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Archive for October 23rd, 2012

Accidents Will Happen: Elvis Costello Collects His Songs “In Motion Pictures” For New Retrospective

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The lure of the screen has long been impossible for Elvis Costello to resist, beginning with his appearance in 1979’s Americathon and continuing right through the present day.  The artist born Declan Patrick MacManus has appeared onscreen in motion pictures from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me to Spice World, and written songs for even more films.   Although the prolific artist hasn’t released a new studio album since 2010’s National Ransom, Universal is seeing to it that there’s some Costello under the tree at Christmastime.  On November 19, the label will release In Motion Pictures, a 15-track collection of songs that have appeared in films over the years, including some penned specifically for the silver screen.

Curated by the part-time Coward Brother himself, In Motion Pictures offers tracks both familiar and rare.  Most of the tracks have been anthologized elsewhere, though a couple of tracks might entice Costello collectors.  One such song is 2011’s “Sparkling Day,” written and performed by Costello for the Anne Hathaway-starring tearjerker One Day.  The soundtrack did not receive a CD release in the United States, so this compilation marks its commercial U.S. debut in a physical format.  Another comparatively rare track is “You Stole My Bell,” previously included only on the soundtrack to Nicolas Cage’s 2000 holiday film The Family Man.

From Costello’s film debut in Americathon comes “Crawling to the U.S.A.,” originally featured on the movie’s soundtrack (alongside “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea”) and later included on various compilations and appended to the Rykodisc, Rhino and Universal reissues of This Year’s Model.  Other early songs heard here include “Accidents Will Happen” from 1979’s Armed Forces, memorably referenced in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 fantasy E.T., “Miracle Man” from Costello’s album debut My Aim is True and “Lover’s Walk” from 1981’s Trust album.  The latter songs were featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part III and Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things, respectively.  Elvis scored a U.K. Top 20 hit, his first in sixteen years, with 1999’s “She,” a Charles Aznavour chanson recorded for the comedy Notting Hill.  The ballad, of course, appears on In Motion Pictures.  Another renowned composer is represented with Costello’s recording of “Days,” the Ray Davies song, from director Wim Wenders’ 1991 Until the End of the World.

In 1996, Elvis Costello accepted an invitation from director Allison Anders to team up with one of his longtime heroes for her Brill Building-inspired film Grace of My Heart.  Costello and Burt Bacharach supplied Anders with one of the best movie songs ever to have been denied an Academy Award nomination: their powerfully dramatic “God Give Me Strength.”  The collaboration between Costello and Bacharach led to an acclaimed joint album, 1998’s Painted from Memory, as well as concert appearances and further pairings.  Costello contributed vocals to Bacharach’s 2005 Columbia album At This Time and has been a loyal friend to Bacharach, appearing at numerous tributes over the years.  The duo also appeared onscreen together serenading Mike Myers’ Austin Powers with “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” from 1999’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.  Alas, their groovy rendition of the song from Bacharach and Hal David’s Promises, Promises (a highlight of the movie and also a staple of Costello’s 1999 live performances) hasn’t been included on the new compilation.

After the jump: what else is missing from In Motion Pictures?  Plus: the full track listing with discography, and a pre-order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 23, 2012 at 13:58

Review: Five from The Steve Miller Band (1968-1970), Reissued on Edsel

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The 1968 debut of the Steve Miller Band begins with a shattering cacophony, followed by an acoustic strum emerging like a beacon of light amidst the darkness and clatter.  The album’s title track “Children of the Future” is far removed from the ironic detachment of “The Joker” or the sleek majesty of “Fly Like an Eagle,” later hits that proved the group could go “pop” while still showing off their versatility and impeccable musicianship.  Edsel Records has just afforded listeners the opportunity to revisit the band’s hard-to-find first five albums, recorded for Capitol in an incredibly prolific period between 1968 and 1970.  These well-designed reissues are all housed in uniform digipaks, containing colorful booklets with full lyrics, liner notes from San Francisco rock journalist Joel Selvin, ample photos and memorabilia, and the original LP front and rear artwork.  Each title has been remastered by Phil Kinrade at Alchemy.

Though the blues-rock guitarist from Wisconsin rose through the ranks in the fertile Bay Area psychedelic rock scene, Miller’s first album was recorded by producer Glyn Johns at London’s Olympic Studios.  Miller and his band (originally Boz Scaggs on guitar/lead and background vocals, Lonnie Turner on bass/background vocals, Jim Peterman on mellotron and organ/background vocals, and Tim Davis on drums/lead and background vocals) married blues guitar licks to hazy, lysergic melodies.  The centerpiece of Children of the Future is the side-long suite which opened the LP, primarily written by Miller.  It’s bookended by the title song (“We are children of the future…wonder what in the world we are going to do…When they get high, they can see for miles and miles/When we get high, I can see myself for miles…You know I’ve got something that you can use”) and the B.B. King-influenced closer “The Beauty of Time is That It’s Snowing (Psychedelic B.B.),” an instrumental with only the “We are children of the future” mantra for lyrics.  What Mr. King thought of it, I don’t know.  Miller did, indeed, get high, as his lyrics went, and was busted and imprisoned for marijuana possession while recording the album.  The suite’s lyrics combine optimism with hippy-dippy cosmic belief redolent of the period (“In my second mind, I can see you grow/Feel you flow/It moves my soul, yeah”) though traditional love song sentiments and blues tropes are also present.

The second side is more traditional, though songs still flow into one another.  Boz Scaggs, on the verge of coming into his own as a solo artist, contributes two tracks to Side Two.  His pretty, ethereal pop song “Baby’s Callin’ Me Home” (with Ben Sidran on harpischord) segues into the electric rock of “Steppin’ Stone” (not the Monkees hit).  Long before “Jet Airliner,” Miller contributed the folk-rock “Roll with It” (“There’s a plane goin’ down the runway…Believe I better go with it/There’s a train goin’ by the highway…believe I better roll with it”) with its wailing guitar solo.  The album is rounded out by Jim Pulte’s “Junior Saw It Happen” and a couple of R&B covers, “Fanny Mae” (with its striking R&B harmonica and a riff that was also semi-appropriated for The Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda”) and the slow-burning “Key to the Highway.”  The new reissue adds one bonus track, the shimmering non-LP single “Sittin’ in Circles,” written by another well-regarded tunesmith, Barry Goldberg of the Electric Flag.

Join us after the jump for more, won’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 23, 2012 at 10:07

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, Steve Miller Band

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Review: Peter Gabriel, “So: Immersion Box Set” – Part 2: This is the Picture

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In yesterday’s first part of the So box set review, we discussed the original album proper and the accompanying So DNA bonus disc. Part 2 continues with a look at a live show, some visual content and more.

If there’s a major mistake on the So box set, it’s keeping the So DNA disc exclusive to a $100+ box set. As much as it replicates the original album (with a different spin, naturally), it feels closer to the mothership than the great but best-taken-separately experience of Live in Athens 1987.

Available across two CDs which are also included on the less-pricey deluxe edition (and one DVD, again exclusive to the box), the impeccable-sounding show is taken from multitrack masters recorded at the end of the This Way Up Tour at the Lycabettus Theatre in Athens. (The footage was recorded for POV, a 1987 video documentary produced by Martin Scorsese.) On a technical level, the show is rather great: the colors are crisp and the sound warm and inviting – and the band, comprised of guitarist David Rhodes, bassist Tony Levin, keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Manu Katche (the very same core of Gabriel’s touring band on this year’s So-centric Back to Front Tour), is in top form. (Youssou N’Dour reprises his irreplaceable vocals on “In Your Eyes.”)

But what makes the set frustrating is how little it feels like a So-worthy experience. Only five of the 16 songs in the set appear on that album, hardly the full-album experience Gabriel delivered audiences in the past few months. And there are points when it’s almost too pristine, with plenty of pre-recorded overdubs present on “Sledgehammer,” “Shock the Monkey” and the like. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se; heaven knows Gabriel would only graduate to more enormous tour experiences as his career went on. But, again, given what fans haven’t been allowed to enjoy on the box – the B-sides, remixes and such – it might have made more sense to present Live in Athens on its own, where it wouldn’t pale next to the specter of what isn’t there.

The video content is rounded out with a slow-to-start but ultimately satisfying Classic Albums documentary on So, running about an hour (not counting 35 minutes of extra and extended segments) and featuring new interviews with Gabriel, Levin, Katche, producer Daniel Lanois, engineer Kevin Killen, Rolling Stone columnist David Fricke and more. There are certainly many more whose insights would have been welcomed – N’Dour, guest vocalist Kate Bush, “Sledgehammer” director Stephen R. Johnston – but all interviewees are game and engaged. Of particular interest are segments where Lanois and Gabriel separately replay various cuts direct from the So multitracks, highlighting various details hidden deep in the mixes. (Lanois is visibly moved by the vocal interplay between Gabriel and N’Dour on “In Your Eyes,” a happily chilling moment.)

While much of the best bits of the interviews are actually reprinted in the liner notes (which are extremely worth it for gorgeous candid pictures recording in Ashcombe House in Bath, on the set of “Sledgehammer” and onstage), there is much to enjoy. It’s clear So was a high watermark for all involved – even if, as recounted in several funny anecdotes, Lanois had to resort to desperate measures to keep the notoriously deliberate singer on track in the ten months of So sessions. Again, there is much to pick at what could have been included on this disc – more on that iconic album sleeve design would have been nice, as well as those great music videos for “Sledgehammer,” “Big Time,” “Don’t Give Up” and “Red Rain.” But fans looking for the right balance of insight and retrospective will walk away satisfied.

The So box does close with some multimedia; namely, two respectably heavyweight vinyl LPs and some downloadable content. One platter features the remastered So, while another features two outtakes: there’s “Courage,” an addictive jam of a track; “Sagrada,” a more throwaway piece that anticipates bits of “Don’t Give Up” and “In Your Eyes”; and a different mix of “Don’t Give Up,” featuring alternate piano runs and more, alternate vocal passages from Kate Bush. Those tracks would have certainly fit well on a CD with B-sides and the like, but they are included as a FLAC download (along with the So album and a 720p HD file of the Live in Athens video) for you to add to your media players and whatnot.

The bottom line with this divisive box: on a literal level, the So package is indeed an immersion into the fascinating, joyful musical headspace of Peter Gabriel in 1985 and 1986, as he transmogrified from A-1 cult artist to MTV’s brightest star. It is by no means complete; few such packages are. My enjoyment of the extras remains tempered by the thoughts of what could have been, with pristine versions of the So videos on Blu-Ray and the Special Mix of “In Your Eyes” at the ready to add to my most romantic iTunes playlists.

But – accepting all I’ve done and said – So means so much to this writer that it’s worth it to accept the box for what it is, hope for a proper B-sides compilation down the road – and tell you, our all-important readers, that those who love this album have my solemn promise that this box set is worth the price of admission. It underlines what made So such a captivating piece of art, and turns that process into art itself. Let there be no doubt about it.

Written by Mike Duquette

October 23, 2012 at 09:05

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

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