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Archive for October 17th, 2012

Review: David Sanborn, “Then Again: The Anthology”

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Even if you don’t know David Sanborn, chances are you know his saxophone on David Bowie’s “Young Americans.”  Or James Taylor’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You).”  Or Bruce Springsteen’s “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” on which he joined Clarence Clemons and the Brecker Brothers.  Though Sanborn is considered a leading light in the “smooth jazz” movement, his background is much more varied.  He played the blues with Paul Butterfield at Woodstock, pure jazz with Gil Evans, and R&B with James Brown.  Sanborn’s considerable solo output has been collected before, but it’s recently received its most comprehensive survey yet from Rhino.  Then Again: The Anthology compiles 29 tracks on two CDs, derived from sixteen of the prolific artist’s albums recorded between 1975 and 1996 for the Warner Bros. family of labels.

Sanborn is doubtless one of the most recognizable saxophonists of all time, with his frequently wailing alto sax.  He’s appeared on some of the most recognizable records of all time, not only from those artists mentioned above, but from Stevie Wonder, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Eagles and so many more.  Then Again only compiles his solo work, but it touches on his diverse artistic style.  Is this jazz (smooth or otherwise) with an R&B and pop influence?  Or is it R&B and pop that just happens to feature an instrumental lead voice?

The first disc is sequenced by Sanborn himself in a largely chronological manner, starting with Don Grolnick’s “The Whisperer” from his 1975 debut Taking Off and ending with Sanborn’s own co-written “Missing You,” from 1996’s Songs from the Night Before.  On the second disc, he abandons chronological format, sequenced instead based on mood and theme.  Virtually all of Sanborn’s solo albums in that period are represented, with notable exceptions being 1976’s self-titled set and 1994’s Hearsay.  The artist’s selections lean heavily towards original material and less on popular “cover” recordings.  As a result, some songs that have been anthologized on prior compilations are absent here, even though they show off another side of Sanborn’s versatile skill set.  These omitted “covers” include versions of Paul Simon’s “I Do It for Your Love,” Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager’s “Nobody Does It Better,” Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade,” Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s “You Are Everything,” and Jim Weatherly’s “Neither One of Us.”

The song selection is, of course, a matter of taste, but Sanborn does impressively cover a lot of musical ground, from stripped-down, funk-influenced pieces to orchestral compositions.  The most represented albums, with four tracks apiece, are Double Vision, his 1986 collaboration with keyboardist Bob James, and 1982’s As We Speak.  Sanborn primarily plays his trademark alto sax, but occasionally switches to other horns like the soprano sax.  Many of these tracks feature contributions from longtime musical associate like Don Grolnick, Michael Sembello, and Marcus Miller.  Renowned bassist Miller produced tracks here from Backstreet (1983), Straight to the Heart (1984), A Change of Heart (1987), Close-Up (1988), and Upfront (1992)

We go close-up with Then Again after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 17, 2012 at 15:18

Posted in Compilations, David Sanborn, News, Reviews

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“Nuggets” Goes Back to Basics for November Reissue

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If “Woodstock” is the first proper noun one thinks of when associating with psychedelia, “Nuggets” may be the second. One of the most watershed releases in Elektra Records’ discography, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 got under the surface of America’s musical counterculture and created one of the most worthwhile multi-artist compilations of its time.

Forty years later, Rhino brings Nuggets back as a newly-remastered set on CD and vinyl. If you can believe it, this release marks the first time the original Nuggets compilation has been released as a standalone CD in America. (A 1998 edition included the original set and three more discs of tracks from the period; a standalone disc was issued in Europe in 2006.)

Elektra founder Jac Holzman, intrigued by the short, to-the-point nature of AM rock radio at the time, commissioned guitarist Lenny Kaye (who was soon to be a fixture of The Patti Smith Group) to curate a playlist of tunes from that brightly-burning period of rock and roll creativity in the mid-1960s. Consciously avoiding the biggest hits of the time (but not, contrary to popular belief, avoiding Top 40 hits altogether; 11 of the 27 tracks charted in that range, including Top 5 “Psychotic Reaction” by The Count Five and Top 20s “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes and The Standell’s “Dirty Water”), Kaye created an intriguing collage of sounds from the mid-’60s that had a considerable impact on the years to come. (Kaye’s original liner notes even predict one of the most significant genres of the ’70s: “punk rock.”)

Nuggets will arrive as a 180-gram double LP on November 13 and a remastered CD, newly struck from the original analog tapes, two weeks later. The package, recreating the original gatefold sleeve, also features new notes by Kaye.

Amazon has order links for the CD (U.S./U.K.) and LP (U.S./U.K.), and the track list is after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 17, 2012 at 11:41

Posted in Compilations, News, Reissues

From Manhattan to Memphis: Ace, Kent Collect Classic Soulful Sides on Three New Releases

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Though they’re located across the pond, the team at Ace Records literally has the entire map of the U.S. covered when it comes to celebrating classic soul sounds.  Among the numerous titles recently issued by the Ace family are three geographically-attuned sets sure to pique your ears and interest.  Ace’s journey begins in the American northeast, and specifically in New York City, with a second volume of Manhattan Soul.  Like the first volume in the series, it’s drawn from the considerable archives of Scepter, Wand and Musicor Records, and it brings together songs from cherished vocalists like Tommy Hunt, Jimmy Radcliffe and Big Maybelle, along with a whole slew of artists who may not have achieved notoriety, but sure did wax some great music.  Next, the Ace team heads down to Alabama, where The Charmels and Jeanne and the Darlings might have shouted, “We’re the Soul Girls!”  This 29-track anthology collects the complete recordings of two of Stax Records’ criminally-underrated girl groups, with many tracks appearing on CD for the very first time.  Finally, Ace basks in the glow of the heartland with Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul, exploring the crossroads of those two distinct genres.

Both volumes of Manhattan Soul conjure up the urbane R&B sound that came out of the 1960s in that storied borough of New York City.  Florence Greenberg’s Scepter and Wand labels (home to Maxine Brown, Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles and B.J. Thomas) and Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor (home to Gene Pitney, George Jones and the Platters) boasted diverse rosters, but both had a keen interest in soul music, frequently swathing it in strings and lush orchestrations.  It’s no surprise that one maestro of sophisticated soul, Burt Bacharach, had his biggest successes on Scepter, and also provided hits for Musicor.  There were many other ties; Luther Dixon departed the Greenberg empire for Musicor, while Van McCoy, Bert Keyes, and Bert DeCoteaux all arranged platters for both labels.  Each of those names is represented on Manhattan Soul, Volume 2.

This is uptown soul, for sure, with further contributions from producers such as Teddy Randazzo (Porgy and the Monarchs’ “That Girl”), Chips Moman (The Masqueraders’ “I Don’t Want Nobody to Lead Me On,” recorded in Memphis but released in Manhattan on Wand), and songwriters like the young Kenny Gamble (Nella Dodds’ “I Just Gotta Have You”) and Curtis Mayfield (Something New’s “You Babe”).  Fetching big beat ballads proliferate on this 24-track CD, such as Ed Bruce’s “I’m Gonna Have a Party.”  The track was written by Bruce arranged by Florence Greenberg’s son Stan Green (nee Greenberg) on Wand, and is almost a sideways rewrite of Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s “Any Day Now,” a sizeable Wand hit by Chuck Jackson.  Though the second volume of Manhattan Soul doesn’t feature as many high-profile artists as the first (which had The Shirelles, Johnny Maestro, The Platters and Maxine Brown all represented), it’s just as rewarding, if not more so.  These songs meld sophisticated, sometimes Latin-flavored arrangements with deep soul, plenty of booming baritones and swelling strings.  There are even four interesting unreleased tracks, including Jimmy Radcliffe’s beguiling “Deep in the Heart of Harlem” and “No Jealous Lover,” by Lois Lane, a.k.a. Louise Williams, a U.S. Congresswoman since 1988!  Ady Croasdell annotates, and even teases us with a liner note about a song that wasn’t included: Sylvia Jenkins’ “It’s Gonna Be All Right,” written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin which was rejected for its “excruciating passages!”  Bring on Volume Three.

After the jump: to Alabama and beyond, plus track listings and pre-order links for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 17, 2012 at 10:04