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Archive for November 9th, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Review: The Comedy and Music of Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams

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Welcome to 2012’s Second Disc Holiday Gift Guide!  We’ll use these special reviews to highlight not only seasonally-themed releases, but box sets, deluxe reissues and other special titles that might make the perfect gifts under your tree this holiday season!

Groucho Marx once observed that “marriage is a wonderful institution,” before adding, “but who wants to live in an institution?”  A few lucky couples have not only thrived in that institution, however, but also in the world of comedy: Gracie Allen and George Burns, Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs.  A renaissance man, Kovacs was a comedian, actor, author, clown, surrealist, and pioneer of the television camera, and even served as host of what’s widely acknowledged as television’s first “morning show,” broadcast out of Philadelphia over NBC.  His wife, Adams, was no second banana.  An accomplished actress and singer, the Juilliard and Columbia School of Drama graduate was crowned “Miss U.S. Television” in 1950, and appeared alongside Milton Berle and Arthur Godfrey prior to being spotted by the producer of Kovacs’ then-local show in Philadelphia. In one of his last interviews, Kovacs quipped, “I wish I could say I was the big shot that hired her, but it was my show in name only; the producer had all the say. Later on I did have something to say and I said it: Let’s get married.’” Kovacs and Adams tied the knot in 1954; their marriage was only cut short by Kovacs’ death in 1962.  (Adams remarried twice, and died in 2008, aged 81.)  Now, thanks to Omnivore Recordings and Shout! Factory, the beloved duo is in the spotlight once again on two delightful new releases.

The Edie Adams Christmas Album featuring Ernie Kovacs 1952 (OVCD-42) shows off both sides of the winsome, young Adams.  She’s as comfortable with a lovely, subtle reading of Mel Torme and Robert Wells’ “The Christmas Song” as she is with a tongue-in-cheek “Household Holiday Blues” in which she joshes around with her brash comic foil Kovacs.  The album’s fifteen tracks, in which Adams sings to piano accompaniment, are all derived from the month of December 1952 for the Kovacs Unlimited television program and make their first appearance on CD (or in any audio format) here.

The song selection is wonderfully varied, from familiar secular tunes (“The Christmas Song,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!”) to spiritual selections ( “I Wonder as I Wander”) and lesser-known songs (Al Stillman and Victor Young’s “It’s Christmas Time,” also recorded by artists including Carpenters).  Adams’ pristine and expressive soprano is engaging on both the ballads and the up-tempo cuts, including the jazzy “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Let It Snow.”  As on “Household Holiday Blues,” Adams is joined by Kovacs on the former.  Ernie’s most expressive turn, however, is on the Jay Livingston/Ray Evans classic “Silver Bells.”  Although Kovacs was no Bing Crosby, he holds his own with Adams, and their heartfelt duet is one of the album’s highlights.

Some comedy features on the disc, of course.  A very brief rendition of “A Marshmallow World” has Adams engaging in some goofing mid-song, and Ernie’s patter leads into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  Adams adopts an Irish brogue for “Christmas in Killarney,” most famously recorded by Crosby just a year earlier at Decca.  But music takes the center stage.  Wartime standard “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is poignant in Adams’ rendition.  Another treat is Adams singing the seldom-recorded verse to Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “Let It Snow!”  She also throws in a bit of Frank Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on that song, and does justice to the composer/lyricist’s torchy perennial, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.”

There’s plenty of heart in this sweet, vintage holiday fest.  Due to the age and origin of the recordings, there are audio imperfections that are difficult to ignore.  But the “pops, ticks and general surface noise” truthfully acknowledged in the notes hardly detract from the warm and nostalgic performances.  Reuben Cohen and Gavin Lurssen have remastered the audio to as best a quality as is possible.  Edie Adams’ son, Josh Mills, contributes his personal reminisces about his mom.  His touching recollections about his mom’s holiday fervor and the celebrity friends that populated his childhood (including both halves of the onscreen Odd Couple, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) add up to an essential part of the album, attractively designed with retro flavor by Greg Allen.

After the jump: there’s much more on Edie and Ernie as we look at Shout! Factory’s exciting new DVD release from these legends of television! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 9, 2012 at 14:04

Attention All Planets of the Solar Federation: Rush’s “2112” Returns in Deluxe Editions

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2011 wasn’t a bad year to be a Rush fan, with the legendary Canadian band offering a deluxe edition of 1981’s Moving Pictures and three Sector box sets covering Rush’s entire 1974-1989 Mercury Records tenure.  Now, Geddy Lee (bass, keyboard, vocals), Alex Lifeson (guitar) and Neil Peart (drummer) are preparing to close out this year by celebrating 2112 (yes, 2112 in 2012!) in a variety of deluxe formats. has confirmed December 18 as the release date for three editions of the classic 1976 album:

Perhaps the ultimate Rush album, 2112 became Rush’s most successful album to date with a No. 61 berth on the Billboard pop chart.  The group’s fourth album, it eventually achieved multi-platinum status.  Co-produced by Rush and Terry Brown, the LP blended heavy rock and prog rock into an imaginative, accessible and provocative whole.  The side-long, seven-part, 20+-minute title track by Peart (lyrics), Lee and Lifeson (music) featured an overture, a finale, and a conceptual sci-fi thread inspired at least in part by the writing of Ayn Rand.  The band’s story of a lone man with a guitar against the backdrop of a society oppressed by a galactic war proved irresistible to listeners.  The album’s second side consisted of five more traditional songs.  Virtually every aspect of the album influenced the band’s future path, including its artwork; the starman emblem (or “Man in the Star”) logo made repeat appearances on future Rush albums.

What will you find on the upcoming editions?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 9, 2012 at 11:45

Posted in Blu-Ray, DVD, News, Reissues, Rush

Reissue Theory: “James Bond 007: The Ultimate Collection”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we focus on classic music and the reissues they may someday see. With 50 years of on-screen action and a new film in theaters, the name is Bond…James Bond, and the music is plentiful!

What else is left to say about Ian Fleming’s blunt, British secret agent James Bond? Our 007, licensed to kill, is an international icon of print and, since Sean Connery suavely stepped into Bond’s tuxedo in 1962’s Dr. No, the big screen. Today, the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall – the third to star Daniel Craig as a rougher-hewn 007 and, by nearly all accounts, one of the greatest films in the series – opens in American theaters, guaranteeing the legacy that film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli created a half-century ago remains as shaken (not stirred) as ever.

Bond soundtrack fans have had much to enjoy in that time period. From Monty Norman and His Orchestra’s brassy, immortal main theme (punctuated by session guitarist Vic Flick’s staccato electric guitar licks), to lush scores by John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch, Bill Conti, Michael Kamen, David Arnold and Thomas Newman, to name a few, to the 23 title themes of varying quality but with boundless cultural currency, music is as vital a part of the Bond experience as martinis, girls, cars and guns. And fans have been lucky: in the 1990s, Rykodisc acquired the rights to much of the Bond soundtrack catalogue (in most cases, controlled by Capitol/EMI). In the 2000s, Capitol itself expanded and/or remastered many of those albums anew. And compilations, from 1992’s rarity-packed double-disc The Best of James Bond 30th Anniversary Collection to this year’s Bond…James Bond: 50 Years, 50 Tracks, have been plentiful as well.

But short of another, even more comprehensive pass at expanding the soundtrack albums to completion (one that seems increasingly like a pipe dream, thanks to the climate of the industry and the varying physical and financial statuses of the scores themselves), one could certainly find worth in a multi-disc box set that would provide the definitive dossier on Bond music. With that in mind, Second Disc HQ’s latest mission file is just that – and you can expect us to talk after the jump!

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