The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for September 19th, 2012

’80s Expansion Watch: Deluxe Sets Planned for Heaven 17, Level 42

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Two more expanded editions of titles by English ’80s pop bands are due in the next month “across the pond,” as they say.

Heaven 17’s debut LP Penthouse and Pavement, released in 1981 and reissued for its 30th anniversary last year, established themselves as a socially-conscious but still danceable band with singles like the famously banned-by-the-BBC “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang.” But with sophomore album The Luxury Gap, singer Glenn Gregory and keyboardists Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, further fused their minimalist, occasionally political New Wave style to some of the most danceable beats around. Second single “Temptation” became the group’s biggest single in their native U.K., peaking at No. 2 (not to mention a No. 4 placement in 1992 with a remix from Brothers in Rhythm), and follow-up “Come Live with Me” was a Top 5 hit. (In the U.S., the moody, percolating “Let Me Go” – a stiff in England, missing the Top 40 entirely – was a Top 5 hit on Billboard‘s Dance/Club Play charts, arguably becoming the band’s most successful song on our shores.)

Much like the expanded Penthouse and Pavement, this expanded edition of The Luxury Gap features two discs – one of the remastered album and one of eight period remixes of “Let Me Go,” “Temptation,” “Come Live with Me” and “Crushed by the Wheels of Industry” (plus the aforementioned 1992 mix of “Temptation”) – along with a DVD featuring five music videos and live footage from a 2009 gig with continuing Heaven 17 members Ware and Gregory. (That lineup will tour later this year, playing The Luxury Gap in full.)

After the jump, take a look at what Universal U.K.’s doing for a classic LP from Level 42!

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 19, 2012 at 17:17

Mamma Mia! ABBA’s Self-Titled Album Gets Deluxe Treatment in Europe

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The never-ending supply of ABBA reissues, expansions and other catalogue ephemera – which was just added to by the release of a new compilation in Europe, rendering our Back Tracks post on the matter even further obsolete – is going to get even bigger with an impending expanded release of the group’s self-titled LP this winter.

ABBA, the Swedish quartet’s third album, was perhaps the first of the group’s to enjoy lasting international exposure. While singles “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do,” “SOS” and “Mamma Mia” were No. 2 hits in Norway, they were also Top 40 hits in the U.K. (with “Mamma Mia” topping the charts) and Australia (where all three were No. 1 hits). Even the U.S., who turned “Waterloo” into a Top 10 hit in 1974, embraced the danceable tunes, bringing “I Do” and “SOS” both to No. 15 and “Mamma Mia” just outside the Top 30. (That song would of course become one of the band’s most recognizable tracks as the title track of the wildly successful musical of the same name.)

As with previous ABBA deluxe editions, there is very little new to offer on the audio side of things; the same three bonus tracks on previous expansions – the non-LP B-sides “Crazy World” and a medley of standards and a Spanish version of “Mamma Mia” – are included on the CD. Where the set does shine for collectors is the DVD, featuring vintage commercials and live performances, most notably ABBA in Australia, a Swedish edit of an Australian television special called The Best of ABBA. That original special drew 58% of all television audiences down under – more watchers in that country than the comparatively small feat of man walking on the damn moon.

Look for the reissue in November, and hit the jump for the full track breakdown (a link is still forthcoming).

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 19, 2012 at 13:20

Posted in ABBA, News, Reissues

With a Song in Their Hearts: Supremes’ “Symphony” is Latest Expansion from Hip-O Select

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Hip-O Select’s latest release is quite literally “so inviting, so exciting”: The Supremes’ 1966 LP I Hear a Symphony is the latest in the girl group’s discography to get the deluxe treatment.

The year before, Motown founder Berry Gordy was shocked by the soft chart placement of his Supremes’ latest effort, “Nothing But Heartaches.” The single “only” placed just one spot under the Billboard Top 10 – but it was still a blow for Gordy, who’d seen his onetime “no-hit” trio enjoy a run of five consecutive No. 1 singles. Bolstered by a memo in which Gordy vowed “nothing less than Top 10 product on any artist; and because The Supremes’ world-wide acceptance is greater than the other artists, on them we will only release number-one records,” the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team broke their predictable-if-catchy style of songwriting (in turn binning the single release of “Mother Dear” from More Hits by The Supremes) and penned “I Hear a Symphony.”

The tender, uplifting love song, with a swelling orchestral arrangement to justify its title and a rising tide of key changes, was just what Gordy wanted. “Symphony” was another chart-topper for the group, and follow-up “My World is Empty Without You,” a surprisingly somber heartbreak song, was a Top 5 single. Those tunes were the gems of the I Hear a Symphony album, released three months after the title track topped the charts, but the album is full of strong selections itself, not solely from the H-D-H brain trust (“Any Girl in Love,” “He’s All I’ve Got”) but from across the canon of ’60s pop (The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody”; Linzer and Randell’s “A Lover’s Concerto,” a No. 2 hit for The Toys in 1965) and Broadway (Rodgers and Hart’s “With a Song in My Heart,” “Stranger in Paradise” from the musical Kismet).

In the tradition of Hip-O Select’s best releases, bonus material is abundant. The first disc includes the original mono and stereo mixes of the LP (the latter of which is almost entirely making its CD debut); as was so often the case with two distinct mixes of the same album, listeners will enjoy several alternate vocal tracks and unfamiliar mixes of these beloved tracks. Those alternate experiences continue with new mixes of “Symphony” and “My World is Empty” appended to the first disc and alternate takes of “Unchained Melody,” “A Lover’s Concerto” and “Wonderful! Wonderful!” – and the set closes out with a 20-track live set at Detroit’s Roostertail in September 1966, recorded nearly a year after the release of the “I Hear a Symphony” single that bought The Supremes right back to the top.

The deluxe I Hear a Symphony, limited to 2,000 copies, begins shipping from Hip-O Select on September 21 and has a general retail date of October 9. The full track list and order link are, as always, after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 19, 2012 at 11:16

Posted in News, Reissues, The Supremes

Ace Goes Where the Action Is! Label Celebrates the Songs of Boyce and Hart, Don Covay, Otis Blackwell

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Chain, chain, chain…chain of fools…

Don’t be cruel…to a heart that’s true…

Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees…people say we monkey around…

Those three songs are still among the most recognizable in rock and soul, yet they barely scratch the surface of the songwriting careers of Don Covay, Otis Blackwell and the team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, respectively.  Ace Records has recently searched the discographies of all of those gentlemen to create the latest entries in the label’s definitive Songwriters Series.

Though tour itineraries have often been known to include some off-the-beaten path locales, perhaps no venue was more far out than the one Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart got to play in 1970: the Cosmos Cotillion, the otherworldly bash for the “in” crowd of witches and warlocks.   As if writing some of the Monkees’ most beloved songs wasn’t in and of itself a guarantee to immortality, Boyce and Hart attained it among some actual (well, for television!) immortals, when they joined Elizabeth Montgomery on the sitcom Bewitched for the most groovy magical happening this side of the Witches’ Convention.  At the Cosmos Cotillion, the duo performed “A Kiss in the Wind,” their 1969 single said to have been penned by “good witch” Samantha’s devious cousin Serena!  And although that catchy composition isn’t among the 26 tracks on Action! The Songs of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, this new release is still the most comprehensive collection ever of the team’s greatest hits, and makes a fine companion to Varese Sarabande’s 1995 The Songs of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.

This fun-filled new anthology chronicles the Boyce and Hart story not only via their joint compositions but by those crafted with other co-writers.  Tommy and Bobby first befriended each other in 1959, and began seriously writing as a team in 1963, but their career together didn’t really take off until they were paired in 1965 by Screen Gems.  The music publisher and television offshoot of Columbia Pictures was home to three shows on which Boyce and Hart eventually guest-starred (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun) and a little sitcom called…The Monkees.  But prior to taking Hollywood by storm at Screen Gems, Boyce and Hart had, individually and collectively, amassed hit after hit.  Boyce was just 19 when he wrote “Be My Guest” for Fats Domino in 1959.  He co-wrote Curtis Lee’s Phil Spector-produced “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” in 1961; though it’s not included here, the B-side “Beverly Jean” (also helmed by Spector) is present.  As for Hart sans Boyce, he wrote one of Little Anthony and the Imperials’ most enduring songs when he joined Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein to compose “Hurt So Bad” in 1965.  A lesser-known Randazzo/Hart tune for the Royalettes, “Never Again,” is one of this compilation’s highlights.  But the first major Boyce/Hart song was 1964’s “Come a Little Bit Closer,” the slice of sly storytelling and pop perfection that became that group’s biggest chart hit.

The mariachi-flecked “Come a Little Bit Closer” led to the Screen Gems contract, and Boyce and Hart were on their way when they were assigned the task of writing demos for a “fab faux” known as The Monkees.  Soon, Boyce and Hart scored a production deal for the group, as well, writing and producing The Monkees’ first No. 1 (“Last Train to Clarksville,” performed here by The Standells).  Although Boyce and Hart’s days were numbered as The Monkees asserted more creative control over their destinies, some 24 of the duo’s songs were recorded by the group.  Three have been selected here: the dynamic “Valleri” and “P.O. Box 9847” and the ubiquitous “(Theme From) The Monkees.”  Other Monkees songs, in addition to “Clarksville,” are heard from other artists, including The Flies’ 1966 “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” and Sir Raleigh and the Cupons’ “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day,” both of which predated the release of The Monkees’ own versions.  Trivia note: Dewey Martin of Buffalo Springfield was the Cupons’ frontman!  1966 was a particularly good year for the team of Boyce and Hart; nearly one-third of this anthology is drawn from that twelve-month period including the Columbia single of “Action, Action, Action” sung by Where the Action Is star Keith Allison.  This rip-roaring theme song replaced Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon’s “Where the Action Is” (written by Boyce and Steve Venet) on Dick Clark’s ABC-TV programVersatile singer-guitarist Allison, later of Paul Revere and the Raiders, followed the single up with an In Action LP which also featured Boyce and Hart’s “I Wanna Be Free.”

In 1967, the hot A&M label signed Boyce and Hart as a performing team, and from their three A&M long-players comes the infectious title track of their second album.  It was their biggest hit as performers: “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight.”  As much as any of the tracks written for The Monkees, the song captured Boyce and Hart’s mastery of the pop song aimed at the teenage crowd but so elegantly constructed as to “have legs.”  It opens this compilation with a burst of pure energy.  Like all good things, though, Tommy and Bobby’s partnership came to an end in 1970, though both artists resurfaced apart and together, and remained friends until Boyce’s death by his own hand in 1994.  With hits and rarities from Del Shannon, The Shangri-Las, Dino, Desi and Billy, Chubby Checker, Paul Revere and the Raiders and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Action! will transport you to some very groovy times, indeed.  Mick Patrick and Harvey Williams supply the copious liner notes, with an essay and track-by-track annotation.  Bring on Volume 2, please!

After the jump: there’s more action ahead with Don Covay and Otis Blackwell! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 19, 2012 at 10:05