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Archive for April 2nd, 2013

BBR Keeps A Light In Its Window For The Lost Motown Classic “Caston and Majors”

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Caston and MajorsLike a fine meal, Caston and Majors begins with an appetizer.  “Child of Love,” on cursory listening, is “just” a bright pop song with a funky groove, employing booming drums, surging strings and a catchy chorus (“Rise now, child of love/No time for wastin’/Rise now, child of love/Stop hesitatin’…”) along with a “Hey, hey” cheer that invites singing along.  But a closer listen to the lyrics finds songwriters Leonard Caston and Kathy Wakefield giving voice to a higher power: “You must be a messenger of my truth now/Go and spread my word.”  The line is prophetic; Leonard Caston and his then- and current-wife Carolyn Majors indeed spread His word on the entirety of the 1974 album that bore their name.  One of the most unusual offerings to bear the Motown label, the inspirational song cycle – billed in one ad as “a sensory awakening” – is equal parts West Grand Boulevard and Broadway.  In its CD debut from Big Break Records (CDBBR 0217), it’s also revealed as an ambitious concept album of great beauty and passion.

Music with a spiritual bent was nothing new to the Sound of Young America.  After a few such singles trickled out on Motown and Tamla, Berry Gordy established the Divinity imprint in late 1961/early 1962.  Though Divinity only eked out a handful of 45s before shuttering in 1963, Motown never completely turned its back on gospel.  In those early days, LPs arrived from The Rev. Columbus Mann and The Gospel Stars.  1968’s In Loving Memory LP saw The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and others tackling spirituals, while Rock Gospel: The Key to the Kingdom included performances from The Jackson 5, Valerie Simpson, Gaye, Knight, The Supremes and others.  In 2012, Motown even issued a digital compilation of unreleased gospel recordings circa 1962.  If only the Motown brass had thought to issue Caston and Majors on a reactivated Divinity label, it would have been a most appropriate move.

Motown veteran Caston, a protégé of the great Frank Wilson, had already recorded an album which paved the way for Caston and MajorsJesus Christ’s Greatest Hits from “The God Squad featuring Leonard Caston” was released in 1972 on Motown’s rock-oriented Rare Earth label, and included renditions of songs ranging from “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (from Jesus Christ Superstar) to George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.”  The brash young spirit of then-current musicals like JCS and Godspell (not to mention the lesser-known likes of Salvation and Rock Nativity) was in the air.  Producer and arranger Caston set out with Caston and Majors to create a gospel-soul musical revue on record that could hold its own alongside those theatrical endeavors.  He enlisted co-writers Kathy Wakefield, Mattie Lynks, Terri McFadden and Errol Sober, along with orchestrators Jimmie Haskell and Jerry Long to bring his epic vision to life.  Caston and Majors shared vocals, and another Motown star, Syreeta, even dropped by to lend her pipes.  Instrumental support was provided by, among others, percussionist King Errisson, Funk Brother James Jamerson and the young Jay Graydon.

Hit the jump to dig deeper into Caston and Majors! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 2, 2013 at 12:51

Posted in Caston and Majors, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Review: Albert King, “Born Under a Bad Sign”

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Albert King - Bad SignThe familiar cover artwork to Albert King’s 1967 Stax album Born Under a Bad Sign hardly gives any indication as to its heavy contents.  A calendar reading Friday the 13th, the Ace of Spades, snake eyes on the dice, and an almost-cute black cat (!) adorned with a skull and crossbones all reinforce the title of the album but offer precious little hint as to the smoking electric blues within the sleeve.  Following 2012’s reissue of King’s 1972 Stax album I’ll Play the Blues for You, Concord Music Group has turned its attention to Born Under a Bad Sign, delivering another handsomely-expanded edition.

Born Under a Bad Sign, King’s first long-player for the Memphis label, is one of the watershed albums in the development of electric blues; backed by Stax house band Booker T and the MG’s as well as the Memphis Horns and Isaac Hayes on piano, King’s soulful tones blurred the lines between R&B and the new “rock” (sans the “and roll”).  The debt to Albert King has been recognized by such icons as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton, and indeed, the influence of his music on those players and others is readily apparent when revisiting the eleven tracks that formed the LP.  (Some of these tracks had actually appeared in single edits before being compiled as part of the full-length album.)

Just how “bad” (and by “bad,” we mean “good,” or “great!”) was Albert King?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 2, 2013 at 10:04

Posted in Albert King, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of April 2

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Alexander O'Neal vinylThe S.O.S. Band / Cherrelle / Alexander O’Neal, “Tabu Reborn” Vinyl Editions (Wave 1) (Tabu/Edsel)

The start of a lengthy reissue campaign from Demon Music Group, these are 180-gram vinyl reissues of The S.O.S. Band’s III (1982), Cherrelle’s 1984 debut Fragile, and Alexander O’Neal’s self-titled debut from 1985. Expanded editions of these albums come out on CD next week, followed by a great many more waves of product throughout 2013 and into 2014!

S.O.S. Band: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Cherrelle: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Alexander O’Neal: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Martha and The Vandellas Singles CollectionThe Four Tops / Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collections (Hip-O Select/Motown)

Two new lavish sets collect all the single sides worldwide by two of Motown’s most underrated vocal groups – and in the case of Martha & The Vandellas, there’s a bonus disc of unreleased “lost and found” content to enjoy, too!

Four Tops: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Mad Season - AboveMad Season, Above: Deluxe Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

This short-lived grunge supergroup, featuring Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley and members of Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees, only put out one record, but it’s been expanded as a 2CD/1DVD set featuring unreleased tracks (with vocals by Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan) and live audiovisual content. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Born Under a Bad SignAlbert King, Born Under a Bad Sign: Expanded Edition (Stax/Concord)

One of the Memphis’ label’s most celebrated blues albums is remastered and expanded with five unreleased alternate takes! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

David Gates - Early YearsDavid Gates, The Early Years: The Early Songwriting Genius of David Gates (Rare Rockin’)

Before leading Bread, Gates was a talented singer-songwriter whose early works were covered by a myriad of vocalists – many of which are making their CD debuts on this compilation. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Simple Minds CelebrateSimple Minds, Celebrate: The Greatest Hits (Virgin/EMI)

As the ’80s hitmakers embark on a new tour, this new hits compilation – available in double and triple-disc variants – was made available in the U.K. last week. (A U.S. release is reportedly slated for later this spring.)

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

RKivesRilo Kiley, RKives (Little Record Company)

A collection of rare and unreleased material from the now-defunct L.A. band.

Margaret Whiting - Wheel of HurtChet Atkins with The Boston Pops, The Pops Goes Country/The Pops Goes West / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 24: Cow Palace, Daly City, CA – 3/23/1974 / Tom Jans, Take Heart/Tom Jans / Barbara & Ernie, Prelude To… / Steve Lawrence, Winners!/On a Clear Day / Don Nix, Living by the Days / Eydie Gorme & The Trio Los Panchos, Amor/More Amor / Margaret Whiting, The Wheel of Hurt: Deluxe Edition Maggie Isn’t Margaret Anymore/Pop Country / Alfred Newman, The Diary of Anne Frank: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The latest wares from Real Gone: plenty of two-fers, a rare Alfred Newman soundtrack, a new Dead reissue and expanded works from country-pop singer Margaret Whiting.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Mills MercilessJerry Butler, Love’s on the Mend/Suite for the Single Girl / Stephanie Mills, Merciless: Expanded Edition / Donna Washington, Going for the Glow: Expanded Edition / Nancy Wilson, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You/Now I’m a Woman (SoulMusic)

A slew of great titles from SoulMusic are out this week, including a Stephanie Mills album produced by the late Phil Ramone. Check out the above post for details.

Jerry Butler: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Stephanie Mills: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Donna Washington: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Nancy Wilson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Anita WardCaston and Majors, Caston and Majors / Fern Kinney, Groove Me / Arthur Prysock, All My Life / Anita Ward, Songs of Love (Big Break)

And the latest expanded titles from Big Break include some Motown and T.K. rarities, including Anita Ward’s megahit “Ring My Bell.”

Caston and Majors: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Fern Kinney: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Arthur Prysock: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Anita Ward: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Judy Garland CreationsJudy Garland, Creations 1929-1962 (JSP)

A four-disc U.K.-only compilation of “the songs that Judy Garland sang first.” (Amazon U.K.)  U.S. customers may order at CD Universe or Collectors’ Choice Music for April 9 release.

eagles_boxEagles, The Studio Albums 1972-1979 (Elektra/Rhino)

Every one of the California hitmakers’ original studio albums, in a handy slipcase. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)