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Archive for September 2012

Return of the 5 O’Clock Hero: Universal Goes Big with The Jam’s “Gift” Box

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As the 1980s began, it seemed all of England was moving and shaking to the eclectic sound of The Jam. Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler started The Jam as an “angry young man” punk band, but stumbled upon something more: a revival of mod culture in the U.K. and an increasing stable of diversely-recorded chart hits.

While 1982 saw the release of their biggest album to date, The Gift, and a string of seven consecutive Top 10 hits (including two No. 1s) stretching back from the previous year, Weller did something few could’ve expected that same year: he ended the band on top. Now, three decades later, Universal is set to commemorate The Gift with an impressive four-disc box.

The deluxe Gift, packaged in a box replicating the “gift bag” that housed the original LP, features three CDs and one DVD. In turn, they feature:

  • The remastered original 11-track LP, featuring chart-topper “Town Called Malice” and “Just Who is the 5 O’Clock Hero?,” and ten follow-up single and B-side tracks, including No. 2 hit “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)” and the chart-topping “Beat Surrender”
  • A disc of 15 demos – only two of which have been released on previous Jam archival projects
  • An unreleased concert from the end of The Jam’s Gift Tour, recorded at Wembley Stadium in December 1982
  • A DVD featuring music videos, a Top of the Pops performance and two live shows – one recorded at Bingley Hall in Birmingham and released on VHS in 1982, and one recorded for Danish TV and making its DVD debut

Deluxe packaging abounds within this set, including a 72-page book featuring vintage press clippings, memorabilia and new interviews with Paul Weller and album producer Peter Wilson, a foreword from Weller and essay by John Harris, postcards and a replica of the 1982 tour program. A cut-down double-disc edition will be released, as well as a 10″ vinyl version of the Danish concert (a potential Record Store Day exclusive?).

Pre-order links are live for an import version to be issued November 27, but the press release received at Second Disc HQ indicates a November 19 release, likely meaning – gasp! – a domestic release! We’ll keep an eye out for domestic links, but the full track list and the import link is dreaming of the quiet life after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 29, 2012 at 15:01

Posted in Box Sets, News, Reissues, The Jam

Soul with a Purpose: New Label Opens Up the Music Vaults with Womack, Dyson, Hartman

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The Purpose Music Vaults are open!

Purpose Music Group is introducing a new player in the reissue field, something that always brings us a great deal of excitement here at The Second Disc.  But how about we sweeten the pot by telling you that the first three releases from Purpose Music Vaults are all rare soul classics from the Sony Music Entertainment library, all feature new-to-CD material, and all are newly remastered by engineers including Vic Anesini and Sean Brennan?  On top of that, all three of Purpose’s first limited-edition releases feature deluxe packaging and booklets containing interviews with key participants.  The label launches on October 30 with a trio that’s likely to excite soul enthusiasts everywhere: Bobby Womack’s Pieces and Ronnie Dyson’s One Man Band, completing the rollout with Dan Hartman’s Relight My Fire on November 20.

Bobby Womack received a considerable amount of attention earlier this year when the 68-year old soul legend released a new studio album.  The Bravest Man in the Universe was his first in twelve years and his first of original material in nearly twenty years, and was greeted with acclaim for artfully bridging the gap between the past and present.  Purpose looks back to 1978 for Pieces, originally released on Columbia Records.  Don Davis produced the album, while Candi Staton and David Ruffin joined Womack on “Stop Before We Start,” and “Trust Your Heart,” respectively.  Bobby was joined on songwriting duties by his brother Cecil, as well as Leon Ware, Allee Willis and Ronnie McNeir for this mellow soul LP with a dance-ready beat.  Though Pieces has been on CD before, Purpose’s new edition has been remastered by Vic Anesini from the original two-track master tapes, and includes four bonus tracks never before available on CD: single edits of three album tracks (“Wind It Up,” “Trust Your Heart,” “Where Love Begins, Friendship Ends”) plus the promotional 12-inch mix of “Trust Your Heart.”  Darnell Meyers-Johnson’s new liner notes incorporate fresh quotes from Candi Staton and Bobby Womack himself!  Pieces is a 1,500-unit limited edition.

After the jump, you’ll find a track listing and pre-order link for Pieces, as well as all the info you need on the titles from Ronnie Dyson and Dan Hartman! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 28, 2012 at 13:02

A Bigger (and Bigger) Bang: Rolling Stones Deliver Limited “Brussels” Boxes and Vinyl “Some Girls” Concert, Release Vintage Documentary [UPDATED WITH TRACK LISTING]

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If you feel like you’ve been caught in a crossfire hurricane…you’re not alone.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, and neither do The Rolling Stones.  After making headlines throughout 2012 for not celebrating their 50th anniversary with a massive tour, retrospective box set or something of the sort, the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band can’t seem to keep out of the headlines lately with a bevy of upcoming projects, including rumored performances in New York and London, two distinct documentaries, another repackaging of 2011’s Live in Texas: On Tour 1978, and three limited edition vinyl box sets of live “official bootleg” The Brussels Affair that makes the phrase “super deluxe edition” seem woefully inadequate.

Crossfire Hurricane is the title of the documentary coming from director Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture).  With a limited theatrical release planned as well as airings on HBO and the BBC, Crossfire Hurricane promises to trace the Stones’ “nearly mythical journey from outsiders to rock and roll royalty, according to the director.  But it’s not the only documentary on the band’s radar.  Charlie Is My Darling – Ireland 1965 premieres at the New York Film Festival on September 29, and arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on November 6 in standard editions and…a super deluxe box set!

Charlie is My Darling was the very first documentary to chronicle the Rolling Stones, long before they achieved mythic status.  It was filmed on a brief tour of Ireland in the aftermath of breakthrough single “(I Can’t Get No Satisfaction)” hitting No. 1.  Though it featured professionally filmed concert performances as well as behind-the-scenes segments of the group on the road, Charlie has only trickled out in brief segments over the years, some not properly synched.  Directed by Peter Whitehead (Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London) and produced by the legendary impresario (and the Stones’ manager from 1963 to 1967) Andrew Loog Oldham, the movie includes “candid, off-the-cuff interviews…juxtaposed with revealing, comical scenes of the band goofing on one another as well as unsuspecting outsiders,” according to ABKCO.  It “offers an unmatched look inside the day-to-day life of the Stones.”

Released by ABKCO Films, the new Charlie is My Darling adds previously unseen footage by director Mick Gochanour and producer Robin Klein, the Grammy-Award winning team that brought the classic The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus film to the screen in 1996.  Following the premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 29 and an encore screening on October 3 at the Walter Reade Theatre, the documentary will be broadcast on television and issued on DVD, BD and a special DVD/BD super deluxe box.  The latter will include the film on both DVD and BD, plus two CDs (Live in England 1965 and the film soundtrack) and a vinyl LP.  You can pre-order all versions here!

After the jump: the Rolling Stones revisit The Brussels Affair, but it’s not what you might be expecting!  Plus: the complete track listing to the Charlie is My Darling box set! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 27, 2012 at 13:38

All the Love in the World: Dionne, Aretha Classics Are Remastered by BBR

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The eighties aren’t traditionally remembered as a halcyon period for classic soul.  R&B eventually took on new meaning as it splintered into hip-hop, rap and urban genres that were as integral to their day as street-corner doo-wop and soul were to their own.  Big Break Records, a Cherry Red imprint, has long been committed to rediscovering perhaps-neglected works by some of the biggest names in soul and R&B, and a particularly fascinating series of recent reissues has turned its attention to two legendary ladies of soul as they transformed themselves for a new generation, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick.  Both Franklin’s Love All the Hurt Away and Warwick’s Heartbreaker were produced under the aegis of Clive Davis for Arista Records in the early days of the 1980s (1981 and 1982, respectively), and both of these classic albums have just received gleaming new editions from BBR.

Love All the Hurt Away follows BBR’s recent reissues of Aretha (1980), Jump to It (1982) and Get It Right (1983), completing the initial quartet of Arista releases from the Queen of Soul.  Franklin’s sophomore Arista album found her as a sort of nexus of R&B’s past and present.  At the helm was her longtime Atlantic Records producer Arif Mardin, who had earlier reunited with Franklin when he co-produced her Arista debut in 1980.  Songs came from friends old (Burt Bacharach, David Porter and Isaac Hayes) and new (Rod Temperton, Bacharach’s collaborator and eventual wife, Carole Bayer Sager), a duet was recorded with another veteran artist who had scored a major crossover from jazz to pop (George Benson) and the rhythm section featured some of the hottest names in eighties rock, pop and soul: Jeff Porcaro and Paulinho da Costa on drums, Marcus Miller on bass, Steve Lukather on guitar, Greg Phillinganes on anything with keys!  Even the song selection was split between originals and reworkings of old favorites.  With this album perhaps more than any other, Franklin looked both forward and back, and of course, she would reach the zenith of her eighties “comeback” with 1985’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who.

Mardin had produced a handful of tracks on 1980’s Aretha, but must have felt sufficiently rejuvenated to oversee every track on Love All the Hurt Away.  He applied gloss and funk to versions of “Can’t Turn You Loose” and “What a Fool Believes” on Aretha, and here, the same treatment was applied to Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and more interestingly, The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”  The former rendition retained the original’s trademark horn riff, with arrangers Jerry Hey and Larry Williams embellishing it further while Marcus Miller’s bass adds to an almost Kool & the Gang-esque “Celebrate” feel.  Franklin raps a bit, and Robbie Buchanan’s “mini-Moog” sounds add another modern slant to the track.  For “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Mardin took a similar approach, retaining the original’s choir but adding electronic sounds from Greg Phillinganes on the mini-Moog and David Paich on the electric piano; Franklin’s vocal floats airily above Miller’s burbling bass, Porcaro’s drums and the guitars of Steve Lukather and David Williams.  Franklin took the opportunity to alter the Glimmer Twins’ lyrics, personalizing the song and delivering an offhand, funky and up-tempo take on the song that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Rod Temperton’s “Living in the Streets” can sit comfortably alongside the danceable R&B he penned for Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones on albums like Off the Wall and Thriller, with a rhythmic groove that doesn’t let up.  Chuck Jackson returned from Aretha to contribute the sensitive “Search On,” one of the album’s classic soul throwbacks with a dynamic melody and sweet backing vocals from Jo Ann Harris.  The pleasant title duet with George Benson as well as Allee Willis, David Lasley and Don Yowell’s “There’s a Star for Everyone” also snugly fit into this category.  Franklin herself supplied two songs: the seductive, joyous “Whole Lot of Me,” and the album-closing, string-swathed “Kind of Man” in which she heaps praise upon the “kind of man that every little boy looks up to and wants to be.”

There’s more on Aretha, plus Dionne’s Heartbreaker, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 27, 2012 at 13:10

Completely Fab: Beatles Remasters, Debut Single Coming to Vinyl (UPDATED)

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The wait is over.

This holiday season, vinyl enthusiasts and Beatlemaniacs everywhere will finally have a chance to hear 2009’s long-awaited Beatles remasters on 180-gram vinyl.

All of the albums in The Fab Four’s official discography – 1963’s Please Please Me and With The Beatles, 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles for Sale, 1965’s Help! and Rubber Soul, 1966’s Revolver, 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the U.S. Magical Mystery Tour LP, 1968’s self-titled “White Album,” 1969’s Yellow Submarine soundtrack and Abbey Road, 1970’s Let It Be and the 1987 non-LP singles collection Past Masters – are getting pressed on vinyl and released in one deluxe box.

We’ll let the press release detail the remastering and vinyl transferring process:

At the start of the restoration process, engineers conducted extensive tests before copying the analog master tapes into the digital realm using 24-bit/192 kHz resolution and a Prism A-D converter. Dust build-ups were removed from tape machine heads after the completion of each title. Artifacts such as electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance, and poor edits were improved upon as long as it was determined that doing so didn’t at all damage the integrity of the songs. Similarly, de-noising technology was applied in only a few necessary spots and on a sum total of less than five of the entire 525 minutes of Beatles music. Compression was also used sparingly and only on the stereo versions to preserve the sanctity of the dynamics.

In cutting the digital masters to vinyl, stringent safeguards and procedures were employed. After cutting to lacquer, determined to be warmer and consistent than cutting to DMM, the next step was to use the Neumann VMS80 cutting lathe at Abbey Road. Following thorough mechanical and electrical tests to ensure it was operating in peak condition, engineer Sean Magee cut the LPs in chronological release order. He used the original 24-bit remasters rather than the 16-bit versions that were required for CD production. It was also decided to use the remasters that had not undergone ‘limiting,’ a procedure to increase the sound level.

Having made initial test cuts, Magee pinpointed any sound problems that can occur during playback of vinyl records. To rectify them, changes were made to the remasters with a Digital Audio Workstation. For example, each vinyl album was listened to for any ‘sibilant episodes.’ vocal distortion that can occur on consonant sounds such as S and T. These were corrected by reducing the level in the very small portion of sound causing the undesired effect.

Similarly, any likelihood of inner-groove distortion was addressed. As the stylus approaches the center of the record, it is liable to track the groove less accurately. This can affect the high-middle frequencies, producing a ‘mushy’ sound particularly noticeable on vocals. Using what Magee has described as ‘surgical EQ,’ problem frequencies were identified and reduced in level to compensate for this.

The last phase of the vinyl mastering process began with the arrival of the first batches of test pressings made from master lacquers that had been sent to the two pressing plant factories. Stringent quality tests identified any noise or click appearing on more than one test pressing in the same place. If this happened, it was clear that the undesired sounds had been introduced either during the cutting or the pressing stage and so the test records were rejected. In the quest to achieve the highest quality possible, the Abbey Road team worked closely with the pressing factories and the manufacturers of the lacquer and cutting styli.

Lest you think that’s not lavish enough treatment for one of the most influential discographies in popular music history, the box will also come with a 252-page illustrated book written by Beatle authority Kevin Howlett, featuring chapters on each album as well as a discussion of the remastering and vinyl preparation process.

This set, limited to 50,000 copies worldwide, has a suggested retail price of $449.99, but Amazon has it for a cool $400.

(UPDATE 3:30 p.m.) Also announced today is a replica reissue of Parlophone single R-4949 – The Beatles’ first U.K. single, which featured “Love Me Do” backed with “P.S. I Love You.” (This version of “Love Me Do” was replaced on the Please Please Me album with a different take featuring session drummer Andy White; Ringo’s playing did not immediately impress George Martin, who relegated him to tambourine duties on that take!) This 45, to celebrate 50 years of Beatles on vinyl, will be packaged in the same “fruit stripe” paper sleeve that the original was contained in. It will be limited to only 4,400 copies and will hit stores October 5 – exactly 50 years to the day the original single was released.

Written by Mike Duquette

September 27, 2012 at 12:14

Nobody Does It Better: James Bond Turns 50, Capitol Celebrates with New CD Anthology

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When Sean Connery first uttered the immortal words “Bond…James Bond” fifty years ago in the film Dr. No, the template for the long-running movie series was already set.  That soon-to-be-signature phrase was joined in the film by a piece of music that would quickly rival those three words for familiarity.  John Barry’s arrangement of “The James Bond Theme” not only helped cement the silver screen icon of 007 but virtually became a genre unto itself, that of spy music.  The spy film craze may have hit its peak in the swinging sixties, but Ian Fleming’s immortal character of the debonair Bond has endured over some 23 “official” films (including this year’s upcoming Skyfall), plus a couple of unofficial ones.  He has been portrayed by six actors in those 23 films, from Connery to Daniel Craig.  Since Dr. No, James Bond and music have been closely intertwined, and the film franchise continues to attract the very best: it’s been all but confirmed that record-breaking artist Adele will mark her return to music with the recently-leaked Skyfall theme.  Now, 50 years of Bond music is being compiled by Capitol Records as Best of Bond…James Bond, set for an October 9 release in both standard and deluxe editions.  It joins the recent DVD/BD box set, Bond 50, which contains each and every official Bond film to date!

While similar (and similarly-titled!) compilations have arrived on a periodic basis in the CD era, the new set in its deluxe two-disc form is the most comprehensive collection of Bond-related music yet with 50 tracks.  Both versions stand as a tribute to John Barry, the late composer who will forever be associated with the film series.  The disc opens with his original arrangement of “The James Bond Theme.”  Though credited to Monty Norman, Barry long maintained in and out of the courtroom that the composition was, in fact, his own.  (The confusion stems from the fact that Barry was presented with Norman’s theme, and rearranged it in the style of his previous instrumental “Bea’s Knees,” almost wholly transforming the music along the way.  He was reportedly paid under $1,000.00 for his troubles!)  Barry went on to score eleven of the films between 1963’s From Russia with Love through 1987’s The Living Daylights, ceding movies along the way to George Martin, Marvin Hamlisch and Bill Conti.  Since Barry’s retirement from the Bond franchise, the longest-standing composer has been David Arnold, with five films under his belt between 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and 2008’s Quantum of Solace.  (The score to Skyfall has been crafted by director Sam Mendes’ frequent collaborator Thomas Newman.)  Either consciously or subconsciously, however, every composer has been influenced by the template set by John Barry.  Indeed, his famous arrangement of the Norman theme has been quoted in each film’s score.  Best of Bond also is a reminder of the gargantuan talents of two other contributors, both of whom passed away in 2012: Marvin Hamlisch (The Spy Who Loved Me) and Hal David (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)

The first CD (also available as a stand-alone disc) features 23 tracks: the theme to every one of the films from 1962’s Dr. No through 2008’s Quantum of Solace, plus the “secondary” theme to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World.”  This CD includes Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale (2006), the first main Bond theme to not appear on the movie’s soundtrack album.  Other highlights include the very first vocal Bond theme, Lionel Bart’s “From Russia with Love” as performed by Matt Monro; Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley and John Barry’s “Goldfinger” from the iconic Dame Shirley Bassey; Barry and Don Black’s booming “Thunderball” from Tom Jones; Paul and Linda McCartney’s Wings-performed “Live and Let Die;” Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” (from The Spy Who Loved Me); Barry and Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill;” and Barry and Pål Waaktaar’s “The Living Daylights,” performed by Waaktaar’s band a-ha.

What’s on Disc 2?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 27, 2012 at 09:49

Lana Del Rey Goes to “Paradise” on New Expansion

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Hey, remember Lana Del Rey? The pouty-lipped, perpetually dazed young lady responsible for some vaguely ineffectual chamber pop and the most histrionic vortex of critical backlash of the year – possibly of the nascent century? Back when we weighed in on her, we did so because there was talk of reissuing some of her early independent works through her contract with Interscope.

Well, it looks like we are indeed getting a reissue from the erstwhile Lizzy Grant, and holy cow, you guys. Her debut LP Born to Die, which features the U.K. hit “Video Games” and other assorted hazy songs about being a devil-may-care youth in a large metropolitan area, is getting grotesquely expanded for the holiday season, with a new almost-album of extra material and, in some cases, a CD/DVD/vinyl box set! What?!

Hit the jump to read on and determine whether or not you should buy the box set to impress someone you know who works at H&M.*

*This is speculative.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 26, 2012 at 13:54

Review: The Jackson 5, “Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls”

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Be honest: when Michael Jackson died, you probably expected a lazy river of material from the catalogue labels that govern his catalogue – both Legacy Recordings, which control Jackson’s adult recordings on Epic, and Universal Music Enterprises, the executors of the Motown library. By and large, we’ve experienced just that. 2009 saw the expanded re-release of The Jackson 5’s Christmas album; I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters, a 11-track compilation of outtakes; and Epic’s This is It documentary film and accompanying soundtrack (with a small fistful of vault material). The next year, two live J5 shows were released by Hip-O Select, while Epic released the Cirque du Soleil Immortal remix album.

By comparison, 2012 has seen that river flow a little heavier, first with Legacy’s Bad 25 box set and then, almost simultaneously, a double-disc set of Jackson 5 outtakes, Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls (Hip-O Select/Motown B0017148-02). Almost immediately, even a discerning fan has to start speculating as to why 32 tracks are coming our way at once. Is Select trying to beat Legacy’s lavish Bad box? Will there be fewer offerings from the fabled Motown vaults than we’d previously imagined?

Whatever the reasons behind the sudden generosity, it’s probably better to sit back and immerse yourself in Come and Get It for what it is – and, just as interestingly, what it isn’t.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 26, 2012 at 13:11

In Memoriam: Andy Williams (1927-2012)

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It’s tempting to say “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” but truth to tell, they never made ‘em quite like Andy Williams.  Howard Andrew Williams, the favorite son of Wall Lake, Iowa, died yesterday at the age of 84, having valiantly fought bladder cancer.  But Williams leaves behind a rich and reassuring legacy of music and entertainment that recalls a gentler time in American life, of huckleberry friends and caroling out in the snow.

If any popular singer defined Christmas in the 1960s, it was Andy Williams, whose style blended the intimacy of Bing Crosby and the relaxation of Perry Como with a soaring tenor that was all his own.  1963’s The Andy Williams Christmas Album began a close association with the holiday music genre for Williams, who recorded a string of perennial Christmas albums and extended his presence to television sets.  His annual Christmas specials became a tradition, with the sweater-clad, blue-eyed vocalist warmly welcoming viewers for an evening of homespun entertainment dedicated to “the most wonderful time of the year.”  His variety show ran from 1959 through 1971 (taking a break in 1968), introducing viewers to the Osmonds (not to mention the Cookie Bear!) as well as to Williams’ favorite music.  His impeccable vocals were often shared with his guests.  Williams deftly blended with the likes of Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Judy Garland and Sammy Davis, Jr., but also with The Association, Simon and Garfunkel, and Peter, Paul and Mary.  Williams wasn’t primarily known for his performances of standards, though he brought polish and confidence to those songs.  He embraced many of the day’s most successful songwriters and performers both on his TV show and on his Columbia Records albums, and was an outspoken defender of John Lennon when the U.S. government sought to deport the Beatle in the 1970s.

Williams, always true to his convictions, was an also an entrepreneur.  He purchased the catalogue of his original label, Cadence, and ran the Barnaby label which scored hits for Ray Stevens and first signed the young Jimmy Buffett.  His accomplishments were many; Williams opened Caesars Palace in 1966, and was once signed to Columbia for what was then the biggest recording contract in history.  He scored three platinum records and eighteen gold ones, and popularized not only “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” but “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “Music to Watch Girls By,” “Happy Heart,” “Love Story (Where Do I Begin),” “Speak Softly Love,” and of course, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s immortal “Moon River.”  His delicious, lounge-style 1970s reworkings of pop hits led to a surge in popularity in the 1990s and particularly in the U.K., where a greatest hits album reached the Top 10 as recently as 2009.

Every year, Andy Williams’ holiday recordings reappear on radio in November and December, ready to hook a new generation on the man and his music.  Look deeper in his catalogue, though, and you’ll be richly rewarded, whether you find his stirring “Battle Hymn of the Republic” released in tribute to his dear friend Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; his sunshine-pop duet “Small Talk” with then-wife Claudine Longet; or his truly groovy take on the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye.”  Hearts have long been happier for the time we’ve known Andy Williams.  Thanks, Andy, for always reminding us, with uniquely American optimism and spirit, that we all can strive to reach what’s waiting for us at that same rainbow’s end.

Written by Joe Marchese

September 26, 2012 at 11:00

Posted in Andy Williams, News

Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio? “The Ramones Heard Them Here First” Arrives

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Ace Records is cheering “Gabba gabba hey!” with the recent release of The Ramones Heard Them Here First, an overview charting the influences behind New York’s seminal punk pioneers.  Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy didn’t exactly try to hide their inspirations when they included a cover of Chris Montez’ 1962 hit “Let’s Dance” on their debut long-player Ramones in 1976 and over the years, they continued to tip the hat to rock and roll heroes from The Ronettes to The Beach Boys.  The new compilation includes the original versions of twenty-four songs covered by Ramones between 1976 and 1995’s Adios Amigos, and as such, is a rollicking stew of pop, rock, bubblegum, and psychedelic sounds absorbed by the Forest Hills foursome (plus later members Marky, C.J. and Richie).

When Ramones arrived on Sire Records, it signaled a return to, and a celebration of, primal rock and roll after the excess of progressive rock and the glitz of disco.  Primitive in its execution but colossal in its ambition, Ramones distilled the previous, pre-Woodstock era of pop-rock into fast and ferocious two-minute nuggets.  Though their productions weren’t as polished or immaculate as those they worshipped, they captured the same energy that turned teenagers onto the rebellious art form two decades earlier.  A classic example of a band whose influence far outweighed its sales, the group continued to recognize the past even as it flirted with subjects like Nazism, violence, drug use and prostitution.  (No hippy-dippy peace-and-love for these boys!)  And even though the surname “Ramone” was adopted by all members, they shared a common “less is more” sensibility that made them a true, if dysfunctional, band of brudders.

Many Ramones albums, including their first five, featured amped-up AM radio-style “cover” songs, many of which appear here.  Compilation producer Mick Patrick has arranged the tracks chronologically in the order that the songs appeared on a Ramones set.  So “Let’s Dance” is followed by The Rivieras’ “California Sun,” covered on 1977’s sophomore effort Leave Home, then by The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” and The Beach Boys’ “Do You Wanna Dance,” both aired on Rocket to Russia.  (“Do You Wanna Dance,” of course, was originally written and recorded by Bobby Freeman, but it’s likely that the immaculate, Brian Wilson-produced, Dennis Wilson-sung version was The Ramones’ go-to choice.)  1978’s Road to Ruin featured a take on Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono’s “Needles and Pins,” which is also reprised here in its hit version by The Searchers.  But the band’s biggest success on 45 in the U.K. came from 1980’s controversial End of the Century, in which Phil Spector took the production reins.  That hit single was a recording of Spector’s own “Baby, I Love You,” which he originally produced for The Ronettes, and the album itself also became the band’s highest-charting stateside.  The immortal, Ronnie Spector-led track (arranged by the aforementioned Nitzsche) represents the band’s brief association with Phil Spector.  Following End of the Century, a number of albums were recorded of entirely original Ramones compositions, among them Pleasant Dreams (1981), Too Tough to Die (1984), and Animal Boy (1986).

There’s lots more Ramones-mania after the jump, including an order link and complete track listing with discographical annotation! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 26, 2012 at 10:10