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Archive for October 2nd, 2012

It’s The Falling In Love: Raven Reissues The Complete Carole Bayer Sager Albums; Bacharach, Jackson, Diamond, Midler Guest

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Carole Bayer Sager knew “that’s what friends are for” long before she wrote the song of the same name. The former Carole Bayer was already a hitmaking lyricist before graduating high school, thanks to the Mindbenders’ No. 2 hit “A Groovy Kind of Love.” The song was written by Bayer and Toni Wine before both women hit the ripe old age of 18. Following more hit tunes with the likes of the Monkees and Neil Sedaka, and even a Broadway musical (1970’s Georgy, with music by George Fischoff), she eventually turned to a recording career. Her complete, three-album solo discography has just been collected on two CDs by Australian label Raven Records, and the set makes for a “Who’s Who” of popular music. Sager’s team of songwriters, producers and background vocalists were all-stars, to wit: Bette Midler, Peter Allen, Melissa Manchester, Neil Diamond, Tony Orlando, David Foster, Nino Tempo, Nicky Hopkins, Luther Vandross, Alice Cooper, Michael McDonald, and not one, but two romantic partners who both just happened to be Academy Award-winning songwriters: Marvin Hamlisch and Burt Bacharach. Oh, yeah. The future King of Pop showed up for a duet, too. Carole Bayer Sager/…Too/Sometimes Late at Night (Raven RVCD-356, 2012) brims with an abundance of orchestral pop-rock riches, showcasing some of the lyricist’s finest and most enduring compositions.

Sager’s self-titled Elektra debut (1977) and its follow-up …Too (1978) are both impeccably arranged collections that have been criminally underrated over the years, but 1981’s Boardwalk LP Sometimes Late at Night is the crown jewel here. Though Sager is known for her unabashedly commercial lyrics that have struck a chord with so many, her more idiosyncratic side comes into full blossom, too.

Carole Bayer Sager featured songs co-written with Manchester, Midler, Hamlisch, Allen, Bruce Roberts and Johnny Vastano, but all shared a similar sonic signature thanks to the low-key, lean production of Brooks Arthur and the subtly evocative arrangements of Paul Buckmaster, the architect of the string charts for most of Elton John’s early hits. Sager’s voice was a small, wispy instrument, yet she knew, and was in full control of, its strengths. An aching vulnerability permeates much of the album, most vividly on the Allen co-write “I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love.” Later recorded in a hit version by Rita Coolidge and also by Allen, Dusty Springfield and Carmen McRae (not to mention Hugh Jackman in the Allen bio-musical The Boy from Oz), the song’s direct sentiment cuts to the bone thanks to Sager’s poignant vocal and the sympathetic arrangement: “Too many times I’ve seen the rose die on the vine/And somebody’s heart gets broken/Usually it’s mine…” She also brings a touching dimension to “Come In from the Rain,” which was introduced by Manchester and also recorded in 1977 by Captain and Tennille. Sager is no match for Manchester, Coolidge or Toni Tennille in terms of vocal power, and her voice occasionally cracks or gets particularly throaty. But these surprisingly soulful performances are appealing due to the emotion on display.

Carole Bayer Sager isn’t all melancholy, though. Peter Allen supplies a sleek piano part on his feisty “Don’t Wish Too Hard” (“Or then you might get it…and then when you get it, you might find you didn’t want it at all!”) on which Sager is joined by Tony Orlando as her protesting lover. Gene Page provided the upbeat arrangement. Even saucier, though, is the offbeat “You’re Moving Out Today,” a major hit for Sager virtually everywhere but America! The kooky single hit No. 6 in the U.K. and No. 1 in Australia, where the album hit No. 2 itself. Bette Midler (who also wrote the song with Sager and Bruce Roberts) joins Carole as she deliciously kisses off a live-in lover with, um, some interesting proclivities: “Your nasty habits ain’t confined to bed/The grocer told me what you do with bread/Why don’t you take up with the baker’s wife instead of me?,” she coquettishly implores before demanding he pack up his rubber duck, his funny cigarettes, his 61 cassettes, his rubber hose, and various other objects. Seems he’s a composer, too (Carole’s type), for she asks him to pack up his “songs that have no hooks,” as well! It all makes for a gleefully wicked three minutes of song. (Midler’s studio version appears on her Live at Last album.) A gentler end to a relationship is presented in the wistful “Sweet Alibis,” written with Marvin Hamlisch, who supplies typically sensitive work on piano, celeste and Fender Rhodes. Lee Ritenour brings a unique color to this track with a strong electric guitar solo. In a different vein, Midler lends her pipes to the sweetly affecting Allen/Sager tune “Shy as a Violet,” fleshing out Sager’s lead vocal with a close harmony.

We check out the next two Carole Bayer Sager albums after the jump! Plus: the full track listing and an order link!

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Written by Joe Marchese

October 2, 2012 at 14:25

“Hats” Off (Sort of) to Two Expansions of Blue Nile LPs

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If you’ve been waiting for expanded remasters from Scottish alternative band The Blue Nile, congratulations! Also, sorry to bear some bad news.

The Blue Nile, a trio consisting of non-traditional musicians Paul Buchanan (vocals/guitar/synthesizers), Robert Bell (bass) and Paul Joseph Moore (synthesizers), have an origin story almost as unusual as their musical direction. The group formed their own label, Peppermint Records, to distribute debut single “I Love This Life” in 1981; eventually, RSO Records picked up distribution but subsequent absorption into the PolyGram conglomerate virtually rendered the single nonexistent.

Years later, the band was picked up by another unusual label: Linn Records, owned by the European electronics manufacturer of the same name. The Blue Nile’s cutting-edge sound seemed like the perfect sonic formula for a brand-new hi-fi, and debut LP A Walk Across the Rooftops (1984) and single “Tinseltown in the Rain” dented the lower reaches of the U.K. charts.

After scrapping sessions for a second album, 1989 saw the group release Hats, a lush and layered effort that earned huge critical raves in England and peaked just outside the U.K. Top 10. (In the U.S., the album was aided by a much more direct push: A&M Records sent a copy free to anyone who called a toll-free number on a Billboard advertisement.) Two increasingly acoustic albums have followed since, 1996’s Peace at Last on the Warner Bros. label and 2004’s High, released by Sanctuary Records; unfortunately, the group has been inactive since 2008, with only Buchanan self-releasing a solo LP (with input from Bell) earlier this year.

To the delight of fans, EMI is planning deluxe two-disc editions of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats, each featuring bonus discs of non-LP content. Less exciting for hardcore fans is, while there appear to be a nice amount of unreleased content, very few of the original non-LP content from either of these two albums appears on the sets. Rooftops features remixes of “Tinseltown,” “Heatwave” and “Stay,” one original B-side (“Regret,” which backed “Tinseltown”), the band’s original RSO single and one unreleased track. Hats, meanwhile, only features one original B-side (“The Wires Are Down,” which backed “The Downtown Lights”), two alternate takes, two live cuts and another unreleased song, “Christmas.” Missing are non-LP tracks like “Saddle the Horses,” the B-side to “Stay,” and a Hats-era duet version of the band’s “Easter Parade” with Rickie Lee Jones, an early champion of the group in America.

All praise and/or blame for the bonus track situation goes to Buchanan and Bell themselves, who selected those tracks for inclusion on these new expansions, as well as overseeing the remastering done by Calum Malcolm, who engineered the original albums (not to mention the rest of The Blue Nile discography). Both expansions will be available November 11 in the United Kingdom. Hit the jump for the full track lists, courtesy of SpinCDs.

Thanks to super readers Len Lumbers and Richard for bringing these to our attention!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 2, 2012 at 13:55

Soundtrack Round-Up: More Kong, Eastwood, Zimmer Highlights from Intrada, La-La Land

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If you thought Film Score Monthly’s reissue of the score to King Kong (1976) was as big as it gets for soundtracks lately, allow us to show you the newest releases from Intrada and La-La Land – one of which features the giant ape himself!

Ten years after toppling off the World Trade Center to his apparent death, King Kong Lives – also produced by Dino de Laurentiis and directed by John Gullermin – reveals the giant ape is in fact alive, kept under a medically-induced coma while scientists search in vain for another ape to offer a blood transfusion to power an artificial heart made for the beast. As luck would have it, a female ape is found and offered to revive Kong – but when both animals escape captivity, it’s a race for two scientists to find them before the army does.

While the belated Lives received indifferent reviews, fans have lauded the heroic soundtrack by John Scott, which ignores any stigma of low-budget action in favor of active, expressive, big music. MCA released a thorough LP in 1986 (not coincidentally, the same year they introduced their Audio-Animatronic Kong on the Universal Studios Tour), but it only ever saw release on CD by the Victor label in Japan – a pressing somewhat marred by “bonus tracks” consisting of Kong’s various roars and grunts. Intrada’s new edition – featuring two collectible covers in one package, including the above modification of the original LP sleeve – omits those roars, making it once again all about the music.

And what else is new with Intrada and La-La Land, too? Hit the jump to find out!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 2, 2012 at 12:55

Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be: Archival Releases Set from Judy Garland, Anthony Newley, Lionel Bart

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Now that’s entertainment.  Thanks to the efforts of some dedicated reissue specialists in the U.K., some legendary artists – one performer (the performer?), one performing songwriter, and one songwriter – are soon receiving deluxe sets truly capturing an era gone by.  On October 9, Sepia Records will release The Genius of Lionel Bart, a 3-CD set authorized by the Lionel Bart Foundation consisting of hits, misses and everything in between from the Oliver! creator (including unreleased material intended for the James Bond film Thunderball and much, much more!).  On November 5, Stage Door Records will issue the final studio album of Anthony Newley as The Last Song, and finally, on November 12, First Hand Records will unveil Judy Garland’s The Amsterdam Concert – December 1960.

First Hand’s The Amsterdam Concert – December 1960 follows the label’s comprehensive The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964, released to acclaim just last year.  Garland’s concert at Amsterdam’s Tuschinski Theatre, at midnight on the evening of December 10, 1960, was broadcast live by Dutch radio network AVRO and has made numerous appearances on vinyl and CD in collectors’ circles, earning praise from many fans as one of the best representations of the live Judy Garland at her most electrifying, perhaps second only to Judy at Carnegie Hall.  For this “first authorized complete release,” AVRO’s original tapes have been licensed to First Hand, and the result is a lavish, 2-CD set.  Garland was accompanied that evening by David Lee on piano and Jos. Cleber’s Cosmopolitan Orchestra under the direction of Norrie Paramor.

The Amsterdam Concert is particularly illuminating, as it was recorded just four months prior to the historic Carnegie Hall evening of April 23, 1961, and features a nearly-identical set list.  First Hand’s release of the full broadcast includes all 30 songs as performed by Garland in Amsterdam, plus a bonus section of interviews with Garland, Sid Luft and conductor Paramor, an orchestral introduction and radio dialogue.  Garland’s rapport with the audience is evident on her spoken tracks, which have been indexed separately from the musical performances.  The discs will be housed in a jewel case, also containing a booklet with photographs of Garland onstage at the Tuschinski Theatre.

Judy Garland’s Amsterdam Concert arrives on November 12 in the U.K.  After the jump, we have the full track listing and a pre-order link, plus the scoop on Messrs. Bart and Newley! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 2, 2012 at 10:07

Release Round-Up: Week of October 2

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Barry Manilow, Elvis Presley, Kenny GWillie Nelson, John Denver, Luther VandrossThe Classic Christmas Collection (Legacy)

Oh my goodness, it really is almost sort of kind of close to Christmas, yes? Legacy’s getting your seasonal fix early with new compilations full of cheer (and, in a few cases, some harder to find Yuletide songs and tracks licensed from non-Legacy albums).

Dion, The Complete Laurie Singles / Shoes, 35 Years: The Definitive Shoes Collection / David Cassidy, Romance / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Volume 27 – Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA – 12/16/1992 / John Zacherle, Monster Mash/Scary Tales (Real Gone)

A diverse slate from Real Gone for the month of October: the first collection of Dion’s many, many hits for the Laurie label; a brand-new compilation for power-pop legends Shoes; David Cassidy’s U.K.-only hit LP for Arista; the latest Dick’s Picks reissue and two novelty Cameo-Parkway LPs by a legendary horror broadcaster.

Walt Disney’s Cinderella: Collector’s Edition Soundtrack (Walt Disney Records)

To coincide with the film’s Diamond Edition DVD/Blu-ray release today, the soundtrack to the Disney animated classic Cinderella is expanded with seven rare demos and brand-new recordings of each of those seven songs!