The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for March 18th, 2013

Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But Vintage R&B: Expanded Reissues Arrive From Payne, Mills, Guthrie

leave a comment »

Freda Payne - Supernatural High

A recent trio of releases from Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint is sure to get the pulses racing of ’70s and ‘80s soul fans.

Freda Payne’s second album for Capitol Records, 1978’s Supernatural High, followed 1977’s Stares and Whispers, also the recipient of a past SoulMusic reissue.  Skip Scarborough (Earth Wind and Fire, Dionne Warwick, Phyllis Hyman) took the production helm from Motown’s Frank Wilson and wrote a few tracks for the project.  Like many of Payne’s best albums, Supernatural explored numerous sides of the versatile artist.  Freda had, after all, been spotted by Duke Ellington, toured with Billy Eckstine, played on Broadway, and recorded for labels including Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Invictus/Hot Wax family and ABC-Paramount.  She scored her stone-cold classic “Band of Gold” for H-D-H in 1970, but was still very much an active recording artist when Supernatural rolled around.  The album has numerous disco flourishes but is still very much in a soulful R&B vein as produced by Scarborough and arranged by David N. Crawford.

The opening medley of “Happy Days Are Here Again” with Scarborough’s “Happy Music” put a disco spin on the Democratic Party favorite written in 1932 and adopted by Barbra Streisand (and so famously sung by Streisand and Judy Garland as a duet).  “Livin’ for the Beat,” from Payne’s then-husband Gregory Abbott, was another track designed for the dancefloor.  ”Tell Me Please,” from Scarborough’s pen, is a sweet ‘n’ smooth mid-tempo ballad for Payne to wrap her pipes around, as is Thom Bell and Leroy Bell’s “Just the Thought of You and Me Together (Supernatural High),” which lent its title to the album.  Kevin L. Goins’ excellent liner notes don’t explain how Payne got a hold of the Bell song, but it’s a major highlight with Bell’s typically lush melodic style.  Alas, he didn’t come on board to produce or arrange the track, but the horn arrangement near the song’s conclusion is in vintage Bell style.  Other songs on Supernatural High came from Deniece Williams (the languid “Falling in Love”) and Freda’s sister, the Supreme Scherrie Payne (the shimmering “Storybook Romance”).  One more album followed for Capitol (1979’s Hot) before Payne took an extended recording hiatus.  Soul Music’s new edition adds one bonus track, the single edit of “Happy Days/Happy Music.”  (The B-side of “Happy Days,” “Falling in Love,” has not been included, and nor has the “I’ll Do Anything For You” Pt. 1 and 2 single.)

After the jump: we revisit classics from Stephanie Mills and Freda Payne, plus order links and track listings for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 18, 2013 at 14:38

Learning the Blues: Esoteric Remasters and Expands First Three Climax Blues Band Albums

leave a comment »

Climax Chicago Blues BandThough the Climax Chicago Blues Band formed in Stafford, England, the band would likely have made any of the howling bluesmen from that storied Illinois city proud.  Part of the vanguard of the British blues boom that also included the original Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and even Led Zeppelin, Cream and the Rolling Stones, the Climax Chicago Blues Band made its rip-roaring debut for Parlophone in 1969 and began a legacy which continues to this very day, albeit with a wholly different line-up than the one that founded the band all those many years ago.  Esoteric Recordings, an imprint of the Cherry Red Group, has recently reissued the first three albums by the band in new expanded editions.

The self-titled The Climax Chicago Blues Band introduced the world to Colin Cooper (vocals/saxophones/harmonica), Pete Haycock (guitar/vocals), Arthur Wood (piano/organ/celeste/harmonium), Derek Holt (rhythm guitar/organ/bass), Richard Jones (bass) and George Newsome (drums).    The sextet recorded its first album at Abbey Road under the auspices of budding producer Chris Thomas for George Martin’s AIR production company.  Geoff Emerick was among its engineers.  CCBB was recorded in just two days and largely based on the group’s well-honed live stage routine, blending original songs with covers including “Don’t Start Me Talkin’” by Sonny Boy Williamson, “How Many More Years” by Howlin’ Wolf and “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin.  Williamson and Wolf, a.k.a. Chester Burnett, were leading lights of the Chess Records-fuelled blues scene in (where else?) Chicago.  (“How Many More Years” would go onto inspire “How Many More Times” on Led Zeppelin’s debut, earning Wolf a songwriting credit decades later.)  And “The Entertainer” showed the versatile group’s prescience; just a few years later, Marvin Hamlisch would reinvent the ragtime tune for his Academy Award-winning score to The StingThe Climax Chicago Blues Band emphasizes the blues part of the blues-rock equation, though the heavier tracks like “And Lonely” certainly fit the bill for blues-rock.  Esoteric’s reissue premieres a full complement of seven bonus tracks including alternate takes of “Don’t Start Me Talkin’,” “You’ve Been Drinking” and “And Lonely” and outtakes of four other songs.  Another Sonny Boy Williamson staple, “Checking On My Baby,” and T-Bone Walker’s torrid “Stormy Monday” are among the tracks originally left in the vault and rescued by producer Mark Powell for this release.

After the jump: we check out two more of Esoteric’s Climax Blues Band reissues including track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 18, 2013 at 10:04