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Archive for October 15th, 2012

Review: Barbra Streisand, “Release Me”

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On Saturday evening, October 13, Barbra Joan Streisand triumphantly concluded a two-night engagement at Brooklyn, New York’s brand-new Barclays Center.  The two evenings marked her first public performances in the borough of her birth since she dropped the “a” from Barbara and followed the call of superstardom, first to Manhattan and then to Hollywood.  Streisand recalled to the audience of 19,000 that her last time singing in Brooklyn was on a stoop!  Still, she serenaded the community with special, lighthearted lyrics set to Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top” and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” relishing her hometown comeback.  More serious than all the talk of knishes and bialys, however, was Streisand’s deeply emotional performance of a song introduced in the 1967 Broadway musical Hallelujah, Baby!

“Being Good Isn’t Good Enough” was written by Funny Girl composer Jule Styne, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and it translated a central point of Arthur Laurents’ provocative book into song.  (Laurents, of course, was another close associate of Streisand’s, having directed her Broadway debut in I Can Get It for You Wholesale.  He would later pen The Way We Were for the star.)  In the musical, a young black woman harbors dreams of stardom, cognizant that she must be more than superlative to overcome the obstacles society has placed due to the color of her skin.  Though Streisand wouldn’t compare her own journey to that of the character in the musical, she found resonance in the lyric, as an artist famously branded as a “perfectionist” and as a performer for whom being simply good is altogether insufficient.

This wasn’t the first time Streisand tackled the song, though.  It was originally slated to open 1985’s The Broadway Album, as a mission statement of sorts.  That album was a homecoming, too: back to the style of music on which Streisand’s career was launched.  An acting as well as singing tour de force, the anthemic “Being Good” simply soars under Streisand’s control.  “I’ll be the best or nothing at all,” she defiantly trumpets, as if there were simply no other option.  She’s supported at every dynamic turn by the orchestration of Peter Matz, repeating his duties from the original musical.  Yet the decision was ultimately made to instead open The Broadway Album with Stephen Sondheim’s dazzling and contemporary “Putting It Together,” with Sondheim having rewritten the lyrics to reflect an artist’s struggles in the music business.  “Being Good” was shelved.  It’s just been revisited alongside ten other “lost” tracks on Release Me, the first archival collection of Barbra Streisand’s catalogue since the 1991 box set, Just for the Record.  Drawing on decades of vaulted recordings, Release Me adds up to one of the most wholly satisfying releases of Streisand’s long career.  “Being Good” finally gets to open an album after some 27 years, and it kicks off the album with a burst of drama.

We dive in, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2012 at 14:29

Posted in Barbra Streisand, Compilations, News, Reviews

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Omnivore’s Black Friday Schedule: Capitol Rarities on Vinyl, Jellyfish Instrumentals on CD

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We’re close to that most wonderful time of the year, folks! No, not Christmas, but – well, yeah, I guess Christmas is closer than we’d all wish it would be. But ANYWAY, the wonderful time I was alluding to is Record Store Day’s Black Friday event. The day after Thanksgiving, our beloved local independent record stores join forces with major and independent labels alike to release special exclusive treats as a way of thanking us for patronizing their businesses.

While a full list of RSD exclusives has yet to materialize, at least one of our favorite reissue labels has announced their release slate for that November weekend: Omnivore Recordings is planning four very special 10″ vinyl EPs and a double-disc set of familiar works by a power-pop artist in a very unfamiliar way.

Let’s have a look after the jump, shall we?

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 15, 2012 at 13:57

The Fruits of Another: Paul Carrack’s Career Anthologized on Triple-Disc “Collected”

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Like some sort of blue-eyed soul version of Zelig, Paul Carrack has been a fixture of British rock for decades. As frontman of pub-rock Ace, he took “How Long” to the U.K. Top 20 and to No. 3 on Billboard‘s U.S. chart. He joined Roxy Music for their reunion album Manifesto in 1979, then sang and played keyboards for Squeeze on their iconic East Side Story album in 1981, which yielded the unforgettable “Tempted.”

Even while eking out a solo career post-Squeeze (enjoying U.S. hits with “Don’t Shed a Tear” and “One Good Reason,” the latter co-written by Squeeze lyricist Chris Difford) he was in no less than three notable bands: Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit, a new venture for the venerable singer/songwriter/producer; Roger Waters’ Bleeding Heart Band, which backed the ex-Pink Floyd leader on the When the Wind Blows soundtrack and Radio KAOS in 1987; and Mike + The Mechanics, the side-project of Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford where he sang on hits “Silent Running” and the chart-topping ballad “The Living Years.”

As Carrack releases a new album, Good Feeling, this fall, Universal U.K. recently celebrated his diverse career with a three-disc set of Carrack’s work. Collected covers Carrack’s whole solo career, as well as the best of his work with Ace, Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics and others. For serious collectors, it’s worth noting that the third disc contains a lot of obscurities, including several non-LP B-sides.

Collected is available now, and yours to order from Amazon U.S. and Amazon U.K. (Thanks to super reader Ludo for the tip on this one!) Hit the jump for the full track list!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 15, 2012 at 10:57

Do The (Salsoul) Hustle: Big Break Celebrates Salsoul Records Legacy with Four Reissues

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By 1975, Philadelphia soul had become too big even for the City of Brotherly Love.  In the first half of the decade, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff had, along with the third member of their Mighty Three, Thom Bell, reinvented the sound of soul music.  The Pennsylvania city had become synonymous with sweeping strings, punchy horns and the hi-hat cymbal of drummer Earl Young, offering up music that could be dramatic, sweet and funky, sometimes all within the same three-minute song!  Bell had long kept a foot outside the Philadelphia International Records offices with his productions for Atlantic, Columbia, Avco and other labels, even while contributing arrangements for Gamble and Huff, especially in PIR’s early years.  The crème of the Philly crop, though, could be found at Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studios playing in MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother).  PIR’s house orchestra, MFSB backed the likes of Billy Paul, The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and the Three Degrees for Gamble and Huff, and The Stylistics and The Spinners for Bell.  Eventually, though, individual musicians and arrangers desired to step out of the Mighty Three’s shadow.  Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, Earl Young, Bobby Martin, Bobby Eli and a certain Vincent Montana, Jr. all began to strike out on their own, bringing their individual spins to the already-familiar orchestral, proto-disco sound.  Enter Joe, Ken and Stan Cayre, the three brothers behind New York’s Mericana Records label.

What happened next is currently being surveyed on CD by Cherry Red’s Big Break Records imprint.  The Cayres went on to form Salsoul Records, still one of the most beloved labels in dance, disco and R&B circles.  Yet, until now, the mightily impressive Salsoul catalogue has never gotten the same kind of lavish treatment on CD as PIR’s for any number of reasons.  Likely high among those reasons is the fact that the label hasn’t always had a major distributor, as the Cayres were initially turned down by CBS, Atlantic and Polydor!  The existing CDs hardly seemed aimed at collectors, lacking deluxe packaging and fidelity to the original albums.  Finally, though, this new reissue series aims to restore Salsoul to its rightful place in the soul music pantheon.  Big Break has just launched its Salsoul campaign with four classic titles from the company’s catalogue, from The Salsoul Orchestra, First Choice, Instant Funk and Double Exposure, respectively.  Each title has been definitively expanded with bonus tracks and new liner notes, allowing this music to be explored and enjoyed once more.  (It’s no coincidence that Big Break has also been reissuing a number of PIR titles, including last month’s Love is the Message from the original MFSB line-up, featuring many of the players who went on to form the Salsoul Orchestra.)

After the jump: we pick up with the Salsoul story and take a look at all four titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 15, 2012 at 10:02