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Archive for October 9th, 2012

White Light/White Heat: Sundazed Preps Velvet Underground Vinyl Box with Rare “1969” LP

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The Velvet Underground is going back to mono, thanks to the Sundazed label.  On October 30, the seminal underground rock band’s first three albums will get the deluxe box set treatment in their original mono versions.  But that’s not all.  The Verve/MGM Albums will also include the mono version of Nico’s 1967 solo debut Chelsea Girl (featuring the Velvets’ Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison) as well as what the label is billing as “the definitive version of the band’s unfinished fourth album!”

Uncompromising, stark and rough-hewn, the Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut on the Verve label (of all places!) remains as iconic as its cover artwork of a banana, supplied by the band’s nominal producer, Andy Warhol. In a year still dominated by big, bright pop sounds transmitting over the AM band, The Velvet Underground & Nico anticipated the sounds of the future.  Punk, glam, noise and even goth were hinted at, while the group still nodded at traditional pop, rhythm-and-blues, jazz and garage rock. Primarily written by Reed with contributions from bandmates Cale and Maureen Tucker, the Velvets dealt with drugs, sex and violence in a frank and bold way, while Nico’s deep, odd, gothic vocals lent themselves to the general feeling of unease that permeates the record. The seamy side of New York had never been so vividly illustrated.

The group, sans Nico, recorded 1968’s White Light/White Heat with Tom Wilson in the producer’s chair, aiming for an even more raw sound.  Cale himself described the album as “consciously anti-beauty,” although most would argue that the Velvets found a certain kind of beauty in the darkness.  Tensions between Reed and Cale, though, were splintering the band, and Cale was eased out prior to 1969’s The Velvet Underground.  With Reed firmly in control, the album was less sonically harsh than its predecessors, more lo-fi, folk-influenced and confessional.  Later in 1969, this iteration of the band attempted a fourth LP, with songs that exist somewhere between the low-key Velvet Underground and the more commercial pop-rock sound of 1970’s Loaded (not included in the Sundazed box).  The album was abandoned when the group signed with Atlantic, and a number of the tracks intended for the untitled LP eventually appeared on compilations and archival releases.  Maureen Tucker was credited on Loaded but didn’t actually play on the released tracks, due to a maternity leave from the band.  In any event, Loaded would mark the end of The Velvet Underground in all but name.

In August 1970, Lou Reed departed the band prior to the release of Loaded that fall.  Doug Yule, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker carried on with bassist Walter Powers, but roughly one year after Reed’s departure, Morrison followed suit to pursue his studies.  Willie Alexander replaced Morrison, leaving no original members (though Tucker joined the group prior to the recording of the first album).  Following a European tour, this line-up of Yule, Powers, Alexander and Tucker was slated to record a new album, but Squeeze (1973) ended up being an all-Yule affair, with session musicians backing the lead singer.   Following its release, Yule toured again, this time backed by an entirely new Velvet Underground.  By the end of 1972, Yule had moved on, as well, and the Velvet Underground quietly disbanded.  Further collaborations between band members, of course, ensued, and the most unexpected reunion came when Reed, Cale, Tucker and Morrison reunited for a tour in 1992-1993.  Tucker, Reed and Cale reunited once more in 1996 for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.  Morrison, alas, had died one year earlier.  A 2009 joint interview even brought together Cale, Tucker and Yule.

After the jump: what’s on Sundazed’s box? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 9, 2012 at 15:08

Review: Vince Guaraldi Trio, “A Charlie Brown Christmas (2012 Remaster)”

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Who buys a reissue?

It’s a question many of us catalogue enthusiasts probably struggle with at one point or another. When I was a younger, more naive music fan in the New Jersey suburbs, my logic was unique but relatively sound: I could pay $13 or so for a classic album I wanted on CD, or I could save up what I earned mowing the family lawn and spend $30 on a version with more material, nicer packaging, all of that. More was always better, in my mind.

Of course, it’s that mindset that’s had me spring for multiple copies of my favorite recordings. To date, I own multiple versions of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bad, INXS’ Kick, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, John Williams’ E.T. soundtrack – the list goes on. With a new remaster released today, Vince Guaraldi’s legendary A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording of the CBS Television Special (Fantasy FAN-34027) enters the three-peat club. I’m not here to ask why personally, but the “nested doll” nature of reissues has lately become an intriguing issue. Joe and I, and many of our compatriots, have covered great records that have been put out like clockwork, each with something that hasn’t been heard before, but not always carrying over those previously-unheard things.

The first time I heard A Charlie Brown Christmas on CD, I was greeted by one of Vince Guaraldi’s gorgeous, mellifluous piano runs leading into a sprightly rendition of “O Tannenbaum.” What I didn’t realize at the time – a realization that, in fact, I don’t think I properly had the hang of until maybe last Christmas – was that I was hearing it differently from how millions of longtime listeners knew it.

See, the first major CD remaster of this classic holiday LP (Fantasy FCD 30066-2) took a lot of liberties with the original album presentation. Some tracks featured extended master versions, while two of the most famous tracks, “Linus and Lucy” and “Christmas is Coming,” featured entirely alternate takes by mistake. Concord corrected the errors on subsequent pressings, but I never figured out how to parse the differences in pressing. So, last Christmas, I bought a copy of the original 1988 CD pressing (Fantasy FCD 8431-2), which was still in considerable supply, to hear the album as it was meant to be heard.

It’s that arrangement that takes center stage once again on the new remaster. This is, put simply, the Charlie Brown Christmas you remember – and it’s still great. The spring in the step of “O Tannenbaum” is still a kick. “Linus and Lucy,” presented in its familiar guise edited from two takes, is as miraculous as the first time you heard it. And not even a year of cackling over Arrested Development can dilute the melancholic “Christmastime is Here.”

Happily, the remastering by Joe Tarantino definitely improves upon the sonics of that presentation. Much has been made about the characteristic hum heard throughout the recording of the album, and while that is reduced somewhat, what matters more is the general warmth of the remaster over the comparatively brittle tape transfer from the original CD release.

If there is anything perplexing, it’s (once again) the bonus material situation that seems to make many collectors scratch their heads. The four alternate bonus cuts from the 2006 remaster have not carried over to this disc, which instead features the familiar original CD bonus track of “Greensleeves” and two seasonal originals, the flute and trumpet-driven “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and the busy “Thanksgiving Theme.” The latter two will be familiar to any Peanuts fan, but the general audio quality on these four and a half minutes of music (“sourced from poorer monaural masters,” according to Derrick Bang’s light, narrative liner notes) doesn’t stand up to what is heard on the other 13 tracks. We could speculate wildly as to why those four bonus tracks from 2006, or even the “accidental” bonus tracks on the original pressing of that disc, weren’t included on this set – but we won’t…this time.

You may consider yourself crazy to buy another round of A Charlie Brown Christmas, but this new disc really deserves the attention of the holiday music fan – and a spot next to that 2006 remaster, for completeness’ sake. Or, if you’re picking the disc up for the first time, you might want to eschew the version with more music (just this once!) for the original pressing millions the world over still love.

Written by Mike Duquette

October 9, 2012 at 14:30

Posted in News, Reissues, Soundtracks, Vince Guaraldi

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Review: The Beach Boys Remasters, Part One: “50 Big Ones: Greatest Hits”

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We’re continuing our series of in-depth features dedicated to America’s band, The Beach Boys, and the various projects that have kept the group occupied throughout 2012!  Today, as the Boys launch a new series of album reissues and compilation titles, we explore Greatest Hits, 50 Big Ones and more!

It was the headline heard the world (wide web) over: Mike Love Fires Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys.  Of course, it wasn’t true.  No matter, though: suddenly, good, good, good vibrations were nowhere to be seen even as the reunited Beach Boys completed a triumphant 75-date, worldwide fiftieth anniversary tour.  It’s in this climate that Capitol Records and EMI have just this week launched a Beach Boys reissue campaign, the band’s first major catalogue overhaul in over a decade.

Truth be known, it always seemed the unlikeliest of possibilities that Brian Wilson and Al Jardine would resume touring with the slimmed-down, Mike Love-led iteration of The Beach Boys.  Love and Bruce Johnston (who joined the group in 1965) had been touring for thirteen years under the group name, the license having been granted to the frontman by the Beach Boys’ Brother Records organization.  Love had already made his reservations known in a Rolling Stone interview about the grand scale of the reunion tour, in which two of his touring bandmates, John Cowsill and Scott Totten, were joined by a phalanx of Brian Wilson’s own, versatile band members.  It seemed inevitable that Love would return to his smaller version of the group to continue his nearly non-stop touring, with the lingering possibility that the reunited, full line-up would tour or record in the future, perhaps as early as 2013.  In the meantime, nothing would preclude Brian Wilson from his own solo activities, either.  Alas, nothing is ever simple in the world of the Beach Boys.

Mike Love issued a press release in late September that apparently closed the door on future activities with Wilson, Jardine and David Marks.  This rather inelegantly-worded statement apparently blindsided both Wilson and Jardine, who issued comments either directly or through press representatives expressing disappointment at Love’s decision.  Wilson had, by most accounts, already been contemplating another Beach Boys album, and told CNN, “I’m disappointed and can’t understand why Love doesn’t want to tour with Al, David and me.  We are out here having so much fun. After all, we are the real Beach Boys.”

A simple “We look forward to the possibility of touring with Al, David and Cousin Brian in the future” from Love might have been sufficient to deflect the unwanted media attention, which was almost universally negative towards Love.   Instead, the singer was forced into spin control mode, which culminated in a rather more eloquent statement he gave the Los Angeles Times.  His October 5 editorial affirmed that “I did not fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys.  I cannot fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys.  I am not his employer.  I do not have such authority.  And even if I did, I would never fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys.”  He continued to stress his love for Wilson and his admiration for Jardine, but emphasized, “The plan was always to go back to our respective lives post the 50th anniversary run.”  This is true, no doubt – but has damage had already been done in the public eye?  Once again, the men with the angelic voices have been revealed as simply human.

Will Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks do it again?  Or will the Beach Boys return to their pre-fiftieth status quo, with the perception of heroes (Wilson) and villains (Love), however limiting those tags are?  Whether or not the creative visionary and the brash lead singer ever set foot on a stage or in a studio together again, one thing remains: the music.  That, of course, brings us to Capitol’s series of twelve remastered original albums recorded between 1963 and 1971, and two newly-assembled greatest hits packages.

We’ll explore them all, right after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 9, 2012 at 10:06

Festival of Life: T. Rex’s “The Slider” Gets Super-Deluxe Treatment from Edsel

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T. Rex’s iconic The Slider is getting the super deluxe treatment from Edsel for its 40th anniversary, The Quietus reports.

The band’s seventh album followed up the head-turning glam rock style of Electric Warrior, which featured the U.S. hits “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” and “Jeepster.” Working again with producer Tony Visconti in Paris, The Slider is a tight, heavy-duty album – perhaps a bit denser than its predecessor, but no less rewarding. Singles “Telegram Sam” and the “festival of life” song “Metal Guru” did not chart highly in the U.S., but both appeared on the British charts for a combined 26 weeks and both peaked at No. 1.

Perhaps befitting an album of its stature, The Slider has been reissued many times. Edsel themselves first expanded the album on CD in 1994, adding three non-LP B-sides. A disc of alternate takes, Rabbit Fighter, was later included with this reissue as a two-disc set; all of those tracks were reissued on one disc by Rhino in 2002 (Reprise, also a Warner-owned label, handled original U.S. distribution for the LP).

While a full track list for this box set edition has not been announced, the aforementioned report indicates a multi-disc, CD, DVD and vinyl set, including the original album remastered by producer Visconti, B-sides and outtakes (including an unreleased version of “The Slider” from Visconti’s personal collection), a DVD of new and vintage interview footage and live performances, 180-gram vinyl pressings of the original album and three singles (“Telegram Sam,” “Metal Guru” and the promo-only “Chariot Choogle”), a hardcover book with liner notes and new essays by Visconti and Marc Bolan biographer Mark Paytress and other swag including a poster, sticker, a replica fan-club newsletter and even a book of sheet music for the songs on the album.

The box is due out in the U.K. on November 26 and can be pre-ordered here. Of course, keep it here for news on the set as it comes.

Written by Mike Duquette

October 9, 2012 at 08:25

Posted in Box Sets, News, Reissues, T Rex, Vinyl

Release Round-Up: Week of October 9

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The Beach Boys, 2012 Remasters / Greatest Hits Greatest Hits: Fifty Big Ones (Capitol/EMI)

The summer gets a little more endless with a new compilation (in two formats) and remasters of nearly all of the band’s ’60s albums. (A full breakdown of those albums is here, and a full review is coming up from Joe today!)

The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour (Apple/EMI)

The Fab Four’s kooky film is making its Blu-Ray debut in standard and deluxe box formats.

Deep Purple, Machine Head: 40th Anniversary Edition (EMI)

A five-disc box set devoted to this classic rock LP, featuring various different mixes of the album (including quad and 5.1 mixes) and other goodies.

Barbra Streisand, Release Me (Columbia)

The incomparable Barbra’s newest album is actually an offering of entirely unreleased performances from the vaults. Lots of great discoveries herein!

B.B. King, Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr B.B. King (Hip-O/UMe)

Available in four-disc and Amazon-exclusive 10-disc formats, these box sets are the latest way to honor one of the greatest living blues legends.

The Supremes, I Hear a Symphony: Expanded Edition (Hip-O Select/Motown)

Another Supremes classic expanded to two discs, featuring the original album in mono and stereo and a host of live and studio treasures from the vault.

David Ruffin, David: The Unreleased LP and More (Hip-O Select/Motown)

Out of print for years, Hip-O Select reissues this compilation of the Temptation’s unissued 1971 album and a host of outtakes from the album sessions.

Various Artists, The Best of Bond…James Bond: 50 Years, 50 Tracks (Capitol/EMI)

It’s been 50 years since Dr. No hit theaters and it’s only a few weeks until Skyfall is released, so it’s time for a new 007 compilation that features all the classic title themes on one disc and a sampling of other tracks from the Bond films on the other.

Level 42, Running in the Family: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Polydor/UMC)

This ’80s hit is available from the U.K. as a double-disc expansion or four-disc, extras-packed box set.

The Who, Live in Texas 1975 (Eagle Rock)

Their latest at the time was The Who by Numbers, but this newly-restored show, on DVD in its first official release, is anything but.

Old 97’s, Too Far to Care: Deluxe Edition (Omnivore)

A demo-packed reissue of the 1997 country-rocker.

Various Artists, Athens, GA – Inside Out (Omnivore)

A nice deluxe set featuring both the classic documentary on the colorful Athens, GA music scene in the 1980s on DVD (with new special features) and the expanded soundtrack on CD.

Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas: Original Sound Track from the CBS Television Special (Fantasy)

The classic holiday album gets a brand new remaster with three bonus tracks. Full review coming later today!

Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb, In Session (Fantasy)

Two legends collaborate on this live performance from 1983, newly released as a CD/DVD set.

Adam AntDestiny’s Child, Shawn ColvinAlan Jackson, Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson, George Jones & Tammy Wynette, Carole KingTaj MahalRicky Martin, Johnny Mathis, Meat Loaf, Laura Nyro, Collin Raye, Starship, Porter Wagoner & Dolly PartonPlaylist (Legacy)

A surprisingly strong batch of Playlist titles includes a few neat surprises, too, from brand-new compilations for Destiny’s Child and Ricky Martin to rare and unreleased tracks on the Meat Loaf, Starship and Laura Nyro sets.

The Chipmunks, Christmas Collection (Capitol)

Because it wouldn’t be the holidays without some squeaky-voiced renditions of holiday classics, plus the immortal “Christmas Don’t Be Late.”

Edie Adams, The Edie Adams Christmas Album (Omnivore)

Another Christmas treat, sourced from rare kinescopes of Adams on television in the ’50s.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Universal Studios Home Video)

A timeless favorite at Second Disc HQ (in particular, Mike’s favorite movie!) comes home on Blu-Ray for the first time, featuring the restored original 1982 version of the film and a new retrospective consisting entirely of on-set footage shot by John Toll. Retail exclusives abound: Target’s offering a deluxe steelbook package (available internationally as a basic deluxe edition), Best Buy has a special book package with pages of full-color notes and artwork, Walmart throws in a free E.T. doll for the kids, and Amazon carried a limited deluxe package (now sold out) housed in a replica of E.T.’s spaceship.

Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut (Warner Home Video)

One of the most purely fun musicals of the past few decades, this loving musical adaptation of the Roger Corman cult classic features a killer, ’60s-flavored pop score from future Disney legends Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. For this special Blu-Ray release, the hilarious, 20-minute alternate ending (seen only on a quickly-recalled, highly-collectible DVD) has been fully restored and added to the end of the picture, and other great special features abound, too!