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Archive for August 14th, 2013

Saint Etienne Hosts “A Central Park Picnic” With Phil Spector, Burt Bacharach, Dion, The Drifters

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Saint Etienne PicnicFor the inaugural release of his new Cherry Red imprint Croydon Municipal, Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley has curated a collection of Songs for a Central Park Picnic.  Songwriter/producer Stanley’s label is an extension of his Croydon Municipal blog, in which he holds forth on subjects as diverse as Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb’s Guilty, the evolution of Britpop, and the fortunes of HMV.  Like Stanley’s blog, his new CD compilation reflects his eclectic musical passions.

Saint Etienne Presents Songs for a Central Park Picnic, arriving July 29 in the U.K. and August 6 in the U.S.,  is a hip and breezy soundtrack to a gathering in a fantasy New York that may or may not have ever existed.   In Stanley’s New York, the future Candy Man Sammy Davis, Jr. cavorts with street-corner harmonists like Dion DiMucci, as Burt Bacharach, Teddy Randazzo and Barry Mann plunk away at upright pianos in the Brill Building and environs.  The young upstart Phil Spector takes in the sounds of the city as he prepares to head back west, where Henry Mancini is holding court in his silver screen lounge.  Bossa nova is wafting through the air, up from Brazil right into the city, and there’s a sense that anything’s possible.  In this alluring setting, exotic Peruvian vocalist Yma Sumac runs into the young Artie Garr (a.k.a. Art Garfunkel) and Vince Guaraldi captures the scene with his jazz piano.

With Stanley’s own liner notes serving as your guide, this 25-track collection takes in both familiar and rare tunes from the New York scene and beyond.  (A New York state of mind, if you will?)  From Bacharach’s pen comes The Rangoons’ otherworldly “Moon Guitar” and Gloria Lynne’s soulful response to Gene McDaniels, “You Don’t Have to Be a Tower of Strength.”  Hal David is co-credited for the instrumental “Moon Guitar,” while Bob Hilliard co-wrote “Tower.”   (1961’s “Moon Guitar” holds the distinction of being the first-ever production jointly credited to Bacharach and David.)  One of the key singers in Bacharach’s early years, Jerry Butler, offers his hit take on Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River,” while Mancini is heard leading his sexy, Latin-flecked “Something for Cat” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Another future Hollywood film score icon, Lalo Schifrin, channels the bossa nova on his atmospheric “Boato (Bistro)” with both sinuous flute and pounding piano.

There’s plenty of uptown soul here, too, particularly appropriate considering the park’s location in Manhattan.  The Drifters reinvented British clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore” as a Top 20 AC hit; Bilk’s original was the first No. 1 single by a British artist in the era of the Billboard Hot 100.  Southern soul man Arthur Alexander and New Jersey’s own Sammy Turner both navigated through swelling strings on their renditions of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Where Have You Been” and Aaron Schroeder and Chuck Kaye’s “Raincoat in the River,” respectively.   “Raincoat” was produced by Phil Spector, clearly under the sway of his mentors Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  Another New Jersey native, Connie Francis, rocks and rolls with the sassy “It’s Gonna Take Me Some Time.”  Francis and Gloria Lynne aren’t the only girl singers in Stanley’s Central Park; The Paris Sisters are unrequited in their affection on their 1962 ballad “Yes, I Love You.”  Another Spector production (and one he also wrote), “Yes, I Love You” is very much in the template of the Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me.”  A third early production from the future Wall of Sound architect comes via Billy Storm’s dramatic 1961 Atlantic single “A Kiss from Your Lips.”  Spector would later create such triumphs as “River Deep-Mountain High” and “Then He Kissed Me” with Ellie Greenwich, who’s heard here as Ellie Gaye for the single “Cha-Cha Charming.”

After the jump: we have more details, including the complete track listing with discography and order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 14, 2013 at 12:44

Sparks Announce “Tangible Object” for October Release

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Sparks BoxEssentially quirky rock heroes Sparks have announced a “tangible object” – a new five-disc, swag-packed box set – for release through Universal Music’s U.K. arm in October.

New Music for Amnesiacs: The Ultimate Collection collates just about the entire experience of the band founded and fronted by hyperactive frontman Russell Mael and his Chaplin-mustached, scowling keyboard brother Ron. The set spans four discs, starting from the early art-rock of breakthroughs like Kimono My House and U.K. hit “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” to their reinvented state as an electronic duo in the ’70s and ’80s, collaborating with the likes of Giorgio Moroder, Harold Faltermeyer and Reinhold Mack – all the way up to their most recent pop album, 2008’s Exotic Creatures of the Deep. (The conceptual “radio musical” The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman (2009) is not excerpted, having been meant to hear as a whole.)

While audio rarities are few, the box does feature an unreleased version of “Tryouts for the Human Race” from 1979’s No. 1 in Heaven, as well as a bonus disc with two rare single tracks released in conjunction with the band’s latest tours: “Islington N1,” to promote a 21-night concert series in London in 2008 where Sparks played every album in chronological order; and “Two Hands, One Mouth,” released for a European tour of the same name in 2012 – the Maels’ first live appearances as just a duo.

The main four discs are packaged in a hardback book with 64 pages of liner notes and rare photos, while the fifth disc has its own custom wallet. Also included in the box is a generous helping of bonus ephemera, including replica tickets, tour passes, a new sticker and badge and “never-before-seen proof-sheet photo outtakes of the Big Beat (1976) photo session shot by renowned photographer Richard Avedon and adorned with a replication of Richard Avedon Studio’s return address sticker addressed to the Maels at their New York hotel.”

Packaged as an “intangible object,” made with “impossible-to-download technology created by the Mael brothers,” New Music for Amnesiacs is available exclusively through the Universal Music box set store and will be available October 21. Hit the jump for the full track breakdown!

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Written by Mike Duquette

August 14, 2013 at 11:36

Posted in Box Sets, News, Sparks