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Archive for April 8th, 2013

“Bravo,” Masterworks Broadway! “Giovanni” and “Lady in the Dark” Go Digital

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Bravo Giovanni OBCTomorrow, April 9, Masterworks Broadway once again dips into the vaults for two digital-only reissues of vintage Columbia Records cast recordings.  What do these recordings have in common?  Both feature greats of the opera world.  1962’s Original Broadway Cast Recording of Bravo Giovanni stars bass Cesare Siepi alongside ingénue Michele Lee; and the following year’s studio cast album of Lady in the Dark is led by mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens (who died on March 20 at 99 years of age) with Adolph Green and John Reardon.

Following engagements in Detroit and Philadelphia, Bravo Giovanni – with a book by A.J. Russell, lyrics by Ronny Graham and music by Milton Schafer – opened at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre on May 19, 1962.  Based on Howard Shaw’s novel The Crime of Giovanni Venturi, the musical’s plot was a hoary one.  When Giovanni’s small trattoria in Rome is threatened by Uriti, an upstart chain restaurant that sets up shop next door, he and a friend scheme to dig a tunnel between the two establishments for the purpose of stealing food from the competition!  (Woody Allen’s 2000 film Small Time Crooks also involved a restaurant and a tunnel, though the restaurateurs in that film were tunneling to a bank.)  Despite a stalwart cast including George S. Irving and Maria Karnilova, some snappy choreography by Carol Haney, and a score that’s not without its charms, Bravo Giovanni only held on for 76 performances and closed at a loss of more than half a million dollars.  Siepi was destined to be better-remembered for his Don Giovanni than his Bravo Giovanni!

When it came time for the Tony Awards, Bravo wasn’t forgotten, however, and picked up a handful of nominations.  Most interestingly, it was nominated for Best Original Score alongside Oliver! (the winner), Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, and Little Me.  There was one egregious oversight, however.  The Rome-set A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum picked up statuettes for Best Musical, Best Producer of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical and Best Director of a Musical, but Stephen Sondheim’s score – his first for Broadway as both composer and lyricist – was overlooked.

If you’re curious to hear what beat out Forum for a Best Score nomination (the other three nominees all being recognized classics), you might want to download Masterworks Broadway’s Bravo Giovanni.  The album was previously released on CD by DRG in 2002, and that edition’s sole bonus track (Michele Lee’s 1966 pop recording of the musical’s “Steady, Steady”) has been carried over for the digital version.

After the jump: a look at Lady in the Dark, plus order links and full track listings! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 8, 2013 at 15:52

Review: Arthur Prysock, “All My Life”

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Arthur Prysock - All My LifeIf Arthur Prysock felt like a man out of time, he sure did a good job hiding it.

Prysock, a professional vocalist since the days of World War II who had worked with bandleaders Buddy Johnson and Count Basie, was an unlikely candidate for disco stardom.  Yet, in 1976, the 47-year old singer with the smooth style of Billy Eckstine found himself with a No. 10 R&B/No. 11 disco hit thanks to a rendition of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s “When Love is New.”  The song had been introduced one year earlier on Billy Paul’s Philadelphia International album of the same name, but whereas Paul’s original was smoldering, slow and tender, Prysock’s was designed for the dancefloor, with a beguiling Latin groove and the trappings of the classiest disco tunes.

Having lent its title to the Billy Paul LP, “When Love Was New” was obviously unavailable as the title of Prysock’s own long-player.   So when the eight-song collection arrived in December 1976 on the Old Town label, it was under the name of All My Life after the song by producer John Davis (of Monster Orchestra fame).  It proved an appropriate appellation anyway.  All My Life featured a singer who took all of the lessons learned singing jazz, R&B and pop and applied them to a new style.  Such exploration wasn’t uncommon for Prysock; in 1960, he scored an R&B hit with the 1934 standard “The Very Thought of You.”  So while there were no standards receiving makeovers on All My Life, he threw himself into the Philly soul-disco ethos with confidence and feeling.

Though recording at New York’s SAM Studios, producer-arranger-conductor Davis surrounded Prysock’s resonant baritone with the best the City of Brotherly Love had to offer, including percussionist Larry Washington, drummer Charles Collins, guitarist Dennis Harris, bassist Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman, string and horn guru Don Renaldo, and the Sweethearts of Sigma vocal group (Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton).  These are the same men and women who appeared on countless records for Philadelphia International and Salsoul, and defined the sound of Philly soul.  They also played as part of Davis’ Monster Orchestra.  Davis himself played keyboards, saxophone and flute.  Though Gamble and Huff weren’t personally involved with the album, their imprimatur was also prominent on All My Life.  In addition to “When Love is New,” the songwriting duo was tapped for “I Wantcha Baby,” another track off the Billy Paul album.  It was surely no coincidence that the two G&H songs were the two selected to be released as singles.  Yet the entirety of the relatively brief, eight-song album, including two songs penned by John Davis, is top-tier.

There’s plenty more after the jump, including the full track listing and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 8, 2013 at 12:36

Posted in Arthur Prysock, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Oh Yes, It’s Devo! “Hardcore” Compilations, Live Show Reissue Planned

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Devo Live 1981 SeattleThe fight against de-evolution never stops, as evidenced by not one but two upcoming reissues by alt-rock heroes Devo in the coming months. The Akron, Ohio-bred group will reissue a 1981 live show released for Record Store Day last year as well as two long out-of-print compilations of early demos.

Live 1981 Seattle was a hot item when it was released as a double-LP set by the band’s Booji Boy Records in 2012 for Record Store Day. The set found the band – brothers Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, Gerald and Bob Casale and drummer Alan Myers – taking their New Traditionalists Tour to the Seattle Center Arena on November 28, 1981, performing classic tunes like “Whip It,” “Girl U Want” and “Uncontrollable Urge” as well as the then-new cuts including “Jerkin’ Back ‘N’ Forth” and “Through Being Cool.” Sourced from a DAT transfer of a tape found by archivist/”DEVO-Obsesso” Michael Pilmer in the possession of “Bob No. 2,” the CD, housed in a digipak with a deluxe booklet of rare road photos, also adds an additional two as-yet unannounced bonus tracks to the program.

Devo HardcoreMeanwhile, Booji Boy is teaming up with the Superior Viaduct boutique label to reissue both volumes of Hardcore Devo. Released in 1990 and 1991 by Rykodisc, these sets saw the earliest recordings by the band, conducted on four-track recorders and small local studios in the Kent State area between 1974 and 1977. Early versions of songs like “Jocko Homo,” “Be Stiff,” “Mongoloid” and even their earliest take on The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” are on display. And, as a treat for this reissue, Hardcore Devo Volume 2 features a further four demos, none of which have been released before.

The Live 1981 Seattle CD will be available to order next month, according to the band’s official site. Vinyl editions of Hardcore Devo (a single LP for the first and two for the second) will street May 14, with a two-disc CD to follow in August; all of those bundles are up for pre-order from Superior Viaduct.

After the jump, check out the final track listing for Hardcore Devo.

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Written by Mike Duquette

April 8, 2013 at 10:16