The Second Disc

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Archive for May 6th, 2013

Raise The Dead! “May 1977” Box Set Announced

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May 1977What a long, strange trip it was for The Grateful Dead in the spring of 1977. The band had taken an unheard-of 20-month hiatus to focus on solo works, but would come back later that year with a new contract (signed to Arista Records by Clive Davis) and an exciting new album, the complex, prog-influenced Terrapin Station. Their 26-date tour in the spring of 1977 is not only notable for its musicality – the band were tightening up their sound and revving up anticipation for the new material on Terrapin – but also for its place in Deadhead tape trading history; the band’s now-legendary May 8 show at Cornell University was one of the first highest-quality soundboard recordings to enjoy a wide berth among traders, making it a crucial waypoint for developing fans.

Now, more than 35 years later, the latest Dead box set is a 14-disc compilation releasing five complete shows from that tour in full for the first time anywhere. The aptly-named May 1977 features the Dead’s sets from St. Paul, Minnesota’s Civic Center Arena on May 11, two shows from Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre on May 12 and 13, a May 15 engagement at the St. Louis Arena in Missouri and a show at the University of Tuscaloosa, Alabama on May 17. Newly remastered in HDCD by Jeffrey Norman at Mockingbird Mastering, this deluxe package will feature a custom die-cut box and copious photos and liner notes, including individual notes for each show and an essay by Dead historian Steve Silberman.

Like previous live boxes exhaustively chronicling Dead tours, May 1977 will be limited to 15,000 copies available through the band’s website. They will be available on or about June 11, after which lossless digital downloads of the sets will be available.

Rolling Stone has some exclusive audio for your enjoyment, and the full track lists and pre-order links are after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

May 6, 2013 at 16:09

Losers Weepers! Ace Unveils Rare and Unreleased Songs on “Finders Keepers: Motown Girls 1961-67”

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Motown GirlsThanks to the dedication of labels like Ace Records, it would be impossible to “forget the Motor City.”  Along with the U.S.’ flagship Hip-O/UMG Select imprint, Ace has led the charge in issuing vintage 1960s-era Motown material, much of it unreleased.  The recent release of Finders Keepers: Motown Girls 1961-1967 compiles 24 tracks from girls both famous (The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Mary Wells) and sadly unknown (LaBrenda Ben, Thelma Brown, Anita Knorl) for a potent overview of songs that slipped through the cracks at Hitsville, USA.  Sweetening the pot is the fact that, of the 24 songs, twelve have never been released before.  It’s always cause for celebration when the seemingly endless Motown vaults are dipped into, and this is no exception.

Listen to a track like The Velvelettes’ “Let Love Live (A Little Bit Longer),” cut in 1965 and first released in 1999, and you immediately realize that it has all the elements of Classic Motown.  Why wasn’t it released at the time it was recorded?  Would it have been a hit?  Chart success can hardly be ascribed to one particular factor, and maybe the track just didn’t have that intangible “it.”  But what “Let Love Live” and most of the other tracks here do have is the unmistakable presence of the Funk Brothers, some of Motown’s brightest songwriters and producers, and the frisson of the Sound of Young America in its prime.

Naturally, no Motown Girls compilation would be complete with songs from the label’s top female acts.  The Marvelettes, who made Motown history with the label’s first No. 1, “Please Mr. Postman,” are represented with Holland-Dozier-Holland’s stomping “Finders Keepers.”   Recorded 1964 but not issued until 1980, it makes a welcome reappearance here.  (The Marvelettes are credited with “The Grass Seems Greener,” too, but the notes reveal that this previously unreleased song was actually sung by Bettie Winston.)  Gladys Knight and the Pips’ 1967 “When Somebody Loves You (You’re Never Alone)” has been oft-bootlegged over the years, but has never appeared in the top-notch sound quality it’s presented in here.   And where would any Motown compilation – girls or otherwise – be without an appearance by The Supremes?  Finders Keepers producers Keith Hughes and Mick Patrick have opted for two songs with Florence Ballard in the spotlight.  1961’s “Buttered Popcorn,” written by Berry Gordy and longtime Motown sales manager/veep Barney Ales, is the object of some good-natured derision in Gordy’s book to the now-running Motown: The Musical on Broadway.  “Long Gone Lover” is a track from 1964’s Where Did Our Love Go album, written by another Motown mainstay, the legendary Smokey Robinson.

Smokey’s imprimatur is all over Finders Keepers.  No fewer than six tracks composed by the Miracles man are present.  With its finger-snapping beat, a haunting title refrain, and the slinky bass of James Jamerson, Martha and the Vandellas’ 1966 “No More Tear-Stained Makeup” is a low-key treat.  (Keith Hughes suggests that the group’s other song here, H-D-H’s “Build Him Up,” could have been withheld from release because Gordy might have found it dated compared to “Heat Wave.”  That theory seems to be a good one.  And yes, despite a volume of Motown Lost and Found and an entire disc of previously unissued material on the recent Singles Collection, there’s still more Vandellas in the Motown vault!)

There’s much, much more after the jump, including the complete track listing with discography and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »

The Days of Henry Mancini: “Wine and Roses,” “Fear” Receive First-Ever Soundtrack Releases

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Days of Wine and RosesEverybody knows the music of Henry Mancini, whether the slinky jazz of “The Pink Panther Theme,” the wistful nostalgia of “Moon River” or the jaunty charm of “Baby Elephant Walk.”  But thanks to the dedication of labels like Intrada, Kritzerland, La-La Land and Quartet Records, more and more listeners are getting to know Henry Mancini the musical dramatist.  2012 saw a staggering number of Mancini soundtracks on CD – many appearing for the first time in complete form – arguably making him the best-represented classic film composer of the year.  And five months in, 2013 looks to be just as impressive a year for the versatile Mancini’s impressive output.  Following its landmark reissue of his score to Vittorio De Sica’s doomed romance Sunflower, Quartet Records has just issued the first-ever soundtrack album to one of Mancini’s final projects: director Rockne S. O’Bannon’s 1990 thriller Fear.  Not to be outdone, Intrada has just released a true holy grail for film score buffs: the original score to Blake Edwards’ 1962 drama Days of Wine and Roses.  Like Fear, the music of Days of Wine and Roses has never been released in its original form until now.

Though best-known for his slapstick comedies and biting wit, Blake Edwards was equally at home with the darker side of human nature.  (Often Edwards’ best work was both bleak and funny.)  He tapped Mancini – a close collaborator for 35 years –  to provide the score for Days of Wine and Roses, a look at one couple’s descent into the depths of alcoholism.  Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer provided the film, starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick and Jack Klugman, with an Academy Award-winning title song which has been recorded by many of the all-time greats such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Andy Williams.  Whereas Mancini re-recorded many of his classic scores of that era for the pop market at RCA Victor, no “soundtrack album” was ever released for Wine and Roses.  But there was much more to discover than just the title song.

Intrada’s premiere release, produced in cooperation with Warner Bros. Pictures and the Mancini Estate, presents the many colors of his orchestral score.  It’s largely built around variations of the title theme, including a striking guitar solo treatment and an elegiac rendition with strings.  Yet hauntingly dramatic cues sit alongside lighter, jazzy source pieces typical of his never-bettered classic-period sound.  In “Man Meets Girl,” Mancini veers from mournful to seductive to unsettling, all in the same cue; the omnious “No Guts” epitomizes the tension that courses through the score.  There’s relief in source cues like the jazzy “Hi-Fi,” in which gentle vibes and piano mingle with flute and guitar.

This multi-layered score is mastered from the original mono tapes as mixed for the motion picture.  Intrada’s release also includes a number of bonus tracks and source music cues of popular songs written by Cole Porter and the team of Al Dubin and Harry Warren.  Jim Lochner and Douglass Fake have provided copious liner notes.  No explanation is necessary, though – this is prime Mancini at his peak, merging his natural gift for melody with atmosphere and drama.   Intrada’s limited edition will be available as long as “quantities and interest remain.”  It can be ordered by clicking on the image above, or at the link after the jump!

Following the jump, we have the scoop on Fear, plus track listings and links for both titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 6, 2013 at 10:03