The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

In The Groove: Patti Austin, George Duke, Ronnie Laws Reissues Coming From SoulMusic Label

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Patti Austin - CTISoulMusic Records, a division of the Cherry Red Group, is taking a soulful walk on the jazz side of town this month – or is that a jazzy walk on the soulful side of town?  You can decide for yourself with the new reissue of titles from Patti Austin, George Duke and Ronnie Laws.  All three albums are available now in U.K. and U.S. stores.

With Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington as her godparents, it’s no surprise that Patti Austin found her calling in music.  Yet despite having first recorded in 1955, Austin didn’t release a solo album until 1976 when she signed with Creed Taylor’s CTI label.  CTI was known for its sleek, modern jazz offerings, but Taylor was looking to expand his label’s horizons and the already accomplished singer /songwriter fit the bill.  SoulMusic has reissued Austin’s 1976 CTI debut, End of a Rainbow, in a deluxe edition also containing nine bonus tracks drawn from two later CTI platters.  Taylor himself oversaw Rainbow, which featured arrangements from David Matthews and guest appearances from CTI labelmate Joe Farrell, Randy Brecker and Gwen Guthrie.  On End of a Rainbow, Austin tackled lush, string-drenched ballads as well as uptempo grooves that straddled the line between jazz and R&B.  Austin wrote every song herself with the exception of one tune co-written with Dave Grusin (“That’s Enough for Me”) and one from Pat Upton (Spiral Starecase hit “More Today Than Yesterday”).  Grusin would play a significant role in Austin’s future, eventually signing her to his GRP label.

But more immediately speaking, Grusin and his GRP partner Larry Rosen took the reins as producers for Austin’s 1978 follow-up, Havana Candy.  This album was even more eclectic than the first, with songs ranging from the “rumba-type thing” (in Austin’s words) that is the saucy, delicious title track, to a heartfelt rendition of Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “Lost in the Stars.”  Five tracks have been culled from Havana for the new release, and three from 1980’s CTI farewell Body Language.  (A concert LP, Live At the Bottom Line, came in between.)  Recorded in Muscle Shoals with Taylor back in the producer’s chair, Body Language found Austin singing Squeeze (“Another Nail For My Heart”) and Isaac Hayes (the title song).  The album was actually the singer’s most successful, going Top 30 Jazz and earning a spot on the R&B charts, too, at No. 62.  But CTI was in a state of flux by 1980, and Austin decamped for her godfather’s Qwest label.  Though Havana Candy and Body Language should warrant reissues on their own, SoulMusic’s expanded End of the Rainbow is a vibrant retrospective of an artist who’s still blurring genre lines and pushing boundaries as both a singer/songwriter and an interpretive vocal talent.  SoulMusic founder David Nathan has written new liner notes, and Alan Wilson has remastered.

What’s coming from George Duke and Ronnie Laws?  Just hit the jump!

George Duke - Don't Let GoSoulMusic has already reissued five titles from jazz/funk keyboardist George Duke, and follows A Brazilian Love Affair (1979) with an expanded edition of Don’t Let Go (1978).  Like Austin, Duke could be a considered a jazz artist (with famous collaborators including Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Stanley Clarke) but he also kept one foot in the R&B world with a string of funk-based records.  (Duke even made his mark in rock alongside such luminaries as Frank Zappa.)  The most beloved of them may well be Don’t Let Go, which introduced No. 4 R&B hit “Dukey Stick.”  Don’t Let Go is a soul/R&B vocal album infused with an “anything’s possible” jazz sensibility.  Duke was joined by Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, Pete and Sheila Escovedo (both previously of Azteca), Byron Miller, Charles “Icarus” Johnson, and vocalists Josie James and Napolean Murphy Brock for the Epic album which reached impressive placements across the charts: No. 5 R&B, No. 7 Jazz and No. 39 Top 200.  All of Duke’s influences and experience came into razor-sharp focus on Don’t Let Go, which in this reissue is bolstered by the 12-inch version of “Dukey Stick” and the 45 edits, “Part I” and “Part II.”  A. Scott Galloway has penned the notes, with remastering again from Wilson.

Ronnie Laws - Mr Nice GuyRonnie Laws was born into a musical family also including his brother Hubert and sisters Debra and Eloise.  A saxophonist as well as vocalist, Ronnie’s style transformed as the 1970s made way for the 1980s, veering from pure jazz to vocal R&B with a touch of sax.  SoulMusic has combined 1983’s Capitol LP Mr. Nice Guy with 1985’s Classic Masters on one CD.  The result is an overview of Laws’ career, as Classic Masters is (as its title implies) a compilation of Laws’ best.

Though Classic Masters comes second on the single disc, its material, of course, reaches back further.  Classic Masters includes the dancefloor hit “Always There” from Laws’ 1975 Blue Note debut as well as the instrumental “Friends and Strangers” and R&B radio staple “Every Generation.”  (Both of those songs gave titles to albums by Laws.)  In Jeff Lorez’ new liner notes, the artist recalls crafting Mr. Nice Guy against the backdrop of change, both at his own record label and the music biz in general.  Capitol was looking for a crossover album, and Laws obliged, writing more than half of the album on his own.  He took inspiration from Thomas Dolby and burgeoning techno and synth-driven sounds for a primarily vocal album.  Its lone instrumental looked back to an inspiration of Laws’, with a cover of Jr. Walker’s Motown hit “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love).”  A. Scott Galloway offers a new essay, and Alan Wilson has handled remastering duties.

SoulMusic’s new releases from Patti Austin, George Duke and Ronnie Laws are available now, and you can order them below!

Patti Austin, End of a Rainbow – The CTI Masters (SoulMusic SMCR 5079, 2013) (Amazon U.K.)

  1. Say You Love Me
  2. In My Life
  3. You Don’t Have to Say You’re Sorry
  4. More Today Than Yesterday
  5. Give It Time
  6. There is No Time
  7. What’s at the End of a Rainbow
  8. This Side of Heaven
  9. Sweet Sadie the Savior
  10. That’s Enough for Me
  11. I Just Want to Know
  12. Havana Candy
  13. I Need Somebody
  14. We’re in Love
  15. Lost in the Stars
  16. Body Language
  17. Another Nail for My Heart
  18. I Want You Tonight

Tracks 1-11 from End of a Rainbow, CTI LP 5001, 1976
Tracks 10-15 from Havana Candy, CTI LP 7-5006, 1978
Tracks 16-18 from Body Language, CTI LP 9001, 1980

George Duke, Don’t Let Go (Epic LP JE 35366, 1978 – reissued SoulMusic SMCR 5060, 2013) (Amazon U.K.)

  1. We Give Our Love
  2. Morning Sun
  3. Percussion Interlude
  4. Dukey Stick
  5. Starting Again
  6. Yeah We Going
  7. The Way I Feel
  8. Movin’ On
  9. Don’t Let Go
  10. Preface
  11. The Future
  12. Dukey Stick Pt. 1 (Epic single 8-50531-A, 1978)
  13. Dukey Stick Pt. 2 (Epic single 8-50531-B, 1978)
  14. Dukey Stick (Epic 12-inch single 28-50547, 1978)

Ronnie Laws, Mr. Nice Guy/Classic Masters (SoulMusic SMCR2 5078, 2013) (Amazon U.K.)

  1. Can’t Save Tomorrow
  2. Mr. Nice Guy
  3. In the Groove
  4. Third Hour
  5. You
  6. Big Stars
  7. Rolling
  8. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)
  9. On and Off Again
  10. City Girl
  11. Always There
  12. Love is Here
  13. Every Generation
  14. (You Are) Paradise
  15. Friends and Strangers
  16. Stay Awake
  17. Saturday Evening

Tracks 1-9 from Mr. Nice Guy, Capitol LP ST-12261, 1983
Tracks 10-17 first compiled as Classic Masters, Capitol LP ST-12375, 1985

Written by Joe Marchese

February 6, 2013 at 09:32

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