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Archive for October 22nd, 2012

“Die Hard 2,” “Enemy Mine” Lead Off New Varese Batch

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Like a sleeping giant, soundtrack reissue Varese Sarabande wakes only periodically and deliberately to release film and television scores from the vaults through their famed Soundtrack Club. In recent years, fans have bemoaned the lack of “Silver Age” scores – that is, more recent music from blockbuster films. That trend looks to change with the latest solid batch of limited edition reissues from Varese.

First up, following Varese’s own limited edition of Michael Kamen’s score to Die Hard in 2002 (and a subsequent further expansion by La-La Land last holiday season), the label expands Kamen’s score to the first sequel in the franchise. Die Hard 2: Die Harder had the improbable task of continuing the unlikely saga of hard-nosed hero John McClane; the New York detective this time found himself not in Los Angeles’ Nakatomi Plaza skyscraper, but Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Airport, where he has to battle another group of terrorists while his wife is stranded on a plane circling the air above. Though it was a critical and commercial success, outpacing even the first film financially, it’s easily the silliest in the series (soon to continue with a fifth installment next February). But Kamen’s score, which sees him reprising old themes and adapting classical compositions – in this case, Sibelius’ “Finlandia” – to great effect. This two-disc presentation is limited to 3,000 units.

Next, Varese premieres the score to The Red Pony, a television film scored by the legendary Jerry Goldsmith. The composer would win his first Emmy for the project, based on John Steinbeck’s short story collection of the same name. Clint Howard (Ron’s little brother) played a boy on a California ranch whose experiences with a young horse shapes his formative years. Maureen O’Hara and Henry Fonda (no stranger to Steinbeck on film, of course) played the parents; Fonda in particular had declared The Red Pony to be his favorite of Steinbeck’s words, and a diverse group of famous fans from Eric Clapton to Barack Obama have made themselves known over the years. Being a Goldsmith title, this set is also capped at 3,000 copies.

After the jump, one more expanded title and two reissues from the Varese catalogue – all from the 1980s – await you!

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 22, 2012 at 19:50

The Kids Are Alright: The Who’s “My Generation” Reissued on CD

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“Belgravia, a rich neighbourhood where women in fur coats shoved me out of line as if I didn’t exist, only made more starkly apparent the generational divide I was trying to describe…The feeling that began to settle in me was not so much resentment towards those Establishment types all around my flat in Belgravia as fear that their disease might be contagious,” Pete Townshend writes in his new memoir, Who I Am, about the song “My Generation.”  He continues, “What was that disease?  It was actually more a matter of class than of age.  Most of the young people around me in this affluent area of London were working on transforming themselves into the ruling class, the Establishment of the future.  I felt that the trapping sof their aged customs and assumptions were like a death, whereas I felt alive, not solely because I was young, but really alive, unencumbered by tradition, property and responsibility.”

When Townshend’s band The Who released that sneering, stuttering salvo with its shocking credo “Hope I die before I get old,” its rebellious message was not heard just by the group’s audience of so-called mods, but by angry, disaffected youth everywhere.  The No. 2 U.K. single soon provided the title to very first album by Messrs. Townshend, Daltrey, Entwistle and Moon.  My Generation (issued in the U.S. by Decca Records in slightly altered form as The Who Sing My Generation) was released in December 1965, and blended Townshend originals with R&B covers from James Brown and Bo Diddley.  It remains a striking document of The Who’s primal power, and has been routinely recognized as one of the greatest albums of all time by sources on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Mojo, Rolling Stone, Q and NME.  The original British mono version, however, has been out of print for over three decades in both Britain and America, but that’s soon to change with Universal U.K.’s My Generation mono CD, due in November.

What’s different about My Generation in mono?  Hit the jump for more details, plus the track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 22, 2012 at 13:06

Posted in News, Reissues, The Who

WE HAVE A WINNER! The Steve Miller Band’s First Five Albums On CD!

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Written by Joe Marchese

October 22, 2012 at 10:23

Can You Surry, Can You Picnic? Ace, Legacy Celebrate the Songs of Laura Nyro

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In Wendy Wasserstein’s play Third, a professor is sitting at her desk, cigarette in hand, listening to “Wedding Bell Blues.”  Her student enters, and recognizes the tune: “Is that the 5th Dimension?”  The professor sharply replies, “Not in my office!”  Beat.  “It’s Laura Nyro.  She wrote it.”  He replies, “Cool.  Does she have anything new out?”  Professor Nancy Gordon answers, “She died of ovarian cancer a few years ago,” and changes the subject.  Cancer would take Wendy Wasserstein, too, like Laura Nyro a quintessential New York artist.  In her mere 49 years, Nyro’s work spoke to generations of fans, captivated by her juxtaposition in song of heaven and earth.  And like Professor Gordon in the play, many fans felt that only Laura could do justice to her singular songs, despite the fact that she wrote hit records for Barbra Streisand, Three Dog Night, Blood Sweat and Tears, and yes, The 5th Dimension.  Well, now you can decide for yourself.

Laura Nyro was drawn lyrically to lonely and loving women, and two-timing, tom-catting flim flam men.  Ace Records has just compiled a new multi-artist anthology of her songs, and Sassafras and Moonshine: The Songs of Laura Nyro (CDCHD 1336) is a lustrous collection of some of the finest pop songs ever written.  And only one of those aforementioned artists appears, with the collection choosing to put the spotlight on some deliciously rare renditions from the songwriter’s catalogue rather than assembling just her most famous radio hits.  Laura’s own recordings are absent, but a new collection from Legacy Recordings fills that gap, too.  Playlist: The Very Best of Laura Nyro (88725477022) offers fourteen examples of Nyro Sings Nyro, culled from nine albums.

Laura Nyro’s songs possessed both a deep spirituality and a keen appreciation of earthly joys, often both at the same time in one three-minute recording!  Though New York-born and bred, she also frequently embraced bucolic imagery, finding something mystical in nature and in simple pleasures.  Only Nyro could have made “sassafras and moonshine” in “Stoned Soul Picnic” into something magical; and who else would have characterized her subject as having “his mean streak from the gutter, his kindness from God” than this empathetic woman?  Nyro’s imaginative, evocative wordplay wasn’t always literal; when performing her own hit “Stoney End” in 2006, Barbra Streisand joked with her audience that she never understood the words: “What is the stoney end?”  But however fanciful her lyrics could be, Nyro always imparted her meaning with vivid emotion.

Though her songs were intensely personal, they stylistically reflected a varied pool of influences, making them quite adaptable for recordings by other singers.  A full nine of the twelve titles from her 1967 debut album, More Than a New Discovery, are heard on Sassafras and Moonshine.  Rock, folk, soul, jazz, doo-wop, Brill Building pop, theatre music and even gospel all figured into her special, idiosyncratic brand of music.  Artists in nearly all of those genres get a chance to “spread their wings and fly” on Ace’s new compilation.  And Nyro likely would have approved that Sassafras and Moonshine overwhelmingly consists of recordings from female artists.  It appropriately, leads off with “Sweet Blindness” in the 5th Dimension’s irresistibly rollicking arrangement from Bob Alcivar, Ray Pohlman and Bill Holman, as produced by Bones Howe.  The group became closely identified with Nyro, recording eight of her songs including the blissful pop perfection of “Wedding Bell Blues.”  Here, that most famous of Nyro’s works is performed by Bobbie Gentry in a much more plaintive arrangement with gentle flute, piano and strings billowing over Gentry’s languid vocal.  Other hit versions, too, have been overlooked in favor of illuminating might-have-beens like Esther Marrow’s “And When I Die” and The Friends of Distinction’s “Eli’s Comin’” rather than the familiar singles by Blood Sweat and Tears, and Three Dog Night, respectively.

The 5th Dimension only appears once on Sassafras and Moonshine, but their influence is felt throughout, most especially on the Staples Singers’ recording of the dreamy “Stoned Soul Picnic,” which closely follows Bones Howe’s production template.  Howe didn’t limit his Nyro activities to the 5th Dimension, however; his recording for the post-Diana Ross Supremes of “Time and Love” has also been selected for inclusion by the Ace team.  (Howe actually intended the track for Diana Ross, whose vocal was later issued.  Motown recycled the backing track for Mary Wilson and company.)  The boisterous “Save the Country,” another 5th Dimension favorite, is sung here with grace by the young Thelma Houston.  Houston brings gospel fervor to Nyro’s invitation to “come on down to the Glory River” to “wash you up and wash you down, gonna lay that devil down!”

Hit the jump for more, plus order links and track listings! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 22, 2012 at 10:08

Review: Peter Gabriel, “So: Immersion Box Set” – Part 1: Let There Be No Doubt About It

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When Peter Gabriel’s So hit stores in the spring of 1986, it wouldn’t be unfair to call almost everything about the ex-Genesis’ fifth record a complete surprise. For one, the record had a title, boldly marked in the upper left corner as if a challenge to the reader. Moreover, the album sleeve showed not a Hipgnosis-created aberration of Gabriel – obscured by raindrops, jagged scratches, or photo manipulation that seemed to melt half his face off – but a Peter Saville-crafted black-and-white portrait of the singer, unadorned and, it seemed, uncertain, as if he knew he was taking a risk with the album at hand.

And that’s before the needle even went on the record. The eight songs (nine on compact disc) were a stirring leap forward from the dense, often esoteric pop Gabriel had perfected. It was just as quirky, to be sure – with Stax-worthy horn arrangements, lush Fairlight arrangements and otherworldly guest vocals from Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson and Youssou N’Dour – but it both aligned and put itself ahead of the pop trends of its age, thanks to captivating melodies from Gabriel’s pen and a panoramic production from Daniel Lanois, who’d set the tone of late ’80s rock as producer on U2’s The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree.

Now, 25 years and change later, the inconceivable whirlwind they call So has been given the laudatory mega-hyper-deluxe box set treatment (Real World PGBOX2), with four discs of music, two DVDs, a pair of vinyl LPs and a deluxe book, all in a fancy 12″ x 12″ box. There’s been considerable scrutiny over the So box from the moment details were announced; in particular, Paul Sinclair of Super Deluxe Edition led a chorus of fans bothered by the lack of the many non-LP B-sides and vintage remixes on the package. For a week, it was enough of a maelstrom for Gabriel and Real World to respond to an open letter from SDE (later adapted into notes about the So box presented in the program for Gabriel’s autumn Back to Front tour, which saw him perform So in its entirety with the core band members who committed the record to tape in 1985 and 1986).

As always seems to be the case, there is much that certainly could have been added to this box set to make it more complete, more exhaustive. But with about six hours of audiovisual content stored in the box, it’s just as worth a look at what is included as what is not. We begin as such after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

October 22, 2012 at 08:33

Posted in Box Sets, Peter Gabriel, Reissues, Reviews, Vinyl

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Release Round-Up: Week of October 22

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Peter Gabriel, So: 25th Anniversary Edition (3CD Deluxe Edition: U.S./U.K.; 4CD/2DVD/2LP Box Set: U.S./U.K.Classic Albums: So DVD (U.S./U.K.)/BD (U.S./U.K.)) (Real World)

A year late for the actual 25th anniversary (PG never was one for deadlines), So sledgehammers record shops with a variety of expanded formats, including one of many mega box sets released this year.

The Beatles, Love Me Do (50th Anniversary Single) (U.S./U.K.) (Capitol/EMI)

Originally bungled due to a mispressing, The Fab Four’s debut 45 is replicated and reissued a few weeks after the actual 50th anniversary.

The Doors, Live at The Bowl ’68 (CD: U.S./U.K.; LP: U.S./U.K.; DVD: U.S./U.K.; BD: U.S./U.K.) (Elektra/Rhino/Eagle Rock)

The Lizard King returns with an incendiary audiovisual live set, newly remixed and remastered from the original elements.

Change, Disco Recharge: The Glow of Love/Miracles (U.K./U.S.) (Harmless)

Demon’s dance imprint reissues the two albums by Italian disco studio band Change (whose iconic “The Glow of Love” featured lead vocals by a then-unknown Luther Vandross); both are packed with various edits and remixes from the period.

Clifford Brown, The EmArcy Master Takes, Vol. 2: The Singers Sessions (U.S./U.K.) (Hip-O Select/Verve)

Brownie sits in with Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and more.

Thelma Houston, The MoWest Album: Expanded Edition (U.K./U.S.) / The Miracles, Love Crazy: Expanded Edition (U.K./U.S.) / The Miracles (U.K./U.S.) (SoulMusic)

From this Cherry Red imprint comes a Motown rarity from Thelma Houston and two albums by The Miracles on Columbia Records.

Art Pepper, Neon Art: Volume 2 (U.S./U.K.) (Omnivore)

The second of three unreleased volumes of Art Pepper on colored vinyl, taken from a 1981 concert in Japan.

Mike + The Mechanics, Mike + The Mechanics (Gold CD) (U.S./U.K.) (Audio Fidelity)

Mike Rutherford’s side project, released before Genesis hit pop pay dirt with Invisible Touch, features the hits “Silent Running” and “All I Need is a Miracle.”

Original Broadway Cast Recording, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (U.S./U.K.) (Verve)

Rupert Holmes’ “Solve-It-Yourself Broadway Musical” is finally back on CD to coincide with the show’s current Broadway revival!  A full rundown on Verve’s reissue is coming soon!