” Collection of Long-Lost Songs

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Everybody knows “The Way We Were.”  But how about “The Way We Might-Have-Been?”

The what-ifs are many in Barbra Streisand’s career.  The legendary vocalist, about to celebrate her fiftieth year with Columbia Records in 2013, has amassed a vault filled with unreleased outtakes from her decades of recording.  These date as far back as 1962 when the young singer recorded an as-yet-unissued rendition of Harold Arlen and “Yip” Harburg’s “Right as the Rain” for possible release on 45.  (In fact, you can date unissued Streisand recordings even further back, if you count non-commercial private recordings, demos for RCA Victor and the demo tape that landed her a contract at Columbia!)  Streisand has even recorded unreleased albums, let alone songs.  Fans and collectors have patiently waited for some of these lost treasures to escape from the archives.  Some emerged on 1991’s multi-disc box set Just for the Record, but the Streisand vault has largely remained under lock and key.  That all changes on September 25 when the vinyl LP of Release Me arrives in stores from Columbia Records (who else?), with a CD following two weeks later on October 9.  Finally, the open secret of this album is out!

Release Me premieres eleven tracks recorded between 1967 and, possibly, 2011.  These encompass the various sides of Streisand’s diverse career, from Broadway (including a medley from the abandoned, Rupert Holmes-produced original iteration of Back to Broadway) to pop (Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” from the incomplete album project The Singer, Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” with the composer on piano, cut from Stoney End) to Hollywood (Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher’s “With One More Look at You” from A Star is Born, arranged by Nick DeCaro for another aborted single).  Along the way, there’s a bossa nova excursion (“Lost in Wonderland,” a 1968 English-language version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Antigua,” with lyrics by Marshall Barer of Once Upon a Mattress fame) and one song from the Streisand “holy grail” concept album Life Cycle of a Woman: “Mother and Child” (1973), penned by Alan and Marilyn Bergman with composer Michel Legrand.

The earliest track on Release Me is the standard “Willow Weep for Me,” intended for 1967’s Simply Streisand, arranged by Ray Ellis and conducted by film and theatre composer David Shire (Closer Than Ever, Norma Rae).  The most recent appears to be “If It’s Meant to Be,” with music by Brian Byrne and lyrics by the Bergmans.  In liner notes to her 2011 tribute album What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman , Streisand mentions recording more songs than were ultimately included; Byrne himself confirmed that one of his songs was being recorded by Streisand.  Five songs plus an extended King and I medley reportedly hit the cutting room floor from the chart-topping, quadruple-platinum The Broadway Album (1985), and two have been resuscitated for Release Me: Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s “Being Good (Isn’t Good Enough)” from the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Hallejulah, Baby! (1967) and “Home” from Charlie Smalls’ score to 1975’s The Wiz.  Another of the rarities is Larry Gatlin’s “Try to Win a Friend,” cut from 1977’s Superman album.

After the jump: more details, pre-order links and a track listing with source information for each song! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 24, 2012 at 09:55

Take the “A” Train to Complete Boxes From Ellington, Armstrong, Christian and Smith

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The roaring twenties are back!

Okay – or should that be OKeh? – in fairness, so are the thirties, forties, and fifties, thanks to four upcoming box sets spotlighting legendary jazz and blues stars.  Legacy Recordings adds to its growing Complete Albums Collection library on October 30 with these new volumes:

  • Louis Armstrong, The Complete OKeh, Columbia and RCA Victor Recordings 1925-1933 (OKeh/Columbia/RCA/Legacy) (10 CDs);
  • Charlie Christian, The Genius of the Electric Guitar (Columbia/ Legacy) (4 CDs);
  • Duke Ellington, The Complete Columbia Studio Albums Collection 1951-1958 (Columbia/ Legacy) (9 CDs); and
  • Bessie Smith, The Complete Columbia Recordings (Columbia/ Legacy) (10 CDs).

These titles follow up the recent releases from The Brecker Brothers, Etta James and Sarah Vaughan (all due in stores Tuesday) and like those titles and the other Complete Albums sets, these include original albums or compilations packaged in replica mini-LP sleeves.  In most cases, bonus tracks that have been appended to past Legacy reissues have been retained, and booklets have been prepared with new liner notes and full discographical information for each artist and title contained.  Virtually all of the CDs in the Complete Album Collection jazz series have been newly remastered by multiple Grammy-winning engineer Mark Wilder.

The beloved Louis Armstrong was last year the subject of a massive 10-CD box set spotlighting his entire career, a set which drew considerable attention when Elvis Costello proclaimed it a superior purchase to a similarly-priced set of his own material.  Well, Mr. Costello would likely approve of The Complete OKeh, Columbia and RCA Victor Recordings 1925-1933, with its ten CDs of some of the earliest recordings by the man alternately known as Satchmo or Pops.  This period yielded the famous Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings, among the most historically important and, indeed, entertaining, of Armstrong’s long career during which he influenced virtually every musician who’s ever picked up a horn.  Any understanding of popular music begins with these famous sessions, featured on the first three discs of this new set.  (A 2000 Legacy box set was previously dedicated to these recordings.)

CDs 1-7 of the new box replicate the contents of the first seven volumes of the now out-of-print Armstrong Columbia Jazz Masterpieces series, released 1988 to 1993; the first three discs are dedicated to the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens as recorded between 1925 and 1928.  CD 4 spotlights Pops’ recordings alongside pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines with a variety of groups in 1927-1928, while CDs 5 and 6 cover the seminal 1929-1930 period during which time Armstrong recorded in New York and Los Angeles.  CDs 7 and 8 find Louis embracing the 1930s with open arms with sessions in Chicago, while the final two discs in the box pick up with his move to Victor in late 1932 with recordings made from Camden to Chicago!  The ten-CD set ends with Louis (and wife Lil on piano!) backing country –and-western pioneer Jimmie Rodgers on his “Blue Yodel No. 9,” recorded in Los Angeles in July 1930.

Legacy notes that The Complete OKeh, Columbia and RCA Victor Recordings 1925-1933 does not include the recordings on which Armstrong served as a sideman during these years for artists such as  Maggie Jones and Lillie Delk Christian.  Ricky Riccardi, author of the must-read What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years (and keeper of a fine Armstrong blog), provides the new liner notes for the box.  Louis Armstrong returned to RCA Victor in 1946-1947 and Columbia in 1954-1956; perhaps those sessions will see release down the road!

After the jump, we’ll explore the sets from Charlie Christian, Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith.  Plus: we have pre-order links for all titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 24, 2012 at 08:58