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Archive for July 29th, 2013

Life Is a Carnival with The Band’s Box Set “Live at the Academy of Music: The Rock of Ages Concerts”

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The Band - Academy of MusicThe Band’s Rock of Ages has long been a mighty document of a mighty quintet at the height of its powers.  And it’s about to get even mightier.

Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel closed 1971 with four nights at New York City’s Academy of Music, reveling in new horn arrangements by New Orleans’ legendary Allen Toussaint and jamming with old mate Bob Dylan on New Year’s Eve.  Highlights from the concert spawned the Top 10 album Rock of Ages, and a 2001 reissue added ten tracks to the original release’s eighteen.  But on September 17, Capitol Records will unveil Live at the Academy of Music: The Rock of Ages Concerts, a 4-CD/1-DVD box set chronicling these shows in unprecedented detail.  Housed in a 48-page hardbound book, Live at the Academy presents new stereo and 5.1 surround mixes of the music of Rock of Ages, including 19 more previously unreleased performances and newly discovered footage of two songs filmed by Howard Alk and Murray Lerner.  Unlike many so-called “super deluxe” boxes, this set does not include the original album on which it’s based; the 1972 LP version of Rock of Ages is absent with the new box serving more as a companion than a replacement to it.

After Americana/roots-rock trailblazers The Band completed their fourth album, Cahoots, they set out for Europe to play a brief tour in spring 1971.  More live performances followed that summer, culminating in the album’s release in October.  The Band promoted Cahoots with a number of American dates, building up to a December 28-31 stand on Manhattan’s East 14th Street between Irving Place and 3rd Avenue at The Academy of Music.  The 3,000-seat venue (sadly demolished by New York University following its closure in 1997) had filled the gap in New York nightlife recently vacated by Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, and proved the perfect spot for The Band’s brand of musical magic.

The Band had first worked with Allen Toussaint when he contributed horn arrangements to Cahoots’ single “Life is a Carnival.”  When it became clear that the performances at the Academy of Music were to be recorded for a live album, The Band invited the writer of “Mother-in-Law” and “Working in the Coalmine” to beef up the group’s sound with his N’awlins brass.  Horns weren’t new to The Band; multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson had added tuba, euphonium and saxophones on the group’s very first album.  But Toussaint brought a wealth of experience as an arranger and orchestrator, and a distinct funky sound all his own.  “I felt very much at home with The Band,” Toussaint told writer Rob Bowman in 2000.  “There was nothing ‘stock’ about them.  Coming together as a group, that magic that formed from such individual love and interest, I just felt really good.”

The road to the Academy was a bumpy one, though, especially when the unbelievable happened and Toussaint’s bag containing eleven musical scores was lost at the airport!  The famously cool Toussaint took it in stride, telling Bowman, “I’m glad it did happen because what was written in Woodstock [where he traveled to meet the group to rehearse prior to the Manhattan stand] was better than anything I could have come up with at home.  More appropriate at least…I felt so fresh and so much better about it after getting there and seeing the guys and being in that environment.”

The concerts consisted of two sets each night, first with The Band alone, then with the five-man horn section.  The set list was consistent, and nine songs had been added from the dates earlier that fall to beef up the concerts for the album.  Interestingly, the sets were light on songs from Cahoots.  “Shoot Out in Chinatown” had been dropped from the earlier gigs, and only two songs from the LP survived (“Life is a Carnival” and “Smoke Signal,” the latter of which wasn’t even included on the original Rock of Ages release).  In a surprise move, Bob Dylan showed up for the December 31 show to ring in New Year’s 1972.

The late, great Phil Ramone was the recording engineer for Rock of Ages, working with Mark Harman.  Yet as early as the album’s release in late summer 1972, there was confusion as to which tracks were utilized for the LP.  Ramone told the press that most of the album came from the December 30 performance, while Robbie Robertson opined that eighty percent was recorded on December 31.  The Dylan tracks were not included on the original release, but they were added to the 2001 reissue produced by Cheryl Pawelski and Andrew Sandoval.  That included bonus recordings from all four nights as its second disc, with the original album remaining in sequence on Disc One.

Exactly what will you find on Live at the Academy?  Hit the jump, won’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 29, 2013 at 14:10

Mountain Goats’ “West Texas” Gets an Expansion

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All Hail West TexasMerge Records last week reissued a pivotal album by lo-fi folk outfit the Mountain Goats with a bevy of bonus tracks. The group’s 2002 effort, All Hail West Texas, remains one of the group’s most treasured recordings.

the Mountain Goats, initially the nom de folk of singer/songwriter/guitarist John Darnielle but now a fluid ensemble built around him, have existed since the early 1990s, in the form of largely low-fidelity, quickly-assembled, urgent records. All Hail West Texas, released on the small Emperor Jones label, remains one of the most beloved albums in the Mountain Goats’ canon. At once, it treads familiar ground (it’s the last in the band’s discography to have been recorded solely onto a Panasonic boombox) while approaching new territory (Darnielle began to spin conceptual character sketches on record). From West Texas, the Mountain Goats would enjoy success on the 4AD and Merge labels, where they continue to reside (their most recent album being 2012’s Transcendental Youth).

The reissued All Hail West Texas features seven extra tracks from the original “sessions” that birthed the album, sourced from surviving cassettes and transferred to analog tape like the original album. Darnielle also contributes a 1,800-word essay on the history of the album. The reissue is available on CD (packaged in a digipak) or LP (the original album, packaged in a new gatefold design, with the expanded presentation available as a packed-in digital download), and can be purchased now, after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 29, 2013 at 13:34

The Show Must Go On: Queen Plan “Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert” Blu-Ray, Vault Tracks with Michael Jackson

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Freddie Tribute BDQueen and Eagle Rock Entertainment will release a newly-expanded edition of their unforgettable Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert this fall, on DVD and, for the first time, Blu-Ray Disc.

Five months after the tragic passing of one of rock’s greatest frontmen from complications due to AIDS, surviving Queen members Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor gathered dozens of famous collaborators and famous fans at London’s Wembley Arena on April 20, 1992. Some 72,000 people were in attendance, and worldwide broadcast audiences hovered around the billion mark. David Bowie, Annie Lennox, George Michael, Elton John, Tony Iommi and Robert Plant were among the set’s many highlights, with proceeds of course going to the Mercury Phoenix Trust in Freddie’s memory.

The newly remastered edition of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, released over three DVDs or one Blu-Ray, features the program and extras featured on the 10th anniversary release of the concert in 2002, including rehearsal footage and a documentary on the concert. New features include, for the first time, performances from the first half of the concert, which featured acts paying solo tributes to Mercury before Queen took the stage. Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Def Leppard and Extreme were among the featured performers during this portion of the program.

But The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert isn’t the only archival Queen product in the pipeline for the near future, if recent reports are to be believed. After the jump, learn how the band’s performance with a certain King might finally see the light of day soon.

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 29, 2013 at 11:16

Real Gone Music Updates: Label Confirms Portsmouth Sinfonia Cancellation, Resolves Cat Mother Mastering Problem

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Portsmouth SinfoniaTomorrow, Real Gone Music releases what might be its most exciting batch of titles yet, with offerings from Dionne Warwick, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, and George Clinton’s Parlet.   The line-up will be one title short, however, from that of the original announcement.  The scheduled reissue of Portsmouth Sinfonia’s Plays the Popular Classics has, according to the label’s Facebook page, been “canceled until further notice.”  On June 13, we described this release as follows:

“Last but not least comes what might be the oddest entry yet in Real Gone’s growing catalogue.  Portsmouth Sinfonia was the brainchild of composer Gavin Bryars, who wished to bring classical music to the masses – by involving the masses.  He seized upon the frankly unusual notion of forming an orchestra composed of non-musicians, or of musicians playing a totally unfamiliar instrument.  He then led that orchestra in renditions of well-known classical pieces despite the fact that most of the orchestra members couldn’t sight-read.  According to Real Gone, ‘the result was, ironically, hailed by some in the classical establishment as a profound exploration of the nature of music, as the trained musicians kept the orchestra more or less hewing close to the melody, while the untrained players’ earnest attempts to perform the compositions, and the resulting missed notes, formed atonal ‘clouds of sound’ with a bare suggestion of the piece.’  Others merely felt that Portsmouth Sinfonia was ‘the world’s worst orchestra.’ But something about Bryars’ vision caught on.  The group played a sold-out concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, landed a recording contract, and caught the ear of one Brian Eno.  The ambient music innovator and soundscape creator extraordinaire produced Portsmouth Sinfonia’s 1974 debut Plays the Popular Classics, and even joined the aggregation to play clarinet!  Real Gone’s reissue is the first-ever rediscovery of this offbeat album, and includes new liner notes from Tom Pickles in addition to the original notes by Eno and conductor John Farley.  Fans of The Langley Schools Music Project or even The Shaggs might want to check this out…chances are you’ve never heard another album quite like this one!”

On Thursday, July 25, Real Gone shared about the cancellation, “Sorry for the disappointment…we’re disappointed, too!”  One day later, the label added, “One more note on the Portsmouth Sinfonia title — When we have any further news about the release we will let you know, In the interim, you can get in touch with the orchestra through their website.”  We urge you to do the same: if you would like to see Real Gone bring its reissue plans to fruition, let Portsmouth Sinfonia know!

After the jump: Real Gone addresses – and resolves – a recent audio problem with Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys’ Albion Doo Wah!  If you purchased this title, you’ll definitely want to read on! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 29, 2013 at 10:06