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Archive for August 13th, 2013

She Will Survive: BBR Reissues, Expands Gloria Gaynor’s “Love Tracks” and “Park Avenue Sound”

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Gloria Gaynor - Love TracksThe very first release on Big Break Records, early in 2010, was an expanded reissue of the very first solo album by Gloria Gaynor.  Never Can Say Goodbye spun Clifton Davis’ title track into disco gold and pioneered the sidelong disco mix with a nearly 19-minute suite from Tom Moulton consisting of “Honey Bee,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” and another Motown revival, “Reach Out I’ll Be There.”   Big Break followed that landmark 1974 album with an expansion of Experience Gloria Gaynor, from 1975.  It followed the template of her debut with a sidelong, Moulton-mixed disco suite on Side One, and a more R&B-oriented Side Two.  (Continuing her tradition of updating classic soul music, Gaynor reworked Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Walk On By” here.)  Over three years later, BBR is revisiting the era-defining vocalist’s catalogue with remastered and generously expanded versions of her fifth and sixth albums: Park Avenue Sound and Love Tracks (both 1978), the latter of which introduced a little anthem called “I Will Survive.”

The Newark, New Jersey-born vocalist had experienced the law of diminishing returns (commercially speaking) with the three albums that followed the success of her stunning and influential debut Never Can Say Goodbye.  Naturally, she looked to refine and reshape her sound; the Meco Menardo/Tony Bongiovi/Jay Ellis team that helmed her first three LPs made way for Gregg Diamond (The Andrea True Connection, George McCrae) on 1977’s Glorious.  When that album failed to set the charts ablaze, Gaynor cast her sights not to New York, as the title of Park Avenue Sound might indicate, but to another neighbor of New Jersey: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Perhaps Broad Street Sound lacked the same tony ring to it?  (J. Matthew Cobb’s helpful and entertaining notes inform us that Gaynor’s management had recently relocated to the swank Park Avenue environs.)

Guitarist/songwriter/arranger/producer Norman Harris, a key creator of the sound of Philadelphia soul and one of the founders of the MFSB house band at Sigma Sound Studios, had a few years earlier departed Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International empire.  He brought his artistry to the Salsoul Records stable while also racking up hits for artists on numerous labels.  Harris’ clients included The Dells, Eddie Kendricks, The Trammps and Blue Magic, each one benefitting from his versatile touch.  Harris could arrange down-and-dirty funk, euphoric disco or sweet soul.  Many of his productions were in tandem with bassist Ron Baker and drummer Earl Young under the Baker-Harris-Young umbrella.  Harris had actually provided the arrangement for the Paul Leka-produced track “Honey Bee” on Gaynor’s debut, so he was already familiar with the singer’s talents.  For Park Avenue Sound, he joined with songwriter Allan Felder and vocalist Ron Tyson of The Ethics and Love Committee; the three co-produced Park Avenue Sound under the moniker “TAN.”  Tracks were laid down at Sigma Sound with the usual suspects: Bobby Eli joining Harris on guitar, Larry Washington on congas, Ron Kersey on keyboards, Bruce Gray on piano, Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Yvette Benton on backing vocals, and Jack Faith on arrangements and (likely) flute.

Those fans of Philadelphia soul who might be unfamiliar with this long-unavailable album will smile immediately upon hitting that “play” button.  The very first notes of the jubilant and lightly swinging “This Love Affair” – all rapturous Philly horns and strings, arranged by Harris, Tyson and Al Stewart – couldn’t have been recorded anywhere but Sigma Sound.  The creamy coos of the Sweethearts of Sigma kick in before Gaynor’s confident lead vocal begins: “This love affair has gotten to where I want it/I’m so proud to own it.”  Co-written by Gaynor, it’s an upbeat, happy and comfortable opening to an album that takes on themes of love in all its forms.

Gloria Gaynor - Park Avenue SoundThe peppy, burbling “Everytime You Make Love to Me” (“It’s so heavenly…”) and “For the First Time in My Life” (“I’ve found a man for me/A man who makes me feel just like a queen!”) are both sunny, quintessential mid-tempo Philly jams from the Harrison/Tyson/Felder team, with the former arranged by Harris solo and the latter by Harris and Jack Faith.  “For the First Time” employs the Thom Bell-esque electric sitar sound that was a Philly soul staple along with the usual complement of horns and strings a-plenty.

Not that Park Avenue Sound is all sunshine and flowers.  Gaynor plays a sassy “other woman” who’s more than a little fed up on “Part Time Love (Is a Full Time Job),” the track gilded by arranger Kersey’s persuasive disco beat.  There’s a funk-meets-disco edge to “Kidnapped,” though the Sweethearts’ backing vocals and Harris’ brassy orchestral flourishes keep the catchy track from falling too far afield of the pop-soul blueprint.

A pair of tracks produced by Joel Diamond and Harold Wheeler rounded out the original LP.  Wheeler was Broadway’s first African-American conductor when selected to ascend the podium for Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Promises, Promises in 1968, and today conducts the orchestra for U.S. television’s Dancing with the Stars.  Wheeler and Gaynor attempted to rekindle the “Never Can Say Goodbye” magic with a dancefloor jaunt set to Ashford and Simpson’s Motor City classic “You’re All I Need to Get By,” and went considerably mellower with a medley of “After the Lovin’” (a then-recent hit for Engelbert Humperdinck) and Gaynor’s “Sweet Sounds for My Baby.”  Though sonically cut from a different cloth than the Harris/Tyson/Felder tracks, both songs occupy unique places on the album: “You’re All I Need” is the most overtly disco track on the LP, and the “After the Lovin’” medley shows Gaynor’s prowess as a sensual and soulful ballad singer.  “You’re All I Need” was selected to lead off a four-track, 12-inch disco single, along with “This Love Affair,” “Everytime You Make Love to Me,” and “Part Time Love.”  Though Polydor gave it a shot, none of the songs were sufficiently remixed and extended to create too many rumbles at the disco.  All four sides are included on BBR’s deluxe edition as bonus tracks, along with the standard single version of “This Love Affair.”

It’s a mystery why the infectious lead-off single “This Love Affair” and Park Avenue Sound weren’t better received at the time, as they stood tall at the crossroads of Philadelphia soul, disco and crossover-friendly pop.  Undeterred, Gaynor went on to create the LP which yielded her most successful record ever, and one of the most iconic songs of all time.

After the jump: we will survive with Love Tracks! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 13, 2013 at 12:11

Posted in Gloria Gaynor, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Come Out and Play: Soundtrack Spotlight on Latest from La-La Land and Kritzerland

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KL_MiracleWorker_Cov72Kritzerland has served up quite the “miracle” with their latest release, and two of La-La Land’s latest feature favorite composers and cult titles – all here in our semi-regular soundtrack round-up!

The acclaimed adaptation of the Broadway play The Miracle Worker – featuring original playwright William Gibson and director Arthur Penn and returning cast members Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke – told the amazing true story of Anne Sullivan, caretaker to the deaf and blind Helen Keller, whose teachings enabled Keller to not only communicate but become an outspoken voice for workers’ rights, women’s suffrage and more. Bancroft and Duke each won Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress (at the time, the 16-year-old Duke was the youngest winner of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar), while Penn and Gibson received nominations.

Laurence Rosenthal’s evocative score eluded accolades at the time of the film’s release, but it has since deservedly received accolades from film score enthusiasts – especially after Intrada released the score for the first time in 2010. That version is now out of print, but Kritzerland has ably stepped in to bring the score back into circulation. What’s better, they’ve corrected some minor audio issues (removing some reverb and audio dropouts from the previous release) and appended it with two bonus tracks from the film.

Limited to 1,000 copies, The Miracle Worker is expected to ship at the end of September, although pre-orders tend to ship a few weeks early.

After the jump, check out two of the latest releases from La-La Land!

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Written by Mike Duquette

August 13, 2013 at 11:48

Nirvana to Serve the Servants with Anniversary Reissue of Final LP “In Utero” (UPDATED WITH TRACKLIST 8/13)

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The above video repurposes a vintage advertisement to tell fans that UMe is planning a 20th anniversary reissue of Nirvana’s final album, 1993’s In Utero, on September 24.

In its own weird way, the video – featuring band members Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl being coached through a surreal lamaze class by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait – indicates how unusual the album was. In Utero was the polar opposite of 1991’s breakthrough Nevermind, with abrasive production by Steve Albini and considerably less accessible songs crafted by Kurt Cobain, who was clearly uncomfortable with his growing fame as the voice of a disaffected generation. (Almost seven months after the album’s release, Cobain died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound at 27.) Nonetheless, the album received critical acclaim and was certified five times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

UMe has confirmed “more than 70 remastered, remixed, rare, unreleased and live recordings” will be included on the multi-format reissue, which looks to include a single-disc remaster, a double-disc deluxe edition, a triple-LP deluxe edition and a super-deluxe box that encompasses three CDs and a DVD. Promised material includes “never-before-heard demos, B-sides, compilation tracks and live material featuring the final touring lineup of Cobain, Novoselic, Grohl and [second guitarist] Pat Smear…including the long-awaited release of the complete Live and Loud show from Seattle’s Pier 48 on December 13, 1993.” (Parts of that show, which will also be released on standalone DVD, were edited into a special for MTV in the band’s heyday.)

In Utero Deluxe

Today, Rolling Stone confirmed the contents of the super deluxe box:

  • Disc 1 features the original album with previously released B-sides and bonus tracks from the era, as well as Steve Albini’s unreleased mixes of singles “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies”
  • Disc 2 contains a newly-mixed version of the album (the band was famously skittish about Albini’s production, allowing Scott Litt to remix singles “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” as well as cancelled single “Pennyroyal Tea”; it’s unknown as of yet who’s behind this new mix) with 11 unreleased demos, including a never-before-heard song, “Forgotten Tune”
  • The Live and Loud concert on CD (Disc 3) and DVD (Disc 4), the latter also featuring both cuts of the video for “Heart-Shaped Box” and other live content from the band’s European tour

After the jump, all variants of the new In Utero are available to pre-order, as well as the full annotated track list.

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Written by Mike Duquette

August 13, 2013 at 10:10

Release Round-Up: Week of August 13

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Harry Nilsson - Flash HarryHarry Nilsson, Flash Harry (Varese Vintage)

Never released in the U.S. or on CD, the wave of Nilssonmania continues with this: Harry’s last album, released in 1980, now available on remastered vinyl or CD with several unheard bonus tracks.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S.

The RiddleNik Kershaw, The Riddle: Remastered Expanded Edition (UMC)

Kershaw’s second LP, featuring one of the most criminally underrated singles ever in the title track, is reissued as a double-disc set with B-sides, remixes and rare vintage live cuts. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

South Side of Soul StreetVarious Artists, The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976 (Omnivore)

Two discs of single sides from the forgotten Nashville label Minaret are collected for your listening pleasure. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)


Love Makes No SenseThe S.O.S. Band, Just the Way You Like It / Kathy Mathis, A Woman’s Touch / Alexander O’Neal, Love Makes No Sense: “Tabu Reborn” Expanded Editions (Tabu/Edsel)

The fifth wave of Tabu’s ongoing reissue campaign.

S.O.S. Band: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Kathy Mathis: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Alexander O’Neal: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Cash Life UnheardJohnny Cash, LIFE Unheard (Sony Music)

A companion piece to a new book of rare and unreleased photos from LIFE magazine, this disc features a handful of tracks from the Cash Bootleg Series along with two unreleased cuts. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

CSN Gold DiscHi-res reissues: Crosby, Stills & Nash, CSN / James Taylor, Gorilla (24K Gold CDs – Audio Fidelity) / Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits (SACD – Analogue Productions)

Thank God It's FridayCulture Factory remasters: 38 Special, Special Delivery Thank God It’s Friday: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack / Kim Carnes, Barking At Airplanes Lighthouse

Written by Mike Duquette

August 13, 2013 at 07:41