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Archive for December 19th, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Review: R.E.M., “Document: 25th Anniversary Edition”/Various Artists, “Athens, GA. – Inside/Out”

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Document 25Even a year after R.E.M.’s sudden dissolution last fall, it’s hard not to be enthralled by their music and their message. Even before they said goodbye, their discography was a considerable sacred text of modern rock and roll – sustained success on both a strong independent and major label, songs that provided a fresh take on a classic musical formula and a singular, uncompromising vision as to how they were going to follow their art – a vision that happily rewarded them as one of America’s most popular ensembles.

This year, 25 years after R.E.M.’s ascension into the big leagues with the Top 10 hit “The One I Love,” two new catalogue titles offer intriguing looks into how they got there. The first, and more obvious, would be the expected 25th anniversary edition of Document (Capitol 50999 972306 2 8), newly remastered and expanded with a concert recorded on the band’s Work Tour of 1987.

“The time has come/to be engaged,” lead singer Michael Stipe sings at the start of opening track “Finest Worksong” (arguably one of the band’s most underrated tunes). And while it’s not a stretch for the always-aware R.E.M. to think that way, it certainly is something to hear them wear that declaration so clearly on an album. Indeed, Document is in some ways bolder than its predecessors; Murmur and Reckoning established the band’s trademarks – bright pop/rock with jangling guitars and propulsive if simple rhythms combined with Stipe’s oblique, stream of consciousness poetry – while Fables of the Reconstruction and Lifes Rich Pageant added further flourishes, beefing up the production value (Fairport Convention producer Joe Boyd John Mellencamp producer Don Gehman produced each of those albums, respectively) and focusing the sometimes confounding lyrics into richly metaphoric tales of anything from the American South to adverse environmental conditions.

Document’s clean production by Scott Litt, who’d oversee the band’s next five LPs, is complemented by some of the most striking R.E.M. songs on record. A growing sense of Reagan-era discomfort is implicit on tunes like “Exhuming McCarthy” (which samples Joseph Nye Welch’s famous “have you no sense of decency?” quote during the Army-McCarthy hearings) and even the kinetic, almost intentionally discombobulating “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine).” As upbeat as the album is, Stipe betrays a sense of weariness throughout, most famously the bait-and-switch of “The One I Love,” in which he sings not of a real lover, but “a simple prop to occupy my time.”

While expanded editions of Fables and Pageant featured lengthy bonus discs of demos, the expanded Document adds a live set from the 5,000-capacity Muziekcentrum Vredenburg in Holland. Despite the decent sound quality, owing to a decent radio broadcast feed, this bonus disc is arguably the most disappointing of the R.E.M. 25th anniversary edition sets thus far. For one, the show doesn’t stray too far from the band’s typical fare (although much of Document is played). Far worse, however, is the deletion of several songs from the set list – mostly covers (including Wire’s “Strange,” as recorded on Document), which is a pretty weak way of saving on publishing royalties, but also the full, previously-released “Time After Time (AnnElise)/Red Rain/So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” which closed the set. (The arresting vocal-and-guitar closer of “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” remains; the other half is available only on the original “Finest Worksong” vinyl single.) Packaging enthusiasts, however, will enjoy the EMI-standard lidded box, sturdy photo inserts of Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry and the large, fold-out poster inside the set as well.

After the jump, take a fascinating trip to Athens, Georgia – the birthplace of R.E.M. as well as the home of a truly unique local scene that’s expertly captured in a rediscovered documentary!

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 19, 2012 at 17:48

In Case You Missed It: Lovin’, Livin’ and Givin’ with “Ross”

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RossThrough the years, fans of Diana Ross and The Supremes have had a lot of catalogue goodies to enjoy, what with expanded reissues and compilations covering both the killer Motown girl group and its iconic frontwoman. But one release that’s eluded everyone in the CD era is finally making its way to a smaller disc courtesy of the folks at Universal Music Japan, who recently released an SHM-CD pressing of Diana’s 1978 “album,” Ross.

Released a year after the Richard Perry-produced Baby It’s MeRoss is something of a compilation with two distinct sides: the first is mostly new and unreleased material recorded earlier that year with producers Hal Davis and Greg Wright, led off by “Lovin’, Livin’ and Givin’,” Diana’s contribution to the iconic, disco-heavy soundtrack to the film Thank God It’s Friday. (The version used on Ross was identical to the mix used on original LP pressings; subsequent releases of the soundtrack used a slightly longer remix.)

The other half of the album features outtakes and some lesser-known material from 1971 to 1975, mostly produced by Michael Masser (except for a cover of “Reach Out I’ll Be There” produced by Ashford & Simpson and released on 1971’s Surrender) and newly remixed for Ross by Russ Terrana. “Sorry Doesn’t Always Make It Right” and “Together” were a non-LP single in 1975, while the other songs, “Where Did We Go Wrong” and the Gerry Goffin co-penned “To Love Again,” were outtakes from the Last Time I Saw Him and Mahogany sessions, respectively.

While a good half of these songs have ended up on CD before (in large part due to expanded editions of diana and the compilation To Love Again in 2003), this SHM-CD marks the first time the original compilation has made its appearance on the format. Numerous alternate/original mixes of these tracks abound, as well, which could certainly make this a worthy project for Hip-O Select’s vault-unearthing team somewhere down the line.

Ross is about $33 or so through this link at HMV (no Amazon links appear to exist yet); the track list, as well as the other CD appearances of the tracks on this set, are below.

Ross (originally released as Motown LP M7-907R1, 1978 – reissued Universal Music Japan SHM-CD UICY-75388, 2012)

  1. Lovin’, Livin’ and Givin’ (LP Mix)
  2. What You Gave Me (LP Mix)
  3. Never Say I Don’t Love You
  4. You Were the One
  5. Reach Out I’ll Be There (Remix) *
  6. Sorry Doesn’t Always Make It Right (Remix) *
  7. Where Did We Go Wrong (Remix) *
  8. To Love Again (Remix)
  9. Together (Remix) *

* indicates track previously unreleased on CD
Tracks 1 and 4 released on diana: Deluxe Edition (Motown B0000791-02, 2003)
Track 2 released on Diana Ross: Dance Songs (K-Tel KTLP/CD 210-1/2 (EU), 1985)
Tracks 3 and 8 released on To Love Again: Expanded Edition (Motown/Chronicles 440 067 054-2, 2003)

Written by Mike Duquette

December 19, 2012 at 11:50

Posted in Diana Ross, News, Reissues

On The Third Day of Second Discmas…

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Christmas Omnivore Fb banner

Here at The Second Disc, the holiday season is the perfect time to do what we love to do best: share the gift of music. For the second year in a row, we have we reached out to some of our favorite reissue labels and we’ve teamed with them to play Santa Claus to our awesome and faithful readers. It’s called – what else? – Second Discmas, and it’s going on now through Christmas!

Today, we have a gift set from our friends at Omnivore Recordings which we think is pretty damn cool!  Earlier this year, the label released a deluxe edition on 2 CDs of Old 97’s’ seminal album Too Far to Care.  That fantastic release would make prize enough…but that’s far from all.  We’re offering you the chance to win the Too Far to Care 2-CD set PLUS the 2-LP Limited Edition blue vinyl of the album, the 1- LP Limited Edition yellow vinyl of They Made a Monster: The TFTC DemosAND a vintage, signed Too Far to Care tour poster!  WOW!

This is truly the ultimate Old 97’s gift set.  And winning has never been easier! Click on the graphic up top to head over to Contest Central for the complete rules! And there’s plenty more where that came from, so enter now and wait ’til you see what we’ve got for you!

Written by Joe Marchese

December 19, 2012 at 09:38

Posted in Giveaways!, Old 97's, Reissues

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Now Sounds Unearths Lost Leon Russell-Produced Psych-Pop Classic “Daughters of Albion”

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Daughters of AlbionBefore he actually became The Master of Time and Space to his fans, Leon Russell was manipulating everything but time and space on a psychedelic pop opus that nobody heard.  The fantastically imaginative Daughters of Albion was, well, DOA in the commercial sense upon its initial release in 1968.  Its blend of dense lyrics, elaborate vocal arrangements, shifting moods and an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-oh-hell-we’ll-throw-that-in-too approach to the musical accompaniment might have been too far out even for ’68.  But you can decide for yourself on Now Sounds’ first-ever authorized CD reissue of this long-hidden gem (CRNOW 39).

Daughters of Albion was one of Leon Russell’s first production assignments, alongside its sister album, Look Inside the Asylum Choir (recorded by Russell and Marc Benno, who adds guitar to Daughters of Albion).  This ambitious song cycle was the brainchild of arranger/producer Russell, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Greg Dempsey, vocalist Kathy Yesse (later Dalton) and songwriter Dave “Luff” Linden, who departed the project in its early days.  Dempsey brought his formidable songwriting skills to the table; he and Linden had already written songs for artists including Dino, Desi and Billy, and Vic Dana.  With co-writer Jack Nitzsche, Dempsey had also provided Don and the Goodtimes with one of the most infectious, underrated songs of the entire decade, “I Could Be So Good to You.”  (Though Russell didn’t contribute any songs to DOA, he and Dempsey would later team to pen songs including “Roll Away the Stone.”)  Prior to DOA, Dempsey and Yesse were two-fifths of The Gas Company, a Reprise recording act that will be anthologized on a future Now Sounds release.  Though he recorded the album in Hollywood, Russell enlisted his Oklahoma crew of musicians rather than the L.A. Wrecking Crew.  Their participation lends DOA a different flavor than might have been expected.

This trip to a sonic carnival is a curiosity, no doubt, but occasionally a transcendent one.    “I Love Her and She Loves My” (no, that’s not a typo), the album’s catchy opening track, marries Cowsills-esque bubblegum vocals to twangy, country-flecked guitars, with majestic, classical strings adding tension and gravitas.  And that’s just the first song!  Every track, with the exception of the closing suite, is a nugget of the three-minute variety, yet even the most straightforward pop songs here have some strikingly unusual element to them.  The jaunty “Our Love is Growing” has offbeat vocalizations over a piano-driven instrumental bed that otherwise could have been plucked from one of Russell’s records with Gary Lewis and the Playboys.  Shimmering harp opens the ethereal, Dalton-led “Candle Song” with its Pet Sounds bass figures and fragile music box quality.  As sad, sensitive and strange as “Candle Song” is, “Ladyfingers” is brassy, with its bold, vaudevillian horns anything but subtle.  The oom-pah band returns to cut loose on the mini-symphony “Hats Off and Arms Out, Ronnie.”

There’s sonic overload at times, as when Dempsey sings two different sets of lyrics in counterpoint on “Sweet Susan Constantine,” with Russell orchestrating Mamas and the Papas-style vocal answers from Dalton, piano reminiscent of Jimmy Webb, and even burbling water effects as the impressionistic lyrics ask, “Who shot John and who shot Bobby?  Who shot Martin, Brother Malcolm?  Who shot Andy, who shot me?”  Daughters of Albion lyrically offers a sideways look at society, culture and love in all their many permutations.  (Animation giants Disney and Hanna-Barbera also get name-checked in the bizarre lyrics of “Sweet Susan Constantine,” with Dempsey factually observing that “Hanna-Barbera does not rhyme!”)  It’s arguable that a more razor-sharp focus might have commercially behooved Russell and co., but there’s no doubt that these artists stayed true to their vision.

There’s more on Albion after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 19, 2012 at 09:23