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Archive for January 17th, 2013

Stephen Stills Turns Back the Pages with New Retrospective Box Set

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Stephen Stills - Carry OnIf, like me, there’s a gaping hole in your box set shelf between “C” (for David Crosby’s 2006 Voyage) and “N” (for Graham Nash’s 2009 Reflections), fear no more.  That hole is ready to be filled with a March 26 release from the third member of the Crosby, Stills and Nash triumvirate.  Carry On celebrates the career of guitarist-singer-songwriter Stephen Stills in a new 4-CD box drawing on his legendary associations with CSN, CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, Manassas and of course, his solo projects and pairings with friends and colleagues.  Producers Graham Nash and Joel Bernstein have compiled a retrospective of Stills’ 50+-year career including 82 tracks, 25 of which are previously unissued.

The four compact discs, primarily arranged in chronological order, touch on Stills’ numerous hits, from Buffalo Springfield’s era-defining “For What It’s Worth” (1967) to Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Southern Cross” (1982) and Stills’ own “Love the One You’re With” (1970).  But the plethora of previously unavailable tracks will be the real manna for collectors.  The anthology’s very first track, “Travelin’,” was made by the 17-year old artist in Costa Rica, while one of its concluding tracks (2012’s “Girl from the North Country”) hails from Crosby, Stills and Nash’s sold-out five-night residency at New York City’s Beacon Theatre.

This hour’s worth of rare material also premieres a selection from the storied Stills/Hendrix tapes.  “No-Name Jam” is a 1970 recording of Stills playing opposite his friend Jimi Hendrix in London.  “Black Coral” was released in 1976 by the Stills-Young Band, but the version included here features all four members of CSNY.   Another tantalizing alternate is the 1970 recording of “The Treasure.”  Included on the debut album by Stills’ band Manassas, the Carry On version was recorded by Stills, bassist Calvin Samuels and drummer Conrad Isidore during sessions for Stephen Stills 2.  Of the many demos here, there are early attempts at “Forty-Nine Reasons” (which became the familiar “49 Bye-Byes”) and “The Lee Shore.”  Other previously unheard songs span many years in Stills’ long career, including “Welfare Blues” (1984), “Little Miss Bright Eyes” (1973), and “Who Ran Away?” (1968).

We have more info on the rarities you’ll find here, plus pre-order links and the full track listing for your persual after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 17, 2013 at 15:14

Review: Roger Cook, “Running with the Rat Pack”

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Roger Cook - Running with the Rat PackThe rules of pop music were changing, and Roger Cook didn’t want to be behind the times.  The songwriter of such nuggets as “You’ve Got Your Troubles,” “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” “My Baby Loves Lovin’” and “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” had long balanced his work as a behind-the-scenes songwriter with a singing career.  As one-half of David and Jonathan (with co-writer Roger Greenaway) and a member of Blue Mink, Cook was a familiar vocalist, and as a background singer, he added to the distinct sound of Elton John’s earliest albums.

In summer 2011, RPM Records issued Cook’s complete solo tenure for EMI’s Columbia label via an expanded edition of Cook’s 1970 album Study.  The label has just continued the Roger Cook story with a new 2-CD anthology, Running with the Rat Pack (RPM RETRO D921).  The Rats in question aren’t Frank, Dean and Sammy, but rather the U.K. session crew that brought to life albums from Blue Mink, White Plains, The First Class, Edison Lighthouse and so many other groups both real and fictional.  Rat Pack brings together two of Cook’s released LPs (1972’s Meanwhile Back at the World and 1973’s Minstrel in Flight) and adds a previously unreleased album recorded by Cook and Blue Mink bassist/session stalwart Herbie Flowers.  Though these albums lack the pure pop that made Study one of the most delightful surprises of 2011, they show Cook heading into uncharted and often interesting territory as a songwriter and vocalist.

On Meanwhile Back at the World, Cook and Greenaway must have been determined to shake off any notion that they could only turn out three-minute pop songs.  The duo wrote every song, with co-writers on just a couple of them.  The title track opens the John Burgess-produced, Jimmy Horrowitz-arranged album, a 7+-minute opus with impressionistic lyrics (“I feel that you’re aware/I feel you’re there/Somewhere…” or “People are tryin’ to reach me/Then there’s people tryin’ to be where I am/Just as if it was something you could see…”) and a sprawling musical canvas that includes both simple acoustic instrumentation and ornate strings.  Those strings bring a sound reminiscent of prime Elton John, while Cook’s vocals have a slight Neil Young tinge.

Though a brief snippet of the title song is reprised to bring continuity to the LP at its mid-point, Meanwhile otherwise isn’t much of a concept album but rather a collection of songs with a similar feel.  The story song “Greta Oscawina,” about a fan’s connection to a far-away movie star with a surname that suspiciously sounds like “Oscar winner” (“Greta Oscawina, I’m in love with you and everything you are”), is enjoyably light, with smooth saxophone woven throughout the song.

“We Will Get By” (written by the “Cookaway” team with Jackie Rae) and “Warm Days, Warm Nights” are two more lengthy tracks, both of which build from gentle piano-driven declarations to full-blown anthems.  Their melodies might be too meandering to have made for successful singles, and the team hadn’t mastered the long-form pop song form as Jimmy Webb (“MacArthur Park”) or Paul McCartney (“Band on the Run”) had.  But Cook and Greenaway’s pop instincts never wholly let them down, and there are some strikingly lovely phrases in both songs.  “Warm Days” goes from that stark piano to intense gospel fervor within the framework of a love song.  Among the album’s choir of voices are Rosetta Hightower, Lesley Duncan and Tony Burrows.  Cook also made tentative steps towards country-and-western, a field in which he would later prosper once he relocated to America and specifically, Nashville, with “Oh Babe.”  The album’s closing song, an upbeat ode to “Sweet America” co-written with Bruce “Hey Baby” Channel, also has a twangy vibe.

Though Meanwhile Back at the World had its far-out moments, Cook planned an even more ambitious follow-up.  Join us after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 17, 2013 at 12:36

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, Roger Cook

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Otis Redding’s “Deepest Soul” Explored on New Concept Album

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Otis Redding - Deepest SoulWhen is a lost album not a lost album?

In the case of Lonely and Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding, the answer is, “when the album has been created in 2013 to look, sound and feel like a Stax/Volt release from almost five decades prior!”  On March 5, Stax and Concord Records will release this newly-created concept album of the late soul shouter’s most torrid ballads on both CD and a special blue vinyl LP.

Compilation producer David Gorman set out with one goal in mind: “to find the saddest, most potently heartbreaking songs [Otis] ever sang, with no regard for chart position or notoriety. There are a few hits on the album, but they’re there because they fit the mood, not because we wanted to include the hits.”  In that category, you’ll find such all-time standards as “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “These Arms of Mine.”  Among the lesser-known tracks selected for inclusion in the 14-song set: “Gone Again,” “Little Ol’ Me” and “Everybody Makes a Mistake.”  In the case of “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember,” the version selected features different lyrics from the familiar recording.  “Open the Door” is heard in its “Skeleton Key Version.”

The design and execution of the package was foremost on the producer’s mind.  To that end, the press release notes that the “typography, color palette and layout are all meant to adhere to the Stax/Volt LP designs of the time.  The liner notes, too, are written in the present tense by a fictitious DJ commenting on Redding in his prime.  The LP jacket will be “aged,” too, to resemble a vintage, oft-played album with the wear and tear that might have resulted.  “The goal,” commented Gorman, “was to create the best album Otis never made and ‘reissue’ it in 2013 rather than do another hits compilation. We hope this album will reframe him as something more than an oldies radio staple and become his Night Beat [Sam Cooke’s atmospheric 1963 classic]— the album that exists as a starting point for people wondering why so many consider Otis Redding the greatest soul singer of all time.”

Hit the jump for the track listing and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 17, 2013 at 09:59