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Archive for June 4th, 2013

Review: Laura Branigan, “Self Control: Expanded Edition”

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Self ControlSongwriter Bruce Roberts penned “The Lucky One” for the television film An Uncommon Love, in which a college professor begins a relationship with a student earning tuition money by working as a prostitute.  For this drama, Roberts (who had already written songs for Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer and collaborated with Bette Midler and Burt Bacharach) crafted an uncommon story of a girl whose “soul was strong, her heart was tough.”  He tailored it specifically for the talents and range of Laura Branigan, a vocalist equally comfortable with a sultry whisper and a theatrical belt.  “Like a wild bird of prey, like a thief in the night,” Branigan vividly captured the essence of Roberts’ song, from its hushed introduction to its big, “Gloria”-esque chords.  The Grammy-nominated “Gloria,” of course, was the Italian pop song reinvented as a dance anthem for the ages by the singer on her 1982 debut album Branigan.  She built on its massive international success with further hits such as the power ballad “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” and appeared on the Flashdance soundtrack with “Imagination.”  For her third album, 1984’s Self Control, the onetime backup singer for Leonard Cohen asserted herself with her most confident and adventurous set of songs yet.  Robbie Buchanan and Harold Faltermeyer arranged Self Control, with Buchanan sharing production duties with Jack White.  Gold Legion has just reissued this slice of pop in a slipcased deluxe edition with four bonus tracks.

The title track was crafted by Steve Piccolo and Raffaele Riefoli with “Gloria” composer Giancarlo Bigazzi.  (It was one of two songs on Self Control from Bigazzi.)  Unlike the exultant “Gloria,” though, “Self Control” was a much darker animal.  Piccolo’s lyrics immediately set the stage for a story given further illumination via William Friedkin’s evocative music video.  “Oh the night is my world,” Branigan sings on the crest of an unusually tough guitar lick, continuing, “City light, painted girls/In the day, nothing matters/It’s the nighttime that flatters…”  When she sang, “I live among the creatures of the night,” Branigan was believable as a mature woman looking for excitement in the seamy side of town.  Harold Faltermeyer’s arrangement was cutting-edge and electronic but alluring, bolstering Branigan’s vocals – again capable of a hush and a boom – with an anthemic rallying cry.  There’s even a touch of Barry Gibb in the title refrain, adding up to a highly dramatic album centerpiece that even eclipsed the success of “Gloria” in many international territories.

“Ti Amo,” the second song on Self Control with the participation of Giancarlo Bigazzi, was also the first of the album’s four songs from songwriter Diane Warren.  Branigan was actually the first artist in the U.S. to record Warren’s compositions, finding room for her songs on both Branigan and Branigan 2.  “Self Control” gave her an even bigger spotlight.  “Ti Amo” was an Italian smash from the “Gloria” team of Bigazzi and Umberto Tozzi; Warren’s American lyrics matched the big melody with the heart-on-your-sleeve style for which Warren herself would become famous.  As convincing as she was on “Self Control” as one who lived among the creatures of the night, the singer was equally believable pleading for a lover to return and questioning herself with vulnerability (“Wasn’t I good to you?…I can’t believe you could just turn and leave…”) Her relationship was illicit on the wistful “Silent Partners,” co-credited to Warren and “The Doctor.”  On the other side of the spectrum was their “Breaking Out,” a propulsive track with shimmering synths and Branigan in the role of a woman “caught in the trap of a workin’-day world” and ready to break free of those conventions.  It’s the kind of quintessential eighties-pop melody and arrangement that sounds like so many others, but was another showcase both for a gifted vocalist and a songwriter poised on the cusp of even greater successes.  Even more frenetic was “Satisfaction,” a German track from Bernd Dietrich, Gerd Grabowski and Engelbert Simons with English lyrics from Warren and Mark Spiro.  This time, her lyrics had the unenviable task of supporting the nonstop beats arranged by Faltermeyer.  (Though the synths played by Faltermeyer and Buchanan stand out on Self Control, there’s also exemplary work all –around in the rhythm section of Carlos Vega and John Robinson on drums, Nathan East on bass, and Michael Landau, Dann Huff and Paul Jackson, Jr. on guitars.  Bill Champlin, of Sons of Champlin and Chicago, is among the background singers.)

There’s more on Laura Branigan after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 4, 2013 at 15:06

Posted in Laura Branigan, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Tell All The People: “The Best of Merry Clayton” Shines Spotlight on “Gimme Shelter” Singer

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Best of Merry ClaytonFor Merry Clayton, fame was just a shot away.  For she was a member of a very exclusive club of well-respected yet all-too-unheralded performers: background singers.  Documentarian Morgan Neville’s new film 20 Feet from Stardom chronicles some of the great artists who have excelled in that capacity, including Clayton, Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear and Táta Vega.  Many of music’s greatest background singers also had solo careers, though, and Legacy Recordings and Ode Records are celebrating Clayton’s with the June 25 release of The Best of Merry Clayton.

This first-ever anthology for the singer – perhaps best-known for her prominent role on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” – is arriving just one week after the film’s Columbia Records soundtrack, which also features Clayton.  The documentary, in theatres this month, boasts interviews with the likes of Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and many others who have benefited from the talents of their background singers.  (Many such singers had prosperous solo careers before, during or after their background tenures, including Flo and Eddie, Luther Vandross, Deniece Williams, Cissy Houston, Dee Dee Warwick, and Darlene Love.  Even Mick Jagger once got into the act, memorably singing backup for Carly Simon on “You’re So Vain,” after all!)

But by the time of her incendiary spotlight on “Gimme Shelter,” the Louisiana-born Merry Clayton had been a familiar face in recording studios for nearly a decade.  She even recorded the original version of “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss),” on which she was supported by The Blossoms – including Darlene Love!  Clayton’s role on “Shelter” in 1969 propelled legendary record man Lou Adler to sign her to his Ode Records label.  Her Ode debut, appropriately titled after the Jagger/Richards song, arrived in stores the following year.  It was just the first of three sublimely soulful sets from the vocalist.

After the jump: more details on the new CD plus a full track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 4, 2013 at 12:41

She’s Got The Beat: Belinda Carlisle’s Deluxe 2-CD/1-DVD Reissues Due in August (UPDATED WITH TRACK LISTINGS)

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Belinda Carlisle Banner

The Tabu catalogue isn’t the only major acquisition of late for the Demon Music Group.  Back in March, Demon – home to labels including Edsel, Harmless and Music Club Deluxe – announced that a deal had been struck for much of the solo catalogue of onetime Go-Go Belinda Carlisle.  Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?  Demon picked up rights to four of Carlisle’s studio albums, the rights to which had previously resided with Virgin (part of the former EMI).  Demon’s agreement covers the world, except for the U.S. and Canada, and includes physical and digital catalogue rights as well as third party and neighboring rights.  On August 26, the label will reissue Heaven on Earth (1987), Runaway Horses (1989), Live Your Life Be Free (1991) and Real (1993) in deluxe, hardbound 2-CD/1-DVD editions.

The California-born Carlisle rose to fame as the lead singer of the iconic New Wave girl group The Go-Go’s, whose 1981 debut Beauty and the Beat, on the IRS label, spent six weeks atop the Billboard 200.  The album was produced by Richard Gotteher who knew a thing or two about girl groups, having written The Angels’ immortal 1963 hit “My Boyfriend’s Back.”  The Go-Go’s retained the sass but updated the sound of the classic sixties girl groups, and further distinguished themselves by writing and performing all of the music on Beauty and the Beat including the smash single “We Got the Beat.”

Two more albums followed, but not long after 1984’s Talk Show, the Go-Go’s called it a day, torn apart by personal turmoil and tension between bandmates.  When The Go-Go’s disbanded in the spring of 1985, Carlisle seized the opportunity to go solo, scoring a No. 3 U.S. hit with “Mad About You,” again on the IRS label.  Carlisle turned to a number of talented collaborators to select the material for her first solo effort, simply titled Belinda.  Some songs were written by Charlotte Caffey of the Go-Go’s, and Susanna Hoffs of another groundbreaking group of eighties girls, The Bangles, co-wrote “I Need a Disguise.”  Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham was one of the writers behind “Since You’ve Gone,” and Carlisle herself shared writing credits on “Gotta Get to You.”  Covers of Split Enz (“Stuff and Nonsense”) and Freda Payne (“Band of Gold”) rounded out the album which peaked at No. 13 in the United States.

After the jump: Belinda jumps to Virgin for the four albums that will see expanded reissue this August!  We now have full track listings with discography for all four titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 4, 2013 at 10:50

Sandie Shaw Reissues Are At Your Feet from Salvo (UPDATED 6/3)

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Hello AngelUPDATE (6/3): Available today, Salvo has expanded and reissued three more Sandie Shaw LPs. They are 1968’s The Sandie Shaw Supplement, featuring covers of The Rolling Stones (“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”) and Simon & Garfunkel (“Scarborough Fair”); the self-produced cult hit Reviewing the Situation (1969) and 1988’s Hello Angel, her first LP for Rough Trade and featuring a heap of single-only material with labelmates and fans The Smiths.

ORIGINAL POST (4/8/2013): British pop chanteuse Sandie Shaw is at the center of a new reissue campaign in 2013 from U.K. label Salvo Records, with three expanded albums and one new compilation hitting the shops overseas today.

Born Sandra Ann Goodrich in Dagenham, Essex, Shaw was one of U.K. pop’s most notable female performers, thanks to her idiosyncratic performances (she was often seen on Top of the Pops and other British pop shows performing to her singles while barefoot) and reputation as an interpreter of other peoples’ songs. Between 1964 and 1969, Shaw had eight U.K. Top 10 hits for the Pye label, including No. 1 singles “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” (the first hit interpretation of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David classic, before Naked Eyes made it a U.S. hit in the ’80s), “Long Live Love” and “Puppet on a String” – the latter of which, although not a favorite of the performer’s, earned her wider acclaim when her performance won the Eurovision Song Contest. It was the first time a British act took home the prize.

Sandie ShawShaw briefly retired from the industry in the 1970s, but was lured out again in the 1980s by a new generation of performers that counted themselves fans. B.E.F., the electronic music duo of Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh (after their departure from the Human League but before recruiting Glenn Gregory to form Heaven 17), backed her up on a version of another Bacharach-David gem, “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” Chrissie Hynde invited her to perform her biggest U.S. hit “Girl Don’t Come” with The Pretenders. And so taken were the duo of Morrissey and Johnny Marr by Shaw that they got her signed to Rough Trade Records alongside their band, The Smiths, and joined her on several of her first singles for the label – all covers of the band’s songs. (Morrissey and producer Stephen Street would pen “Please Help the Cause Against Loneliness” for Shaw’s 1988 album Hello Angel; his own version was released on the expanded edtion of the Bona Drag compilation in 2010.)

Shaw still records and tours today; for her 60th birthday, she re-recorded “Puppet on a String” to her liking with Howard Jones and producer Andy Gray. And her (self-owned) catalogue will come to Salvo this year, with one batch including a new compilation (Long Live Love: The Very Best of Sandie Shaw) and expanded editions of her first three albums, appended with dozens of non-LP single tracks.

After the jump, check out full track details and pre-order links for all of Salvo’s expanded titles!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 4, 2013 at 10:45

Release Round-Up: Week of June 4

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DylanGHVol2SACDBob Dylan, Greatest Hits Volume 2 (SACD) (Audio Fidelity)

A double hybrid SACD version of the classic Dylan compilation, mastered by Steve Hoffman. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Hello AngelSandie Shaw, The Sandie Shaw Supplement Reviewing the Situation Hello Angel: Expanded Editions (Salvo)

Sandie Shaw’s late ’60s and ’80s material gets newly remastered and expanded. Smiths alive! (Click on the post above for a full breakdown and order links.)

BF5 LiveBen Folds Five, Live (ImaVeePee/Sony Music)

The power piano-pop trio’s first live disc, culled from dates in 2012 and 2013. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

10 SoundtrackMason Williams, The Mason Williams Phonograph Record / Mason Williams, The Mason Williams Ear Show / Surf Punks, Locals Only / The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Stacked Deck/Too Stuffed to Jump / Dickey Lee, Original Greatest Hits / Cat Mother and the All-Night Newsboys, Albion Doo-Wah / Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 23 – Baltimore Civic Center Baltimore, MD 9/17/72 / Henry Mancini, “10″ Original Soundtrack  (Real Gone Music)

The latest from Real Gone, yours to read about here.

Roadhouse BluesAlbert King, Roadhouse Blues (Stax/Concord)

A reissue of King’s 1991 hits compilation. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

ClownAroundClownaround: The Original Show Album (Masterworks Broadway)

The studio cast recording of this 1972 Gene Kelly musical is now available exclusively at, as a made-to-order CD-R.