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Archive for April 22nd, 2013

Ring Their Bells: Anita Ward, Stephanie Mills, Fern Kinney, Donna Washington Reissued

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Anita Ward - Songs of LoveIn recent days, we’ve turned the spotlight on a quartet of classic soul reissues, two each from Big Break Records (Arthur Prysock’s All My Life and Caston and Majors’ self-titled Motown album) and SoulMusic Records (Nancy Wilson’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You/Now I’m a Woman and Jerry Butler’s Love’s on the Menu/Suite for the Single Girl).  But those are hardly the only recent releases from these two imprints of the Cherry Red Group.

Big Break has offered two titles, both from 1979 and both with ties to legendary southern soul incubator Malaco Records and Florida’s TK Records.  Anita Ward became an overnight sensation thanks to the success of her debut LP, Songs of Love.  The No. 8 Pop/No. 2 R&B smash yielded the all-time disco classic “Ring My Bell,” written by Frederick Knight (“I’ve Been Lonely for So Long”).  Cut at Jackson, Mississippi’s Malaco Studios and released on Knight’s Juana label – part of Henry Stone’s T.K. Records family – “Ring My Bell” ascended Ward to the pantheon of so-called “one hit wonders.” But Songs of Love offers so much more, with an emphasis not on disco floor-fillers but rather on the beguiling ballads that make the title so apropos.  Ward’s Deniece Williams-like vocal instrument shines on this set produced by Knight and with songwriting contributions from the great Sam Dees.  Single versions of “Ring My Bell” and “Make Believe Lovers” have been appended.

Fern Kinney’s Groove Me wasn’t only recorded at Malaco, but was also first issued on the Malaco label.  Jackson native Kinney scored a No. 54 Pop/No. 26 R&B/No. 6 Disco hit with the title track, a disco update of King Floyd’s 1971 funky admonition.  Like Anita Ward, Fern Kinney was an unfortunate victim of the disco backlash as the 1970s made way for the 1980s, but Groove Me has aged well.  “Together We Are Beautiful,” the U.S. B-side to another King Floyd cover (“Baby Let Me Kiss You”) was a U.K. A-Side, and even hit pole position there.  The diverse album sequence also includes a revival of the smoldering Sylvia Robinson hit “Pillow Talk” and the nearly-country style “Sun, Moon and Rain.”  (Kinney had actually worked with Nashville’s legendary producer Billy Sherrill while a member of The Poppies.)  A generous seven bonus tracks have been added to BBR’s reissue, including duets with Frederick Knight on Paul Davis’ “Sweet Life” and Knight’s own “Tonight’s the Night.”

Both BBR titles have been remastered by Nick Robbins and include new liner notes from J. Matthew Cobb.  Hit the jump to check out two more vintage releases from the SoulMusic label! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 22, 2013 at 12:58

That’s Why God Made Harmonies: The Beach Boys, CSNY Plan Live CDs

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Beach Boys LiveIf The Beach Boys are the all-time torchbearers for harmony, surely Crosby, Stills, Nash & (sometimes) Young aren’t far behind.  Both of these legendary groups have recently announced live recordings of landmark concert engagements.

When The Beach Boys’ acclaimed 50th Anniversary reunion tour concluded last September in London, the band’s triumph was marked by a note of sadness.  Acrimony had once again arisen, and it appeared clear that the tour would likely be the last together for Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks.  Love and Johnston immediately took to resuming dates with their own band (including John Cowsill and Scott Totten, both of whom participated in the tour) while Wilson entered the studio with his remarkable troupe of musicians (the core backing band for the reunion tour).  It’s recently been announced that Wilson, Jardine and Marks will perform some dates this summer even as Love and Johnston continue their Never-Ending Tour.  But with the May 21 release of Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour, fans can relive the good, good, good – if short-lived – vibrations of the sold-out concert tour.

Live culls 41 tracks from the expansive set lists played by The Beach Boys last summer.  This whopping number is still far from representing all of the songs played by the group during the tour, however.  For the second-to-last London performance of September 27, the Boys played a staggering 61 tunes.  And for the final Wembley Arena performance on September 28, they tackled a none-too-shabby 55 songs!  Of the 41 selected by Capitol Records for release, many of the group’s most beloved hits are naturally included: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” “Sloop John B” and the title track from Pet Sounds; “Heroes and Villains” from SMiLE; classic surf songs like “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ USA,” and car tunes like “Shut Down” and “409.”  A number of the lesser-known gems played during the tour have also been retained, such as “Marcella,” “All This is That” and “California Saga: California.”  Two songs from the band’s 2012 album That’s Why God Made the Radio appear: the title song and “Isn’t It Time.”  (The prophetic “Summer’s Gone,” played at the final two tour dates, hasn’t been selected for inclusion.)

Alas, there are many surprising omissions.  Brian Wilson’s heartfelt performance of Pet Sounds’ “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” hasn’t been included.  Nor has Wilson’s rocking “This Whole World,” or the ravishing “Please Let Me Wonder” and “Kiss Me Baby.”  Even the hit “Don’t Worry Baby” is missing from this truncated program.

Still, at 41 tracks over two CDs, Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour is a solid sampling of the musical magic of The Beach Boys, doing it again for one final (?) time.  It’s also nearly double the length of the 2012 DVD/BD release Live in Concert, which only included 21 songs.  (“God Only Knows” didn’t make the cut for that one!)  Unfortunately, that release doesn’t include any songs not on the CD set.  Surf’s up for the Capitol Records release of Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour on May 21.

You’ll find a full track listing after the jump.  Plus: CSNY heads back to 1974! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 22, 2013 at 10:14