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Archive for January 23rd, 2013

It’s a Kind of Magic: Queen’s Wembley Shows to Be Expanded on DVD (UPDATED 1/23/2013)

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UPDATE (1/23/2013): Whoa, remember this? It’s finally coming out to the U.S. on DVD from Eagle Rock on March 12. Pre-order it here.

Original post (8/3/2011): “They’re talking from here!” Freddie Mercury said, pointing to his behind and addressing rumors of Queen’s breakup before a capacity crowd at Wembley Stadium on July 12, 1986. “We’re gonna stay together until we fucking well die, I’m sure of it.”

Those chillingly prophetic words are just a moment in what may be not only Queen’s finest hour as a live spectacle, but one of the greatest rock shows in history. The band’s dual Wembley gigs on 1986’s Magic Tour were among the last live shows they’d ever play, with Freddie Mercury succumbing to AIDS just five years later. Portions from the shows have been released on CD no less than thrice: on the heavily-edited, unusually-disappointing Live Magic (1986) and on the far more entertaining Live at Wembley Stadium, released in 1992 and expanded in 2003. (This package featured the entire second show and a set of bonus cuts from the first.)

Now, with Queen’s last batch of U.K. reissues forthcoming, the band will release another iteration of Live at Wembley Stadium on DVD – a 25th anniversary set that includes both shows at the venue. The first show, recorded Friday, July 11, 1986, was literally dampened by rainfall, leaving Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor to play even harder to dry off the crowd’s spirits. (Saturday’s sunny forecast was aptly reflected in the triumphant performance.)

The double-disc set also includes a mix of old and new bonus material, retaining the interview with May and Taylor and the rehearsal footage from the 2003 DVD release and adding a newly-filmed interview with May and Taylor on the Magic Tour. The package will be available as both a standard two-disc set and a four-disc set including two CDs of unspecified content (but likely they will contain the July 12 show). Neither pre-order links nor details on a U.S. release have been revealed, but they will be posted if and when they are.

Check out the full lineup for the double-DVD set after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

January 23, 2013 at 14:40

Posted in DVD, News, Queen, Reissues

Review: Billy Joel, “She’s Got a Way: Love Songs”

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Billy Joel - Love Songs“She’s got a way about her…I don’t know what it is,” Billy Joel sings on his very first album.  But it isn’t long before the song’s narrator explicates many of those ways about her, like a “smile that heals me” or “a light around her.”  Even if he can’t put his finger on it, he’s confident that “a million dreams of love surround her ev’rywhere.”    Yet rarely (in life or in art) has love been so simple for Billy Joel.  “She’s Got a Way” lends its title to a new compilation subtitled Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy 88765 43039 2, 2013), collecting eighteen amorous sides from the Billy Joel songbook.  These songs, both familiar singles and (relatively) less familiar album cuts, underline Joel’s position as a latter-day successor to the writers who created the Great American Songbook.  Even as he’s created specific characters in each song with memorable turns of phrase, Joel has always written with a knowing universality.  It’s kept his music vibrant some twenty years after he apparently retired from the business of making records, and it saves the retread that is Love Songs from feeling all too stale.

Though the twin poles of love and lust are in the forefront of these songs, they’re not all so much “love songs” as songs of love.  A gifted craftsman from his very first album, 1971’s Cold Spring Harbor, Joel expresses his sentiments with a variety of musical styles from bluegrass (“Travelin’ Prayer”) to street-corner doo wop (“This Night”).  The inclusion of the anthemic “This is the Time” allows the song to be heard in a new context.  Its chorus was ready-made for senior proms, graduations and the like: “This is time to remember ‘cause it will not last forever/These are the days to hold on to/’Cause we won’t, although we’ll want to.”  But there’s also a sense of the song as Joel’s own, personal “Glory Days.”  Its setting, where dreams are just as likely to crumble as buildings, could just as easily be the Jersey Shore as Joel’s beloved Long Island: “We walked on the beach beside that old hotel/They’re tearin’ it down now, but it’s just as well/I haven’t shown you everything a man can do/So stay with me, baby, I’ve got plans for you.”  In a few reflective lines, Joel establishes his scrappy yet committed persona in a familiar, blue-collar setting, but by the chorus, the song has transcended its “love song” roots as an ode to both living in the moment and wistfully holding onto the past.

The shadows of evening figure prominently in Joel’s visions of romance: “This Night,” “Until the Night,” “The Night is So Young,” and piano solo “Nocturne” are all heard here.  Those dark hours make for Joel’s redemption and his destruction.  He can barely stand it as the hours pass, “until the night” when he can see, and touch, his girl again.  The song builds to Richie Cannata’s euphoric saxophone solo and wail of fulfillment.  The singer’s “baby” is “coming home tonight” in “She’s Right on Time,” another one of the lesser-known gems on this set.  Billy is still adopting the role of a working Joe (Joel?) in “The Night is Still Young,” a track which originally premiered on his Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II.  No doubt something strongly resonated in the story of a man who “can see a time coming when I’m gonna throw my suitcase out.”  Other than infrequent concert appearances, it seems that Joel has indeed thrown that suitcase out.

Meet us for more, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 23, 2013 at 12:17

Posted in Billy Joel, Compilations, News, Reviews

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Review: The Pogues, “The Very Best of The Pogues”

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The Very Best of The PoguesSince the birth of the greatest hits album, the preparation of such a product has become a bizarre form of performance art. Do you include only hit singles or sprinkle in favorite album cuts? Do you keep things chronological or craft some sort of fancy playlist for maximum listening pleasure? How intricate do you make the packaging – do you need liner  notes, song-by-song credits and all that?

The fires of these debates are further stoked with the release of The Very Best of The Pogues (Shout! Factory 826663-13738), a decent compilation for the iconic Irish band (it seems it’s the only one in print in the U.S. right now) that’s prevented from being truly great by a number of easily preventable factors.

The Very Best of The Pogues certainly doesn’t lack for audio quality. The 18 tracks herein (singles and album cuts alike) are all tastefully mastered by Bob Fisher at Pacific Multimedia, and all of them are great tunes for new Pogues fans to gnaw on. “Dirty Old Town,” “Rain Street,” “The Irish Rover” with The Dubliners, “Fairytale of New York” with Kirsty MacColl, “Tuesday Morning” (the closest thing they had to a U.S. hit) – all of these are appropriately rollicking songs that recall the best of traditional Irish music with a snarling rock edge.

But from there, things get really problematic for the disc. If you like chronological compilations, this isn’t it – and that wouldn’t be a major issue, if only there were some hint as to which songs originate from where. The lack of discographical info in the liner notes (save for a fun but slight two-and-a-half page recollection from band member Spider Stacy) meant every listen had to be punctuated by consulting the disc info on iTunes or my own news post on the disc just to figure out where these tracks figured into The Pogues’ legend.

For instance, you’d never know just from looking at the disc that perennially intoxicated frontman Shane MacGowan was ejected from the band in the early 1990s, with Stacy handling lead vocals duties and the entire band pitching in to write. The Very Best of The Pogues is only one of two compilations (the other being the U.K. The Ultimate Collection (2005)) that even uses a song from that era; it in fact uses two: “Tuesday Morning” and heartfelt closer “Love You Till the End.” There: now I have told you more about the band than this compilation does.

Look, all in all, The Very Best of The Pogues is not a terrible set. It’s been a blast to listen to, and it’s certainly a welcome mat into the greater world of MacGowan and his gleeful band of musical mavericks. But a little bit more elbow grease on the overall presentation could have turned this set from a probable introduction to a more confident one.

Written by Mike Duquette

January 23, 2013 at 10:10

Posted in Compilations, Reviews, The Pogues

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Big Beat Has “Too Much to Dream” with Two New Psychedelic Sixties Collections

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All Kinds of HighsWhen one thinks of musical psychedelia, the city that most often comes to mind is San Francisco.  That rock epicenter hosted the likes of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Blue Cheer and Moby Grape at venues including The Fillmore, The Matrix and the Avalon Ballroom.  But psych-rock exploration wasn’t limited to San Francisco, with New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Austin among the other American spots making major contributions to the genre.  The U.K.’s Big Beat label has just issued an exciting new compilation spotlighting the lesser-known contribution of the Memphis music scene to the psych movement.  Feeling High: The Psychedelic Sounds of Memphis boasts 24 songs from labels including Stax and Ardent, making the case that those venerable outfits could produce more than just stunning soul and R&B.  It makes a fine complement to another 2012 release produced and annotated by Alec Palao, All Kinds of Highs: A Mainstream Pop-Psych Compendium 1966-1970.  The latter looks at the far-out records from Bob Shad’s Mainstream label, which while based in New York, released records from locales including Detroit, Houston, Cleveland, Boston and even Montreal!

Though originally concentrated on jazz releases, Mainstream Records was sure to move with the times.  In 1966, the label announced a return to the singles market which it had abandoned a couple of years earlier, and Bob Shad made deals with independent production houses around the country to yield material for Mainstream releases.  Though Big Brother and the Holding Company and The Amboy Dukes were Mainstream’s most successful rock signings, All Kinds of Highs explores the deep pop-psych cuts by groups with names like The Tangerine Zoo, The Grammy Fones, The Tiffany Shade and The Jelly Bean Bandits.  That said, the Detroit-based Dukes do kick the exhaustive 2-CD compilation off with 1968’s “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” one of the most potent garage-psych tracks from Mainstream or any other label for that matter.  The compilation also includes the Dukes’ “Baby Please Don’t Go,” one of Lenny Kaye’s original Nuggets selections.  Houston, Texas’ Fever Tree is well-remembered for epochal recordings like “San Francisco (Return of the Native)” but Feeling High captures the band on the cusp of greater fame.  Many of the songs, bands and songwriters here are largely unknown commodities to all but the most dedicated collectors, but the anthology sets out to prove that their relative lack of fame is no reflection on their quality.  One familiar name you’ll find is Stephen Stills’, thanks to The Growing Concern’s cover of “Sit Down, I Think I Love You,” introduced by the Buffalo Springfield and also recorded by The Vejtables and The Mojo Men.

In his copious liner notes (presented in essay form, rather than track-by-track) for the 28-page booklet, Palao notes that the compilation has eschewed harder-edge rock acts, focusing “squarely and unapologetically on the pop-psych end of the spectrum.”  Houston’s Sixpentz was previously anthologized on a Now Sounds CD; their delicious harmonies reappear here on “Please Come Home,” “Imitation Situation (4/4 – 6/8 Time)” and “Tinkle Talk.”  Lush harmony vocals mark many of the productions here along with youthful energy and a desire to sonically experiment.  Nick Robbins has remastered every track here, many of which are presented in their original mono single mixes.

After the jump: onto Memphis, home of Stax, Ardent and plenty of far-out grooves! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 23, 2013 at 09:04

Posted in Compilations, News, Reissues