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Archive for April 5th, 2013

Review: John Williams, “Jurassic Park: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – 20th Anniversary Edition”

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JP20 coverReally, it’s almost pointless to speculate why John Williams never received an Oscar nomination for his score to Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993). The composer’s CV features several of the most iconic scores in the history of movies with synchronized sound. Five of his projects – an adaptation of the music to the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof and four originals (JAWS (1975), Star Wars (1977), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Schindler’s List (1993)) have won gold statuettes, and he has more nominations than anyone alive in the film business. (He recently moved up on the all-time list, sandwiched between reigning champ Walt Disney and his fellow composer and mentor Alfred Newman.)

Such is the praise for Williams that it’s tempting to avoid even posting more about his work for the year’s top blockbuster, and still one of the highest-grossing films of all time. But in the 20 years since the sterling Spielberg-Williams partnership has grown and changed, the music of Jurassic Park is an astounding throwback to a very different era for both men. It was Spielberg’s last blockbuster before his “serious” phase of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan and last year’s Lincoln, and one of the last times Williams took his tried-and-true approach – lush, lyrical themes and soaring fanfares against the backdrop of often dazzling visual effects – and made it work in an original context. (Outside of three scores and an iconic theme for the Harry Potter film series, Williams’ biggest blockbuster scores are tied to familiar franchises, from Star Wars to, indeed, Jurassic Park.)

Perhaps to a certain generation, Jurassic‘s bag of tricks pale to the rush of the themes to Superman or Raiders of the Lost Ark – but it’s worth noting that the musical themes in a film about dinosaurs wreaking havoc in a zoo-like setting (a brilliant high-concept piece if ever there was one) are as poignant to modern viewers as the Star Wars themes were to their parents. I once observed a group of high schoolers selecting Jurassic Park in a video store, loudly emulating both the lilting five-note pattern of the film’s main theme and the whimsical secondary fanfare used to establish the park as they left with their film for the night. Like the low-end terror strings of JAWS or Raiders‘ triumphant march, this is a score that works.

And just as it’s a pleasure to see audiences gear up for a 3D reissue of the film this weekend – a new way to view a picture that’s lost little of its technical ecstasy or Spielbergian popcorn-film charm, even 20 years and two (soon to be three) sequels later – it’s a pleasure to see Williams’ iconic score gussied up in a newly-expanded edition (Geffen, no cat. #).

How does this new edition stack up? We investigate after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

April 5, 2013 at 13:18

Otis Gets Respect with “Complete Stax/Volt Singles” Set

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Otis Stax Volt SinglesIt’s shaping up to be a soulful summer with the release of Otis Redding’s The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection on Shout! Factory Records. This triple-disc set will feature every single side released by Redding in life and death.

Born in Georgia, Redding was a singer/songwriter who went from stints on the chitlin circuit to a brief tenure in Little Richard’s band The Upsetters before a chance session at Stax Studios in Memphis put him on the soul music map. With songs like “These Arms of Mine,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Respect” (later, of course, a hit for Aretha Franklin), Redding’s impassioned vocal delivery and arrangements made him a bona fide R&B star. He’d flirted with crossover success on slow burners like “Try a Little Tenderness” and cut several duets with Carla Thomas, and delivered a phenomenal performance at the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967.

But it was the serene “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the track that gave Redding the crossover hit he deserved. “Dock of the Bay” was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts in 1968; unfortunately, by that point Redding died in a plane crash late the past year. It was the first posthumous chart-topper.

Redding’s body of work lives on today, in film and through covers and samples. There’s also a helping of catalogue activity, like this year’s Lonely and Blue compilation. And this three-disc set, featuring each of Redding’s A- and B-sides in mono (some for the first time on CD), ensures his memory will never die.

The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection is available in stores on July 23, but those who order from the label directly will see theirs ship around June 25, and with a bonus 7″ of “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” b/w “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” featuring a replica ATCO promo-only label.

Hit the jump for full specs on this set.

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Written by Mike Duquette

April 5, 2013 at 09:57

The Iceman Cometh to Detroit: Jerry Butler’s Motown Albums Arrive On CD

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Jerry Butler - Love's on the Menu

When Jerry Butler joined Motown Records in 1975, hopes naturally ran high.  One of the classiest baritones in R&B was finally appearing on the most successful independent record label of all time.  The Iceman’s time at Motown would turn out to be short, encompassing just four albums in two years.  But thanks to SoulMusic Records, his first two albums for Berry Gordy’s empire can be enjoyed once more on CD.  The label’s reissue of Love’s on the Menu and Suite for the Single Girl (SMCR 25086) finds the soul crooner in peak form.

Butler has the distinction of being the only artist to have recorded for the three most significant African American-owned record labels: Vee-Jay, Motown and Philadelphia International.  At Vee-Jay, he co-wrote and headlined “For Your Precious Love” with The Impressions.  Then he began an illustrious solo career during which he introduced Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Make It Easy on Yourself” and popularized Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” even before Andy Williams made it his signature song.  At Mercury, Butler teamed with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff for a series of memorable recordings including “Only the Strong Survive” and “Hey Western Union Man,” but when Gamble and Huff struck out on their own to form Philadelphia International Records, Butler remained loyal to Mercury.  In the ensuing years, he would form the Butler Music Workshop and play mentor to a group of up-and-coming young songwriters, but when old Vee-Jay pal Ewart Abner invited Butler to join Motown in 1975, he accepted.  Love’s on the Menu, recorded both in Detroit and Butler’s home base of Chicago with a variety of producers, was released in 1976 as the first result of the relationship.

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Written by Joe Marchese

April 5, 2013 at 09:41

Posted in Jerry Butler, News, Reissues, Reviews

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