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Archive for September 12th, 2012

Megadeth Plan “Extinction”-Level Event

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Following last year’s heavy-duty 25th anniversary box set edition of Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, EMI is slated to release another expanded anniversary edition from thrash-metal gods Megadeth, celebrating 20 years of their Countdown to Extinction album.

Countdown, the politically charged, hard-driving fifth album from the band, was released at one of the commercial zeniths of heavy metal, with Mustaine’s former band Metallica’s self-titled “Black Album” and Pantera’s A Vulgar Display of Power also earning high critical and commercial marks in 1991 and 1992. Countdown went double platinum – to this date, it’s the band’s highest-selling LP – and spun off Megadeth’s first chart hits. “Foreclosure of a Dream,” “Sweating Bullets” and “Symphony of Destruction” all peaked in the middle ranges of Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Top 40, and the latter track even hit No. 71 on the Hot 100; to this day, it’s the only Megadeth track to have done so.

In traditional EMI deluxe fashion, the deluxe Countdown features the album, remastered and contained in a lidded box with collectible art cards. The package also features a bonus live show recorded at San Francisco’s Cow Palace in December 1992. Parts of this show have surfaced on various CD singles and compilations, as well as the Warchest box set and 2008 compilation Anthology: Set the World Afire, but this is the premiere release of the entire show, newly remixed from the original tapes.

The set is due out on November 6 and will be commemorated with a special tour that same month into December. Hit the jump for the track list and the pre-order link, currently an import-only title.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 12, 2012 at 14:30

Posted in Megadeth, News, Reissues

Review: The Knack, “Rock and Roll is Good for You: The Fieger/Averre Demos”

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Before there was The Knack, there was Doug Fieger and Berton Averre.  The former was a Detroit native and a member of the band Sky, the latter a working musician from the San Francisco Bay Area.  They began collaborating in 1973, beginning an odyssey that would reach its first milestone six years later when the sensibly-titled Get the Knack on Capitol Records reportedly became the fastest-selling debut album since Meet the Beatles.  But before “My Sharona” took Fieger, Averre, Bruce Gary and Prescott Niles to “the toppermost of the poppermost,” songwriter/bassist Fieger and guitarist Averre were writing and recording, sometimes as the duo “Douglust.”  Sixteen demos recorded by the twosome in 1973 and 1975 have been excavated for The Knack’s Rock & Roll is Good for You: The Fieger/Averre Demos (Omnivore Recordings/Zen Records OVCD-39, 2012).  This ground-floor look follows Omnivore’s Havin’ a Rave-Up!  Live in Los Angeles 1978 in charting the early career of the power-pop hitmakers.

The major revelation of these stripped-down, raw demos is just how developed Doug Fieger was as a songwriter at an early age.  In his liner notes, Lee Lodyga (who co-produced this collection with Cheryl Pawelski) takes pain to note, however, that Averre’s “orchestration by guitar…fleshed out the songs,” adding that “even though Fieger was the main ‘songwriter’ in name, it was Averre’s flourishes that built on and tied the music together, giving it a sense of consistency and continuity.”  Fieger and Averre are certainly very much in tune on these tracks, creating a sound that would blossom into the familiar Knack style and avoids outright period pastiche.  Still, Lodyga points out Averre’s admiration of the chord changes in songs like Mort Garson and Bob Hilliard’s “Our Day Will Come,” and that understanding of what made a classic pop tune served him well as guitarist and de facto arranger of these songs.  (Averre is credited as co-writer of just one song: the catchy “Little Lies,” with its Beatlesque guitar riff and little vocal embellishments – “Uh-yay-yeah!”)  Fieger and Averre knew when they had a winner; hence the new anthology contains two songs reworked for Get the Knack: a 1973 recording of “That’s What the Little Girls Do” and a 1975 take of “Good Girls Don’t.”  Another ’75 song, “Corporation Shuffle (Daddy Turns the Volume Down),” reappeared many years later in 1998 as “Terry and Julie Step Out” on the album Zoom.

Truth to tell, these punchy demos have much in common with the primal performances on the Sunset Strip preserved on Omnivore’s 1978 live disc.  Those had the frisson of an audience, but Fieger and Averre channeled a similar same energy and hunger when they entered the studio to record.  Though by necessity spare, the demos often suggest what a fully-produced version might sound like; only occasionally is the sound actually more full, as with the drums on songs like “You’ll Never Know” and “Get on the Plane,” or the background harmonies on “That’s What the Little Girls Do.”  The garage-ish demo recordings are a reminder that one can do a lot with just two voices, two guitars and a few good tunes!

There’s more Knack after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 12, 2012 at 13:13

Posted in Compilations, Reviews, The Knack

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Ace Offers Front Row Seat to a “Musical Revolution” with Vanguard Box; Unreleased Dylan Track Included

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A vanguard is, by definition, a position at the forefront of new ideas or developments.  And in the fertile musical stomping ground of the early 1960s, some of the newest, most avant-garde ideas were being espoused on the Vanguard Records label.  Yet these so-called radical, even “dangerous” thoughts were being espoused in forms so traditional, they might have seemed as old as time.  Vanguard dived headfirst into the flourishing folk music scene in 1956 with The Weavers at Carnegie Hall, bravely defying the blacklist to issue the group’s 1955 Christmas performance.  Vanguard was rewarded with a best-selling title, and continued on a dogged path of recording albums by artists both socially and musically significant.  Ace Records’ new 4-CD box set Make It Your Sound, Make It Your Scene: Vanguard Records and the 1960s Musical Revolution (VANBOX 14, 2012) is a comprehensive chronicle of the Vanguard sound and style, taking in not only folk, but blues, gospel, country and even rock.  (The label’s jazz and classical forays, alas, shall have to wait until another day.)  As such, it’s a hugely impressive monument to a decade-plus of recordings that influenced a generation of blues-rock and psychedelic performers as the 1960s made way for the 1970s.  But it’s even more of a revelation, for good or ill, that the universal themes reflected in these artists’ works still resonate today.  This set isn’t for casual, background listening, but instead offers a serious (and seriously entertaining) glimpse back at a heady time for American culture.

Virtually from the start, Seymour and Maynard Solomon’s Vanguard Records took itself seriously, and quality was paramount.  High-fidelity sound was an important concern, and the company’s logo of a knight on a steed, lance proudly held high, trumpeted the motto “Vanguard Recordings for the Connoisseur.”  Intellectualism reigned at the company; producer Sam Charters was brought in after having written the tome The Country Blues, and it’s the passionate and erudite Charters who provides an introduction to the box set.  It’s otherwise annotated by the set’s producer, John Crosby.  Though the set’s purview is the 1960s, some tracks originate from the 1970s and beyond.  (The actual recording dates are sometimes absent in the discographical information.  As Vanguard mined its backlog of unreleased material for the CD era, a 1990s date will sometimes be attributed here to a vintage song!)

Make It Your Sound has been sequenced for mood, not chronology, roughly separated into “movements” of a particular genre in all of its many permutations and shifts.  The box makes a case that one of the most distinct American musical forms, the blues, is the root from which virtually all other music grows.  The first disc in the box concentrates on many performances based in this idiom, though the interpretations are greatly varied and blues can be found across all four discs.  The blues had a great renaissance when artists went electric, and both the traditional and electric strands are represented.  The highlights are many, from Otis Rush’s torrid, soulful “I Can’t Quit You Baby” (which emphasized the B in R&B) to Buddy Guy’s smoking “Fever.”  Though he swaggers and shouts through the song, it still comes close to pop territory, as the oft-covered composition transcended simple categorization.  Another legendary proponent of the blues, Big Mama Thornton, is heard on “Ball and Chain” from 1975; the elder artist dedicated it to the “late, great Janis Joplin.”  The Charlie Musselwhite Blues Band’s “Clay’s Tune,” propelled by funky organ, even swings a bit!

Bluegrass plays a major role on Make It Your Sound, alongside the folk and singer/songwriter material on the second and third discs with which the label is most closely identified.   Doc Watson and The Stanley Brothers are among the legends you’ll hear, but the real treasure is in the lesser-known tracks.  The purest ballad tradition is epitomized by artists like Almeda Riddle (hailing from the Ozarks), with her warbling, a cappella voice, and Hedy West; their southern voices seem foreign and otherworldly today, even to American ears.  John Herald and the Greenbriar Boys offer “Stewball,” the melodic basis for John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s holiday perennial “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” from 1962.  There’s an unusual treat when Country Gentlemen give a jovial bluegrass makeover to Paul Simon’s attractive “Leaves That Are Green” (1973).

When the sequence eases into classic early-sixties folk, it would run the risk of cliché if the performances weren’t still so powerful.  Such is the case with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” as performed by The Weavers in 1958. Guthrie and The Weavers’ Pete Seeger might still be the most common faces of folk to the general public, as well as two of the most anthologized artists of the genre.  Seeger’s rueful live version of the much-recorded “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” is still affecting, and Guthrie’s songs are heard here from numerous artists.  His “Pretty Boy Floyd” is delivered by Cisco Houston, with its biting, pointed commentary on social inequity and injustice (“But as through this life you travel, as through your life you roam/You will never see an outlaw drive a family from their home,” he concludes).  Guthrie’s “Hard, Ain’t It Hard” is quite boisterous in a version by The Kingston Trio, proving definitively that folk wasn’t always staid!

The enormous impact of Bob Dylan tended to overshadow, then and now, his contemporary young folk singers and songwriters, many of whom produced work that still stands up today.  A sampling of those talents can be found here, including Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, and the even lesser-known Patrick Sky.  Paxton’s sensitive live “Last Thing on My Mind” looms large, as does Ochs’ forceful yet calm “There But For Fortune,” with its message of empathy worth repeating. This set doesn’t limit itself solely to American folk; The Clancy Brothers make a showing for the rich musical legacy of Ireland, and the liner notes also offer the unique perspective on how Vanguard’s ouevre affected the burgeoning British folk and blues-rock scenes – as well as how its lack of availability in the U.K. also affected the blues boom there!

There’s much more on Vanguard after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 12, 2012 at 10:06