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Archive for June 12th, 2013

Julia Fordham Reissues Out from Under “Lock and Key” from Cherry Pop

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JULIA FORDHAM SweptCherry Pop gets sophisticated once again with the expanded releases of two albums by Julia Fordham this month.

The British singer-songwriter hit it big in the late ’80s and early ’90s for a clutch of smart pop tunes with immaculate production from the likes of Hugh Padgham and Peter Asher. Guitarist Dominic Miller, who’d played in World Party and would become the go-to guitarist for Sting in the 1990s and beyond, prominently lent his six-string talents to Fordham’s records as well, which enjoyed great popularity in Europe and Asia.

Twenty-five years after her first record, Cherry Pop will expand the Julia Fordham discography, starting with double-disc expansions of her second and third LPs, Porcelain (1989) and Swept (1991), the latter of which featured Fordham’s biggest U.K. hit, the uplifting Top 20 single “(Love Moves in) Mysterious Ways.”

Both releases – which, like a lot of Cherry Pop’s catalogue this year, are being produced by Vinny Vero – feature a bevy of bonus tracks; several radio edits and alternate versions abound for Porcelain (additionally, non-LP B-side “Manhattan Skyline,” which was featured on U.S. pressings of the standard album, has been incorporated into the album assembly) while Swept features 14 additional tracks, including no less than nine non-LP tracks.

Each package, featuring new liner notes with contributions by Fordham, are available in the U.K. next Monday, June 17. Hit the jump for Amazon links and full track lists!

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Written by Mike Duquette

June 12, 2013 at 16:50

Little Anthony and the Imperials Move to a “New Street”…In Philadelphia!

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Little Anthony - On a New StreetPaul Simon once said, “Little Anthony Gourdine has one of the purest voices to come out of the New York doo-wop scene.  [The Imperials] will be remembered as great musicians from the streets of my hometown.”  Bob Dylan was also a fan: “The Beatles weren’t rock and roll, nor were The Rolling Stones.  Rock and roll ended with Little Anthony and the Imperials.”  But by 1973, the group was ready for a new direction, or a “new street,” as it were.  The group first worked with then-budding producer Thom Bell a few years earlier on the single “Help Me Find a Way (To Say I Love You)” b/w “If I Love You” for the United Artists label.  In 1971, Little Anthony, Harold Jenkins, Clarence Collins and Bobby Wade signed with Avco Records, for whom Bell was recording The Stylistics.  In 1973, Bell finally got around to producing an album for Little Anthony and the Imperials, but one with a twist: he would produce and arrange Side One, but on Side Two, those duties would be performed by Teddy Randazzo.  Randazzo was a major influence on Bell, and had a long history with The Imperials, too.  He wrote the group’s Top 10 hits “Going Out of My Head” and “Hurt So Bad.”  Yet On a New Street and its ultra-rare, Philadelphia-recorded follow-up, Hold On, languished for years without a CD release.  Cherry Red’s SoulMusic imprint has recently reissued both albums with bonus tracks on a new 2-CD set.

On a New Street might be the ne plus ultra of the group’s post-1960s achievements.  A “lost” album from the sweetest period of Thom Bell’s storied career, the Bell side captures producer and vocalists at the peak of their powers.  Gourdine’s recognizably pinched vocal tones contrast with those of, say, Philippe Wynne of The Spinners or Russell Thompkins, Jr. of The Stylistics, but Bell instinctively knew how to surround that voice with a soft cushion of soulful accompaniment provided by MFSB.  Throughout the five songs on “The Thom Bell Side” of On a New Street, Gourdine has ample chance to fly solo, with The Imperials contributing their impeccable harmonies at just the right moments.

The album was a rare instance of Bell working his magic on an established act.  His wholly original orchestral voice supported William “Poogie” Hart on The Delfonics’ first long-player and Russell Thompkins, Jr. on The Stylistics’, and Bell even saw that a long-running act like The Spinners was essentially reborn when he took their production reins.  Little Anthony was the most established voice Bell built his pocket symphonies around at that point, but Bell’s abiding affection for Randazzo’s work with the group made On a New Street consistent with their past triumphs.

Naturally, the ballads stand out.  Only Thom Bell could have made “The Loneliest House on the Block,” written by fellow Philly legends Norman Harris and Allan Felder, seem like the place you’d most like to be.   Bell lushly orchestrated Harris and Felder’s wistful tale of a place “where the windows are closed and the doors are always locked.”  The songwriters also made a nice lyrical doff off the hat to The Imperials’ 1964 hit “I’m on the Outside (Looking In),” written by…Teddy Randazzo!  (“Loneliest House” later appeared on Thirteen Blue Magic Lane by Blue Magic in 1975.)  Though most of the up-tempo tracks could have been suitable for The Spinners, the opening “Falling in Love with You” was straight out of Bell’s playbook for The Stylistics.  The entire song is one longing musical sigh, with baroque flourishes, majestically sweeping strings and stately backing vocals plus an insistent keyboard riff that lodges itself in the brain.

Another, much-heralded influence on Bell’s distinctive style was Burt Bacharach, and indeed, that stylistic touchstone is heard via the horns on Bruce Hawes’ swaggering “I Won’t Have Time to Worry” and James Grant’s “La La La (At the End)” but even more subtly on “Loneliest House.”  Vince Montana’s (?) burbling vibes make their reassuring presence felt on “Loneliest House” and lend a tropical air as they wash over “La La La.”  James Grant’s song, built around a tasty lyrical conceit, is also presented in an alternate mix with brief studio chatter.

Spinners fans will savor the appearance here of “Lazy Susan.”  When Bell recorded it with that group in 1974, he gave it a new, slowed-down arrangement, but it cooks in The Imperials’ hands.  Linda Creed supplied a typically empathetic lyric about a girl whose “daddy died when she was four/Her mama works the mill the whole day long/But Lazy Susan never worked the mill/She just sings her song, strumming with a guitar pick…”  There’s an innocence and sincerity when Anthony vows he “won’t let them laugh at her no more…gonna make people look at her like they never did before!”

Thom Bell once said of Teddy Randazzo and his frequent co-writer Bobby Weinstein: “I love their writing.  And I love the arranging that Don Costa does for Little Anthony and the Imperials!  That was the first guy that turned me on – Don Costa!  They had “I’m on the Outside (Looking In)”, “Hurt So Bad,” “Goin’ Out Of My Head”… After that came Burt Bacharach, another one I loved. They were applying their classical training, I believe, to so-called R&B, modern music. I didn’t know anything about the so-called R&B music at all, until I was about seventeen, eighteen, because that’s not where my family was leaning me. I come from the classical end of it.”  He paid Randazzo and Weinstein the ultimate tribute when he co-produced with Deniece Williams the vocalist’s hit recording of their “Gonna Take a Miracle,” originally recorded by The Royalettes.

After the jump: we’re taking a listen to “The Teddy Randazzo Side,” and to the Imperials’ second Avco album, Hold On!. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 12, 2013 at 10:13