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Archive for May 31st, 2013

It’s a Family Affair: Sly and the Family Stone Want to Take You “Higher!” With New Career-Spanning Box Set

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Sly and the Family Stone - Higher

Epic Records and Legacy Recordings want you to have some hot fun in the summertime. On August 27, the labels will release the first-ever career-spanning box set dedicated to Sly and the Family Stone, as previewed on Record Store Day 2013.  The box succinctly entitled Higher! wants to take you there.  77 tracks chronicle the period between 1964 and 1977, and 17 of those recordings are previously unissued.

Sly Stone, born Sylvester Stewart in 1943, couldn’t hide his prodigious musical talents from an early age.  By the mid-1960s, the Texas boy had found his way to California’s Bay Area and the fertile, experimental scene there.  The hustling young man found gigs as a popular disc jockey for KSOL, and joined the staff at San Francisco’s Autumn Records.  Sly spearheaded a rock-and-roll revival with Bobby Freeman (writer and originator of “Do You Wanna Dance” years earlier) and was instrumental in the success of The Beau Brummels.  It was Sly who produced the Brummels’ 1964 hit “Laugh, Laugh,” on which the Bay Area met the British Invasion head-on.  The enterprising young man also oversaw the early recordings for Autumn subsidiary North Beach of The Great Society including “Someone to Love,” although the sessions were tumultuous.  The Society’s Grace Slick would later turn it into a chart smash on RCA with Jefferson Airplane.  But the newly-rechristened Sly Stone had his sight on even bigger things.

In 1967, Stone assembled a group of multi-racial, male and female musicians to bring to life his vision of a new kind of music.  His brother Freddy (guitar), Larry Graham (bass), Greg Errico (drums), Jerry Martini (saxophone/reeds), Cynthia Robinson (trumpet) would form the Family Stone, with Sly’s sister Rose soon completing the lineup on keyboards.  The Family Stone would be different from Stone’ last band, an R&B outfit cheekily named Sly and the Stoners – it would blend soul, R&B, pop, rock and proto-funk into A Whole New Thing, as the band’s first album was called.  Though that LP didn’t make as many waves as expected, the band’s second album very definitely did.  It was called Dance to the Music, and its title track became Sly and the Family Stone’s first Top 10 hit.

And the hits kept on comin’: “Everyday People” (No. 1), “Hot Fun in the Summertime” (No. 2), “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” (No. 1), “Family Affair” (No. 1), et cetera.  An incendiary performance at Woodstock was just one of the band’s triumphs.  Sly and the Family Stone also reflected the enormous social changes in America with powerfully charged LPs like Stand! and There’s a Riot Goin’ On.  But the original Family Stone broke up in 1975, having already survived the departures of Greg Errico in 1971 and Larry Graham the following year.  Sly would have his very well- publicized ups and downs in the years to come, and he periodically reactivated the Family Stone name, most notably for two Warner Bros. albums in 1979 and 1982.  A 2009 Sly Stone album bore the name I’m Back!  It wasn’t the first such proclamation – and likely won’t be the last – for the iconoclastic music legend.

After the jump: what can you expect on the new box set?  We have more details plus a full track listing with discography, pre-order links, and information on a bonus exclusive! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 31, 2013 at 12:45

The Art of Excellence: Tony Bennett’s Columbia Catalogue Reissued On CD and Digital Formats

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Tony Bennett - Yesterday I Heard the Rain“My ambition has always been to create a hit catalogue rather than hit records,” wrote Tony Bennett in 2011.  Of course, the modest Mr. Bennett has managed to do both.  He’s charted successful singles and continues to chart albums, but has also crafted a catalogue distinguished by its sustained excellence.

On the same day as the release of Bennett/Brubeck, the landmark 1962 concert performance of Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck, Sony’s Legacy Recordings also made good on a couple of other catalogue initiatives for the legendary entertainer.  His original Columbia Records albums – plus eight discs of singles and bonus material first released on 2011’s The Complete Collection box set – can now be purchased as digital downloads via iTunes and, while Amazon and Barnes and Noble will be offering all titles as CD-Rs as part of their “Made on Demand” programs.  (At the time of this writing, Amazon links are only available for some of the albums, but each is expected to be “released” soon.)

Alongside the digital/MOD initiative, ten selections from the recently-remastered Bennett catalogue were released on Tuesday to Barnes and Noble stores and as exclusive (pressed) CDs.  As these are currently listed on the retailer’s website for five bucks and change each, these discs are quite a bargain.  (In stores, the $6.99 retail price is currently discounted to just $4.99 for each title!)

Tony’s titles returning to print via Barnes and Noble as physical CDs include:

  1. Cloud 7 (1955)
  2. In Person! (with Count Basie and His Orchestra) (1959)
  3. Sings a String of Harold Arlen (1960)
  4. I Wanna Be Around (1963) (*)
  5. When Lights Are Low (1964)
  6. If I Ruled The World – Songs For The Jet Set (1965) (*)
  7. Yesterday I Heard the Rain (1968)
  8. The Art of Excellence (1986)
  9. Bennett/Berlin (1987)
  10. Bennett Sings Ellington – Hot & Cool (1999)

(*) contains bonus tracks

Hit the jump for a closer look at these titles plus a list of the complete Bennett catalogue as released to iTunes, and as digital downloads and/or MOD CDs!                               Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 31, 2013 at 10:12