The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for September 20th, 2012


with 2 comments


Written by Joe Marchese

September 20, 2012 at 15:23

Reviews: The Jimmy Somerville Reissues – Bronski Beat, The Communards and Solo Somerville

with 4 comments

The more things change…

The old adage has never been more shockingly true than when it comes to the music of Jimmy Somerville.  Throughout an uncompromising career, Somerville has deftly blurred the lines between politics and music, deploying his piercing falsetto to sing eloquently of social ills against a dance-pop backdrop.  Somerville came to prominence in 1984 as a member of Bronski Beat, a group of three young gay men who were determined to make their mark despite the social climate in Thatcher-era England.  After just one album, he then teamed with another kindred spirit, Richard Coles, to become half of The Communards.  That group thrived for two albums including a self-titled smash that took Europe by storm.  Never content to remain stagnant, however, Somerville embarked in 1989 on a solo career that continues to this day.  Demon Music Group’s Edsel label has rolled out the red carpet for Somerville via a series of 2-CD deluxe editions of his first five albums: one with Bronski Beat, two with The Communards and two solo.  All find Somerville reflecting on the same themes, finding new ways to express his most passionate beliefs through the medium of popular song.

Produced by Mike Thorne, Bronski Beat’s The Age of Consent draws fully on the experience of being a young, out gay man in a challenging time.  Though the band’s time with Somerville was short (Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek, then partners in life and music, carried on without their lead vocalist and primary songwriter), The Age of Consent packed a power that lasts to this day.  That the album isn’t heavy-handed is one of its greatest accomplishments.  It travelled far beyond the traditional confines of electropop and made its message of tolerance loud and clear.   The album’s title extended to an enclosed list of ages of consent around the world for “lawful homosexual relationships between men” (reprinted in full in the Edsel edition), and even the band’s logo was loaded with the iconography used in World War II Germany to identify homosexuals.

For Somerville, Bronski and Steinbachek, this wasn’t the love that dare not speak its name.  They proudly spoke it out loud.  Jimmy Somerville’s concerns in opening track “Why” are still, sadly, relevant today: “Contempt in your eyes when I turn to kiss his lips/Broken I lie, all my feelings denied/Blood on your fist/Can you tell me why?”  He fearlessly targeted the hypocrisy of homophobes, too: “You in your false securities/Tear up my life/condemning me/Name me an illness, you call me a sin/Never feel guilty, never give in!”  Set to a throbbing pulse of brass and electronics, Bronski Beat’s hi-NRG debut had plenty of danceable, joyful moments in its music.  But it’s the lyrics that are unforgettably direct, and Somerville’s scream was a shattering one.  (Even his voice was run through the Synclavier, also a favorite instrument of none other than Frank Zappa.)

“Screaming” catalogued the indignities suffered by the singer, and indeed, many gay men then and now: “My closet-ness, and pain/My lying, my deceiving/My rivers keep on crying…”  Another deeply personal, sad lyric put through a pop prism, “Smalltown Boy,” opened Side Two and defied all odds to become a hit for the group.  A striking music video starring Somerville brought to life the song’s realistic depiction of rejection and homophobia.  But Somerville’s effortless falsetto voice could handle a wide range of material and themes.  “No More War” is on the nose, but broadened the scope of the LP.  A cover of George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from the folk opera Porgy and Bess was hardly de rigeur in 1984, but Bronski Beat jumped into it with gusto.  Sure, the melody was given a glossy, modern sheen.  But a sinuous clarinet and jazz piano kept it rooted in the past even as the lyrics, questioning the veracity of certain Biblical tales, added the appropriate relevant dimension.  The musical invention continued with “Heat Wave.”  Though the song didn’t give the other, same-titled songs by Irving Berlin and Holland/Dozier/Holland a run for their money, it did feature a nifty tap dancing solo from future West End star Caroline O’Connor, plus more of Somerville’s vocal pyrotechnics and a slinky, inviting track.

Beginning a trend of Somerville disco covers is a doffing of the hat to Donna Summer with an over-the-top (heavenly chorus and all) rendition of “I Feel Love.”  Bronski Beat performed it as a medley with “Johnny Remember Me,” a 1961 western-sounding Joe Meek track originally recorded by John Leyton; Somerville was at his most mock-operatic.  Throughout these tracks, themes of love and lust, alienation and desperation, pathos and cruelty all are felt, but ultimately, Somerville is singing of dignity, too.

Each album in Edsel’s series includes an array of B-sides and extended mixes joining the album on the first CD and extending onto the second.  The deluxe Age of Consent includes an entire second album entitled Hundreds and Thousands.  That 1985 album includes both remixes of Consent songs as well as the planned single “Run from Love/Hard Rain.”  Of the fourteen other bonus tracks, “The Potato Fields” is a calm, shimmering instrumental, and “Cadillac Car” travels to Ventures-esque retro-rock territory.  (Alas, the “Smalltown Boy” B-side “Infatuation/Memories” is referred to in the booklet text as appearing on the set, but it hasn’t actually been included.)

After the jump: Somerville forms The Communards, and flies solo! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 20, 2012 at 15:20

Massive Attack’s Debut Getting New Remix, Remaster for November Release

with one comment

The debut LP from trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack is about to get a bit more massive in the U.K. this year, with a remixed, remastered deluxe edition due in November.

Blue Lines, originally released in 1991, was a watershed moment for British dance music. Before “trip-hop” was an actual subgenre repeated in music magazines, the Bristol-based trio of Robert “3D” Del Naja, Grant “Daddy G” Marshall and Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles helped forge its sonic identity as Massive Attack. As members of Bristol’s “Wild Bunch” scene with luminaries like rapper Adrian “Tricky” Thaws and DJ/producer/remixer Nellee Hooper, Massive Attack rebelled against the acid house style of dance music that was big at the time with a downtempo, hip-hop and electronica-influenced soundscape.

The results were huge. The album, as well as singles “Unfinished Sympathy” and “Safe from Harm,” all peaked within the Top 25 of the British charts. The group’s increased exposure led to a long, healthy career toward the forefront of modern dance music, collaborating with Madonna, Sinead O’Connor, Neneh Cherry, Damon Albarn and countless others. (Vowles left the group in 2000, leaving Del Naja and Marshall a duo whose latest album, Heligoland, was released in 2009.)

Virgin/EMI are releasing a new edition of Blue Lines on CD that’s entirely remastered and newly remixed from the original tapes. There’s also a deluxe edition forthcoming that pairs the new CD remaster/remix with the same program on double-vinyl and in hi-res, 96K/24-bit audio on DVD. The set also comes with a replica of the original 18″ x 24″ promotional poster for the album, all in a specially screen-printed mailer that replicates the style in which the original album sleeve was printed. (A smaller screen-printed mailer will encase the single-disc edition, as well.)

Both packages hit U.K. shops on November 19, and U.S. stores get it as a domestic title one day later. Hit the jump for pre-order links!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 20, 2012 at 14:49

No Hate, No Fight, Just Excitation: Classic Queen Concert Coming to Theaters, Home Formats

with 6 comments

Queen are bringing their unique kind of magic to movie theaters everywhere with a recently resurrected European concert, and it’s no surprise that the project is coming to audiovisual formats this November.

Hungarian Rhapsody: Live in Budapest captures Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor on the famed Magic Tour that surged through Europe in the summer of 1986. Having proven their live energy still knew no bounds the summer before, at Wembley Stadium for Live Aid, the tour – designed to promote the A Kind of Magic album (a companion of songs for the film Highlander) – was something of a victory lap for the band. (The Live at Wembley ’86 touchstone is another testament to this era, which was unfortunately the last hurrah for Queen in a live setting; Mercury would be diagnosed with AIDS the year after and would never appear onstage with Queen in his lifetime.)

The band’s July 27, 1986 show at Budapest’s Nepstadion was not only Queen’s first date in that country, but one of the first arena rock shows conducted behind the Iron Curtain. As such, filming was commissioned by the Hungarian government itself; even they couldn’t resist the hard-driving charm of the band, it seemed.

That footage, originally released on VHS and laserdisc in England in 1987, is going to be exhibited (newly remastered in HD and 5.1 surround, at that) in theaters worldwide between tonight and Sunday (check your local listings!), but it’s also going to be made available for fans and collectors on CD, DVD and Blu-Ray later this year. And after the jump, we’re going to tell you all about it!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

September 20, 2012 at 11:45

Posted in News, Queen, Reissues

It Only Takes a Minute to Fall in Love with New Tavares Reissues

with one comment

Though their appearance on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack ensured that Tavares would always be associated with disco, the New England band of brothers (Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny!) had its roots in classic soul.  They began in 1959 as Chubby and the Turnpikes (!) and eventually notched hits on the R&B charts like 1974’s “She’s Gone” (two years before Hall and Oates’ own version of the song achieved chart success) and 1975’s “It Only Takes a Minute,” which also crossed over to the pop chart.  That Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter song from 1975’s Sky High LP found a suitable follow-up hit in the next year’s “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel,” from In the City.  Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint reissued those two Tavares albums in 2011, and the label has recently turned its attention to two more long-players from the group, 1979’s Madam Butterfly and 1980’s Love Uprising.  (Supercharged, the album that chronologically falls between Madam and Love Uprising was also the recipient of a SoulMusic upgrade earlier in 2012.)

To diversify their sound beyond the expected disco, Tavares turned in 1978 to arranger/producer Bobby Martin, a veteran of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International label.  By 1979, many key members of the Gamble/Huff team had split from the soul empire, and Martin was among them.  The man who gave Gamble, Huff and Cary Gilbert’s song “Me and Mrs. Jones” its steamy orchestration was responsible for arranging or co-arranging every track on Madam Butterfly, and his touch is evident throughout.  Martin and his team (including writers Len Ron Hanks and Zane Grey, who contributed five songs, and Sam Dees, who wrote three) brought silk and soul from the city of Brotherly Love to the Massachusetts brothers.  Another Philly alum, Ron Kersey, shared horn and string chart duties with Martin, and played a variety of instruments (electric piano, acoustic piano, clavinet, organ, melodica) on the LP.  Martin and his arrangers took pains to spotlight the vocal blend of Tavares’ members with close-knit, gospel-influenced harmonies, all on a bed of rich orchestrations.

Madam Butterfly is so laden with hooks that Tiny Tavares opines in Kevin L. Goins’ new liner notes that “the DJs were playing the entire album so much that it cut into sales…[and] many folks didn’t feel the need to buy the record!”  The album contains both ballads and danceable tracks that were lightly flecked with disco but more often harkened back to the lush, classic Philadelphia soul sound.  There are smooth soul harmonies on “Games, Games,” dramatic, signature strings on the title track (“I can’t let you get away/I have got to catch you…”) and a sleek yet funky gloss on the lead single, “Never Had a Love Like This Before,” which went to No. 5 R&B.  (The album went to No. 13 R&B, faring less well on the Top 200 with a No. 92 placement for the LP.)  The Tavares brothers split up the lead vocal chores; Butch, Chubby and Pooch share “Never Had a Love,” Chubby and Butch savor the charms of “Madam Butterfly” and Chubby and Pooch trade off on the up-tempo “Only a Telephone Call Away.”  Pooch takes the lead on “Love Calls,” a sweet, pleading ballad that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Philadelphia International album earlier in the decade.  There’s even a brief, spoken rap.

SoulMusic’s expanded edition of Madam Butterfly gains three tracks: the 12-inch vocal and instrumental mixes of “Never Had a Love Like This Before,” and the single mix of second single “Straight from Your Heart,” the album’s opening track with Pooch on lead.  The instrumental version particularly allows the the arrangement by Martin and Hanks to shine on its own considerable merits.  Alan Wilson has remastered the album.  Hit the jump for a Love Uprising!  Plus: track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

September 20, 2012 at 10:19

Posted in News, Reissues, Tavares