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Archive for September 5th, 2012

Reissue Theory: Queen, “The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. On an iconic rock star’s birthday, we hope for a concert celebrating his life and work to make it onto CD someday.

On this day, 66 years ago, Farrokh Bulsara was born in Zanzibar. The world would, of course, know him by another name: Freddie Mercury, the iconoclastic frontman for the British hard rock band Queen. Between 1973 and 1991, the band’s idiosyncratic sense of vocal and guitar harmonies, affinity for baroque pop melodies and penchant for studio trickery had earned them a devoted following worldwide. Even as the band moved into the ’80s and adapted both New Wave stylings and MTV-ready visuals to suit their needs, the crowds still went wild; one needs only to watch Mercury’s command performances with Queen at Live Aid in 1985 and London’s Wembley Stadium the following year to understand why.

Of course, we all know the story of Mercury’s has a tragic ending. In 1991, literally hours after announcing his long-hidden battle with AIDS, Mercury would succumb to complications from the disease. Freddie’s life was one of many at the time rightly memorialized to raise awareness and money for AIDS research. Twenty years ago, Freddie bandmates, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor, united to fight AIDS the best way they could: through rock music. A concert held at Wembley on April 20, 1992 attracted some 72,000 attendees and, thanks to simultaneous live television and radio broadcasts, a worldwide audience of some 1 billion. Mercury’s showman spirit was celebrated by fellow rock gods and contemporaries who guested with Queen during the show, including members of Guns N’ Roses, Extreme, Metallica, Black Sabbath and appearances by David Bowie, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant and George Michael. All profits from the concert founded The Mercury Phoenix Trust, an AIDS charity still active to this day.

Mercury’s life has been well-celebrated in recent years. This year alone – after a 2011 that saw a flurry of catalogue activity – Island reissued a greatly-expanded edition of Mercury and Montserrat Caballe’s Barcelona this week, with a new Mercury documentary, The Great Pretender, due out on DVD this month and a live Queen show from Hungary being screened theatrically as well. (Mercury even made the transformation to Angry Bird as part of this week’s “Freddie for a Day” event.)

But through all the catalogue celebration, it’s surprising that the landmark concert itself has never been released on CD. We explore further after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 5, 2012 at 16:23

A Second Disc Interview: Talking “Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro” with MICHELE MONRO

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A remarkable treasure trove of Matt Monro rarities has just been released by EMI Gold, a timely reminder of the artist’s life and career. He was sometimes known as the “Cockney Como” or the “English Sinatra,” but both descriptions fail to adequately capture the essence of the beloved singer’s unique and enduring style. Fortunately, Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro offers that singular sound in abundance as it traces the arc of his entire career, via almost entirely unheard material. Click here if you missed our introduction to The Rarer Monro, or read on to join us in welcoming Matt’s daughter, MICHELE MONRO, to The Second Disc.  With engineer Richard Moore, Michele has curated this new collection as well as an ongoing series of Matt Monro reissues, and she has also written the definitive biography of her father, The Singer’s Singer.

Michele, thanks for your kindness in taking the time to speak with The Second Disc!  We’re thrilled to have you here, and especially in conjunction with a project as special as Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro.  This is a remarkable, singular collection, and indeed, those words also describe your dad’s voice.  In the past, I categorized Matt’s vocal style as “romantic but assured, capable of sensitively caressing the ballads and raucously swinging the up-tempo songs.  His style was a deceptively simple one: a dash of legit pipes, a touch of Bing Crosby-esque intimacy, a brash swinger’s confidence.” Who were his influences and who were his most favored singers among his contemporaries?

There were several artists dad admired greatly and Sarah Vaughan was one of them, and it was a regret that he never came to work with her. An early ambition when he first started in the business was to sing with the Ted Heath Band; nothing could be better. He couldn’t know that years later they would be his backing band on broadcast. He also loved Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr. and of course Sinatra. He actually coined the phrase ‘The Governor.’

That’s fantastic!

I think one of his favourite couplings was when he worked The Tony Bennett Show. Tony had arranged to come to England to record a series of shows and Dad was not only asked to appear, but asked to appear on three of the shows. They were made at London’s Talk of the Town and I know they had a ball together. On each show they performed a duet together and the performances were absolutely awesome.

Ah, to have been a fly on that wall!

[Michele kindly provided us with this quote from Matt: “There is no denying that Sinatra has influenced me, but so have Perry Como, Tony Bennett and Dick Haymes. A singer simply has to listen to the masters, you learn so much in this way. I don’t try to copy these people; that would be pointless. I have simply learned things from them and have tried to incorporate these things into my singing.” — Matt Monro]

What Matt shared with all of those artists was an unerring ear for quality material.  He especially recorded so much wonderful contemporary material at a time when musical styles were in tremendous flux, especially for an interpretive singer.  What did he look for in a song?

The one thing that can be said was that Dad only recorded tracks he felt had a quality about them. With any artist it is not just the songs you sing, but the reaction that is wrought from the audience. If it was good and they enjoyed his rendition of a song, then there was no better high. Having been established for some time and with quite a few hits to his credit, Dad was booked in America, presenting several shows each night. The management wanted a different repertoire for each show. Opening night came and when the second house audience didn’t hear all the hits they had come for, there was an uproar and they refused to let Dad leave the stage. The following night Dad sang all the hits in both shows.

He found it very difficult to change his repertoire because the fans that came to see him all expected to hear their favourite and were left disappointed if that were not the case. When Dad could slip different songs in, he preferred the rarer tune, one that might not have as much focus as the ones aired on the radio. One of his favourites was a track called “Ethel Baby” [from Jerry Bock, George Holofcener and George David Weiss’ Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful, which starred Sammy Davis, Jr.!].

There wasn’t one performance he didn’t glow in the aftermath but then analyze how it could be improved or bettered.  He was a perfectionist in his art and he never rested on his laurels; he felt every audience deserved his best performance. What makes Matt Monro special is that he sang a song how it was written; he made people feel special and sang with true feeling. He made people feel good about themselves.  He chose good lyrics, great musicians and the best producers in order to give the song the best possible treatment. He didn’t try and fool an audience with a lacklustre performance.  When he went on that stage he meant it and it came across.

Johnnie Spence with Matt

It was usually a joint collaboration between the three musketeers – George Martin, Johnnie Spence and Dad. In the early years, Dad and the record company were inundated with material and the threesome would spend days listening to all the candidates and see what might work. The most important tool for any songster is the song itself, and Matt had been lucky with many of his choices, although he was the first to admit that he didn’t have an immediate eye for a hit. He hadn’t thought “Portrait [of My Love]” a possible commercial success, and then made a monumental mistake in turning down an exclusive on “The Shadow of Your Smile” [written by Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster] long before Tony Bennett cut the 1965 Academy Award winner.  The song’s author had sent the composition to Matt, but the singer didn’t think it would appeal to the mass market. When it appeared in the film The Sandpiper, Tony Bennett sent Dad a thank you note!

After the jump, there’s much more from Michele! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 5, 2012 at 14:18

Posted in Interviews, Matt Monro, News, Reissues

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David Guetta’s Star-Studded Latest to Be Expanded This Fall

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Parisian artist/producer/remixer David Guetta stepped back into the spotlight with last year’s Top 5 album Nothing But the Beat – a collaboration between Guetta and some of the biggest names in R&B, rap and dance – and next week will present a greatly expanded edition of the album.

Nothing But the Beat 2.0 combines the floor-fillers of the original disc, including the hit singles “Without You” (a Top 5 smash with guest vocals from Usher), “Turn Me On” (featuring Nicki Minaj) and “Where Them Girls At” (featuring Minaj and Flo Rida), and pairs it with several “new” tracks. A few of them, including “Lunar,” a collaboration with up-and-coming remixer Afrojack, and “The Alphabeat,” were made available on an existing double-disc edition of Nothing But the Beat which featured the original “vocal album” and a  bonus electronic disc. One other track, “Wild One Two,” is a recently-released remix of Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones.” But six tunes are all-new, including new single “She Wolf (Falling to Pieces),” a collaboration with dance-pop singer Sia (whose vocals propelled another Top 10 Beat hit, “Titanium”), as well as guest appearances by Ne-Yo, Akon, Tegan & Sara and others.

Guetta’s new Beat is available next Tuesday, September 11, and you can place your orders after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 5, 2012 at 13:00

Ten Kind Favors: Massive B.B. King Box in Development at Universal (UPDATED WITH TRACK LIST)

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With over half a century in the business of playing the blues, Riley B. King – “B.B.” to millions – is the total embodiment of a living legend. As we dive headfirst into box set season, it looks like King’s getting a box set from Hip-O/UMe worthy of that legend – and fans can be a part of it.

Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. B.B. King, crafted in honor of the 50th anniversary of King’s contract with ABC-Paramount, has all the hallmarks of a major-label affair; compiled by Bill Levenson and Andy McKaie, two of Universal’s most decorated producers, the scope of this box is enormous. Ten CDs, featuring two discs of his earliest recordings on the Bullet, Modern/RPM and Kent/Crown labels and eight discs of the ABC/Impulse/MCA/Geffen eras (these discs will feature, in total, one track from every album recorded during this period). The as-yet unannounced track list will feature guest appearances from Etta James, The Rolling Stones, U2 and more, as well as a 72-page book of liner notes, essays, rare photos and discographical information. (For the less adventurous, a four-disc distillation of the box will be available as well.)

Now, where do you come in? Universal is taking the interesting step of raising awareness for the box through PledgeMusic, a Kickstarter-esque site. Fans can pledge any amount toward the box, but $13 and up will get you an immediate download of King’s long out-of-print 1975 ABC LP Lucille Talks Back, while $50 will guarantee you the four-disc box and $138 or more the full ten-disc compilation. A limited number of offers (250 apiece) for European audiences will also throw in a DVD or Blu-Ray of King’s Live at The Royal Albert Hall 2011 (£55 for the four-disc box plus DVD, £125 for the 10-disc box plus Blu-Ray).

As of this writing, the PledgeMusic campaign has raised 37% of its unspecified goal with 19 days left to pledge. Retailers are showing a September 25 ship date for the 10-disc box and an October 9 date for the smaller set. After the jump, take a look at the full box set’s track list.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 5, 2012 at 11:39

Posted in BB King, Box Sets, News

He and Mrs. Jones: Billy Paul and Big Break Records Have a Thing Going On with “360 Degrees” Reissue

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Philadelphia International Records turns 40 this year, and Big Break Records keeps adding more candles to the birthday cake!  The label’s latest release from the PIR catalogue is one of the mightiest albums ever produced by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff: 1972’s 360 Degrees of Billy Paul, the long-player which introduced the world to the steamy soul epic “Me and Mrs. Jones.”  This expanded and remastered edition follows BBR’s reissue earlier this year of Paul’s more jazz-oriented Ebony Woman, from 1970 (recorded by Gamble and Huff for pre-PIR label Neptune), and it’s available now!

By the time of 360 Degrees, Paul was no stranger to the record business.  A recording artist since 1959,  he had opened for artists including Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Dinah Washington, and even won an amateur night at the Apollo.  Paul was performing at Philadelphia’s Cadillac Club in 1967 when Kenny Gamble spotted him.  He ushered him into the studio for Feelin’ Good at the Cadillac Club, his long-playing album debut for Gamble Records, which hopefully will see the light of day on a future BBR reissue.  Feelin’ Good was primarily composed of theatrical standards (“On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” “Just in Time,” “Feelin’ Good,” “Somewhere”) with some more recent pop songs also in the mix (“That’s Life,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”) and for Ebony Woman, the emphasis was also squarely on pop material, albeit interpreted in an adult, jazz-oriented style by Paul and musical director Stanley Johnson.

Ebony Woman scored a none-too-shabby No. 12 on the R&B chart upon its initial release, but Gamble and Huff sensed that Paul could be at the vanguard of the smooth, orchestral R&B style that would come to be known forevermore as “Philadelphia soul.”  Paul made his Philadelphia International debut with 1971’s Going East, a true transitional album (and yet another candidate for reissue).  Gamble and Huff only supplied one original (“Love Buddies”) on the LP, populating it with songs by Gene McDaniels, Jimmy Webb, Rodgers and Hart, and Bobby Martin, one of its arrangers.  The other arrangers were no slouches, either: Thom Bell and Lenny Pakula.  Though Going East barely cracked the Billboard 200, Gamble and Huff didn’t give up.  The following year, they crafted 360 Degrees, penning four originals out of eight tracks.

We’ve got the scoop after the jump, plus pre-order link and track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 5, 2012 at 09:12

Posted in Billy Paul, News, Reissues